The following Holy Week reflection was written by Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA.
Holy Week is a portal. Portals are openings to new spaces, and new realities. In popular literature, whether it be the rabbit hole in “Alice in Wonderland,” the tornado in the Wizard of Oz, or King’s Cross Station Platform 9-3/4 in the Harry Potter series, portals are magical openings to alternate worlds.
Alice slips down the rabbit hole and enters the realm of the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, and all sorts of strange and different kinds of folks and animals. Dorothy is caught up in a tornado and deposited in the land of Oz with good and bad witches, munchkins, a cowardly lion, a heartless tin man, and a brainless scarecrow. A vanishing door that appears at platform 9-3/4 is the entry point for Harry Potter into a universe filled with muggles, wizards, witches and intrigue galore at Hogwart’s School. For each of these characters, the portal through which they cross marks the threshold between two very different realities; two very different worlds.
Holy Week marks the same sharp differentiation for us. It is a threshold event, a portal like the rabbit hole, the tornado and platform 9-3/4 that offers a passageway. On the one side of this threshold event lies the realm of decay and death into which we are born. The following names—Columbine High School, Fallujah, Auschwitz and the Gulag—speak of the horrors of this realm let alone the daily little deaths of despair, betrayal, and alienation we experience.
On the other side lies the realm of love and life which Jesus inaugurates through his death and resurrection. Isaiah, the prophet, struggled to describe the wonder of this new realm in poetic language: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” John a follower of Jesus and writer of the Book of Revelation in the New Testament speaks in equally poetic language of God’s new order where death and sorrow have been banished. “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” Both Isaiah and John are grasping for language rich enough to portray the new reality God is creating. The apostle Paul recognizing the inability of even inspired language to express the glory of God’s new way in Christ simply gives up trying to find a sufficient metaphor and writes, “…eye has [not] seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Jesus throws open the door from death to life, from captivity to freedom, from old creation to new creation. He is the doorway to the realm he calls the kingdom of God. In this new and emerging realm love triumphs over hate, forgiveness over revenge, community over estrangement, and reconciliation over conflict. Our lived experience as followers of Christ is that “[God] has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Life marked by God’s grace, love and forgiveness on this side of the threshold reshapes our capacity for compassion, peace and justice, for life together that is blessed.
Christ is God’s rabbit hole; he is our, and all of creation’s, portal to new life. Those who have crossed the threshold through him would say, as Alice did in Wonderland: “I can’t go back to yesterday. I was a different person then.” Therefore, we shout, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord!”