Can you imagine a Palm Sunday and Holy Week with less words and more simplicity? St. Francis was a man of gesture—the kiss on the leper’s mouth tells us more about compassion than any sermon ever could. The embrace of the wolf tells us more about facing fear with love than any sermon ever could. He told the story of the birth of Jesus by building a rough manger, filling it with straw and bringing in the animals.
So this coming week, when we get lots of words—we hear the whole Passion story in many of our churches, on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday—what if we let the story stand on its own, without interpretation, at least until Easter Sunday?
We have the opportunity to tell our story without words—with palm branches in our streets, dramatic reading, overturned tables at banks-too-big-to-fail, footwashing at Veterans Hospitals, broken bread at soup
What if we started, this week, to follow Francis in his simple way? What if we found church at the margins? What if we changed some old patterns and tried some new gestures? We might hear that same call he did, to “repair my church” and that call might us, all of us. We might become a church that is known for its humility, simplicity and allegiance to the poor. We might become known once again as the church of Jesus.
This Sunday - in the midst of using Walter Wangerin's moving dramatic reading of the Passion narrative - I will confirm six young people into the life and mission of Christ's body. It struck me as the right time to do this ceremony as it emphasizes a life of love and compassion more than anything else. Another favorite author, Barbara Brown Taylor, posted this that rings so true, too:
So love God. Love a neighbor. Be a neighbor, and let us not complicate things by arguing about specifics. You know what it means to do love because some time or another you have been on the receiving end of it, but remember that knowing the right answer does not change a thing. If you want the world to look different the next time you go outside, do some love. Do a little or do a lot, but do some, and do not forget some for yourself.
That's clearly what I pray our young people will grasp on Sunday - and what they come to affirm as they mature with us in the Body of Christ. I know I am still wrestling with this in the middle of bulletin preparation, administrative challenges, financial worries and all the other public preoccupations involved in "doing" church. So, I pray seek for the deeper wisdom and spirit of Francis to guide me through the practices and preparations that are necessary for the celebration of Holy Week. "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace..."