March Madness

By Pastor Paula Burchill

I jokingly said in worship on Sunday that we were starting Holy Week—the church’s version of March Madness.  I only very peripherally follow the NCAA tournament—but when I do pay attention is when I hear a Cinderella team has made it in or that there was a last second buzzer beater to win a game.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.  We love it when the underdog wins—it goes back to David slaying the giant Goliath.  And even though your Dukes and your UNC’s and your Kansases are often in the tournament, we still hope that Middle Tennessee might just have a chance.

That has got me thinking.  How is Holy Week like March Madness?  When I made the joke, I was talking about how busy it is—you get to come to church 3 times this week!  Maundy Thursday when we celebrate Jesus’ commands to love one another and  to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday when we hear and see in a drama Jesus’ Seven Last words from the cross, and finally all the pomp and circumstance of Easter Sunday—with brass and lilies and the youth breakfast.

But really, I think the madness of the week is more about what happened to Jesus—who is kind of a Cinderella story if you think about it.  He was the son of a poor carpenter and a young virgin.  He hung out with the least the last and the lost.  He didn’t care about upsetting the “Dukes” of the day—he in fact told them where they were in error, how God was calling them to worship with their hearts, souls and minds.

But then he was crucified like a common criminal. No one had any reason to hope after that.  In fact, as Pastor Jonathan will preach on Sunday, the reaction of the women at the tomb in Mark was to run away terrified.  And yet we still sing of his victory on Easter.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1, this is foolishness [madness] to anyone else, but to us who believe, it is the wisest, most amazing thing there is.

This has been a tough week.  Yet another terrorist attack, and we wonder what can even be done?  Sometimes it feels utterly hopeless—make that often, it feels utterly hopeless.

And yet we still hope.  When Jesus died, Rome was breathing down the necks of the Israelites.  It would not be many years before they would commit a terrorist attack on them by destroying their temple.  Jesus knew that would happen.  By the time the gospels were written down, it already had.  And yet we still hope.

So this week, as we start the three holy days, I find myself clinging to the madness of this week.  I have to have hope in this world that Jesus is still at work.  That the enemy is not in charge and that Jesus will win in the end.  Even though it feels like all evidence is to the contrary much of the time, Christ is Risen! And he has taken the pain of the world, my pain, your pain into his own body bring us all new life.

It has already happened and yet we long for Jesus to come again.

We are fools, I suppose.  And it is madness, but what is the alternative?  I guess I don’t want to know.

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!

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