Second-hand stores report that donations of clothing and household goods are way up possibly because people are Kondo-izing – emptying their homes of the things which no longer “spark joy.” It remains to be seen whether this year’s Kondo-izer’s will be back with another load of clutter next year. Did getting rid of the unnecessary things enable them to live differently or was it simply a way of making room so they could collect more stuff? A similar question faces us at the end of Lent: will we start Lent next year with the same old clutter?
Some people are very good at Lent. For them, it is a 40 day marathon of privation and an exercise in self-control. Once the 40 days are over, they take back the stuff they gave up. It’s a good exercise, but it does not get us to an Easter moment. We get to an Easter moment only if a Lenten discipline has helped us to see that something was taking up a lot of space in our lives which was just clutter and we become willing to let it go and leave it behind. If we can close the door on that clutter, another door will open.
Lent helps us see what is clutter; then we need to let it go and leave it behind.
Easter Sunday will come on April 21 this year. It’s a great celebration but it is not the same thing as an Easter moment. Easter moments will arrive when we least expect them, maybe as glimmers of an insight or as an “aha” as loud as a trumpet fanfare. They will arrive when and how they will. We may barely feel ready, but ready we will be, because we kept a Lent. We got rid of the clutter: we left it behind and closed the door on it. Without a doubt, another door will open.
In churches on Palm Sunday and Good Friday a “Passion Narrative” will be read or communally recited. Passion Narratives are the accounts, drawn from the gospels, of Jesus’ last days: his struggle and arrest in Gethsemane, his trial, and his death and burial. Like the gospels in which they appear, Passion Narratives were composed primarily to help early Christians remember and reflect on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Secondarily, they were intended to exonerate the Romans for Jesus’ death by blaming “the Jews.”
We have very little historically verifiable information about Jesus. One of the few details for which we do have some reliable historical sources is that Jesus’s execution was most likely ordered by the Roman official, Pontius Pilate and carried out by Roman soldiers; not “the Jews.” It is a lie that Jesus’ fellow Jews were responsible for his death. That lie, woven into the Passion narrative, has resulted in the death of millions, even before the Holocaust of the 20th century.
“If to get a good message you need to make Judaism look bad, then you don’t have a good message.”
It is time for Christians to stop telling and re-telling the lie. Let’s skip the references to Judas. Even if he really did exist, the Holy Week story does not need a betrayer. As Jesus said himself, he lived and taught publicly. The Romans didn’t need Judas to find Jesus. Then we can leave out the references to Caiaphas, Annas, the High Priest, the Sanhedrin, the elders, the scribes and the Pharisees. Just edit them out. Their roles and their words were made up to perpetuate a terrible lie.
One of the reasons to remember the story of Jesus’ death is to reflect on how it is that good, innocent people get crushed by unfairness and injustice – not because it happened once 2000 years ago, but because it happens daily, and because we want to keep trying to change that. Let’s do our remembering and reflecting in a way that honors the Jew whose life and teachings we call good news.