Holy Week: Experiencing the Good News of Resurrection Life
While serving together at a Richland Elementary school event earlier this week, Lee Hastings was sharing with me the central haunting question of Philip Yancey’s latest book, Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? Yancey pointedly asks, if everything about the Christian life and message is good news, then why does the world often hate Christians so much?
Maybe we think more about the truth and grace of the gospel and life in Jesus Christ than truly experience or share it. The experience of the certain hope, present joy, and life-changing power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of all Christian worship, and especially on display through the church’s annual Easter celebration.
The gatherings of Holy Week include Palm Sunday and the Triduum (a Latin word which means “three days.”) The Triduum service extends across the final four days of Holy Week and encompasses Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter morning. The gatherings of Holy Week are intended to bring to our present experience the reality of the new life God graciously gives through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This week is also known as Passion Week, but not passion in the sense of hot emotion or romance. In the Bible, passion is an expression of love involving deep suffering. God’s love is always sacrificial, and therefore always involves suffering. Infinite suffering and infinite love go hand in hand.
The journey begins with honest reflection on the fickle and misguided nature of our faith as we accompany the disciples with Jesus’ big entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday). We share in the hope of the disciples as they gathered for a final meal with Jesus, and received the example and command of humble sacrificial love (Maundy Thursday). We mourn the depths of our sin and marvel at the healing Jesus’ wounds provide through His incomprehensible willing submission to the most horrific betrayal, arrest, crucifixion and death (Good Friday). And we celebrate the glorious reality of His resurrection (Easter)! It is all good news – to be experienced and shared. I invite you to each of our services this coming week and experience in a new way the fullness of life in Christ, “having been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection life His.” (Rom. 6:5)
The services include a variety of music, physical movement, and participatory experiences – perfect for great conversation with children. And since they clearly follow the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry and present the foundation of the good news of salvation in Him, they are perfect to invite family and friends to. Also, please be mindful of the presence of guests and welcome them with warm hospitality.
What was it like for Jesus’ disciples to share the intimacy of table fellowship with Him, listening to His instruction and watching His powerful expression of God’s sacrificial love? This is why we gather as a church on Maundy Thursday. We will begin our time with a shared meal at 6:00 pm in Fellowship Hall as part of the service, just as the disciples gathered with Jesus for their final passover celebration together. We’ll eat together (baked potatoes with toppings and salad, no charge) and enjoy table fellowship. The meal will give way to praise in song and Word, and like the disciples on that evening, we’ll have an opportunity for foot washing by our elders (or families may wash one another’s feet). Our gathering will then move to the Sanctuary to dine together at the Lord’s Supper and witness the stripping of the sanctuary, preparing to continue the Triduum on Good Friday.
On Good Friday the somberness of our Lord’s death is recalled. We remember the scandalous beating, mocking, and crucifixion of God’s incarnate Son.
But death is defeated in Christ’s resurrection! The somber mourning of death, including honest reflection on our own mortal weakness, is overcome by joyful celebration of resurrection life on Easter Sunday. The ancient Easter greeting proclaims the truth: “He is Risen, He is risen indeed!”
Sharing the death and resurrection life of Jesus together,