This is my first Holy Week in New York and I can’t contain my excitement.
Unlike in my small Southern hometown, millions of people from varied religious and ethnical backgrounds worship here, each moving through their own traditions with intentionality and awe. Despite how unique my neighbor’s Holy Week religious rituals and theology may be from mine, we both walk through this week with anticipation, reverence, and celebration.
I have enjoyed seeing my diverse New York neighborhood prepare for this week. The butcher shop across the street proudly displayed this sign in the window, advertising their “Baby Lambs & Baby Goats And All your Holiday Needs,” complete with cute cartoon Easter illustrations. (Poor cute baby animals.)
Before the start of my morning yoga class yesterday, my Jewish classmate discussed the upcoming Seder meal at his synagogue with our instructor. The orthodox churches have propped up A-frames on the sidewalk announcing their hefty Paschal Week, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday schedules.
Meanwhile, we just observed Palm Sunday at my church (accompanied by small children whacking each other with strips of palm leaves) and we now await Maundy Thursday and then – finally – Easter Sunday. We are also in the process of stuffing approximately 3,000,000 plastic eggs with assorted candy, which we’ll “hide” around a local park for a community Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday.
Of course, I would really prefer just participating in this event as an Easter egg hunter, please and thank you, because the thrill of the hunt is magical and Reese’s peanut butter eggs make my heart happy. (Don’t be surprised if you hear of a young woman in Queens swiping Reese’s eggs from small children and making them cry.)
But on this day, two thousand years ago in Jerusalem, everybody was just focusing on preparing for the Passover, just like normal. They certainly didn’t have Maundy Thursday on their radars, much less Easter Sunday. And then Jesus decided to use this day to assert His sovereign authority over Jerusalem through his triumphal entry (Matthew 21:1-11). The Messiah was HERE. It was happening, just as the prophet had promised.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
The energy is palpable around me as we mentally and spiritually prepare for the emotional roller coaster that is Holy Week. Even one of my students asked me to explain Easter to her the other day, which allowed me to share the Gospel and the excitement surrounding this Christian celebration.
Last night, I attended a local Bengali church with a friend to celebrate Palm Sunday. I understood exactly one out of every forty words they said in the service and spent most of my time squinting determinedly at the pastor or worship leader, as if that would help my brain process the Bangla language. It didn’t. But I could pick out “hosanna” in the chorus of the opening song and that was enough to get me through the worship time.
Worshipping Jesus in a different language always reminds me of Philippians 2:9-11, which proclaims:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
Hosanna in the highest!