Tonight, we had a reflection service to focus on the meaning of all that transpired during Holy Week. It was a great service that also including the baptism of my son. The manuscript for the homily follows after the jump.
Each year, Holy Week presents the challenge of trying to understand the various events and situations that took place some 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. It is a week filled with the familiar stories of Jesus and his passion.
One of the ways Holy Week challenges us is when we try to understand the collective meaning of each of the days of this week. That is because we have the tendency to silo each day and event and focus only on that moment’s meaning. Missing from this is an understanding of the themes and ideas that connect these days and moments together. From Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, to his clearing of the tables in the Temple, to the celebration of the Passover meal in the Upper Room, to his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, and, as well, to Easter morning, there are themes and elements of truth that help understand God’s love for us.
We could focus on any one of these themes of Holy Week, but tonight I want to focus on specific theme that might help us to reflect on God’s grace. To do so, we need to turn to an event that took place outside of the events of Holy Week. It might seem odd to do so, but taking a look at this event may help to shed light on what Christ did for each of us that week in Jerusalem.
In our passage tonight from Matthew 19:13-14, Jesus has been approached on his journey to Jerusalem by families with their children. They were seeking a blessing for their children from the Lord. However, they were prevented from approaching Jesus by his disciples.
Now, why would the disciples, the 12 people who were part of Jesus’ inner circle, prevent the children from reaching the Lord? In those days, women and children were not always welcomed to participate in the religious activities. They were considered a lower status. The disciples might have been working from this perspective when they stopped the families. At the same time, the disciples may have been so focused on Jesus’ desire to reach Jerusalem that they felt that Jesus didn’t have time to stop.
This seems odd to us. Indeed it is odd when we think of Jesus’ previous statements about children and the kingdom of God. In the previous chapter, Matthew reports Jesus as saying that if anyone desires to enter the kingdom of God they must have the faith of a child. This is a rich statement from Jesus, but the message seems to be clear: Children are a welcomed presence in God’s kingdom. He had already shown where women were welcomed in the kingdom of God and now Jesus is doing the same for children. Nothing should prevent a child from encountering the Lord and receiving the benefits of God’s grace. Jesus welcomes the child, just as much as anyone else, into God’s kingdom.
By welcoming children and telling the disciples that nothing should hinder them from receiving God’s grace, Jesus alerts us to something important for us to focus upon this Holy Week. Sitting in the shadows of this passage is something that connects all the themes of Holy Week.
The message is that all are welcomed to participate in Holy Week. All can receive the benefits and blessings of what took place some 2,000 years ago.
What Jesus did during that Passover celebration in Jerusalem was for all people. It was not just for a select or chosen few, but was for everyone: Male or female, black or white, rich or poor, child or adult. Everything Jesus did, especially as it relates to the cross, was for the benefit of all humanity and creation. The grace of God, the unmerited and undeserved free love of God, is available to all without condition. No one was removed from God’s heart. Every person to ever live or will ever live was on Christ’s heart and mind throughout that Holy Week.
This is a truth that shapes our journey this Holy Week. All is a powerful and welcoming word. We are part of that all. Our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world are part of the all. So are those who may feel that God’s grace has slipped them by. So are those whom the church has ignored, forgotten, or struggled to care for. So too are those whom we may have felt were not ready to receive God’s blessings.
All people can receive the benefits of a love beyond measure, a love beyond definition, a love that freely came into Jerusalem for a mission that would lead to the cross to reunite all people to the Father’s care through faith in Christ.
As we remember the events of Holy Week, the reality of all causes us to reflect on how we are sharing the reality of God’s grace being available to all. How are we living into the truth that when Christ entered into Jerusalem he did so for all people? How are we welcoming all people in our hearts and lives as Christ has welcomed all people to receive his grace? How are we inviting others to share in the journey of seeing that what Christ did on the cross was for you, for me, and for all people?
This Holy Week, as we journey together from the joys of Palm Sunday to the despair of Good Friday to the hope of Easter morning, let us be mindful that all are welcomed to experience God’s grace through faith in Christ. No one is left out of God’s all. No one is left out from God’s heart during Holy Week.