Monday, April 10, 2006

The Three Days

We are approaching the high point, the climax, the centre of the year. I'm talking about the days and nights, the celebration and worship, of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. At the centre of our church year is the celebration of the mystery of a Christian Passover.

In their faith and worship life, Jews observe the Passover remembering their liberation from bondage in Egypt. Passover is a family meal with a liturgy that proclaims:
"We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, and the Lord our God brought us forth from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. And if the Holy One, blessed be he, had not brought our forefathers forth from Egypt, then we, our children, and our children's children would still be Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt."
But in their celebration the Jews are not only remembering, celebrating, or commemorating an historic event. In their eating and their liturgy they become part of this deliverance themselves. They say:

"In every generation let each man look on himself as if he came forth out of Egypt. As it is said: "And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt". . . .

It was not only our fathers that the Holy One, blessed be he, redeemed, but us as well did he redeem along with them. . . .

He has brought us forth from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to holiday, from darkness to great light, and from bondage to redemption."

The focus of the Passover meal for Jews is the grace of God who nourishes and delivers God's people, a grace which was particularly evident in the Exodus.

The Three Days is our Christian Passover. We are not simply remembering, celebrating, commemorating, or recreating the events of Jesus' death and resurrection. Our worship is not about going back in time but letting the spiritual power of death and resurrection be real for us today. We often proclaim the mystery of our faith without even thinking about it. They're just words on a page. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. In Christ we have become part of eternity and in these liturgies we participate in the mystery at the centre of our lives and faith.

In Holy Baptism our gracious heavenly Father liberates us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It's real and it's now and in Holy Week we experience it in the here and now. Craig Mueller, a Lutheran pastor in Chicago, writes: "In these holy days we find both our identity and our mission—remembered in the past, made present through word and sacrament, and propelling us with invincible hope into the future."

Please go to church and worship with your church family this Holy Week and Easter season. Let us be glad and rejoice.

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