Stop. Drop. And Listen.
Holy week is upon us.
As one of the two most intense weeks of the church year, perhaps you feel tempted. I know I have been. Tempted to make everything as meaningful and wondrous as possible. Tempted to keep pushing to improve or produce just one more thing you can, because everything, EVERYthing, is so hard right now. And you want to give everyone something to feel good about. You want to meet needs, to be your best, to make space for everybody. And more covertly, perhaps, you want (deep inside) to make sure everyone knows that you were the right person for this job? That you are the leader who really gets this moment? You want to be profound or on target or sensitive?
Holy week was not about doing more when it happened. It is not about doing more this week in 2020 in the midst of a world wide pandemic. The first passion week was a crisis, a disappointment, a pile of losses. Sounds familiar, right? The friends, family and followers of Jesus were overwhelmed and traumatized. Nothing was going as they planned. Nothings was like they had imagined.
We do not even have to stretch our own imaginations when we look back to the passion week of Jesus as told to us in the four gospels. What does the community of Jesus-followers remember in their stories from that final week of Jesus’ life? Fear, defensiveness, anxiety, people fleeing, hiding, weeping.
Today’s crisis is not the exactly the same, yet we can see in the stories of Holy Week a profound mirror. And in that mirror are all of our let-downs, disappointments and coping strategies.
Drop all your plans to make this week holy, and sit with this Passion Week story for a time.
Notice. Anticipatory grief from Mary and Martha. Strange unexplainable new life in Lazarus. Denial and anxiety in disciples around the table in the upper room. Misguided leadership. Crowds that turn on a dime from cheers to jeers. Violence. Shouting. The faithful huddled and afraid. Locked up in a room. Sequestered from others. Death, grieving and a sense of total overwhelm.
The disciples themselves don’t give us much to go on, do they?
Their future stories about following a particular rabbi and his teachings seemed to be cut short in that week. All his talk about a new vision of how to relate to one another seem to go up in smoke. And even his words about loving neighbors and enemies only managed to get him public execution.
After you have listened to the gospel story of this week, stay still and listen to the story unfolding around you right now. We are surrounded in this moment globally by death, unprepared leadership, and circumstances far beyond our influence or even our reach. Everywhere people are struggling with issues of control, productivity, and disappointment, as pastor and author April Fiet shows us.
Each loss of future stories and expectations is like pulling a string from the fabric of our lives and seeing the whole garment fall from around us. We are raw and exposed in this moment. Along with the sorrows are many other experiences of guilt, depression, longing, and rage.
These feelings. These experiences that we are sharing, even in our isolation. These are the ones that need to be heard, need to be said. Need to be listened into speech.
We don’t need more spectacular worship services this week. We need more careful listening to each other. We don’t need more creativity or more productivity or more impressive insights. We need to stop. We need to drop our expectations. And we need to listen to this moment, to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our congregations, to the silence that holds us all.
It is in the listening that the holiness of this week will show itself.
Is there one less thing you can do this week? One thing you can drop that will never be missed? One more moment you can just sit and put your ear down close to your soul and listen?
Our gratitude for pastoral theologian Mary Clark Moschella grows with each new episode. The timing of her encouragement to listen to the community as a pastoral practice is just right. Her story this week of the pastor who listened gives us all courage to listen even in the hard moments.
If you need a little encouragement to listen more and do less this Holy Week, then let these questions for “Just Listening” be a support and guide to you.
We are praying for you, for each day of this Holy Week. Blessings and Peace.