I was surprised to see people in public, at a pub no less, with ashen crosses on their foreheads a few weeks back. I was surprised to learn that there were students at my alma mater walking around, going to class, with ashes on their foreheads. “Three,” my husband said, in the smallish class he teaches. Though founded by Presbyterians, this college is not known for traditionalism or religiosity. Indeed, when I was a student it seemed my professors were open about everything except their religion, especially if they were of the dominant religion.

What’s going on? Is it connected in any way to the recent proclamation of nearby Macalester Plymouth Church as a Sanctuary church? And to the organized and vociferous support of the Jewish community by Muslim and Christian leaders in the wake of the threats on Jewish Community Centers? And so much more… When the church is courageous and truthful, religion is too important to hide.

People need religion in these hard times. People need houses of worship where the truth is being told and the angels of our better natures are fed. We may flirt with despair or nihilism or quietism, but still we get up on Sunday morning and enter the gates of prayer to be with others, to pray with others, to sing with others, to learn with others, to organize with others; for there is this love, it seems, that will not let us go…

I need to be with the cloud of witnesses, I need it so badly, as we reenact the story of Holy Week; to be with those who have lived through catastrophic historical periods and for whom our story tells the truth, the truth of empire and the abuse of power, of the crucifixions of the innocent, of those courageously facing the powers that be; because now I am/we are in something big: a backlash of historic proportions. Only a big, truthful, even dangerous story – a story that has withstood the test of time, a narrative about sin, and evil, and love, and hope, of death and new life – only this is sufficient.

I invite you to set aside your pre-understandings of the story of Jesus’ “last week” and open yourself to new meanings. All of it, Palm/Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Sorrowful Friday, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday.

Something big is happening in the world now. We don’t want to be bystanders, for bystanders are seldom innocent. Our religion is in play.

—Rev. Sarah Campbell