I lived in Northwestern Argentina when I was a kid. One of my favorite places to visit was a town called Humahuaca. There was a mechanical priest in the plaza that would come out of the cathedral wall and give a blessing to the crowd throughout the day. A set of steel clamshell doors would slowly open, then the priest would slide forward and his arms would go up and down. I never felt particularly blessed, but I was always fascinated by the mechanics involved in opening the doors and moving his steel arms and head. In fact, I often wondered what it meant to be blessed by an animatronic priest. What was his blessing? Can God bless us through inanimate (or partially inanimate) objects? Could this priest’s blessing cancel out the curse of the mechanical skeleton on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride? Was there a group of priests somewhere who were worried their jobs might be rendered obsolete by robots?(Don’t judge me, 10 year old Chip had a lot of questions.)
I always think of Humahuaca at Easter. The cathedrals I visited in South America were vivid and visceral in telling the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The saints, statues and stained glass had a way of pulling you into the story–into the pain and grief and sadness of the crucifixion. During the week between Palm Sunday and Easter I think it is important for us to sit with the uncomfortable realities of Christ’s suffering. It is good for us to contemplate the fact that what Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished between God and humanity did not spare Jesus himself from the pain and betrayal of his sacrifice.
We gather on Good Friday to focus on the crucifixion and all the layers and facets of Jesus’ death. It is a time when we can put ourselves in the shoes of Jesus’ disciples who spent the time between Friday and Sunday in total agony because they had no idea Jesus would come back to life in a resurrected body. We also contemplate the part we play in the brokenness of a sinful world that could only be redeemed by God himself.
One of the great privileges in being your pastor is that I get to pray for God’s blessing on you all this Easter. I get to pray for you to receive special insight into God’s great love for you and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. So, since we won’t be installing a mechanical priest in the CTK office any time soon, let me give you an Easter benediction…
May you be overwhelmed by the love of the Good Father who sent his Son to teach us to lay down our lives for each other. May Jesus, who conquered sin and death fill your heart with the courage and power to die to yourself so you can live in him. Amen