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Pressing Into Holy Week

Rev. Maria Swearingen & Rev. Sally Sarratt, pastors of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC

From April 2017

If you haven’t heard about it by now, this week, Pepsi aired an advertisement commodifying and sanitizing the vulnerability and danger real people have faced with choosing to engage the sacred act of protest. In the ad, a young woman walks out from a cluster of protesters facing a line of police officers. She boldly walks towards an officer not with a sign denouncing unfettered capitalism and state-sanctioned violence, but… a can of soda. The officer pops it open, and suddenly, thanks to Pepsi’s power, the protesters and police have found common ground and friendship. The story this ad tells is an offense to the lived experience of real people, particularly people of color, whose bodies and voices have found themselves in harm’s way at protests like the one this ad intends to depict. There’s a certain danger to commodifying and sanitizing images for our comfort and ease.

There’s a certain danger to commodifying and sanitizing Holy Week this way, too. It’s easy to forget the context from which our rituals of remembrance emerge. It’s easy to disconnect the procession of palms on Sunday, the removal of the light on Good Friday, and the return of Alleluias on Sunday, from the story that first brought them to us. There’s a way of taking these sacred images and turning them into whatever we need them to be in order to “sell them well” and remove the uncertainty, vulnerability, and calls to resistance held inside them.  But, these images tell us a story we must hear. One of a Jesus whose chose the narrow way of non-violent resistance at the hand of a violent empire. One of a Jesus whose sacred choice could not be contained or managed or held down by death. One of a Jesus who invites us to cry out, “Hoseanna” not to Caesar but to the living God of liberation.

We invite you to press into this Holy Week as we continue walking with Jesus on the journey of holy resistance. We invite you to press into each image: palms, table, cross, and empty tomb with open eyes and ears.

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