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The Threshold Between All That Has Been and All That Will Be




Christianity’s Holy Week started with two processions that entered Jerusalem on a spring Sunday in the year 30, or so.  The collision of a royal procession led by Pilate and rooted in imperial supremacy and bloody violence with a peasant procession led by Jesus and rooted in universal equality and unconditional love inaugurated Christianity’s first Holy Week as the epic climax to some 1,000 years of escalation.


In other words, Christianity’s Holy Week started with tension.  It started with an old way of being colliding with a new way of being.


On Monday, Jesus cursed the fig tree, drove the buyers and sellers from the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers while saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’”  I think we can say that Jesus was emphatic.  Impassioned.  Irritated.


We might say Christianity’s Holy Week started with tension and continued with decision.  Holy Week continued with that moment in which that old way of being was, quite simply, no longer acceptable to Jesus.


On Tuesday, according to one of the accounts, Jesus participated in an ongoing game of trap, escape, and counterattack with the authorities.


“Should we pay taxes to Caesar,” someone shouted, to which his “yes” would have alienated his followers, and to which his “no” would have legitimized his persecutors.  So, there’s the trap.  And Jesus responded, [“Well], give Caesar that which is Caesar’s and give God that which is God’s.”  And there’s the escape, you see, for it was understood by Jesus and many in his world that everything belonged to God.


So, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?”  And Jesus cleverly answered, “Give Caesar everything Caesar deserves.”  And there’s the counterattack.


So, from the tension of Sunday and the decision of Monday, our epic presents us with a Tuesday marked by resistance.  And can’t we always count on the emergence of a new way to be met by resistance from an old way, whether within entire cultures or individual minds?


On Wednesday, an unnamed woman poured expensive ointment over his head (this was a burial ritual, you understand) an unnamed woman poured expensive ointment over his head and received a stunning accolade when he said, “Wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” 


For of the many who had heard the prophecies of his death and resurrection, she was the first one to believe him.  And this shouldn’t be surprising for the women were integral from the beginning of his ministry.  And even today, we suffer the effects of pretending they weren’t.


So, for the writer of the gospel named Mark, she is the first believer.  For some, she is the first Christian.


So, from Sunday’s tension through Monday’s decision and Tuesday’s resistance, we find our Jesus narrative acknowledging the importance of finding another who would believe in his ministry, finding another who would believe in his wisdom, finding another who would believe in his vision.  From tension through decision and resistance, our narrative acknowledges the importance of cultivating support, you see.


Thursday was marked by the Last Supper, prayers in Gethsemane, Peter’s three denials, the arrest, the interrogation and the condemnation.


And while Thursday easily could have been themed as betrayal or fear or disappointment, I chose to suggest that it’s commitment that best describes Thursday’s Jesus: standing upon that threshold between all that had been and all that would be and choosing to step across that point of no return, nonetheless.


For by Thursday, Jesus knew he would die, you see.  At least theoretically, he could have left the festival and lived to fight another day.  He could have turned back.  But he didn’t.


And so it was that on Friday, Jesus was delivered to Pilate’s soldiers.  He was tortured and humiliated, even undergoing something of a mock coronation in which they clothed him in a purple cloak and crowned him – but with thorns.  He was crucified – a form of public terrorism reserved for those who denied Rome's imperial authority – and he was buried.


But from Sunday’s account we read, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, that they might go and anoint his body.  When they looked up, they saw that the stone had already been rolled back.”

(Personally, I don’t understand why the stone didn’t become more of a central symbol for the Easter triumph, but I digress.)


Now, as I’ve suggested for so many years: prior to the enlightenment, the truths of a tale were never perceived to be dependent upon the facts of a tale.  And this is certainly true of the culture from which this narrative arose.  In other words, it would have been well understood in both Jewish and early Christian cultures that 40 meant something beyond 40, that regaining sight meant somethings beyond regaining physical sight, that dragons and beasts and horsemen meant something beyond dragons and beasts and horsemen.

So, while a modern loyalty to facts might stomp its feet and demand, “Was there really a whale and a giant and an ark and a leper and seven horses?” and “Can women really turn into salt?” an informed loyalty to truth stands in resolve and answers, “It simply doesn’t matter.”


It simply doesn’t matter because an informed loyalty to truth understands that the spiritual value of these stories is neither inflated nor deflated by their facts.


There are universal stories that are particularized by noble souls such as Dorothy from Oz and Frodo from the Shire and Rocky from Philadelphia and Jesus from Nazareth alike.

And because the stories are universal, it doesn’t matter whether the noble souls who particularize them are real or not.  It doesn’t matter because there’s something within us that recognizes and relates to truth regardless of the factuality or non-factuality of the messenger.


So, while Easter can be considered an historical story about Jesus, I would ask us to consider Easter a universal story about what it means to be evolving, unfolding souls trying to figure out this thing we call a human incarnation.


I would ask us to consider Easter as a universal story that tells each of us that as evolving, unfolding souls, we will ultimately stumble upon points of tension in our lives.  It’s the story common to every addict who’s reached bottom, every abusee who’s had enough, every visionary who’s discovered a dream.  An old way will collide with a new way, you see.


I would ask us to consider Easter as a universal story that tells each of us that as evolving, unfolding souls, we will ultimately have to upset the tables of the money changers of the way things have been for far too long.  We will ultimately have to challenge the stale status quo, whether within or without; that stale status quo that thrives on the known and the knowable, that stale status quo that would hold us in that abyss between enough pain to step away and enough passion to step out.


We will reach the very edges of the only lives we’ve known and draw lines in the sands of consciousness as if to say, “I may not know which direction is next, but I do know it won’t be this direction any longer.”


I would ask us to consider Easter as a universal story that tells each of us that as evolving, unfolding souls, we will do well to cultivate the support of souls who can believe.

Dorothy needed a Lion, Frodo needed a Sam, Rocky needed an Adrian and Jesus needed the woman.  We will ultimately have to cultivate the support of souls willing to share the weight of whatever it is that’s rising within us.  Have you surrounded yourself with souls who can understand you, souls who can affirm you, souls who can love you?  I hope so.  There might be some around you right now.


I would ask us to consider Easter as a universal story that tells each of us that as evolving, unfolding souls, we will ultimately have to stand upon that threshold between all that has been and all that will be, and recognize that the choice is no longer both/and but either/or.  We will ultimately have to decide whether we will retreat to the comforts of the remembered past or step into the unknowables of the imagined future.  We will ultimately have to make a commitment, you understand.


This is true in consciousness.  This is true in relationships.  And this is true in communities such as ours.  We will ultimately have to stand upon that threshold between all that has been and all that will be and decide whether we will retreat to the comforts of the remembered past or step into the unknowables of the imagined future.


And in the end, I would ask us to consider Easter as a universal story that tells each of us that as evolving, unfolding souls, we will ultimately have to release all that has been for all that will be.  We will ultimately have to, in the way set forth by Jesus of Nazareth, die to the old that we might be born into the new.


So yes, it’s Jesus’ story.  But I don’t think Jesus walked his walk to show us what was possible for him.  I think Jesus walked his walk to show us what’s possible for us.  Holy week details a universal journey from tension and decision, resistance and support, commitment and sacrifice into that symbolic Saturday – into that cosmic breath, that vulnerable void – that valley (if you will) between the life that is no longer and the life that is not yet to the victory that is represented by Easter Sunday.


So, if your inner world is colliding, give thanks.  New life is assured.


If you’re tossing tables or finding resistance, give thanks.  New life is assured.


If you’re stepping forth or letting go, give thanks.  New life is assured.


And if you’re walking a dark valley, give thanks.  New life is assured.


While it’s tempting to believe we are to become a people of the resurrection, I think the message of Holy Week is that we are to become a people of life – a people carved broad enough and deep enough that we can hold the entirety of life (its resurrections and its crucifixions and everything in between) with equal grace; comforted by the promise that the palms of victory have been laid before us from the beginning.


And that’s a good affirmation for Easter: The palms of victory have been laid before me.  New life is assured.

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