Saturday, March 27, 2010

An important week coming

In the coming week, March will end, and April will begin as 2010 continues to unfold at a breakneck pace. It is almost unbelievable that one quarter of the year is already finished, but that is the case.

While the changing of the months is important on one level, a person could make a pretty convincing case that we are about to begin the most important week of the year.

All religions have important observances, and for Christians, this coming week has a few that are the most important ones of that faith. No, I am not talking about Christmas. That holiday gets more publicity and hype than any other holiday and for the wrong reasons most of the time.

Beginning tomorrow, a series of observances unfold that literally describes the purpose of Christianity.

On Sunday, there will be commemorations worldwide that re-enact the return of Jesus to Jerusalem for the final time before His crucifixion and resurrection. Most calendars describe this day as 'Palm Sunday' though the holiday goes by some other names.

It is called that because as Jesus entered the city members of the large crowd laid down tree branches in front of Him. Palm leaves were likely among those branches. It makes sense that they were palm branches because in Jewish culture the laying down of these branches was a symbol used to honor somebody that was held in high regard.

In this case, Jesus was offering Himself as the long-awaited Messiah. The crowd had either personally seen him or heard of the many miracles He performed. It looked like a happy ending was about to happen. It did, but just not in the way the people expected.

Most in the crowd likely believed that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to boot out the occupying Roman forces and take control. However, within a week, all but a handful of people abandoned Him.

Events unfolded that led to what Christians now observe as Good Friday. This is the day that commemorates the awful circumstances of Jesus' crucifixion and Him acting as a sacrifice for the world's sins. Deserted by those who claimed to follow Him and tortured until His flesh resembled hamburger, he was nailed to the tree.

Though crucifixion was a form of punishment meant to bring shame on the condemned, this time it actually was a moment of victory because Jesus was fulfilling His mission. Jesus was no victim. He went to the cross knowing that His sacrifice would act as an atonement for all sins.

Of course, the most important moment of all this was His resurrection. This will be observed on Sunday, April 4, as Christians worldwide unite in observing this special moment.

Some folks call this day Easter. Others call it Resurrection Sunday. People can call it what they want as long as they remember that Jesus' resurrection is what validates Christianity.

Without the resurrection, Christianity would not exist. With no resurrection, Jesus would have been just another false prophet who claimed many things but failed to deliver.

What I have just written is music to the ears of Christians. Hopefully, Christians can summon up the discipline and dedication to attend a sunrise service at a church near them.

However, for skeptics and non-believers, the coming week is really nothing. My challenge to them is to spend some time genuinely reflecting on themselves and their role within the universe.

When applying the 'common sense' test, I think we can all agree that all of creation was not a big, cosmic accident.

Open your hearts. You never know what might happen.

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