I want to tell you a story that didn’t happen to you.
On Palm Sunday you got up, made some coffee, and skimmed your Facebook. You got dressed with a little fear in your heart. You drove to church scanning the cars you passed for signs of trouble. You parked some distance away from church just in case.
You walked several hundred feet to the building and joined a line that was fifty people long. You thought, “It’s taking a long time for people to clear through today.” Your wait today was 15 minutes; longer than last Sunday, but not as long as it will be on Palm Sunday.
You come to the metal detector and wait for the signal. You pass through with a nod to the Security agent. Making your way into the church, you see smiling familiar faces. There is a warmth and peace among these people that can’t be found on the streets. Finding your seat, you see with fresh eyes the cross. You’ve seen it hundreds of times before, but for some reason, today it touches your soul.
The service begins. Someone on stage reads the story of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. You know the story. It is the first bookend of Holy Week. Holy Week is a week that begins in triumph, falls into tragedy, and finishes in victory. Today is all about remembering the most important week in human history.
The scripture reading is finished. The music begins. Then a flash. Deafening noise. Dust. Screams. You pass out.
You come to, and dare to open your eyes. You are on the floor, under a pew. Looking down, you see blood flowing from your leg. Screams of pain continue. You roll from under the pew and try to stand. The pain is intense, but you see a mother trying to lift a piece of a pew off her child. Despite your busted leg, you limp over rubble to help. Both of you strain, the pew moves, and the child cries. At least the child is alive.
After helping the Mom, someone grabs you and pushes you toward a hole in the wall that wasn’t there before. “Get help,” they yell. You step through the hole into a tangle of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars. Still in shock, your mind barely registers a policeman’s voice saying, “Must be 40 or 50 people dead.”
You knew this was a possibility. You knew it could happen. You knew someone could sneak through security and detonate a bomb. That’s why there was that stirring of fear before you left home. But your love of Jesus overcame your fear. That’s why you were there when the bomb exploded.
This story didn’t happen to you. But it happened to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt. Two Coptic Christian Churches were bombed by suicide bombers on Palm Sunday. Forty four people died; over a hundred were injured. ISIS is claiming responsibility.
Can you imagine the courage it took to go worship Jesus on Palm Sunday for our brothers and sisters in Egypt?
Stories like this remind me to quit my whining. I do not know the threat of death going to church on Sunday or Monday. No one has attacked me for preaching the gospel. What kind of songs we sing, what translation we should use, who we should vote for – it all seems pretty silly and petty.
There are people courageous enough to go church and chance death all over the world because they love Jesus
Maybe I need to ask God to make me courageous too – courageous enough to follow Jesus.