Holy Week Reflections

The Apostles Creed says Jesus

suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.

The Nicene Creed says

for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.

The phrase that strikes me in both sentences is that or our sake Jesus suffered.

Christians over the ages have tried to unpack the meaning of that phrase but I’d propose that a good place to start comes to us from the UCC statement of faith

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord ,he has come to us and shared our common lot reconciling the world to himself.

To share our common lot is to mean that the suffering of Jesus is a kind of solidarity with anyone and everyone in this world who have suffered.

It’s a very different image than the song From a Distance by Bette Midler

From a distance There is harmony from a distance We all have enough And no one is in need And there are no guns, no bombs and no disease, From a distance God is watching us.

In that image God is quite separate from the world as it is. God watches from a distance and therefore appears to miss that in our actual world we do have guns and bombs. We do have diseases and pandemics. We still have suffering. We still have crucifixions.

But in Holy Week we are reminded that God is not distant at all but in Jesus shares our common lot, therefore the suffering of the world is not foreign to God but something God intimately feels and participates in. Jesus is Emanuel, God with us.

There is no suffering in the world that God is removed from. And that means we are never alone in whatever we face. We can recognize God in our midst in the joys that animate life and we find that in the Gospels. But we can also recognize God in our midst when we are most afraid, alone, anxious facing the intolerable. That is good news!

The good news of Easter is that God is not content with the suffering. Rather as the UCC statement indicates in Jesus, God is working to reconcile the world to God good intentions in this world. And those intentions are found in songs like Bette Midler At a Distance

We are instruments Marching in a common band Playing songs of hope Playing songs of peace

But that effort of reconciliation never happens because God is at a distance. It happens because God is in our midst, in flesh and blood, working to redeem suffering so that something good and better can come to be. And Jesus does this through his arms and feet in the world, that is the church.

As the UCC statement writes

God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the good news to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ’s baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.

God promises to all who trust in the gospel forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life

The drama of salvation comes into focus in Holy Week. We don’t just celebrate God’s no to death in the resurrection we celebrate at Easter. We also celebrate God being with us in struggle, in the darkness of our lives and world. We say this week and we learn this week the truth that New Creed writes of:

In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

Dwight Welch is the campus minister at United Campus Ministry at Montana State University Billings and vice minister at Bethlehem Lutheran in Billings MT

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