Monday, May 07, 2007

Holy Week

I wrote this for our local paper and it ran on the Wednesday in Holy Week. I know it's kind of late but if anyone cares this is what I wrote:

Why don't you visit a church this weekend. I don't know if you go to church much, or ever, but this is my invitation to visit one of the churches in town. I'm not telling you to go to any specific church. You might have some connection to one church or another. Then go there. If you don't have some sort of connection to a church try one that a friend or neighbour or co-worker attends. Or pick one close to where you live or one you've always driven past and were curious about.

This week, especially Easter Sunday and the days leading up to it, are the anchor of the Christian year. Different churches celebrate some or all of the great Three Days of this Holy Week, spanning from Maundy Thursday sundown through Easter Sunday sundown.

Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin mandatum, from which we also get the word "mandate." At this service we remember the last evening Jesus spent with his disciples before his death. On that night Jesus demonstrated love in service as he, their Lord and Master, performed the duty of a servant by washing the disciples' feet. He shared a last meal with them, on which we base our practice of Holy Communion, and he gave them a "new" commandment (mandatum). "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (John 13:34).

Good Friday is the day when we remember the death of Jesus. The religious and political authorities of the day considered him a threat to their order so the Roman occupation force put him to death by nailing him to a cross. On this day we focus not only upon the agony of the cross but especially upon God's victory through the crucified. The cross has been transformed for us from a method of execution to a sign of God's triumph over sin, death, and evil.

On Easter "Eve" some churches celebrate the Vigil of Easter. It is an ancient and powerful celebration of the new creation that springs from Jesus' open and empty tomb. The scripture readings on that night relate the history of God saving God's people. A prayer written for the Vigil of Easter says, in part: "Eternal giver of life and light, this holy night shines with the radiance of the risen Christ." This is the beginning of the celebration of the new life we have in our risen Lord.

Finally comes the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day. We greet one another with the ancient words of the church: "Alleluia! Christ is risen." "Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!" God gave his only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of death. That first Easter morning had people running in fear. The Lord they loved and followed was not in the tomb where they laid him less than two days before. But out of that fear and confusion, hope emerged. We gather to worship, to hear the good news of God's love for us, and the proclamation that Christ lives.

So check the listing of Holy Week services that was printed in the paper. Or call up the church you'd like to visit and ask them the times of their services. If you haven't been to church in a while, maybe even a long while, don't let that keep you from worshiping this Easter season. If you only worship once in a while don't let that keep you away. Make this Easter one of those occasions. No one ought to scold another person because they haven't been to church in a while. This is a time to celebrate everyone's presence. A gracious welcome is the order of the day. After all, that's what God has already done for us!

1 comment:

MICHAEL said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You