Figuring Out the Cross-Centered Life
The Shocking Theology of Good Friday

How in this World Do You Find Joy? ……. {Holy Week: Part 4}

A Holy Experience

In the middle of Passion Week, we work dirt.

We pick stones off the field, haul off rocks to ready a seed bed.

There are eggs in an incubator downstairs in a closet.

The whole world is this ticking, waiting, readying thing, on the brink of something cosmic, on the brink of the Biggest Bang — that slamming hammer and the howl of God ringing to the stars.

That’s what someone asked me on the Wednesday evening of Passion week, in this quiet and frantic tone:

Where can you find joy?

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They say Wednesday is the lost day.

Right there in the middle of holy week, it’s the missing link in a chain of passion days that are bound to free us. Who knows what Jesus did on Wednesday? Who knows where to find joy?

Somewhere, while Judas presses his nervous baritone up against the ear of a priest, while a woman sweeps her broom in this hush across the floor of an upper room, the God-Man he feels the fullness of time swelling in His veins and His Wednesday prepares for the passion of Thursday.

Thursday will secure the Upper Room — literally, “the guest room.” He who first breathed the air of this world in a barnyard feed trough in the stable muck of Bethlehem, that house of bread, because there was no room for any guest anywhere — in the end?

He’ll kneel and break bread in the upper guest room, the guest ready to take our place, to clear the muck and make room for us all to come in.

John will be on Jesus’ right. There at the spread, there before the bread. John the one who leans against his chest and who’ll hear His pounding heart. Hear how the universe pounds, this begging for release.

It’s the seat to the left that the host reserves for the guest of honor. “Here,” Jesus will beckon. “You, you come sit here on my left.” Judas will lower himself the left of the Lord.

And the cosmos, it will start to crack.

Loving your enemies can break your heart and this is how you break free and Gospel-love recklessly makes all the enemies friends.

Is joy found in the upside-down places that upright everything?

The Farmer turns over the soil in the field.

In the basement, the eggs in the incubator turn over.

On Thursday, God will bend Himself before the bread and God will unclothe, lay aside His robe, this laying aside of His life. He will wash feet. He will keep unveiling joy.

He will hold the dirt between their toes of dust and He will cup their heels and He will feel what He will crush entirely under his own. In His last hours, He won’t run out to buy something or catch a flight to go see something, but He will wrap a towel around his waist and kneel low in service. In these last hours of the holiest week of the year, I will clean and cook and He will beckon and Oh Lord, make me bend.

The height of joy isn’t simply to be blessed — but to become the blessing.

The height of joy isn’t to have blessings actualized — but to become the actual blessing.

Not to be blessed with stuff — but to become the blessing in service.

This is place He begs all the beggars and betrayers to take:

“To receive all with grace, then, with thanks, break the bread and pass it; move out into the larger circle of life and wash the feet of the world with that grace.

Without the breaking and giving away, without the bending and washing of feet — the communion service isn’t complete.

That’s what His bent body language preaches: The Communion service is only complete in service.

Communion, by necessity, always leads us into community.”

{~One Thousand Gifts}

The dirt, and the rocks, and the eggs — this holy week it does work: You can behold life’s as all joy or you can believe life’s all work. Or you can become the joy in all your work.

There are dishes all week.

And on Thursday, He will pick up the cup.

On Sunday, when He rode into town on that donkey, it was the day the Jews picked their Passover lamb, and they waved the palm leaves and they picked perfect Him and by Thursday, the blood of more than 250,000 Passover lambs would drain down the wadi on the backside of town and He would pick up the cup.

Why the cup? In the Biblical Passover story, there’s lamb, there’s blood, there’s bread without yeast — but there’s no mention of a cup. But by the time of Jesus, there was a certain cup at Passover, the ancient Mishnah instructing the drinking of the cup no less than four times during the Passover meal (Pesahim 10:1).

Did He take the cup like was the custom of Jewish men in Biblical times?

Like what I had sat and heard a pastor tell of studying in Jerusalem, sitting in an Orthodox Jewish classroom? “I remember it clearly — A Jewish man, he was teaching the marriage customs of the first century Jewish people in the land of Israel.

“The young man’s father would take a flask of wine. He would pour a cup of wine and hand it to his son. The son would then turn to the young woman, and with all the solemnity of an oath before Almighty God Himself, that young man would take that cup of wine and say to that young woman, ‘This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you.

“In other words, “I love you. I’ll be your faithful husband. Will you be my bride?’ ”

Is that why He took the cup?

Like a young man offering His very veins as the exorbitant price for the bride? Offering her the cup of His heart ? Waiting for her to take? And if she took it, if she drank of it, she accepted his life and offered him hers, and the two were betrothed, love sealed by a cup to the lips.

Is that why he takes the cup? To take us?

Who can bear a love like this? 

And every time I take it, look into that cup of blood-wine and the depths of His heart – aren’t I saying yes with the lips that swallow completely down?

At communion, Christ is offering no less than communion — and who will say yes with their life?

The Passion is a proposal and every communion is a call to come say yes.

What does is say about me when that makes me feel awkward and I want more distance from a God who offers that kind of love?

But isn’t this the story at the center of Scripture? The one I’ve been trying to live? When He takes that cup on Thursday, that’s what He does: He gives thanks. Thanks on a Thursday.

Eucharisteo is what it reads in the Greek, Thanksgiving. And the root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the blood-wine cup and saw it as grace and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, also enfolds the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.”

Where find joy? It’s there at the table on Thursday night.

“Aren’t the heights of our joy always dependent on the depths of our thanks?” {~ One Thousand Gifts}

Hadn’t Augustine said it: “Without exception … all try their hardest to reach the same goal — joy.” This isn’t about merely Thursday or holy week — this is about how to make a life. How to live a life of Holy Joy.

And it’s all right there in that one Greek word that makes sense of everything: eucharisteo: grace, gratitude, joy. As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.

Even before a Cross.

I could learn. It’s there too by the cross and the crown this week — a pen and place to give thanks for all the gifts and grace and God. How can there be any other response but thanksgiving to a love like this?

Thursday night, the Bridegroom, He will take the cup and He will offer the Bride His blood in covenant, and late under stars, He’ll hunch in the garden of Gethsemane, the very name that means oil-press, the garden where the olives were pressed.

It’s the weight of all my faithlessness pressing like the whole black sky and all countless stars upon Him.

He will be pressed and He will pour because He saw what was in that cup when I handed it back to Him.

He’ll pour these great drops of blood from His forehead, my hardened, sin-filled heart pressing His soft and ready one right out.

And He’ll see in this “sore amazement, in “ekthambeo,” in bruised horror, what is in the cup that His Bride begs Him to now drink, the one His Father’s handed Him: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath…”

In the Bride’s place, He holds it, He holds it in my place — the cup of wrath. And He will drink it instead of the nations.

He’ll drink from the cup of wrath that He pleads the Father to take from Him — because He doesn’t want us taken from Him.

He takes that unfathomable cup because He can’t fathom not taking His Bride.

Thursday is the day I will weep.

Who knows love like this? Eucharisteo — thanks, grace, joy.

Who knows joy like this?

It echoes even now amidst the gnarled and twisted olive trees, echoes out past the sacrificing trees with limbs stretched wide open, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

We work dirt on Wednesday.

We pick rocks on Thursday, roll away all these stones.

We have lamb in the fridge and no yeast anywhere and there will be a cup on the table for Passover.

“One hour,” he said in the Thursday moonlight of the garden-pressing. “Can you not keep watch with me one hour?”

Late tonight, after they have washed up from the fields, and the dishes are washed and the feet are washed, there will be that.

The Thursday “Night of Watching” — the staying up in prayer, kneeling at the windowsill, folding the hands and bowing the head, and turning it there on the finger, the wedding band, turning everything over in prayer, in this love that can’t stop murmuring thanks.

And in the basement, inside the eggs, the unimaginable impossible, it will begin to happen.

This joy breaking through everything live a vow…

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{This is part of a series this week on preparing hearts for Easter.
Part 1: How to Start Everything Well: can be found here}
Part 2: A Family Activity for Passion Week can be found here
Part 3: The Cross-Centered Life

Related posts elsewhere:

Communion as a Proposal : A Focus on the Family transcript about Communion & Proposing

Related: The book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are goes deeper into the meaning of those days before Easter, eucharisteo, communion, living a life of service — and finding joy in what really matters. Making a life of holy joy — fresh starts.

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