Holy Monday Reflection: Going Back to Bethany


I am watching this TV show on Netflix that came out last week.  It doesn’t work like other TV shows work.  Most TV shows have episodes that contribute half the screen time to a self contained minor plot and the other half to a macro narrative that drives the whole season.  This TV show dispenses with the micro plots and instead tells one long story over 13 episodes.

The opening episode shows something horrific that happens between four siblings.  After that, every episode details the series of events that led up to the tragedy.  By themselves these episodes are the boring stuff of your average family drama, siblings compete for their parents’ affection while trying to keep their marriages and careers intact.  Yet the boring stuff is made highly compelling because you know eventually the minutiae will explode into tragedy.

As I watch it, I feel a sense of dread, wondering what seemingly harmless event will cause the tragedy but also aching for it not to happen.  Yet I also feel a sense of hope, an optimism that says after the tragedy there might be healing and restoration between these feuding siblings.

It is a fitting feeling for the Monday of Holy Week.  You see, every year Palm Sunday gets me all excited for Holy Week.  We use our palms to join the Bible crowds in welcoming the King.  We sing “Hosanna” while waving our branches.  And the good services even give us a glimpse of the cross before they end.

Every year, I walk out of Palm Sunday eager and excited to go t the cross again and hopefully arrive at the empty tomb too.  I begin to feel all spiritual, resolving to fast and pray and meditate all week long.

Then Monday hits me like a ton of bricks.  My prayer and fasting and meditation are quickly interrupted by a to-do list begging me to accomplish its items.  There are meetings to be had and household chores that need doing.  It turns out they don’t bother to shut the internet down for Holy Monday so there emails and Facebook post and blogs of distractions.  Then there is always the great outdoors.  It is 75 degrees and sunny where I am which does not lend itself to something as somber as Holy Week.  On top of it all I have to plan four worship services this week instead of the typical one!

Needless to say, I am not feeling very holy.  This was all complemented by the fact that the first thing I did in the office this morning was gather up all the palm leaves from the far corners of our church facility and put them in a black trash bag.  After that I spent some time praying and reading and trying to feel “holy” but that was all interrupted by two meetings, the latter of which were interrupted themselves when a socket at my house overheated and burned the wall.  In trying to repair it, I gashed my finger with a knife and now here I sit, with a massive headache, gauze wrapped around my finger and an empty stomach, still trying to find the “holy” on this Holy Monday.

And I am pastor.  I can only imagine how easy it is for the average layperson to forget this is a holy week.  Some of my parishioners are so busy they are working 12 hours shifts while trying to manage their elementary aged kids!

On Wednesday night some will gather at the church where I will get to remind them that this is still Holy Week.  I am hoping some even find there way to this blog and are reminded early.  But we are not yet to Maundy Thursday.  Instead, we are living in “not-so-Holy” Monday and the cross may as well be light years away.

For that reason, I have always found some tiny bit of comfort in the verse that concludes the Triumphal Entry.  Mark 11:11 reads, “He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area. He looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went back out to Bethany with the Twelve.”

I have always found that slightly humorous.  After the whole shebang with disciples finding colts and crowds singing songs and people waving palms and Pharisees lodging complaints, all Jesus does is look around and ride his colt back out to Bethany, presumably without the songs and palms.  Palm Sunday ends essentially where it begins.

That verse offers a small reminder that although things are starting to happen, they must happen in their time.  Though the resurrection is close and the cross even closer, we still must let life go on today as it mostly always does.

For a few more days we must live our lives, but with a growing sense to urgency and dread as Friday waits for us.

Simply put, we must go back out to Bethany one more time and do the busy work of our lives while we wait for Friday.

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