Preparing for Holy Week

As we prepare for Holy Week, I’d like to encourage each of us to engage this week prayerfully – open to God’s work in our own lives, and also open to being used by God in the lives of others. We have several services over the coming week, each one of which will be a blessing.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. We’ll gather for worship at each service on the grass, and process together into the sanctuary, waving palm branches and singing praises to God as we remember Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. Once inside, however, the tone shifts, with the congregation no longer shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!” but rather, “Crucify him!” as we read Matthew’s passion narrative.

On Thursday, we begin the Triduum, the Three Great Days. The Triduum begins with the Maundy Thursday liturgy, which begins at 7:00 p.m. At this service, we remember the last night of Jesus’ life, specifically Jesus instituting the Eucharist and washing of the disciples’ feet. The liturgy concludes with the stripping of the altar, followed by a prayer vigil that will last until 11:00 a.m. on Good Friday. Please feel free to come and pray at any time during the vigil, remembering Jesus’ words to his disciples on that night: “Watch and pray” (Mark 14:38).

We have two different worship opportunities on Good Friday. First, our main service will begin at noon and go until approximately three in the afternoon. This service will consist of the Stations of the Cross, accompanied by art, music, and meditations. Then, at 7:00 p.m., we will have a short Evening Prayer service for those who may not be able to make it at noon.

Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. is the Great Vigil of Easter. We will gather outside in darkness (more metaphorical, actually; sunset is right around that time on Saturday). We will light the Paschal Candle and process together into the Sanctuary. Then, while still in darkness, we will hear several readings from the Old Testament, beginning with creation and culminating with the promise of gathering God’s people together. At that time, we will welcome several people into the church through baptism, renewing our own baptismal vows as we do. After that we declare that Lent is over and say the first “Alleluia!” of Easter. The lights come on and the celebration of the resurrection begins. The celebration continues on Sunday morning when we will celebrate a Festival Eucharist at both services, with a celebratory brunch in the Parish Hall between the services.

I encourage each of us to be present for as much of Holy Week as possible, as this is the week that we rehearse the saving act of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus in great depth. I would also encourage us to pray about people in our lives who may be open to hearing the gospel and invite them to church on Sunday. It’s possible that they may be more open to attending a service this week than at any other time of the year.

May this be a week where all of us experience the power and love of God in new and deeper ways, and that we might bear witness – through our actions and our words – to that deep love to all who are around us.