Tag Archives: Holy Week

A 2016 Journey Through Holy Week

Holy WeekToday, as I pondered this Holy Week, my thoughts found their way back to before I was Presbyterian.  As most of you know I was raised Baptist.  For the most part the kind of Baptist Church I grew up in was pretty conservative Southern Baptist.  However, my family was not.  My grandfather was a Baptist minister in the 1920s, 30, and early 40s.  He was very progressive, especially in the area of race relations, and it caused him some difficulty as he pastored in Virginia and the Carolinas.

But even as the Gladding family was on a more progressive side, Baptists did not follow the liturgical calendar and Holy Week was not observed.  Instead we had Palm Sunday followed by Spring Revival and then Easter Sunday.  For me this meant two really good Sundays with joyful singing and preaching about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and then the Resurrection.  The week between the two Sundays was full of guilt, getting saved, rededicating your life, and plenty of hymns about the blood on Calvary, including endless verses of “Just As I Am” each night.  Going to church whenever the doors were open was what we did.  So I sat on the back row and held on to the pew with all my might during these hymns.  I never walked the aisle to the chagrin of my pastor who served for 25 years.  Thankfully, the Southern Baptists left me 37 years ago and I found a home in the reformed faith of Presbyterianism.

A central part of my faith is found in this important week we are now in the midst of.  On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the throngs of followers began to disappear from following Jesus as the authorities of the church were antagonized by Jesus actions and plotted against him, leading to Judas’ betrayal.  There are community services in many areas observing the particular happenings during the Holy Week of 33AD.  Although these may not always be well attended, it is my hope and belief that there are those who do faithfully follow our lectionary readings as they prepare for Easter.

So here we are at Thursday in Holy Week 2016.  Tonight we will have services across our Savannah Presbytery and across Christendom observing Maundy Thursday. We will see Jesus betrayed, arrested, denied, and abandoned by even those closest to him. We will see him beaten, mocked, tried, and unjustly convicted. We are lead to think that we are also complicit in his sentence of crucifixion, as were those in the crowd that day who yelled for this sentence.

Tomorrow, Jesus will die again.  In the darkness of Good Friday he will breathe his last as he says “Forgive them.” His dead body will be placed in a tomb and sealed. Saturday will be spent in grief and wondering what will the future hold.

So why do we put ourselves through this?  What is different about this way of looking at Jesus than the Spring Revival of my boyhood where we were pressured to unburden ourselves by coming to Jesus? My friends, I believe the difference is this. During Holy Week we observe the fully human Jesus, who had “set his face toward Jerusalem.”  He knew why he was here in this world and what his mission was.  He wished it might not be so, but he was “obedient unto death – even death on a cross.” We did not come to Jesus, Jesus came to us!  Jesus unburdened us and so Sunday, Easter morning we will celebrate the Resurrection and the new life we are given. Thanks be to God for this amazing grace.

So as we continue this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of Holy Week 2016 let us stay with these events, as if we do not know the outcome.  For without these days there would be no Resurrection!

Thoughts on Holy Week

holy_9038

As Lent is winding down, we enter preparation for Holy Week to be followed by Resurrection Sunday.  Our lectionary has moved us through Palm Sunday and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, cheered by the masses and feared by politicians, both inside and outside the church.  We will watch Jesus lose it in the Temple, debate the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Temple,  try to comfort his disciples as he knows what must happen and what that will cost as the crowds dwindle and one of his closest betrays him.  Before we know it Maundy Thursday will be upon us.  Jesus will be arrested, mocked, denied and deserted.  He will be beaten and ridiculed.  He will stand trial, and though there is no evidence against him, the shouts that cried. “Hosanna” will scream, “Crucify Him!”   He will be alone in the end calling out for God without a response.   The last words will come as he utters, “It is finished.” Jesus will die!  He will be dead, dead, dead!

The Reverend Jill Duffield writes in “The Presbyterian Outlook” this week about these last three words which Jesus whispered to himself.  She says that during an Episcopal service on Good Friday one year, the priest went out and brought in by herself a large wooden cross. It was heavy and bulky and the priest struggled as she moved it to the chancel; finally placing it upright and tilted, but steady.  She began her sermon and used the Greek word, tetelestai, which is translated, “It is finished.”  Rev Duffield said she remembered that it is not finished as in it is over.  Rather it means, “It is finished,” as in “it is completed, fulfilled, perfected, accomplished.”

She goes on to say, “that is the Easter proclamation that we can make even on Good Friday.  It is accomplished.  God’s work in Christ is completed and therefore resurrection is unstoppable.”

As we journey through this week, I pray we will take it all in.  How such Wondrous Love as this could be for the world; for us, for you and me.    And yet, There Is More!  The tomb is empty.  Death is not the end.  Resurrection was three days out after, “it was accomplished.”  Resurrection is here and now!

So let us take time this week to reflect and remember what Christ did that week for us.  Then on Easter Sunday may our preaching and our listening this year proclaim this GOSPEL.  May we focus on believing and living out resurrection in our lives, so that the world may see the Resurrected Lord.

Grace and Peace,

Russell

From Maundy Thursday to Easter and Beyond

Maundy Thursday and Beyond

My grandson Riley is ten years old, but when he was younger he was a huge fan of the Toy Story movies and particularly the character, Buzz Lightyear. He had many of the toys, made in Buzz’s image, and with all of the cool accessories that the action figure could use. The Buzz Riley liked the best was one that had a pull cord that would allow the figure to say, “To infinity and beyond!” I cannot be sure, but these were possibly among Riley’s first words, but at the very least some of his most repeated.

I am writing this during Holy Week on Maundy Thursday. Tonight, services will be held in churches across the globe remembering the Last Supper and Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. Tomorrow the pain and suffering coupled with complete abandonment by so many will culminate in his being unjustly nailed to a cross and dying a horrible death. It will be again a dark time as we remember.
Ann Weems in her poem “No Dances” writes these words.

“There are no dances for dark days.
There is no music to bellow the pain.
The best we can do is to remain Still and silent and try to remember the face of God …

and how to kneel

and how to pray.”

I, like you, am aware of so much darkness, so much despair, too much death and destruction in our world; even in places we have called home, wonderful communities in the United States and right in our own neighborhoods. Unspeakable acts of betrayal and violence ending in death or abuse. There are no dances for dark days here, but if we can kneel and pray. We will find God. For God has been, and is, and will continue to be where we are in the darkness.

We know that Easter is coming! Thanks be to God for Resurrection and light once again! We will shout our Alleluias once more. It is right that we should proclaim the Risen Lord and give thanks for our Salvation.

And then what? Darkness does not wait for Holy Week. It crawls and seeps into lives every day. Jesus, according to scripture, as he appeared to the disciples and others after the resurrection ate with them, fed them physically and spiritually, and sent them out; and he sends us out to be light in a dark world. He sent those he knew to feed his sheep which can be pretty messy business. And he sends us into that same messy world, but we do not journey alone because we have the Advocate he promised with us.

So we in our abundant life are called to walk to infinity and beyond, not sitting and resting, but in serving; cleaning up the mess, bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and setting free the oppressed. May it be so as we go rejoicing in the power of the Spirit!