I grew up with a vague understanding of Palm Sunday as being the Sunday before the Big Event. Easter Sunday meant chocolate bunnies, great music at church, and a good meal with family afterwards. It was many years later that I met people who actually took time off from work during Holy Week. They don’t take off for a vacation. Instead, they make arrangements to spend more time in church. For them, Palm Sunday begins a story that includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, a story that culminates with the first Mass of Easter. They plan for God.
Planning for God may sound strange if we are conditioned to understand God as an interruption more than a standing engagement. I sometimes hear people speak of a particularly dramatic life event—the loss of a job, a medical diagnosis, a sudden death, a car accident—as a time when “God gets our attention.” And while I certainly don’t correct the person or give my perspective immediately, it seems to me that those events are not so much God getting our attention as “life” getting our attention. God is with us beginning, during, and after such events, but we don’t notice God’s presence if we aren’t expecting it. We don’t recognize God if we don’t at some level get to know God. And that takes planning.
By “planning” for God, I mean setting time aside to slow down, to quiet our mind, to lay aside our agenda, and to be available to God. This can be prayer. It can be meditation. It can be worship. It can be the preparation of a meal or participating in some work of justice or mercy. It can be almost anything that includes an intention that “This is time I set aside to be present for God.” If we are able to plan for God, whether twenty minutes a day or twenty minutes a week, we will find God and be found by God in new ways. We will begin to see that no life challenge is faced alone or unprepared. Planning pays off in this life and in the next.
I hope you’ll practice planning for God this Holy Week and that you’ll join us for worship and prayer when you’re able. May God’s deep peace be with you in these final days of Lent as we prepare to celebrate the joy of Easter.