An obvious, human example of this, can be found in our relationships. For me, and for many of us who are married or who have deep, intimate friendships, the security and goodness of those relationships can't be fully appreciated until one has had their heart truly broken. Until one knows the difference - having felt the sting of betrayal, or of loss - it's easy to take the good things for granted. We tend, however, to become much more vigilant and to be much more grateful for the good, healthy, faithful relationships we have after we've experienced the flip-side. That's certainly been true for me. Having had my heart broken a few times, I'm able to give thanks all the more for my marriage and for those friendships that continue to nourish and shape my life - because I know how precious and rare they are - how hard won, how easily lost, and how much they need my care, attention, and protecting.
In some ways, Holy Week can be encapsulated in this idea, too. Clergy are fond of saying that you cannot know Jesus, you cannot experience the true joy of Easter, if you haven't first traveled to the cross, if you haven't first faced sin, darkness, and death. If you haven't sat at the table with Jesus at the last supper, or strained to stay awake with him in the garden, if you haven't confronted your own betrayal of Jesus, your own human failing, then you cannot greet Easter light fully - knowing that in Christ's victory over death - you, too, have been saved. We cannot welcome the resurrection if we haven't first faced our own death, our dependence on God, and our fear or disbelief.
Holy Week is the opportunity for us to set aside some extra time, to travel to the cross with Jesus. It is a small window of time when the church invites us to step away from this world and to contemplate the next; to wonder and marvel at the power of God, and why God would care so much for us. In these next days, I pray that you will seize this opportunity to pray and to fast, to wait for the still, small voice of God; to listen and then to let that listening lead you to new actions, new sacrifices, new love. We cannot know the joy of Easter if we have not known the fear of the disciples and the darkness of the cross. We cannot accept our own resurrection if we have not looked to see how precious the victory is, how hard won, and how transformational it can be. If you have not looked, clear-eyed, into the sacrifice that God makes for us - what Jesus is willing to do for us - for the sake of his love.
There are many opportunities here at St. Andrews for you to join us in worship and contemplation over these next days. If you're not nearby, I'd be happy to help you find a church where you can mark these days with a Christian community, just be in touch. In any case, I pray that you will make room in your day - in your mind - in your heart - space for your spirit to move and to follow Jesus to the cross. To see the wondrous thing that God does - taking an instrument of death - and turning it into the vehicle of life and salvation. To see the extravagant sacrifice that Jesus makes for us. To know how fully and perfectly loved you are. And to join with God in saving the world.
May God's peace be with you in these next days as we travel to the cross together.