It is hard to believe that Holy Week is here. Even when it is late, it seems to sneak up on us. Perhaps during another time, it would be hard to miss Holy Week’s arrival on the calendar, the holiest of celebrations in the Christian year, but as our society has moved towards a more pluralistic structure in which Christianity no longer has a central part to play, at least on the calendar, it is easier to miss it. Most people might identify the week more for Spring Break for public schools than they do Holy Week.
Once upon a time, Holy Week represented a time, beginning with Palm Sunday and journeying to Easter, in which people attended church each day. It was the practice of following the last days of Jesus and the Passion narrative. Over time, this practice dwindled to Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. And then the deterioration continued to perhaps people just attending Palm Sunday and Easter services. Recently a movement has developed to speak of Palm Sunday as Passion Sunday, which acknowledges that people are either too busy to attend Holy Week services, or perhaps not faithful enough to create the time to make such services. Passion Sunday takes the journey of a week and condenses it to a single service.
Without being a church snob, I regret this decision and the lack of interest or attendance during Holy Week, it is after all holy. Easter is the most significant holiday in the Christian calendar, by far. It is Easter that the early church worked up to in all its activities. It is Easter that defines us as a people. If we cannot find the time to mark the significance of this week and of the season, then what does that say about how we understand ourselves? If we are so busy with the world that we cannot find time for worship this week, then can we truly transform the world?
At GPC we mark Holy Week with Palm Sunday Services, a Maundy Thursday service and Easter Service. I would hope that we can all find time to attend these services. At the Palm Sunday Service, we take time to remember how Jesus entered into Jerusalem and ponder how the residents of Jerusalem interpreted this. Who was Jesus, who was the Messiah? What are the expectations, what were the Jews looking for?
At the Maundy Thursday service, we remember the Last Supper and the teachings that came with it. We are shown the manner and behavior of the one we call Lord and compare this to leaders in our world. We also journey with Jesus from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion and watch as the Darkness tries to snuff out the Light of the World.
Then on Easter, both at Sunrise and the 11 am Worship service, we rejoice in the Empty Tomb and ponder what such a glorious event means to us and the world.
To attend just one of these services is to miss the entirety of the story. Can we understand the Messiah without understanding the expectations of Israel? Can we understand the Resurrection if we miss the Crucifixion? Can we truly know our Lord, if we miss his teachings about himself? So make time to be here for these truly important and transformative services.
In addition, for those with the time and desire, we will gather on Wednesday for the Seder Dinner. This year we will utilize the Seder service created by the Institute of Jewish Christian Understand at Muhlenberg College. This service will show us how, we as Christians, understand the Seder and how its traditions can also be seen in the Lord’s Table. On Thursday at the Maundy Thursday Service we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
Saturday also provides an opportunity for spiritual discernment as we will again offer the time of the Easter Vigil to gather for solitary prayer and silence, preparing ourselves for Christ’s Resurrection.
And for those truly adventurous, a Service of Daily Offices will be provided to Journey with Jesus through the week.