This is from about three years ago. I know today’s not Palm Sunday. But in my experience we have dark times throughout the year.
Palm Sunday. Jesus rides in to Jerusalem and is honored as a king
As we know how the story ends, it is easy for us to celebrate with the crowds today, call this coming Friday “Good,” and then meet again next week for the biggest celebration on the church calendar. But we miss key parts of the story when we do that, the dark parts.
I want to talk real briefly about where we would be without those dark parts in our own lives, and about a reason it’s important that Christ went through those very bad times.
First, imagine life without the darkest parts. What if some of our favorite stories were told that way? Dorothy lands in Oz, follows the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where without incident she rides the balloon to Kansas. Bruce Wayne and his parents enjoy a night out. And he grows up to be a fairly well adjusted millionaire. Uncle Billy realizes what he did with the money, and George Bailey never wishes he was never born, and everyone has a merry Christmas.
What about the real stories of our lives. It’s nice to imagine them without the hard times we faced, death, oppression, and abandonment. Where would I be without heartbreak and disappointment? What if the girls I pursued in high school and college had reciprocated my feelings? What would I be doing now if my first real job as news manager at a small Kansas radio station would have been all that I dreamed rather than the depressing and discouraging situation that it was? What if our initial neat and tidy plans for having children went exactly as planned? It’s easy to wish that the difficult parts of our lives never happened. But the difficult parts happen all the time, and now that we know how these stories end, would we give them up?
Finally, it’s important to remember the dark parts of this wonderful week, not just because we know how the story ends, but because we still experience darkness.
And it’s important to remember that we worship a god who is with us in the darkness, a god who has suffered, and continues to suffer with us. Where is god when awful things happen? He’s right there, in the hospitals, on the battlefields, in the streets, in the homes of scared and hungry children. Just as he was 2000 years ago, with the sick, the hungry, the outcast, being left by his friends, beaten, and hung up on a cross as an example to others who not only side with the losers, but dare to stand up with them against those who oppress.
So as we prepare to remember our lord’s last supper, before he hurt, suffered, and died, it’s nice to know the end of the story. But sometimes we don’t. And when we’re hurting, our god is Immanuel. He is with us.