No Short-Cuts to Easter

Palm Sunday Procession with LARCUM Waynesboro VA (Grace Evangelical Lutheran, St. John’s Episcopal, St. John the Evangelist Catholic & Main Street United Methodist.)

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

It happens to me almost every year, that when Holy Week arrives, I am not ready.  I am distracted with things that have little to do with Holy Week, things that extend into next week and next month, responsibilities I need to attend to, time I cannot waste.  I know I have often invited you to slow down, to immerse yourself in scripture and the rituals and disciplines of the season, from being marked with ashes on our foreheads at the beginning of Lent, to walking often with Jesus the way of the cross, to more focused and intentional prayer, fasting and alms-giving, to personally celebrating God’s mercy and forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, to participating in the liturgies of Holy Week, to approaching Easter with a sense of hope and renewal after the journey of Lent.  I know it isn’t always easy in the midst of our busy lives to set time aside, but we are encouraged nonetheless to do so … because it is exactly in our busy lives that God meets us.

And today we read once again the account of Jesus’ last days on earth, a story of friendship and betrayal, of courage and fear, of tremendous self-sacrifice and incredible selfishness, of rage and compassion and jealousy and forgiveness, of tragic death and glorious new life.  It is the story of the evil we are capable of, and the redemption that our God brought about in the face of that evil.  We have read the story many times before, we know how it resolves.  And still we recall the shameful events, still we remember and weep, still we are encouraged by quiet faith and the promise of victory over death.  But it is the only road that leads to Easter … and there are no short-cuts. So if we truly desire the new life that Jesus bestows on those who take seriously his invitation to conversion, we will need to travel with him the painful journey to Calvary.

For some among us, that painful journey is as real as Jesus’ journey that very first Good Friday.  We have come face to face with danger and darkness and death.  We have shouldered the burden of our cross, we have stumbled repeatedly on the path, we have known betrayal and powerlessness and estrangement.  And if God is able to draw tremendous good from that greatest evil ever perpetrated, when we put to death his own beloved Son, then we need to believe that God is able to draw good from our own journey to Calvary.  It is the only path to Easter.  And there are no short-cuts.

Today we recall Jesus’ own journey to Calvary, and we keep our hopes planted firmly in the saving power of God.  May we recall God’s tremendous love for us sinners, and be moved to gratitude for the gift of God’s forgiveness.  The only path to Easter is through the cross … and there are no short-cuts.  But we know our God awaits us beyond tragedy and pain and darkness.  Beyond the cross and Calvary and Good Friday is the glory and new life of Easter.