HOLY WEEK. For people who are accustomed to being at worship just once a week, the shift from once-weekly worship to the five liturgies of Holy Week (count them!) is a huge planning-calendar adjustment!
It is like your household move from a long-distance relationship of a large and widely separated extended family to living now in the same neighborhood as your grandparents. You move from investing seasonal family holiday encounters with warm greetings and long goodbyes, to a daily “see ya tomorrow” wave out the back door.
Holy Week is one long story, in several episodes, and therefore all connected. Each beginning and ending is part of the long arc of the whole salvation story of Jesus. The power of Holy Week is that the Scriptures themselves become the Preacher, and the pastor presides as the production manager to keep the script going from Palm Sunday, through the Great Three Days, and on to Easter Day and Easter Evening.
We have the opportunity to hear quite a bit from the Gospel of John, allowing us to remain from one day to the next with the same narrative. Our Church’s wonderful hymns and beautiful liturgy will offer the reflection and commentary we all need throughout all of Holy Week. Keep in mind that the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ are all the same movement; one great story that makes sense only as a whole. Plan now to be at worship for each episode, all week, for the whole story.
Unfortunately, as can be expected these days because of work schedules or of family health care duties, not everyone in the Assembly will experience the totality of Holy Week, especially the Great Three Days. There are, in fact, some worshippers who are “Good Friday Christians,” drawn in by the sparse honesty of the Crucifixion. Maybe it is fair to ask, and to expect, that in each daily episode of Holy Week, the fullness of God’s grace is proclaimed at every moment. So, hearing St. John’s gospel throughout the entire week is helpful – because – St. John does not view Jesus’ death as pure tragedy,
and St. John does not proclaim the resurrection without also reminding us of the grief and confusion early Easter morning at the empty tomb.
Each part of St. John’s story circles back on itself and it is good for us “once-a-month Lutherans” to hear the whole story over one entire week! St. John’s gospel and a brief Sermon-Homily each day will construct the framework to prepare us as worshippers to hear St. John’s gospel in a new way. It will
set the stage for other elements of the Holy Week liturgy; the Palm Sunday parade; washing one another’s feet; gathering simply at the Lord’s Table; adoring in silence the rough wooden cross; and praying the ancient Litany of the Saints at the Sacrament of Baptism on Easter Eve at the Great Vigil.
Holy Week. Get the whole story – all of it – no one should be left “hanging” as if we do not know the ending: Christ is lifted up on the Cross, and Christ is raised in glory, this is the everlasting evidence of God’s love for the whole world.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
That whosoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
St. John 3.16 NRSV
The Reverend Dr. David A. Genszler