In this Holy Week installment of Dust Matt Jenson invites us to slow down. To meditate. To live life at the pace of God’s salvation, which is at the core of the Christian celebration of Holy Week and its reenactment, “frame by frame” as Jenson suggests, of the movements of Jesus leading up to the Cross. A fitting reflection for this Holy Wednesday.
The Table: How can the celebration of Lent change us? What is it about ritual and/or Christian liturgical life that transforms people?
Jenson: One of my first theology teachers, Robert Webber, wrote in his book Ancient-Future Worship that “Christians follow the Jewish principle of marking time through God’s saving events.” At once reverence and reminder, the church calendar embeds the story of God’s deliverance of his people into our mundane experience of the passage of time. We can celebrate New Year’s Day, sure, but Christians know that the new beginning that holds out real promise is the resurrection. We celebrate the turning over of the year not in a self-ignorant stab at moral improvement (you know which road our “best intentions” pave…), but in a self-forgetting delight in the resurrection of the crucified Lord Jesus.
Perhaps never more than this week leading up to Jesus’ death do we get an opportunity to rhyme our time with his. The gospel accounts give us a rare glimpse into the details of this week. They slow down their travelogue feel, with episodes strung together, and offer us a close-up look, frame by frame, at Jesus’ confrontation with the powers that be, with sin, death, and the devil in Jerusalem. And we, in turn, get the opportunity to enter in, to train our hearts and minds this week on Jesus’ road to the cross. That’s what this week is for—to meditate on the way of Jesus, to enter in with our imaginations, our senses, our reason, our affections, together, with Jesus, as he takes up our griefs, our sorrows, and our sins, bears them on his back, and bears us with them.