IVP - Online Pulpit - 3 Reflections on Holy Week

April 20, 2011

3 Reflections on Holy Week

Below are the reflections of 3 pastors on 2 questions: “How do you create a new excitement and dedication to an annual event like Easter?” and “What is your favorite part about taking the Church through Holy Week?”

gladdingOP.jpgSean Gladding was co-pastor at Mercy Street in Houston, TX and is now part of Communality in Lexington, KY. He recently wrote The Story of God, the Story of Us.

Our community has developed a rhythm for holy week which helps us to enact and experience anew the events of that week in Jerusalem two millennia ago. We begin with a Seder meal on Wednesday, in which we are reminded that our story has its roots deeply planted in the story of Israel and that the God of the exodus event has delivered humanity once and for all from bondage to sin and its effects. On Thursday we wash each others’ feet, an opportunity to humble ourselves, serve each other and ask for forgiveness for anything that lies between us. On Friday we gather in the darkness of a Tenebrae service, as we remember that the Light of the world succumbed to the darkness. But that is not the end of the Story.

On Easter Sunday we gather in the cemetery in our neighborhood, among the daffodils, tulips and new leaves that signal the end of the darkness of winter and the coming of new life in the spring, and there we celebrate the resurrection—new creation!—and share a feast together after the fasting of lent. We sit among the tombs, next to our community garden, and there we pledge ourselves anew to partner with God in the work of new creation.

Christ is risen! Hallelujah!

cannonOP.jpgMae Elise Cannon served as Executive Pastor of Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Creek, CA and is currently living in the Holy Land. She also wrote the Social Justice Handbook.

Having led a local church as an executive pastor, I have a tendency to be more of a linear thinker. Thus, when planning celebrations such as Lenten services and Easter Sunday, it is important for me to encourage the participation of people in the congregation who are creative types, artists and visionaries. There are endless possibilities of creative ways to celebrate the risen Christ through the use of art, music, drama and other dynamic elements. During one of my favorite Easter seasons, the church focused on the song “In Christ Alone.” For the four Sundays prior to Easter, the sermon for each week focused on one of the sections of the song. Each week, as we sang together, the congregation celebrated the truth of Easter and the wonderful gift of Christ’s death on our behalf. We were weekly reminded of the truth and good news of the gospel message, with its culmination in Easter—the glorious hope that we as Christians profess and celebrate in Christ alone.

Holy Week is a small microcosm of the reality of Christian life and experience. In one week the body of Christ has the opportunity to intentionally remember and enter into the grief, sorrow and loss of the Passion of Christ, and then, with the dawning of the sun on Easter morning, to celebrate with great hope and expectation the victory of his resurrection and the promise that one day he will return. I am deeply grateful for the reminder of Jesus’ words on the cross: “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). This passage refers to more than the end of Jesus’ human life. It is a reminder that the debt of our sins has been paid; the brokenness of the world might once again be made right because of Jesus’ death on the cross. These words have traditionally been called by the church the “Words of Triumph” because they are a reminder that in Christ, victory has been won and the forces of evil have been conquered. Easter represents our great hope as we continue to wait in eager anticipation for the dawning of a new day when the world will be completely restored in its relationship with our Creator.

ComiskeyOP.jpgAndrew Comiskey is a pastor and founder/director of Desert Stream Ministries. He recently released his new book, Naked Surrender.

Holy Week is about the cross, the centerpiece of our faith. It is at once our liberty as a church and our challenge. In order for we, the church, to fully access the liberty of the cross, we must embraced its challenge. So the cross deserves our concerted attention. That’s what Holy Week affords us: the chance to follow Jesus to Calvary, marveling at his faithfulness, facing our infidelities and their cure. His cross thus becomes ours as we surrender anew to his life. Clearly the most important week of the year for the local church.

On Holy Week, I enlist members of the body to illuminate Peter as the “every(wo)man” of Holy Week. His response to Jesus at every juncture of the week becomes the theme. We see in his enthusiasm, his bold proclamations, his flight, and finally his repentance the essence of ourselves—the church. Our prayer: “O God, make us infidels faithful through your faithful love demonstrated at Calvary.”

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at April 20, 2011 11:03 AM Bookmark and Share

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