How do we explain Holy Week? based on a reflection by Karoline Lewis (Professor and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota)

It’s hard to reflect on Palm/Passion Sunday. And maybe, we shouldn’t delve too deeply?

Have you thought about letting the texts speak for themselves? Let this story simply be? Letting Holy Week do what it does and work as it should? Anything further on our part may very well be overkill — every pun intended. We can try too hard to cover every detail of Holy Week, try to pack it all in, because we assume that most of us won’t be back until Easter Sunday. That’s why we have Palm/Passion to begin with, right? Most people won’t come to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, so let’s cover all the bases. Let’s cover Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil before the women get to the empty tomb.

Don’t try this at home. Not only is it not possible. It’s not necessary.

Karoline suggests that we pick a verse from the passage and reflect on this for all its worth. Because the hard thing about Palm/Passion Sunday is that there is just too much text. Or as Salieri says to Mozart, just too many notes. What else is there to say?

Maybe don’t try. And admit that we can’t.

This Holy Week is an opportunity for witness. It is a chance for us to put ourself in the story and say this is what I see, what I feel and then ask, what about other people? What do they see, feel? Where are they moved? Any attempt to interpret or explain this week will be swamped in detail.

So why not just experience the story and let it do what it intends to do. Let the story be what it has to be. Let the story work on you. No one answer will work. No one interpretation will meet all needs. Articulate your personal point of entry and then invite others to imagine their own.

Because if the default is to make Passion Sunday and Holy Week doable, then we will end up reducing wonder to want. Amazement to acceptance. Resistance to recourse. Disbelief to discussion. And then everything we hope for on this Sunday is rather a pedantic roadmap to traverse the week that plots and plods rather than one that invites new routes of discovery.

Let the story of Palm/Passion/Holy Week do its work. And then let go. The biblical witnesses suggest that this is no place for statements of certainty. Rather, it is a space for ambiguity. Disappointment. Fear. Contemplation. Anger. Dejection. And there are not enough spaces in our lives that invite such real, visceral, embodied, unchecked, uncensored emotions and reactions to the events of faith.

Be honest with yourself. Be bewildered. Be willing to invite questions rather than provide answers. For your willingness to be confused allows the mystery and depth of Holy Week to inform your faith.

And so in your confession, this can be what you say. “I don’t know what to do with all of this. But God does. I don’t get it but I don’t have to because God does. I don’t want to figure this out. That’s OK. God has.”

And then we let Holy Week be.

Karoline Lewis