My part in the Seder service should have been simple. All I had to do was read my lines to those gathered around the table to celebrate the story of Moses leading his people across the Red Sea to liberation. But no words came out of my mouth. That night 25 years ago, the story was too personal; I faced a Red Sea of my own: I could stay in an impossible marriage . . . or face an ugly divorce and an unknown future, wandering in an unfamiliar wilderness. I tried to speak, and nearly choked on the Seder promises of freedom; I wanted to cling to my delusion that things weren’t so bad—at least as a family we looked good on the outside.
A Christian’s journey through the week from Palm Sunday to Easter echoes the Hebrews’ journey across the sea, into the desert, and on to the Promised Land and their freedom. The first Palm Sunday was a celebration based on the delusion that, as king, Jesus would overthrow the Romans. Neither crowds nor the disciples understood what their true liberation would require—releasing their delusions and moving through the deep pain that truth often entails—before resurrection was possible. Many individuals prefer to remain Palm Sunday Christians, avoiding the grief, secrets, and brokenness in our lives and staying with our delusions about how life should be.
In the same way, many churches maintain a façade that everything is rosy, when internally the life force of the church may have lost its Spirit and integrity. Façades eventually crumble. One large Protestant church with an impressively manicured campus cracked apart when secrets about years of abuse could no longer be repressed. The leadership struggled to protect the church’s image, in spite of numerous newspaper stories and the revelation of more and more secrets of other abuses. No spiritual duct tape could repair the façade. When it became impossible to shine as Palm Sunday Christians, leaders chose to push through all the betrayal, heartbreak and denial and face their own agonizing Good Friday. They started telling the truth and healing the pain the abuse and secrets had caused. Some days, hope of recovery seemed impossible; many days it was tempting to return to a Palm Sunday façade. Finally resurrection came. No mystical, magical moment. Instead, a campaign of hard truth-telling, problem solving and deep listening opened the congregation to receive the Good News fully, authentically and courageously.
Are you ready to leave Palm Sunday this year, explore the depths of unknowing and painful truth, and open yourself to a personal, spiritual resurrection?