March 26, 2018 PREPARE - From Palm Branches to Empty Tombs
I have been thinking a lot about preparations this week. We had a lot to do to get ready for today: bulletins to complete and print, palms to pick up, popcorn and Italian ice for after the 10am service, Mother Anne’s bathing costume, and of course, the three bags of ice that I bought to quickly dump into the tank before our celebratory Showers of Blessings dunking.
Even with all of those things to do, there were many times when it was tempting for me to jump ahead. Easter is right around the corner. Easter with my 300 eggs to stuff, chocolate rabbits and lollipops to buy, and cross to flower.
It was appealing to skip ahead, not just because I like to get things done, but also because of what lies between here and there, between palm branches and empty tombs, is the most challenging week of the church year.
As the Director of Youth and Family here at Christ Church and as the Chaplain at Christ Church Day School, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can help children enter the mystery of Easter.
What can I do to help them embrace the Easter story without overwhelming and scaring them? How do you get from palm branches to the empty tomb without washing each other’s feet, sharing the last supper, praying in the garden, watching Jesus be arrested, choosing Barabbas, and watching Jesus be flogged, crowned with thorns, and ultimately crucified.
In other words, how do we get from triumphant, joyful, jubilant entry, to resurrection and salvation without all of the pain?
Every Tuesday I teach Godly Play in our Junior Kindergarten. Godly Play is filled with simple props and beautiful words. After you tell each story, you start the wondering.
I wonder which part of this story you liked best?
I wonder which part of this story is about you?
I wonder if there is any part of this story that we could leave out, and still have the same story?
Sometimes, when I ask that last one, I get the cheeky answer, “All of it!!!” followed by a round of giggles. But that is the meat of it, isn’t it. If we don’t have all of it, all of the pain and all of the Holy of this coming week, would we have the same story? No, we need all of it in order to prepare.
Now children might be overwhelmed by some of the details I talked about above, and truthfully, there is some of it that they just might not understand. But there are things that they understand as well as we do.
A joyful parade.
Dinner at a friend’s house.
Helping someone wash because you care about them.
Being betrayed by a friend.
Saying something that we didn’t mean, but can’t take back.
And most importantly, LOVE.
There is nothing that a child understands better than loving and being loved. Children are built for love.
Jesus spent years helping his disciples prepare for what lay ahead. He taught and told stories. He fed them and nurtured them. Sometimes he was really, really hard on them because they weren’t getting the big picture.
He did all of those things to help them prepare. He did all of those things because he loved them.
He also did all of those things to help us prepare, because he loves us too.
And that includes today, when he came riding into Jerusalem on a palm and cloak covered road on the back of a donkey. Allowing us to shout:
HOSANNA! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!
But Hosanna isn’t enough.
We have more to do to prepare our hearts for the resurrection. In order to prepare for the resurrection we have to open our hearts and walk through Holy Week. You see, how we prepare, will determine how we experience Easter.
As part of my preparation, I invite you:
Come and have supper with friends on Thursday, wash each other’s feet, see the Altar stripped.
Come and be with Jesus on Good Friday, remembering that without his death, we wouldn’t have his resurrection.
Keep a Holy Saturday and pray for all of those who have left us this year.
Walk the labyrinth and pray with Jesus any or every night this Holy week. Rinse your pain clean and leave your burdens in the center.
But most importantly, do all of these things with great love, because in all that Jesus taught us, in all that he showed us of how to live our lives, the greatest of all of these things is how we choose to love each other.
3/25/2018 - Palm Sunday - Charlette Preslar