Many of you know that last month, my daughter and other Incarnation teens were on lockdown at Wakefield High School while police searched the school for an armed trespasser (he was later arrested just a few blocks from Randolph Elementary). I stood outside the police barricade in the cold with other parents as we shared text updates from our kids inside the building. One student was hiding under a pile of lane dividers in the pool, shivering in a damp swimsuit. Another was hiding in a closet; two others in lockers; still another helped her teacher barricade the door with a metal cabinet. Those were some of my worst hours as a parent, imagining my child hiding while an armed trespasser walked the halls.
But in the end, Wakefield's trespasser fled, no one was harmed, and the lockdown was lifted. The parents, teachers, and students at Covenant School in Nashville on Monday were not so fortunate. On Monday night, as I read the names and saw the faces of those killed, and I couldn't find any words to pray beyond those of the psalmist: "how long, O Lord?"
It's hard to find words to reflect and pray on such tragedies. I always appreciate Esau McCaulley's voice on difficult issues, and I recommend his article. In addition, below is an excerpt from the letter I wrote about the Uvalde shooting last May. Those words are applicable yet again, so I share them here:
In the face of such overwhelming sorrow, we pray the promises of Isaiah 2:4: "He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more."
One day God will judge the nations — and that includes us. Lord, have mercy.
One day we will beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The trajectory of human history is toward tools, not weapons; gardening, not warfare. Christ, have mercy.
One day we will no longer "learn war." There is something so disturbing about the idea that we learn war. Not just wage war, but learn it: direct our curiosity, intellect, imagination, and will toward more effectively destroying people who bear God's image. But one day, this perversion will cease. Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Holy Week begins on Sunday. We will gather outside and wave palm branches and parade down South Quincy singing "all glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer King" in a chaotic chorus of joy and anticipation. And then, not 15 minutes later, we will shout "Crucify him!" with the crowds as we read the passion narrative.
Holy Week always begins with this liturgical whiplash. We hear our voices praise Jesus as king, then condemn him as criminal. It's a jarring reminder of how easily we abandon our loyalty to Jesus and his kingdom. Jesus was not the kind of Redeemer King people had hoped for. He didn't come with force, he didn't overthrow the Roman authorities, and he didn't reinstate his people to political power and glory.
Instead, he came feeding the hungry, healing the sick, washing feet, and bearing a cross. Every year Holy Week invites us to re-dedicate ourselves to the descending way of Jesus. To lay down whatever hopes we'd placed in power, politics, or personal glory and follow Jesus all the way to death. There, and only there, do we find resurrection life.
You can read about all Holy Week services on our website, and I've included a brief summary below. As crazy as it may sound, I encourage you to consider doing everything — the services are so beautiful, so moving, so very worth your time.
Holy Week at Incarnation
Palm Sunday, April 2, 10am at Randolph. We begin outside with a procession of palms.
Maundy Thursday, April 6, 7:30pm at Greenbrier Baptist. A service of foot-washing and communion concluding with the stripping of the altar. And if that's not enough to entice you, the one and only Buz Schultz is preaching!
Good Friday, April 7, throughout the day at Greenbrier Baptist:
All day: Outdoor, self-guided Stations of the Cross
12pm: Good Friday Tenebrae service in the sanctuary
1-5pm: Sanctuary open for drop-in quiet prayer and confession
Holy Saturday, April 8, opportunities for reflection throughout the day as we sit in the silence of Christ's absence:
9am: Brief prayer service on Zoom.
Self-guided tour of sacred art at the National Gallery paired with readings from Julian of Norwich. Leigh McAfee has created this guide for us and it is incredible. I can't wait to share it with you. We will share printed copies on Sunday and upload a digital version to the Holy Week page.
Prepare lentil soup with vinegar to remember the bitter gall of the cross — an Incarnation tradition. Some people fast throughout the day and break their fast with this simple meal.
Host a simplified Easter Vigil around a fire pit and invite Incarnation friends. We will share printed copies on Sunday and upload a digital version to the Holy Week page.
Easter Sunday, April 9, 10am at Randolph
Bring your Incarnation bells!
Bring greens and flowers from the yard for our kids to adorn the altar
Bring an Easter dish to share for the potluck (last names A-D beverages; E-L sweets; M-Z savories)
I so look forward worshiping with you over the coming week. Together we will lament the violence we see in the world and in our own hearts. Together we will celebrate the certain hope of the resurrection.