On the first day of Holy Week my email inbox was full of letters of concern. For the last ten months I have been working with another church in our presbytery that finds themselves in a time of conflict. The trouble has been brewing for a couple of years, maybe more. But it is now coming to a head. The leadership is working to bring into the open what has been festering under the surface for some time. They have invited members with “concerns” to put them in writing and then attend a special meeting to talk about these concerns. In our fallen condition we often avoid conflict at any cost. Time and again we fail to understand that conflict is normal and expected wherever at least two people live together, in whatever manner. When it is avoided for longer periods, it only grows. Then bringing it to the forefront always feels like things are getting worse. They are, but only visibly. But once visible—in the open air—the conflict can be better seen, understood, and potentially resolved. That is what this group of church leaders is working toward and hoping for.
Monday morning, the first day of Holy Week, I was reading all of these letters of concern that had filled my inbox. I must confess my first thought was, What a way to begin Holy Week! Then it hit me. This is the way Jesus began Holy Week. Tensions that had been hidden and building for years were mounting, and those who were against Jesus were getting bolder in their opposition. I am not suggesting that the writer’s of these letters of concerns are “crucifiers,” nor am I suggesting the pastor involved is Jesus. I am just reminded that we are broken and sinful folks, and Jesus came for this very reason. Jesus came because we are a scrappy lot! Holy Week was not an antiseptic, spiritual Kum Ba Yah! It was a scrappy, contentious, confused caravan of folks encountering God incarnate. Some recognized him and followed, some got caught up in all the miracles and wanted to believe but were confused, others were outright hostile, and a whole bunch of folks were just to busy to notice God had visited. Sounds all too familiar!
We would all love to jump right to the Hallelujah Chorus and sing the praises of the risen Christ and glory in our being adopted as heirs. But we must first wander through the streets and alleys of broken relationships, disobedient and distracted lives, and self-absorbed hostility. We must come crawling—scrappy, contentious, and confused—to the cross. And when we look up, we see God incarnate suffering there for us—the weight of the sins of the whole world on his shoulders. Our sins and the sins of those we are in conflict with are all together laid on Christ. We cannot get around it. We must confess our scrappiness—our sin—and then, only then, can we see our way through to Easter morning and the resurrection and glory of the risen Lord. Thank God that beginning Holy Week scrappy is exactly the right path to the resurrection.