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A Tradition Unlike Any Other

Posted by jon on April 6, 2009 in but seriously... |

The Passion Week, the week of Jesus’ death and resurrection, is a week full of the power we find in remembering the sacrifice made on our behalf. From Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday to the event that defines us as Christians, the day our Lord conquered death and sin once and for all, Easter Sunday. Now as one in the Baptist tradition I missed a lot of the more ecumenical traditions growing up, but there was always the notion that this week wasn’t just another Sunday (of course further proof was the candy eggs and the influx of people who we wouldn’t see again until next Easter). This is, perhaps, a place where I will differ from many of my tradition. For me there is an awesome significance (“awesome” used in its original meaning to describe the indescribable not the more modern use to describe a hotdog) in the traditions and liturgy that have been passed through the generations of the church. When I stop and think about the Eucharist or Baptism of even the creeds of the church there is a special sense that we are not alone or on some island but rather we are truly a part of an eternal, holy body that is made up of a hundred generations of believers. It is a body that transcends time, age, world events, or even differing opinions on worship music.

Here in the midst of the Passion Week I was struck in a new light by Palm Sunday. Jesus’ triumphant entry and public sentencing are two of the few stories that appear in all four gospels. It seems that while the gospel writers may have written from different viewpoints they were untied on their account of these events. We start on a triumphant Sunday. In the entire history of the Christian church, that Sunday was likely the easiest to be a follower of Jesus. There were people everywhere crying out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” and the multitudes laid their coats before the feet of Jesus. Isn’t it easy for us to be Christ-followers on the days when the band is really rockin’, or when the pastor peaches a sermon that just fires up the congregation? Is it easier to honor the Lord then? Are we any different from those who laid their cloaks down on Sunday and then call for crucifixion on Friday? I’ve often wondered how those people justified their dramatic change in opinion. Most likely many of Jesus’ most loyal supporters were in hiding (another truth many would have to face if we were honest but alas), but there had to be some in that Friday crowd who just days earlier cried out “Hosanna” to the King of the Jews.

Perhaps they were disappointed that this so called Messiah apparently had no interested in their immediate salvation from Roman oppression, but was instead, unbeknownst to them, was concerned with their eternal salvation from sin. Typical, we’ll praise and confess God’s greatness on Sunday and when God’s plans aren’t convenient we are offended by the Almighty’s discourteous manner. It’s easy for us two thousand years later to sit back and castigate those that cried out for Jesus’ death after so recently praising him, but the truth is that during this Passion Week would it really take us long to find our own plane in this dubious tradition of questionable allegiance.

The true beauty of this week is that we do find ourselves, more often than any of us would care to admit, on the wrong side of these crowds. We call for his death with our selfishness and our rebellion, but (and this is why the name of Jesus must be praised) in the very middle of our iniquity and our shamefulness Christ tells us he has come to make all things new. This is our glorious hope, the foundation of generations of tradition. We are all united in our need for a savior and we are all equally accepted into this Holy family.

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