Preparing for Holy Week - April 5 2020

Becca has written a reflection as we remember Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and as we prepare for Holy Week.


Throughout our retelling of the story of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, a question continues to emerge. From different perspectives, different characters, all ask the question about Jesus, “Who is he?” It is a question we still wrestle with today, thousands of years later. In the retelling of the story shared in this email, many possible answers emerge. During this Holy Week, I invite you to wander with that question: “Who is Jesus?” “Who is Jesus to me?” “Who is Jesus to my neighbor?”


As you mull that question over, if you have space for another, I’d like to add a question: "Why did Jesus bother?" “Why did he bother going into the wilderness? “Why did Jesus bother to heal and teach?” “Why did Jesus bother to ride into Jerusalem as he did?”


This question of “Why did he bother?” came to me Tuesday as I was participating in a spiritual practice.


My favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text has been hosting live shows via zoom the last two weeks as a way to connect folks during quarantine. This past Tuesday our gathering of nearly 400 people across the country focused on Book 1, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We looked at the arc and major themes of the book and did a couple of spiritual practices together.


One of the spiritual practices we did was an ancient Jewish practice called Pardes.


It has four steps which lead us into deeper understanding and interpretation of the text.

The four levels of interpretation are called: Parshat, Remez, D’rash & Sud. The first letter of each word P-R-D-S is taken, and vowels are added for pronunciation, giving the word PARDES (Par-days) (meaning "garden" or "orchard"). Each layer is deeper and more intense than the last, like the layers of an onion.


(Thanks to James Trimm at from whom this material is derived.)

P’shat: meaning simple. The p’shat is the plain, literal meaning of the text.

Remez: meaning hint. This is where another (implied) meaning is alluded to in the text, usually revealing a deeper meaning. (Think metaphor.)

D’rash: derived from Midrash, meaning concept. This is a teaching or exposition or application of the P’shat and/or Remez. (In some cases this could be considered comparable to a "sermon.")

Sud: Meaning hidden or secret. This understanding is the hidden, secret or mystic meaning of a text.

The way we practice Pardes is by picking a random sentence from the text and then applying these four steps to see what is revealed. Our sentence this time was from chapter 4 when Ron Weasley makes a comment to Harry Potter while they were on the Hogwarts Express about Neville Longbottom and his lost toad, Trevor. Ron turns to Harry and says, “Don’t know why he’s so bothered.” [about his lost toad].


In step three, D’rash, we were invited to wonder, if we were asked to preach a sermon on this sentence, what would we say? Knowing that we were approaching Palm Sunday, I immediately thought to myself, “Why did Jesus bother?” “Why did he bother to live, love, and lead as he did?” “What was the point?”


Holy Week invites us to dig deep into those questions. Every year we approach this week, knowing full well what will happen by the end of it. Have you ever asked yourself in any of the years past, why did Jesus do it? This isn’t the first year I’ve wondered about that question, and I doubt it will be the last. This practice of wondering is at the heart of the ancient practice of Midrash. Midrash is the art of conversation with our spirit and with the sacred text and story.


When I allow my spirit to engage the questions, “Who is he?” and “Why did he bother?” I feel drawn to many possible answers. Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed One. Jesus was a human, who felt and hurt as I do. Jesus was a friend. Jesus was a rebel, a revolutionary. Jesus was a peace-maker, not a peace-keeper. He bothered because he cared. Because he couldn’t help himself or stop himself from caring. He couldn’t keep quiet in the face of oppression and suffering. His news was too good to keep to himself. He knew that all were beloved, all were seen as holy and worthy in the eyes of God, regardless of what society said or implied.



This Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter will be unlike any we’ve ever experienced before. Ask these familiar questions again. See what answers emerge and what is revealed to you. There will be a number of ways to engage this Holy Week with our community this year. Even while we are physically apart, the Spirit will continue to weave through and among us. Allow your spirit to flow and follow God’s. These are vulnerable and tender times. Be gentle with yourself and others and know that the Spirit is indeed wrapping itself around you.

Pastor Rebecca Lockwood

Associate Pastor for Missions and Education