Thought for the week - Palm Sunday
My Dear Friends,
The sacred week is now upon us, and we have some time to rehearse in our minds and in our worship, the mysteries of the death and resurrection of Christ. We do this together, as a gathered family of God, and I hope that we will all feel in some way supported by that family and feel that we can be involved in the worship of the church fully and actively – otherwise it will just wash over us and not involve and transform us. Later on in the year we will have to speak at length about the ministry of every member of the Church and how we become a family that is attractional to those yet to join us. Part of this is in planning our events and worship for those who are not yet here, and not for ourselves – Holy Week was planned by Christ not for His disciples and friends, but for those of us who even would hear about Him two thousand years later, so let’s take a long view on what we do.
Holy Week is lived in community, and was done in community, as Christ leaves Bethany and walks with his gathered family to Jerusalem, where He would change the life and history of Humanity forever. Communities and crowds are notoriously unstable, and later in the year I will be commending the German author Elias Canetti to us for study, who wrote the seminal work ‘Crowds and Power. A group of football fans that is at one moment enjoying a match with relaxed cheerfulness can easily become a threatening mob. To be in a big group of people can feel like belonging to a community and may be so. But you can be sucked up into a gang in which one loses one’s individuality and consents to terrible deeds. Think of the Nazi rallies, sweeping people up into a hatred that one day many of them would find puzzling. Think of the people in Jerusalem who shouted ‘Hosanna’ today before shouting ‘Crucify him’ a few days later.
Our community is fragile and made up of wounded people, myself included, who find a way of hiding and showing our scars at various points throughout the year, and hopefully nurturing each other through hard times and celebrating good times, which, again, can come as fast as Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Holy Week pins our lives and identities to that of Christ and the many people who play their part in this divine drama. Will we feel more like Simon of Cyrene at times, or Peter, denying Christ, or a soldier pushing Christ up the hill of Calvary to try and get it over with quicker? All these identities are available for us, often we succumb to off-the-peg identities, and try to find ourselves in the role models of our society rather than in the role models of our faith. Celebrities attract vast adulation, and thousands wish to belong to their ‘community’ through Twitter or Facebook. By associating with them, wearing their clothes, supporting their team, bearing their brand, we may hope to find ourselves. But the participants in the drama of Holy Week take the risk of being themselves, the unique friend of God that they are. They are non-conformist.
So today do we dare to follow the King who ‘being found in human form humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross’ (Philippians 2.8)? He gathers around himself a community on Easter Sunday, in which we find a multitude of brothers and sisters, but in which we can also dare to be ourselves, each individually caught up in God’s universal friendship, each infinitely loved by God and each free to inhabit the Body of Christ as a free, redeemed soul, rejoicing and mourning, singing and walking on our pilgrimage to the heart of our faith in which we find ourselves and Christ, together and free, joined to the Body by the shedding of His blood and liberated from this world by our work to build His Kingdom here, on the Cliffs, in Blackpool. And we will do this by wearing His clothes, supporting His team, bearing His brand and in that we may hope to find ourselves.