A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Some Reflections on Holy Week

As we find ourselves in the midst of yet another Holy Week, I spent some time today reflecting on what this week has come to mean to me and what I have found in the congregations that practice Holy Week, where I have had the privilege of serving as pastor.

I grew up in a church tradition that that did not recognize Holy Week. I grew up having no idea what Maundy Thursday was; and Good Friday was just a day for Catholics. Of course, we celebrated Easter, but there was no connection made to its relationship to the days prior. But, then, near the end of my college days as I began to prepare for seminary, I was hired as a youth director at a church that observed Holy Week; and I will never forget what a new world was opened to me as I was able, for the first time in my life, to journey with Jesus from the Upper Room to Calvary, and finally to the empty tomb emerging into new life.

Celebrating Easter apart from Holy Week, especially Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, is like only reading the last chapter of a "Whodunit" novel. The butler may have done it, but we have no idea how, and most importantly, we have no idea why. How is it that we can understand the celebration of Easter without the bewilderment of the disciples around that Passover table, and how can we comprehend the victory in the shout, "He is risen!" unless we have first experienced the suffering of the cross? Why is it that Easter Sunday service is the largest attended Sunday service of the year and Good Friday worship one of the most sparcely populated?

One of the things I have discovered as a pastor, as I have seen congregations transformed over the years after the image of Christ, is that the more they are spiritually formed, the more they reach out in mission, the more they are Christ-centered, the more attendance at Holy Week services improves. I do not want to claim that this is a universal truth; it is simply what I have observed.

If worship is at the heart of who we are, if it is true that the chief end of humanity is to love God and enjoy God forever, then it seems to me that Christian worship should reflect the entire story of Jesus. It is only when we can sing on Good Friday, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" that we can in exuberant joy sing on Easter Sunday, "Christ the Lord has risen today!"

In this sacred time, as you sit at the Table with Jesus, as you journey with him to Calvary, and as you emerge from the tomb with him, I pray that you will have an extremely blessed Holy Week.

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