It’s Holy Week on the Christian calendar and I’m sitting in a Panera Bread reading my Facebook feed. I see posts about Christian spirituality and posts about the everyday details of life. And I see posts of solidarity, outrage, and shame. And in between, I look up from my table, from my all-consuming computer, and look around the room at the people. People eating. People talking. People playing with their own technological devices. People walking and sitting and leaning.
People who bring joy to the lives of other people. And people who bring pain. Most of the time, oblivious of both. And all of the time, just walking through their own stories of anxiety and fear. Trying to carve some sense of security and some sense of meaning out of the existence they lead. This is nothing new. And I’m not the first to observe it.
But it’s Holy Week on the Christian calendar and I’m an Episcopal priest and I’ve been asked to serve at the Triduum at St John’s in Royal Oak where my friend Beth is the rector. Tonight we will wash feet and strip the altar during our Maundy Thursday service. Tomorrow we will gather to remember the death of Jesus during our Good Friday service. Saturday we will tell our stories of salvation and proclaim Christ arisen during our Easter Vigil. It’s a 3 piece worship service, performed over 3 days designed to lead us through a roller coaster of emotion as we recall the last days of Jesus’ human life.
Like we need more emotion, right?
If my Facebook feed is any indication, we have plenty to be emotional about. We have a couple of states in our country that believe religious freedom is being threatened because gay people are getting married. And, to add to that, we have emotionally toxic reactions to this misguided attempt at bigotry as business owners are threatened. California is facing a record-breaking drought with scientists stating they only have one more year of water left. A young woman in Indiana has been arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison for “feticide” because she miscarried her child and panicked when it happened.
People are being abused. Animals are being abused. The earth is being abused. Jesus is being abused.
What I know is that if humans don’t process the trauma we experience, we end up passing it along in some way. Because I read Rene Girard, I understand this to be the demonic force that acted upon Jesus. We pass on our trauma and it comes out as oppression, homophobia, racism, misogyny, and so on. We experience trauma in our lives and it shapes our world and our heart and we shut off parts of ourselves because we can’t handle the pain. We carry the trauma as shame and just don’t know how to heal, many times we don’t want to heal simply because it would mean acknowledging or re-experiencing the wound.
And Holy Week is the Christian response to this. We tell our stories and we see ourselves and our pain in Jesus. We wash feet and we forgive. We share food and we feel nourished. We experience desolation and we learn we are not alone. We recount and replay our stories and we remember who we are. And when Christ arises again, when we feel that joy as the bells ring… perhaps we can let go and become a new creation.