This is my Bible. This is what it looked like sitting in the pulpit during worship yesterday. It caught my attention in the middle of worship. In a service of worship where I — as the pastor — actually got to worship. That almost never happens. I’m too worried about making things happen to make enough room for my heart and mind to worship, but it happened yesterday. I actually got to worship.
I found my mind wandering. I believe they call that meditating. My gaze wandered to that beautiful window that is completely out of focus in this photo. And then, I saw my Bible with all of those pink post-it notes going in every direction.
I had already stood and proclaimed these words. Between those post-its, I had read the words that told the story of Jesus’ trial and death. The story of Jesus’ passion. The story of this Holy Week. I had already tried not to lose my place as I read from these powerful words. I had already felt the catch in my throat that comes every time I read these words. I had already felt their power. But, as the choir was singing, I saw those post-its and wondered if I had missed something.
Because Lent has been really weird this year. It’s not just my angst. It’s that this season hasn’t had a whole lot of space for what I really love about Lent. The worship planning group imagined a journey through this season that had a bit more joy in it. It was more active. It wasn’t the quiet introspective season that I kinda hate to admit that I love. And it’s been good. I heard someone say last week that it’s the best Lent they have ever had. But, as I stared at my Bible yesterday, I wondered about how we try so hard to infuse energy and joy into the hardest moments. Because that is what Lent has felt like to me. It feels so strange.
And this is the hard dance of pastoral ministry. Because I created a worship experience crafted by the community. It was truly liturgy — the work of the people. I even enjoyed it. It wasn’t until this moment on Palm and Passion Sunday that I felt unbalanced. It was only as I tried to shift into Holy Week that I realized that I’m not sure how to make this transition. And the congregation was so grateful for the worship that I crafted yesterday. But, it was a radical departure from what has been in these past five weeks. It wasn’t filled with energy and joy. It was hard and slow and even difficult as we moved into this story that we really can’t make better. It’s just hard. It’s awful. And sometimes we need to have permission to admit that. Even though my post-its tried to contain it, the story reached beyond those pink dividers and dug into my heart. And so it shall be. Sometimes we need to admit that there isn’t any joy to offer. It’s just hard.
And with this, Holy Week begins.