Finding our new, old road to God | Bellevue First Congregational Church, Bellevue, WA
My family recently had the privilege of joining some friends on a trip to Guatemala. They have been going to the city of La Antigua for the last 20 years to observe and participate in Holy Week festivities. Antigua is an amazing place to visit. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is typically home to around 30,000 people. During the week leading up to Easter, over 300,000 people visit the city to participate in Holy Week activities.
Every day of the week starting on Palm Sunday, different churches in the city sponsor processionals through the streets. The processionals start early in the morning and last until well after dark. The routes begin and end at the church and often cover up to 80 city blocks. Thousands of spectators line the streets to watch.
Those participating in the processionals pay for the privilege of carrying a massive wooden float weighing thousands of pounds. Each crew carries the float one block before a new crew takes over and does the same. Those who live along the processional routes spend many hours building ornate carpets to line the streets. These aren’t ordinary carpets. They are built nearly entirely of organic materials, often on top of a base of sculpted sawdust. There are many different colors of dyed sawdust and ornate templates used to create gorgeous designs. Flowers, palm fronds, fruits, vegetables, and other plant materials decorate the tops of the carpets.
So what becomes of these wonderfully artistic carpets? The processionals march right through the middle of them and grind them into the streets. A group of men carrying a float is followed by a band playing dirge music. A crew pushing a generator and portable lighting follows the band. A group of women carrying another float, a second dirge band, and another electrical crew follow that. Finally, a dump truck and workers bring up the rear to scoop up what remains of the carpets.
It’s all about a culture living its faith. Thousands of people paying for the right to suffer as Jesus did by carrying a massive float through the heat. Thousands more spending their hard earned money and huge amounts of time to build ornate carpets only to see them sacrificed just minutes after they are completed. All of these behaviors seem so counter the ways of mainstream America. How much would you pay to demonstrate your faith?