I came across a quote this past week that has stayed with me. I wonder how you feel about it: “There are some things worth living for, even if we find ourselves having to die for them as well.”
Let us be honest before God. Suffering and death are not our favorite topics. We do whatever we can to put as much distance between those two realities and us as we possibly can. While we admire those who make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of a worthy cause, most of us prefer not to emulate them.
That is why Holy Week and Easter are so central to really understanding and accepting the Christian faith and life. The events we remember over the course of those seven days are God’s summary statement about a life truly lived and not wasted. Jesus chooses to ride into Jerusalem knowing full well the risk he is taking. He tries to prepare his disciples for what is to come. He reminds them that, if one really wants to be a leader in this world, then one must be a servant of all. He breaks bread with them one last time and that then becomes a banquet that lasts for all time. Instead of avoiding or resisting arrest, he embraces the injustice of his trial and the horror of his execution. Why? Because he has come to demonstrate in human terms what the love of God really is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” In other words, it is in the giving of ourselves, even of our very lives, for the sake of God’s goodness and the Gospel of Jesus, that true life is to be found.
But that is not the end of the story. On Easter day, we will gather around an empty tomb. Death cannot hold the Son of God. We are again embraced, this time by a mystery that is both sublime and impenetrable. What is the resurrection? How will we experience it? I don’t really know. But in the celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead, we can know that any and all sacrifices we make during the course of our lives are not in vain. We have followed the lead of the risen one and we can know our actions have contributed to the building of God’s kingdom here on earth. Instead of entombing ourselves in a constant fear of sacrifice and death, we have been set free to live our lives fully, faithfully, and well, as we press on with Christ into the joy of his resurrection.
I believe that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the great saints of the Church. It is said that, as the guards were preparing to lead him to the scaffold and to his death, he turned to his fellow prisoners and said, “This is the end. For me the beginning of life.” For the Christian, no truer words about the meaning of Holy Week and Easter have ever been spoken.
I look forward to remembering the events of Holy Week and then celebrating the joy of Easter with each of you.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse