This is the first in what I hope to be a series of Holy Week reflections. I hesitate to call them devotionals, as a devotional implies some sort of interaction with Scripture, which I am not guaranteeing. However, as I enter into the sacred rhythm of this holy week, I want to also return this blog to its original concept, which is to find the grace going before us in the world.
Therefore, each post this week will reference some aspect of pop culture that I think aligns itself with my own reflections on each event of the Biblical Holy Week.
I also must apologize to my wider readership (i.e. my mom and that random person from Finland that keeps popping up) because these reflections are intended more for my local congregation and context. With that said, I still I hope that all of you who click to these posts will find something valuable in my 2015 journey to the cross.
So I guess, here goes:
This morning I found myself preaching about stuff, namely the clothes, cars, dishes, toys and paraphernalia that litter our garages, yards and houses and talked about how our stuff, even the religious objects so popular these days, can get in the way of the true vulnerability that the cross requires of us.
This was an awkward topic for a Palm Sunday sermon and I had great trouble finding the courage to preach it. I began my sermon prep with Mark 11. I noticed we always talk about the palms, but there were coats there too. So I wanted to comment that though they shed their cloaks on Sunday, only one person ended up naked on Friday. I also wanted to fit in a mention of the young man who ended up naked on Thursday, in the Garden of Gethsamene. I also thought it interesting that the only other naked people in a garden in the Bible are Adam and Eve who cover up their shame in the hopes of lying to themselves and God about what happened.
We all have fig leaves in our lives, things we throw over ourselves to lie about who we really are. And this is why Jesus’ nakedness on Friday seems so relevant to us on Palm Sunday. We seem to wave our palms and welcome a King we hope will give us more fig leaves but the invitation to deny yourself and take up your cross (an instrument of complete nudity and vulnerability) shatters our expectations.
More or less, that was my sermon this morning. As I rest this afternoon I can’t get away from a movie I watched recently that seemed to illustrate this well. It is a not very well known film and only has a 6.4 on IMDB. It stars Will Ferrell but dispenses with dorky humor and truly showcases Ferrell’s acting talent.
The movie is “Everything Must Go.” Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, an alcoholic who loses his job, his house and his wife in one day.
His stuff ends up on the front lawn and he would rather drink than figure out what to do with it all (though he knows he wants to keep it). His police officer friend helps him by taking advantage of a local ordinance that allows you to keep your possessions on your front lawn as long as it is a yard sale.
Nick Halsy makes yard sale signs but has no intention of actually selling anything. But over the course of a few days, he suddenly starts caving and selling his fig leaves object by object.
For the majority of the run time you live with a drunk who is powerless to save himself. Yet as the more stuff he sells, the more authority he gains over his addiction. The movie ends with a glorious scene of NIck driving past the liquor store, instead of stopping to go inside.
It is a resurrection moment in a cruciform movie. In the depths of despair, as strangers cart off with his alarm clock, plunger, blender and household furniture, suddenly Nick becomes more alive, more fully human. The pain in his story is palpable but the hope at the end is all the more real.
As we enter into a week that we know will end in crucifixion and as we try to hide ourselves from the fact that the next will begin in resurrection, (as ridiculous and impossible a task that is) it is fitting to come alongside the Nick Halsey’s of the world. They are not unlike that naked man in the garden, who ended up vulnerable despite his best wishes.
And as we journey with them throughout this week, not only coming face to face with Christ crucified, but coming to face with our own naked humanity, may we find the power that drips out of Christ’s body, a power that frees us the holy life that awaits.
Hosanna in the Highest Indeed!