Roller Coaster

We call it Holy Week, but maybe we could refer to it as our annual roller-coaster ride, going from the joyous parade of Palm Sunday (albeit just to a donkey height or so) to Jesus getting as low to the ground level of our humanity as possible in washing others’ feet for Maundy Thursday, and sharing a meal right alongside as well, before being lifted up on a pain-filled cross for Good Friday, carrying over into the heart-wrenching waiting and anticipation of that holy Saturday, and then the ultimate joy and celebration of the Resurrection. The Holy Week title has its reasons, but a roller-coaster ride of emotions has its realistic description as well, not just for the Messiah, but for us, connecting to our whole life: a roller-coaster ride that Jesus is, evidently, willing to hop on board no matter the dips and rises or speed or twists and turns. If the cross can’t stop him, nothing that happens in our life can, either.

I’ve come to appreciate how the hymn “My Song Is Love Unknown” (ELW 343) seems to encapsulate the Holy Week/roller-coaster ride. The third verse hits a reality of our human condition that gets brought front-and-center from the Palm Sunday march to the Good Friday capital punishment display.

Sometimes we strew his way
and his sweet praises sing;
resounding all the day
hosannas to our king.
Then “Crucify!” is all our breath,
and for his death we thirst and cry.

I’ve always been fascinated with that mental and physical transition. Was it all just about being caught up in the crowd? Everyone else is shouting, “Hosanna!” so I might as well join in? Everyone is now yelling, “Crucify him!” so I better go along with it as well if I want to stay part of my community? This is always the perfect opportunity for us to make ourselves feel superior thousands of years later, thinking, “Surely, I would have stood up for my Savior!” As if we can always rise above the roller-coaster ride ensuing not just in our soul, but in our surrounding family and friends we care about, too.

And yet, even if our life-long ride includes a fair share of doubts and anger and “Where the h--- are you, God!?!” our Lord isn’t jumping off from our side. This hymn has a way of making it seem okay that we do not always have the words to explain such love God has for us, or trying to explain our deepest feelings towards the divine, and even the frustration towards our collective human condition. It may be something along the lines of the final verse:

Here might I stay and sing—
no story so divine!
Never was love, dear King,
never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend!

Regardless, it is not a love unknown anymore. We may struggle to experience it first-hand from time-to-time, but no matter what, the Gospel remains that Jesus is staying on our ride for all eternity. Thanks be to God, indeed!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad

Image: Behemoth, Canada’s Wonderland, Ontario (Getty Images)

“My Song is Love Unknown” from First-Plymouth Church (Lincoln, Nebraska) April 18, 2019