Hallo again to all.
Please God, there will never be an iPalm. There should never be. This Sunday, which opens the great gate to Holy Week, can't be virtual. Put away those bits and bytes, boys and girls, and let's bring our sorry selves to Jerusalem. Grab a palm. Prepare to be a part of that jostling screaming jeering crowd. It's too big to fit on the highest resolution screen, so put that iPad 2 down. It's Holy Week and you need to be there.
Or as close to 'there' as we can get.
An ancient dim musty parish church in Hindolveston isn't too far. Nor is the igloo cathedral up in Iqaluit. Kyoto's St Agnes church will do very well, as will St Jude's Lyall Bay in Wellington, New Zealand. St Peter's, Melbourne, Australia is just down the road from Jerusalem. Miles away, but as close as candlelight. Three score miles and ten and back again, in the length of a church service.
Don't you feel the dust, heat, and sand? The palms are already drying out. You may hold a Palm in your hand, but you can't hold a palm frond unless you were there with all of us, those 'who profess and call themselves Christian', on that road to Jerusalem.
The road map is anamnesis and you can't programme it into your GPS. The most unprepossessing door into the plainest church will take you to Jerusalem faster than you can imagine. Hope to watch it on the largest and flattest of flat-screen televisions? Major fail.
There are places where the leading edge of technology stops. And this week, it's the road to Jerusalem.
As much as we can, we must relive those mighty acts of our salvation. Shout our hosannas and then spew out 'crucify'. On Wednesday — Tenebrae — experience the gradual decrease of the light of lights and feel the reality of betrayal, the frisson of fear that comes with the extinguishing of that last candle and the sharp discordant clash on the organ.
Soon, it's Maundy Thursday. That light-dark, white-black day, where we've given a blessing for all eternity and a command we must keep till He comes. A new mandate, which we can't experience 'once removed'. To be as close as we can to that repast, that passover, where love chooses us forevermore. You can't see it on YouTube. Thank God.
After the feast, the fleeing. We watch as the altar and its ornaments are stripped bare. The sacrament removed. The gold and silver, the flowers and candles — everything that adorned the sanctuary for the Maundy meal are done away with. We're left with emptiness. Unless we follow Our Lord to that small patch of olive trees and grasses in Gethsemane. This night our watch is kept in a sheltered corner of our Anglican churches, with the sharp scent of green and earth and flowers and the soft glow of candle. Each of those churches, ringing the globe, crisscrossing the continents of the world, are only a block or so away from Gethsemane. Can't you feel the dirt where you're kneeling?
And then that Friday we call Good. Will you be there, on that 'green hill far away, without a city wall'? Where else could we be? There can be no virtual reality, no 'Golgotha 3D' that can hold a candle to the hard pew with the uncomfortable kneelers where we follow along with the ancient liturgy, knitted together in a web of grace with other Christians round the world. In our own churches, in that hushed and sad and heavy atmosphere that is always Good Friday, we are indeed at the foot of the cross. Golgotha is just over the hill, in our line of sight, and if we squint we can just make out those three crosses.
After that, the waiting. Yet we know the end of the story: we know for What and Whom we wait. We know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new. The darkness is real, but only for a time. There are times when it will seem very dark. But keep your eye on the light . . .
Make it real this week.
See you next week, dear friends, on the other side, in the sun of Easter joy.
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