I’m sure everybody here knows what it means to play a game of dominoes. Nobody exactly agrees on the rules, of course, about things like whether you put the double six sideways at the beginning of the game or not, and whether you judge who comes second by the combined number of dots on the remaining pieces. But every single person in the whole wide world who has ever played a game of dominoes agrees on one single thing: there comes a point in every game when you lose interest in the regular rules and start to make a long snake by lining every piece up on its end about an inch apart and then watching them topple over. And YouTube gives us the proof: because there you will find thousands of people have deemed their efforts of lining up and then toppling over myriad upon countless myriad of dominoes in ever more elaborate cascades are worthy of viewing by the whole world.
Think about that cascade of dominoes for a moment. And think about its metaphorical power. On July 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was shot by a Serbian assassin in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary prepared for war with Serbia. Russia prepared to defend Serbia against Austria-Hungary. Germany prepared to defend Austria-Hungary against Russia. France prepared to defend Russia against Germany. Germany prepared to attack France through Belgium. Britain prepared to defend Belgium against Germany. The Turks rallied behind Germany. Japan rallied behind Britain. Within a month, all were at war. The first domino fell; and the rest came tumbling down. Four years later, 15 million people were dead.
Think about Rwanda. Before the Belgians came, the minority Tutsi had ruled over the majority Hutu. The colonial Belgians exacerbated the tensions between the peoples, and by the time they left, the Tutsis held almost all the political and economic power, while the Hutus were mostly landless and poor. In 1962 the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and instituted a Hutu republic. In 1990 Tutsis invaded from Uganda and started a civil war. In 1994 the Hutus assassinated their own president and initiated a genocide of Tutsis, killing 800,000 in 100 days. Years later the refugee Tutsis, now in north-eastern Congo, initiated a civil war in the Congo. Again, one domino fell, and then another, and another. And there seems no end to it, even today.
Holy Week tells a story of falling dominoes. One after another disciples, crowd, Pharisees, Romans, Sadducees, scribes, criminals, bystanders, pilgrims all fall down one after another. It’s a domino story. It’s a fall story. It’s a kind of multi-dimensional, violent re-enactment of the story of Adam and Eve. A mixture of temptation, short-sightedness, fear, panic, forgetfulness, stupidity, and rebellion leave practically every character sprawled on the ground like fallen dominoes.
Except one. That’s what we see in Holy Week. We see God, in human form, insert two hands into that cascade of falling dominoes, and say, “Stop.” The dominoes have been falling so fast for so long and so violently that those two hands that get in the way get overwhelmed, get crushed, get obliterated. They get nailed. Because they are divine hands, they have the power to stop even a rampaging torrent of plummeting dominoes. But because they are human hands, they hurt like hell. That’s what happens in the cross. The divinity of humankind says “Stop.” And the humanity of God gets crushed.