Holy week is like an roller coaster ride for our theological emotions.
It begins with Palm Sunday. When I was a kid, I remembered Palm Sunday not because of it’s relationship to Easter, but just because it was fun to parade into church with plants and then run off with some after the worship service. I never did anything with the palm branches after – but for some reason I was dead-set on having them. But Biblically speaking, Palm Sunday is the day when Jesus “triumphantly” enters the city of Jerusalem for his final Passover celebration. It’s a big happy celebration time, but there’s a dark shadow that looms over it. There is already a plot to have Jesus killed if he comes to Jerusalem for Passover.
Maundy Thursday comes next, and it’s a complicated one too. It’s the last night of Jesus’ life. The Last Supper. It’s a Passover meal, which celebrates the liberation of the Hebrew people from the slavery of Egypt. In many ways, the Passover and it’s symbols evoke the same sort of feelings that we look for in Easter: Freedom, life, and trust in God. But even Maundy Thursday hints at what’s coming. At Jesus’ Last Supper he predicts his betrayal and announces his death.
Good Friday is the lowest point in our whole theological year. It’s the day we observe Jesus’ death. We remember the violence and misery of the cross. This service is often celebrated with reading the last words of Jesus in a very dimly lit sanctuary then slamming the Bible shut to punctuate the end of his life, then the stripping of the sanctuary – removing all of the symbols and decorations from the church and draping the cross in black. It’s a bleak day where we’re very aware of our sin and the human violence that perpetuated the murder of the innocent Jesus.
Then, of course Easter arrives! The resurrection! We are an Easter People, us Christians. Our religion would not exist (not as it does now, anyway) without Easter Sunday. This is the day when we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death. Over the same death that the entire week has been leading us to. We get to wake up early on Easter morning and greet the sun with trumpet songs and Alleluias! We’re reminded again of God’s grace, and we’re renewed in our faith, bolstered by the Living Christ to be God’s love in the world. It is truly a beautiful day.
Despite how complex Holy Week is (or maybe because of how complex it is), it is an important season for Christianity. Here at FCC Greensboro we’re observing Maundy Thursday with a Seder observation in the evening, Good Friday with a morning Prayer Vigil and a service at noon (followed by lunch), and on Easter we will greet the new morning at 7:30 AM for our “Sunrise” Service (followed by breakfast) and an Easter Worship Service at our usual time, 10:00 AM. I hope I see you at any and all of these services!
– Stewart Self