Since the First Sunday in Lent we have been looking at ‘burning bush moments’ when Jesus’ encounter with someone or some situation dramatically changed the story. Today is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week when in Christian churches around the world, the final events of Jesus life will be remembered in various way. There will be worship services, music, enactments, videos, sunrise services, vigils, prayers, and other activities.Probably some participants at these activities will find themselves confronted with a ‘burning bush moment’-a time when God comes close and lives are changed. Maybe it will be you.
What about the men and women who were present during the events of that first Holy Week?
It started out normally enough with Jesus and his followers on the way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. One of the disciples goes to the city to find a room for them to hold the special meal, just like hundreds of others in the city and across Israel. Another disciple borrows a donkey for Jesus to ride. Then the dynamic of the day changes. Other pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem recognize Jesus and start shouting ‘Hosanna’.
Some of us are old enough to remember the song “Hosanna” from Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), which sets the stage for the conflict between Jesus and the Temple authorities. And it seems a revival of the show will be on TV on Easter Sunday.
As the events of the day and week continue, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and institutes what we now celebrate as Eucharist (Communion, Mass, Last Supper). This is remembered on Thursday of Holy Week during Maundy Thursday services. There will be foot washing ceremonies, rites honoring the sacrament, and probably other remembrances. Many churches will take time to revisit the time in the Garden of Gethsemane when the disciples cannot stay awake with Jesus before he is arrested. The Gospels tell us that ‘the disciples deserted him and fled’. We modern disciples are invited to ‘watch and pray’.
Then we come to the tragedy of Good Friday when Jesus is condemned and crucified. Only the women and John the Apostle are known to be at the cross. After his death, Jesus in buried by Joseph of Arimathea and the women in Joseph’s tomb. Imagine the despair.
Where in those events can we relate to any ‘burning bush moments’?
In the dramatic entrance into Jerusalem, maybe some in the crowd had a glimpse of someone greater than a ‘superstar’. Perhaps in the washing of their feet, some of the disciples felt a nudge of the institution of a new order where the teacher serves the students, where the leader is slave to those who should serve. Could it be that Pilate wanted to believe that more than a man stood before him as he asked, ‘what is Truth’? The Centurion in charge of the crucifixion recognized the ‘burning bush’. He states, ‘truly this is the son of God’. Joseph of Arimathea honors the man he had hoped was more than a man by offering his own grave. Did he have an inkling of the events to come?
Where will you meet Jesus in a burning bush moment this week? Try to take time to notice the “Earth [that is] is crammed with heaven,/And every bush is aflame with God”. Let yourself “see, [and] take off [your] shoes." (Elizabeth Barrett Browning. If you are aware you will see beyond the blackberries in the bush!