Encouraging Words Today! Palm Sunday, March 28, 2010

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

            I visited Calvary and it was not at all what I imagined…nor what I hoped.

           Last year in Jerusalem I walked the stations of the Cross, discovering that the location of Calvary is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – a scene totally unlike the ‘green hill far away’ I had sung about and imagined. Just entering this holiest site in all Christendom, I was struck by the cacophony of conflicting religious traditions which share both the structure and services – Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic. Byzantine, medieval, Crusader, and modern elements all mix in style and each governing Christian community has decorated its shrines in its own distinctive way. It did not seem peaceful or holy or even sacred…..at first.

            My senses were overwhelmed by the incense and garish art and there were times where I just wanted to shout “Could everyone else just leave so I can be right here with Jesus, please?” Reaching the Greek Calvary rock, I made a choice to simply kneel down, tune out everything else, close my eyes and silently sing: 

                        See, from His head, His hands, His feet,

                       Sorrow and love flow mingled down.

                        Did ere such love and sorrow meet,

                        Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

                        Were the whole realm of nature mine,

                        That were a present far too small;

                        Love so amazing, so divine,

                        Demands my soul, my life, my all.                                                

(Isaac Watts, 1707)

            Christ met me there and there I worshipped Him. In the midst of the chaos, He gave me His peace. It seemed like a good idea to use that holy place to once again offer to him ‘my soul, my life, my all’ in an act of recommitment and renewal. No, Calvary wasn’t what I expected, but it was exactly what I needed.

            That was a year ago. This Holy Week I am submerged in life once again with a myriad of distractions threatening to crowd out the holiness of the season.  I often want to shout at the world to hush or stop or at least slow down long enough for me to savor this moment…..and yet, I know that just as I had to be proactive in the middle of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I also have to make it happen in the here and now of a complicated life.

            Stop. Just stop. Breathe. Breathe again. Be still. Be quiet. Listen. Remember.  Remember all that happened that last week in the life of Jesus…. how quickly the cheers of Palm Sunday turned into jeers on Good Friday; how dedicated helpful followers so quickly fell asleep or ran away when the going got tough; how the whole world turned dark literally and figuratively in the hearts of those who didn’t understand that Christ’s passion was life giving….

            And yes, I quietly sing:

                        What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,

                        For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

                        O make me Thine forever; and should I fainting be,

                        Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

(Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th Century)

            Experience the Passion this week…..and cling to the Hope.

                                         under the mercy, Cindy 


An Easter Prayer

            O You Who Comes,

            Who are the hope of the world, give us hope. Give us hope that beyond the worst the world can do there is such a best that not even the world can take it from us, hope that none whom You have loved is ever finally lost, not even to death.

            O You Who Died

            in loneliness and pain, suffer to die in us all that keeps us from You and from each other and from becoming as good and as brave as we are called to become. O Lamb of God, forgive us.

            O You Who Rose Again

            You Holy Spirit of Christ, arise and live within us now, that we may be Your body, that we may be Your feet to walk in the world’s pain, Your hands to heal, Your heart to break, if need must be, for love of the world.

            O Risen Christ, make Christs of us all. Amen.     

(Frederich Buechner in “From Death to Life”)

©2010 Lucinda Secrest McDowell


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2 Responses to HOLY WEEK IN MY HEART

  1. maggierowe says:

    Beautiful post, Cindy. I had the same reaction when I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But I was so moved when I saw a young Korean girl staring at the rock split in two with tears streaming down her face – a moment too holy for Kodachrome. Mike and I both much preferred Gordon’s Garden Tomb.
    Thank you for taking the time to point us toward the Cross this week.

  2. Thanks, Maggie, so glad you can go back to the Holy Land this summer… Easter Blessings to you and all of FBC Wheaton! Our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services were so amazing that I can’t wait until tomorrow — will be on cemetary hill at sunrise…

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