This Sunday we begin with Jesus' triumphal entry, where palm branches are laid before him as he enters Jerusalem and he is hailed as king. As we process in, waving palms, the service quickly turns to the Passion narrative leading up to Jesus' death. In the quick change of events, we recall the mere five days that pass between the voices crying "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord," to, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
We gather again on Maundy Thursday to enter into the moment where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, institutes Communion by breaking bread with them one final time, and is arrested in the garden. In our service we do the same. Then we strip the church of all but the bare altar to remind us of Jesus' humiliation, beatings, and being stripped for execution.
The following day, Good Friday, we come to behold the cross, and he who takes away the sins of the world. We venerate the cross and recall the painful instrument of death he endured for our salvation. We are called to enter into the sorrow, grief, and emptiness. Such solitude carries us to the end of the service as we depart in silence.
We continue on Holy Saturday, gathering to recall the silence of this day as well as Jesus' descent into hell to release the faithful captives from ages past. We wait in contemplation and imagine the disillusionment of the disciples. With bated breath we anticipate the celebration of Jesus' victory over death when he bursts forth from the the tomb the following day.
Finally, we arrive on Easter morning to experience and celebrate anew the joy of our salvation. Yet, such joy cannot be fully realized if we do not walk each step leading up to the climax. It would be like jumping into the middle of a film at its height, or the peak of a musical masterpiece without having heard the crescendo leading up to it.
I urge each of you to make the services of the week a top priority. Decide to block out these times in your schedules. Walk the path to the empty tomb with Jesus. And for those of you who are parents, set the example for your children and household. Help them see what is most important. Discuss and reflect upon each service, lesson, and moment. Enter into the roller coaster of events and emotions that transpire. Allow yourself to arrive on Easter morning with joy, having recalled, relived, and ultimately been renewed by our Lord in the events of the week.