The Hard Work of Discovering What Really Matters

I deeply appreciate Holy Week. I don’t think it would sound quite right to say I “love” it or that it’s my favorite part of the Christian liturgical cycle, but I appreciate it. We spend the season of Lent preparing for Holy Week, stripping away those things that distract us and separate us from God and our neighbor. During Holy Week we are faced with dealing with the deep realities of our lives and our world. No longer are we focused on giving up coffee, or social media, or taking on a new spiritual practice, we are pushed to go deeper than that: we must deal with injustice, suffering and death.

The story of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ “grand” entrance into Jerusalem is the beginning of the Holy Week narrative. Jesus’ followers and those who lined the streets for what actually wasn’t such a grand entrance, believed this was a new beginning. And it was a new beginning, however, it was a beginning to a story that had a different ending from the one they expected.

Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was a joke compared to how a Roman official would enter a city. Their entrance would have been in true opulent fashion, with armed soldiers in a show of prominence and imperial power. So, Jesus’ entrance is meant to be ironic. He comes in on a young horse (donkey in other gospels) with his ragtag bunch of followers, mocking the roman processional. He’s the humble king, riding into town, not as a military ruler, but as the Messiah, the anointed one, who fights the battles of the world with love, humility, healing, compassion and restorative justice.

We spend so much time in our lives trying to attain that prominence and power, looking to find the next best thing, upgrading, getting a promotion or that big break. The more status we attain, the more stuff we get, the happier we will be; that’s what the world tells us, anyway. However, Jesus’ processional reminds us that it’s not about how flashy our stuff is, but it’s about the values we carry with us.

I’ve been intrigued lately by stories of people and businesses who are moving away from a “profits first, ask questions later” model and are working to build companies and products and cultures that benefit our lives and our world. There’s this story of an entrepreneur and millionaire who, after selling two luxury residences, now lives in a 420 square foot studio apartment because he found it was love, not stuff, that made him happy. Or this story about companies who intentionally pass up higher profits because people and the environment are just as important as making money. These stories are only possible because people were willing to ask the hard the questions and make meaningful changes. Sometimes, you have to walk through the darkness to find the light.

The Holy Week narrative will continue, recounting what happens when love goes up against violence and injustice. Initially love will not win and there will be intense suffering and darkness. There will be questions of God’s justice and goodness. There will be grieving and hope will be a far off fantasy. The Christian story would not be compelling if it ended there because all too often we hear that story, we live that story, where darkness crushes the light, where hate wins out over love.

So we remember that the story never ends there because when we strip away all of those things that we think we need, we uncover something new, things we didn’t think were possible: love, compassion and humility, true meaning and value. It is then that we glimpse the image of God that sits at the core of our being. It’s an image that is buried under so many misconceptions of who we are and what makes us happy, buried under so much pain, suffering and hopelessness. But it’s an image filled with so many possibilities of hope that we find on Easter morning when we discover the tomb is empty. Until we get there, though, we must continue to journey inward, to strip away, to empty ourselves so we can discover those things that really matter.

2 thoughts on “The Hard Work of Discovering What Really Matters

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  2. Pingback: Giving Away What Really Matters | City Square Church Blog

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