Without my glasses, I couldn’t tell what was going on down the hall at Church. Two women, dressed in Sunday finery, were kneeling. I imagined a moment of spontaneous prayer at an otherwise reserved house of worship, but soon saw a small child leaning against the wall as I drew closer. With arms outstretched and words of encouragement, the two women were getting the child to take some of her first steps. How great, I thought, to learn how to walk in church. I imagined her returning one-day, perhaps on her wedding day, and seeing the very spot she walked for the first time.
I didn’t think the event of the hallway had any connection to the service I was about to attend, but I was wrong. It was Palm Sunday, the beginning of what is referred to as “Holy Week” in many Christian circles. It is the day that begins a week of drama leading to a cross and empty tomb. The pews were filled, and choir in full voice. The minister completed his series entitled “Amazing Grace” by exploring the nature of true dis-grace.
He described the Palm Sunday moment of celebration, as Christ entered Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna,” only to be arrested later in the week and abandoned by those same voices shouting: “crucify.” The turn, or fall from grace, is dramatic enough, but the preacher then spoke of all the people who have similarly fallen from grace. While the list of public figures was long and dramatic, he reminded us that such falls happen locally as well. Fortunately, he did not use names, just vivid descriptions. Unlike Christ, many of us deserved such a fall, but the jeers and abandonment hurt nevertheless.
But the story does not end with the fall or dis-grace, he reminded us. Holy Week ends not with a cross but an empty tomb, and it is in that truth, that amazing grace, we are given the ultimate word of hope. Our lives may involve mistakes, grand and small, public and private, but the chorus from two thousand years ago calls us to see beyond mistakes to the outstretched arms and words of encouragement:
“You can do it.”
Leaning against the wall, we watch and listen . . . Maybe we even take a first step or two.
Even at 53, it seems I'm still learning to walk. I’m just glad I am doing it in the Church.