Moderns are selective about many things. What we remember is high on the list, perhaps ranking a slot or two above what we hear, how we spend our time and money, and what we eat. We're the culture of options and most humans learn to weigh and sift them early in life. Preferences are as singular as are the people who manage them, each of us a unique admixture of the things that shape us. Still, this selective memory thing usually moves us toward the more positive, self-gratifying positions. You know, if it feels good, looks good, tastes good, sounds good, it's the right move.
It's true in our spiritual lives too. It's one of the reasons words like casual and nominal and cultural are not part of the religious landscape of our nation, this thing about the broad range of selective living. We humans have a way of taking the easier path when one is available. And, in this world those paths are too numerous to mention. That's the deal about Passion Week and our celebration of Easter too. Somehow we've allowed the Via Delicioso to replace the Via Doloroso in our times of Holy Week remembrance. Fast forward to Resurrection Sunday is the action these days. You know, baskets, fake grass, chocolate eggs, the Easter Parade, and the glories of Christ's victory over the grave. The Passion of Christ, and all the negatives that attend it---betrayal, denial, abandonment, suffering, scourging, blood, nails, crowns of thorns, thirst, and a long list of painful reminders---are relegated to the rare Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services. I mean, the Way of the Cross seems a little out of place on Easy Street.
Then there's the *remember this thing too. I'll admit it's mostly a personal conviction and may not hold much water in a more academic setting. But, several years ago, preparing for a sombre and reflective Maunday Thursday communion service I realized that Jesus really only asked his followers to remember one thing about his life, earthly ministry, and finishing his purpose in the Father's redemptive plan.
Step aside. There's little doubt we're supposed to remember his life and ministry,
the substance of the Kingdom lessons he gave to his followers, and the life he
called his followers to live. God inspired Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to record
his life so that we could follow in his footsteps. So, don't hear me say we're
supposed to ignore all that the Gospels reveal about our Lord, his life, and his
expectation of us as disciples.
Just the same, he specifically told his followers to remember one central truth about his redemptive purpose. On the night he was betrayed he told them---
This is my body , which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. Luke 22:19, ESV
That Maunday Thursday evening those words came to me in a little different format. In my own personal heart he was saying, "This is my body which is given for you. When you think about me, remember this". It was one of those moments of clarity when his passion became fresh and real and when the remembrance of it settled on me as never before. When I think abut Jesus I'm supposed to remember this.
Yes, there are so many remembrance of him. The length and breadth of his life are marked by festivals, holidays, and celebrations that annotate our Christian calendar and guide our worship experiences through the year. But, then, the horrors of Passion Week are minimized as too explicit or gory to be the focus of our remembrance. Even our great hymns of faith about his blood and the cross are shelved for more uplifting worship. Who remembers when the Passion of the Christ movie debuted in 2004 and critics censured Director and writer Mel Gibson for the brutal depiction of Christ's passion and death? A little too real for us sensitive Americans. Snowflake stuff.
This is Passion Week. Yes, of course, there's victory on Resurrection Sunday, the most stupendous miracle in all of human history. But, that week there was suffering and death. And, over it is this asterisk, remember this. Here's my prayer that we do.