A Holy Week Spiritual Path

Jesus’ Holy Week path--from Palm Sunday through his crucifixion and resurrection--tells a story that invites deep spiritual preparation, prayer, and creative action. This pathway beckons followers of Jesus and especially calls those of us committed to practicing nonviolence and living God’s sacrificial love. There are several invitations along this Holy Week path. Will you join On Earth Peace in this spiritual preparation?  

At the beginning of the week, Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey, praised by crowds waving palm fronds. This act of street theater satirizes and reverses the Roman military processions roaring with chariots and horses which enter Jerusalem from the other direction. Jesus shows an alternative to mighty domination power: Humble service, personal connection, community, healing--the path of God-With-Us.  Wherever you are located, how might your life turn the culture you live in upside down - reversing polarization, oppression, violence, and war?  What initiative could you take to make that real and visible, even through a symbolic and creative act (like Jesus on the donkey)? 

Through his life and ministry, Jesus wove a spiritual community that saved lives and connected people to God. It modeled a way to honor the dignity and worth of every person and offered service to all people.  Holy Week included what we now call the Last Supper - a simple meal shared with friends, connecting with God through the bread and cup, and serving others in a way that scandalized (washing feet, an intimate and powerful act).  What is perhaps the highest ritual of the Church of the Brethren, which we call Love Feast, re-enacts that meal, communion, and footwashing, following the model of Jesus. Jesus upends ideas of Master and Servant and asserts that all are equal in his community. What intimacy are you willing to risk in your accustomed and habituated settings?  Is there some potentially scandalous way you could show the service and equality to which we are called?  

Jesus’ path led him to the cross. He was crucified for being a threat to the religious and civil authorities - both the state and his own faith tradition. As we follow Jesus this Holy Week, how can we prepare ourselves spiritually and emotionally to be crucified with him?  This is not an abstract spiritual proposition: In all of human history, again and again, those who speak or work for justice, peace and nonviolence are maligned, attacked, and even crucified. One of On Earth Peace’s core Kingian Nonviolence trainers knows she is under surveillance in her country. If we are to accept this path with Jesus, we can reasonably expect that such treatment will come our way. Perhaps you already know and see the potential costs to “your self, your wealth, your reputation” (referring to hymn lines attributed to Church of the Brethren founder Alexander Mack). What risks have you already taken, and what price have you paid? This week, ask God for healing from past harm, and creative strength for the risks still to be taken.  

Jesus’ path led him through the crucifixion, through the tomb, to resurrection. It is improbable to assert resurrection - coming to life again - in the face of wars, shootings, racism, climate destruction, occupations, threats of emotional and physical violence. Even the bitterness and brittleness of broken relationships can be a place of death and despair. Alienation and sin may overwhelm.  Yet faith can invoke within us an opening, a way of seeing in which life is born anew in the face of these forces of death. Internal rebirth and resurrection are possible. God's resurrection power provides faith that death and violence don’t have the last word. This week, be unruly in the face of death. Pray for the resurrection promise that hope, love, justice, and peace can be planted and grow again in our lives and communities.

Matt Guynn is co-executive director of On Earth Peace. Before working with OEP, he served for a time as co-director of training for Community Peacemaker Teams (previously Christian Peacemaker Teams), working as a nonviolent bodyguard for communities under threat in Chiapas, Mexico. That experience of radical discipleship and solidarity watered and nourished the seeds of these reflections. 

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