Welcome to Holy Week, the week when Christians remember, celebrate, mourn, and marvel at Jesus Christ and his saving work among and for us.
We began this morning with Palm Sunday, telling the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:1-11). “Hosanna” means “save us”. It is a plea to that one who is coming in the Lord’s name, that son of David. We often believe the crowds around Jesus are calling for salvation from the oppressive Roman empire. What do you need saving from? What empires and forces oppress you; what keeps you in bondage; what separates you from God, from other people, from God’s good creation? On the other hand, what do you need saving for? With God’s liberation, what possibilities, hopes, and new life may come to you?
We then moved to tell the story of Jesus’ Passion (Mark 14-15), from Jesus’ anointing with a jar of costly ointment by a woman, to the meal he shared with his disciples, his prayer and arrest in Gethsemane, trial before the council and then Pilate, and his crucifixion, death, and burial. Such a huge story, with such varied emotions! Joy, bewilderment, comfort, terror, pain, fear. I invite you to hear us read this story – go to “Current Worship”, scroll down to “Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday”, and click on the “worship service link”. The passion reading begins at about 13 minutes.
We delve deeper into this story throughout this week. On Maundy Thursday we consider Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, where he took a slave’s role and washed their feet, then commanded them to love one another just as he has loved them. Whenever we celebrate Holy Communion, we remember that meal and celebrate that Jesus Christ still invites us to his table, nourishing us with his body and blood for continued service in the world (John 13, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). I invite you to consider who is difficult for you to love, and who might especially need nourishing at God’s table this year, at this particular time.
On Good Friday, life and death stand side by side. The power and glory of God is revealed not in military or political power or another triumphal event, but in the mystery of Jesus’ crucifixion, a torturous death by the powers that be, the powers of his world and ours (John 18-19). Where do you see suffering today? How do you suffer? Where does it seem that God’s new life is absent?
Holy Saturday is a day of waiting. We know what is coming on Sunday, but for Jesus’ followers the day was full of despair and bewilderment, confusion and terror. In some ways, this past year as we have lived in Covid-times, has been a long Holy Saturday. We long for ‘normal’ and a return to what is familiar, while we live – exist? – in a world where so much of what we usually do has changed or stopped. What parts of the old normal do you long for? What parts of our new ways do you appreciate? What still needs changing? In your dreams and imagination, what kind of new normal do you want to create?
In many cultures, including Jews of Jesus’ day and ours, the new day starts with sundown, when we gather at home, share a meal, and rest. Our celebration of Easter can also begin at sundown with the Easter Vigil. This service begins outdoors, when we light a new fire and a new Christ candle. Then worshippers process inside and tell the whole story of God’s saving acts in the world, beginning with creation, pausing with Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the Israelites at the Red Sea, then on to Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others, before climaxing in our proclamation of Jesus Christ resurrected! This is the occasion, in the ancient church, when new Christians were baptized, and the service when they first would partake in Holy Communion. Now, how is God acting in your life, bringing new life in and around you?
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Finally, we arrive at Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Resurrection. For Jesus Christ, God incarnate, God-become-human, did not stay dead, but rose, ending the power of death. After moving through this week of joy and sorrow, we may share in the bewilderment of the women at the tomb, the first witnesses and preachers of the resurrection. An empty tomb is not what they expected. Where is God surprising you? Where is death absent and new life present in surprising ways?
Come, join us in the journey of this week, this Holy Week, the climax of our Christian story. Come and see!
– Intern Pastor Beth