It's Holy Week, the most sacred time of the church year, when we remember Jesus' sacrifice of his life, celebrate Christ's life-giving passion, our Passover with Christ from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom, from death to life.
Holy Week. Maybe Hectic Week or Harried Week would be more appropriate for clergy. Yesterday was the birthday of one of my daughters. We went out for dinner and the restaurant she chose was over an hour's drive away. I was happy to take her there. I think we fall just short of spoiling our kids and a birthday should be special. But my wife asked a few times if something was wrong because I was very quiet and didn't seem to be into the birthday celebration. I said maybe I was just tired.
Now that I look back on it, and consider how I'm feeling today as well, I think maybe I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed about how busy this week will be. In addition to four sermons to write (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter 7 a.m., Easter 10:30 a.m.) there are a whole lot of logistics that I have to try to remember. Ask someone if they'll let me wash their feet on Thursday evening. Get the cross out of the basement for Good Friday. Arrange for everything we'll need out at the cemetery for the sunrise service. Bake bread for the Easter services and maybe for Thursday as well. Did I mention four sermons to write?
When I finally get to the worship services, assuming everything has been remembered and/or has fallen into place, I do get into the moment and they can be moving and they do mean something for my faith. But by the time I sit down to Easter lunch I'm exhausted. As much as I liked the Easter Vigil service the first few years I was here I don't miss it since we haven't done it for a few years now.
As exhausting as this week can be I wouldn't want to miss it. I actually look forward to it. I grew up going to all the services in Holy Week and I can't understand the people who miss any of them. Liturgists will tell you that the worship services of the Three Days are all of one piece. There's no blessing at the end of the Maundy Thursday services because it continues on Good Friday. We leave in silence on Good Friday, again without a blessing, because we conclude our observance on Easter when the bells will ring again and the organist will pull out all the stops and blast us up out of our seats (Auferstehung).
I have an uncle who is dying of cancer. I visited him last week and he says he's ready to die. He's my godfather and a faithful Christian man. He may have a few months left. His doctors are doing what they can to give him more time and to give his life as much quality as they can in the time he has left. Tears are shed in our family as we think of losing him. His birthday (I believe 72) will be on Good Friday. This week is what our faith is all about. "'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 15.54-56).
So, maybe once in a while, for the sake of our faith, I'll be exhausted by the celebration of our Lord's Passover. Now back to writing sermons. Blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter.