A member of the congregation I serve died this week. It was fitting. The shadows of death linger about us this week. Like Peter, warming his hands by the blazing fire, trying to hide and catch glimpses of what Jesus suffered, I stood at the edge of the Holy Week shadows, watching for this central drama of mortality to unfold.
In my experience, Easter Sunday is a fairly scripted event. For weeks, the choir has been practicing special music, perhaps a cantata. Extra bulletins have been printed since there may be visitors to the church, those Christmas-and-Easter Christians we are always talking about. Additional worshipers means that preparing and serving communion will take longer. There may be a bit of exhaustion—Holy Week services have drawn us into the agonies of Jesus’ last days. Pastors may have bags packed, ready to head out for a few days after all the extra work.
Easter has been coming, and we’ve made sure to be ready.
As Easter approaches, raising the dead is at the forefront of my mind. But I think of a different vision of resurrected dead, zombies. The popular monsters reanimate as gruesome bodies; their essential natures, spirits, or souls are absent. Zombies are a reckoning of the horror of the dead coming back to life.
Looks like Jesus the Homeless is coming to Chicago. Erica Demarest reports that the local Catholic Charities office plans to put up one of Timothy Schmalz's sculptures—which depict an unkempt Jesus, with stigmata, sleeping on a park bench—this spring.
Weekend Edition did a segment Sunday on the sculpture at St. Alban's Episcopal in Davidson, North Carolina. Apparently some locals aren't fans.
The readings for Good Friday conclude with tender and brave acts of love (John 19:38-42). Both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are cautious—Joseph is a secret disciple of Jesus, and Nicodemus had come to Jesus in the night, perhaps with a hood over his head and looking over his shoulder the whole way. Yet these two hesitant men demonstrate courage.
It’s almost Easter, which can mean only one thing: it’s time for the blockbuster Bible bestsellers. Last week, Bart Ehrman promoted his new book, How Jesus Became God, on NPR’s Fresh Air. Ehrman advances a common argument: Christian conceptions of Jesus’ identity grew more elaborate with time. His followers first perceived Jesus as a remarkable preacher or prophet, but eventually believers came to regard him as God incarnate.
Although I was aware of Ehrman’s book, I missed the publicity blitz.
Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. How easily we pass over them, eyes set eagerly on Easter Sunday. Or anticipating Thursday’s opening of the Triduum.
Our first half of Holy Week probably looks a lot like yours. Work. School. Kids. Meetings. Chores. Bills. The lackluster pregame show before the big kickoff. The forgettable prelude before the fanfare. The ordinary before the extraordinary.
When Jesus moves away from the table, strips down, and ties a towel around his waist (John 13:4), I don’t think he is thinking about how stinky James’s feet always are, or about the bunions that have been growing on Matthew’s foot as they made their way to Jerusalem. Rather, he is in the process of inviting the disciples into the most wonderful life imaginable—one in which love, intimacy, and humble service bring both deep delight and freedom from trivialities.
Smithsonian magazine has announced the finalists in its annual photo contest. You can see them at the Smithsonian’s site, where voting for the Readers’ Choice Winner is open till May 6. All the photos are worth a look.