On Sunday we embark upon the weeklong journey to Easter morning. There are several opportunities for worship in the subsequent days that are intended to assist us in reflecting upon Jesus’ sacrifice and death for our sake. Each service is unique, designed to make us active participants in the moments leading up the Resurrection.
It all begins on Palm Sunday, foreshadowing the week to follow. The service that morning is actually two services combined into one. The first begins, weather permitting, in the driveway of our building with the blessing of the palms and a procession into the sanctuary. In doing so, we seek to recreate the joyful reception of Jesus into Jerusalem, as he was hailed as King by all who gathered along the main road to welcome him with palm branches and coats laid before his feet. Yet, things take a turn as we enter the church and our readings point to the cross as shouts of “Hosanna” quickly change to “Crucify Him!” The service ends on a more solemn note as we leave reflecting upon the week ahead where Jesus would be betrayed, mocked, spit upon, beaten, killed, and buried.
The scene is then set for Maundy Thursday, where we remember Jesus’s institution of the Eucharist and giving of a new commandment to love one another. Everyone is invited to have his or her feet washed to remember the call to put our love of others into action through serving others. After Communion, we recall Jesus’ betrayal and affliction in the Garden of Gethsemane in the hours before he is drug before the religious leaders and put on trial. We too, remove the Body of Jesus in the Sacrament from the church to our ‘garden’ where it will remain until Good Friday. The service abruptly ends in silence after all is stripped away in the sanctuary, leaving only a bare altar for the days to follow. All are then invited to ‘watch with Jesus’ for an hour in prayer in our ‘garden’ as we recall His agony and obedience in the hours leading up to the events of the day to follow.
Good Friday places the centrality of the crucifixion in front of us. The reading of the account of Jesus’ death, entrance of the cross for our veneration and contemplation, and reception of Communion, keep the gravity of the day before us. Jesus words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ are left ringing in our ears when we leave reflecting upon the greatest moment in human history: the moment wherein Jesus bears the weight of sin for all humanity so that we may be reconciled with God.
On Saturday we gather to embrace the emptiness and silence as the Author of our salvation harrows hell (see Eph. 4:9 ; 1 Peter 3:19). It is a day of preparation as we recall the stillness and anticipation of what will happen next. In perhaps the shortest service of the year, we gather to enter into this moment together as we prepare our hearts for the joy of the morrow.
When we arrive on Sunday to an ornate church filled with flowers and beautiful hymns we more fully appreciate the day having gone through the rollercoaster of emotions in the days prior. The baptisms of the morning take rich meaning as we reflect upon their meaning in light of what Jesus did for each of us.
Make this week a priority. Block off the service times as appointments with the Lord on your calendar. We are invited in these days to take the time, typically only an hour or so each day, to give thanks, recall, and worship the Author of our salvation. Jesus’ words then to the disciples are no less convicting to us now, And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Matthew 26:40. May we not be found slumbering amidst the business and busyness of our lives this week to miss the greatest week in salvation history, which opens unto us the gates of heaven.