Palm Sunday, Sunday, April 5, 2020
Following the example of the Gospel writers, the church year slows down in the last week leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus in order to focus on the significance of all of those events. The first of these events in this last week is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem; that day that we call the Triumphal Entry and Palm Sunday. On this day Jerusalem welcomed its true King with palm branches shouting, “Hosanna! (Save now, we pray) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Palm trees were carved in the walls of Solomon’s temple in the Holy Place. Yahweh dwelt above the palm trees in the Holy of Holies. Jesus as Yahweh in the flesh is coming in on top of the palm leaves to save his people in answer to their prayers.
The palm branches weren’t absolutely necessary for the worshipers to use on that day, but they were proper biblical expressions of their worship, commended by Jesus himself. We use palm branches and process into worship singing, “Hosanna!” to enter this Holy week more experientially. Our attention is focused on the reality that we are celebrating our King who has come and will come again, riding on the clouds to save us from our greatest enemies of sin and death.
Maundy Thursday, Thursday, April 9, 2020
Thursday evening of Holy Week begins the Easter Triduum, the three-day celebration to bring Lent to its climatic conclusion. Maundy (pronounced maun-dee) Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter worship are one service unfolding over three days. As we participate in this unfolding event, we move through the wonder of Jesus’ last night, the bright sadness of his crucifixion, the silence of the tomb, and the joys of his resurrection.
Maundy Thursday begins this three-day worship journey with Jesus’ disciples. On this night Jesus expressed his service as king by washing his disciples’ feet. He gives them the mandate (mandatum in Latin, from which “Maundy” is derived) to love one another even as he has loved them (John 13.34-35). Around the Passover meal he instituted his memorial meal, anticipating the events of the next few days.
On this night we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper in the context of a larger meal and be exhorted, once again, to love one another as Christ has loved us. As an expression of Christ’s love exhibited through service, the officers will prepare food and wait tables for Jesus’ other disciples. The service will end in relative darkness and silence as we move closer to the cross.
Good Friday, Friday, April 10, 2020
As the world moves into deep darkness on the Friday that our Lord was crucified, we move through this darkness liturgically in what is called a Tenebrae (Latin for “darkness”). The old creation is being de-created, moving from light to darkness, preparing for a new creation to be born. In order to move into that new creation, we must first go through death with our Lord. The liturgy of Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion with detailed confession of sin, reading of the Passion narrative in the Gospel, and responsive Psalms and hymns. A candelabrum with seven candles will be extinguished as we move through the seven readings in the Gospel until we move to darkness.
Focused meditation on the death of Christ is meant to give us a deeper awareness, not only of what Christ endured, but why he endured it. We come face-to-face with the horrors of the sin of the world as well as our personal sin. When we come to that place, we are ready for the triumphant joys of the resurrection.
Easter Sunday, Sunday, April 12, 2020
The silence of the tomb on the old creation Sabbath is deafening, screaming to the world and even the disciples that this one in whom they hoped would be the redemption of Israel is himself conquered by death. But lying there in death-rest on the old Sabbath is necessary to bring an end to the old creation.
On the first day of the week, New Creation rises triumphantly over sin and death. In the resurrection, God the Father declares that the work of Christ on the cross is effective for the forgiveness of sin. This is the day that “Alleluias” ring out in the worship of God’s people. The darkness of Friday is overcome when God says, “Let there be light!” on the first day of this new creation. Light floods the worship space and liturgy on this day as white and gold fill the sanctuary and as glorious music fills our hearts and mouths.
We are the re-created people of God, formed into the family of God in Christ and by the Spirit. Today is a special day of celebration for this family. We celebrate in worship and joyful feasting, enjoying the life that we have together as the family, the family that will survive the death of all of our individual family names.
Come, taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy are all who put their trust in him!