The week before the week before. There’s really not a holiday card celebrating that. It does happen though – every time there’s a major holiday, there’s always the week before the week before. It’s that time where you are thinking about what all needs to be done, but not at a panic stage yet. There’s still time to contact that family member that you forgot to put on the list to invite, and it doesn’t feel too awkward yet. There’s still time to decorate and find just the right card for just the right person. Still time to maybe color some Easter eggs even if you don’t really know why coloring Easter eggs is an expectation for the resurrection of Jesus. Still time to get purply, yellowy, and pinky peeps, even when you sorta know they probably would not disintegrate if left on their own for a thousand years and maybe there’s something a little wrong with that.
Sometimes it’s worth thinking about things in a peculiar way, like the week before the week before. When you think about the life-marking, life-changing events in your life – you know, the ones that changed everything in a way you didn’t previously know or expect they would change? Can you pull those moments up, and then remember what the week before the week before that happened was like? What was “normal” before you had to get used to a “new” normal? What was that unknowing of what was ahead like? Have you longed to return to that way? Are you relieved you never had to return to that way? Was it a blissfull ignorance that had you not had, surviving the events that were coming would have been close to impossible? If someone had told you what was ahead during that week before the week before, would you have quit while you were ahead, or quit while you were behind, or just quit so as not to face that which would be required to live into a different future?
The linoleum tiles in the lower entrance are being replaced this week before the week before Palm Sunday at Grace. So for 17 years our building has withstood rain and hail and sleet and snow and never failed to make its space available for weekly worship – but sometimes that space offered a rather unplanned “remember your baptism” experience with trash cans being placed beneath leaks that dripped sometimes in the sanctuary, and most times in the elevator tube and down the walls from the upper to the lower level in the west entrance and stairwell. This winter into spring, the entire roof of the older part of our building was replaced, including the steeple! Some of you may have seen the roofer guys who so nimbly just ran around up there with no fear of heights and falling and gravity and slippage and their whole being non-avian and wingless ‘could not have flown if they had fallen’-ness. And so they replaced the roof which means the linoleum tiles in the lower entrance and the stairwell are being replaced.
I may miss the rust-colored curling cornered tiles that I’ve come to know so well over the years. A little like I miss that paper-cut on my finger in the winter when it takes 10 days to heal in the dry arctic air – no, I cannot keep track of any pair of gloves I’ve ever had, so yes, my hands are too dry to heal easily, most particularly as I age – thanks for asking. So new tiles the week before the week before – you know, so the pastors and staff don’t stress out that they won’t have it done by the actual week. Having new ground on which to walk, in a way, the week before the week before multitudes of feet will make their way to experience palms and last suppers and a crucifixion and a resurrection seems appropriate, I think.
We are living in the week before the week before the Palm Parade. The week before the week before Jesus will be hosanna’d into the city for the last time and preparing for that upper room last supper and the footwashing and the bread and the juice and the new covenant and the betrayal and the denial and the kangaroo court and the conviction and the whipping and the scourging and the cross carrying. It’s the week before the week before all that.
In Luke’s gospel, maybe in the general realm of the week before the week before, Jesus tells Zacchaeus to come down out of a tree because he’s going to his house that day. It does not increase Jesus’ popularity – Zacchaeus was a tax collector known widely for cheating the powerless out of what little they had. He does promise to repay all he’s taken unfairly four times over, but the religious types weren’t so impressed with that as much as they grumbled that Jesus would eat with sinners. Did Jesus know he was escalating people’s fears and hatred by inviting and relating the “wrong kind” into God’s love and grace – you know, the week before the week before?
In John’s gospel, maybe in the general realm of the week before the week before, Jesus waits four days after he hears his friend Lazarus is deathly ill and then dies, to finally come to see him. Mary and Martha are justifiably upset that Jesus hadn’t come immediately. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb and out of the surety of death. Good news, right? Jesus is who he says he is – the God whose power is life. Lazarus will still die one day, but on this day he has life. Not everyone thought it was good news. In fact that story ends with, “So from that day on they planned to put him (sic., Jesus) to death.”
No wonder there aren’t greeting cards for the week before the week before Easter. “Congratulations for being a person of faith, your Jesus seals his future destiny of crucifixion by talking to and redeeming the wrong people! Happy week before the week before Easter, you salts of the earth and lights of the world!” Right, no greeting card company has offered me a job recently. *snort*
So how is it with your soul this week before the week before Palms, Death, and Resurrection? Is it time to step out on new ground? Is it time to heal old hurts and reconcile old conflicts? Is it time to create and invite and forgive and share a peep with a friend, because why metabolize yellow dye #7 alone? Is it time to take a closer look at the two folks Jesus is reported to have had interaction with immediately before entering the holy city and ask ourselves if we’re interacting with their long-begotten brothers and sisters that are all too easily and all too often long-forgotten?
It’s the week before the week before the promise of life and suffering and death and resurrection and all that is real and gritty and ugly and beautiful about human beings and life and the world. Don’t hop *snort* through it too quickly. There is still time to open hearts and hands and minds and spirits to whatever the path has ahead for us that we can’t yet know, because it is after all, only the week before the week before.