Do you know what Maundy means? Do you know why the altar cloths are stripped or why we bring bells to church this Saturday and Sunday? As we enter holy week, Pastor Paul Calvin helps us prepare our hearts and explains our schedule of services.
Though lasting only a few days, holy week is a season of the Church that is rich with meaning. It is holy–set apart by worship services that have been observed in similar form since the first centuries of the Church. Holy week commemorates historical events, but it calls us to be more than mere observers or students of history. In commemorating Christ’s Passion we see very plainly both the grim reality of our sin in Jesus’ crucifixion, and the glorious mystery of our redemption in his resurrection. The message of holy week is straightforward. The choice before us is life or death, the blessing or the curse. Though separated by 2,000 years, the cross that Jesus bore was our own, his body was broken for us, and in him is eternal life. Choose life.
There are many different characters in the story of holy week, each with their own conflicted identities: believers, skeptics, partisans, traitors, the humble, and scoffers. Though we may wish to imagine ourselves among the very few who would remain with Jesus until the end, the mystery of our redemption is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Salvation was not restricted then to the few who remained at the foot of the cross, but by God’s grace it is freely offered to all who will believe that Jesus is the Christ.
In the worship services of this coming week we hope that you are able to participate deeply in this drama of salvation. We invite you to take your seat in the upper room and keep watch with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday, to follow Jesus as he was led to be crucified on Good Friday, and finally, to join with the first witnesses of his resurrection, proclaiming at the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday: The Lord is risen and we have seen him!
Included below is a list of the services we will be celebrating together as a church. We hope you are able to join us. No nursery will be provided on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, though children are welcome to attend.
The word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin translation of the word “commandment” (mandatum) in Jesus’ words to his disciples on the night of the last supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
On Maundy Thursday, we reflect upon the events of the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. We remember how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and broke bread for them, saying: “Take, this is my body” and offered them a cup of wine saying: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:22-24). The worship service ends with the stripping of altar cloths and other elements from the communion table: symbolic of Jesus’ persecution at the hands of his enemies, and abandonment by his disciples.
The Good Friday service focuses on Christ’s passion and death for us on the cross. It is a somber service but also a hopeful one as we remember what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. The worship service includes readings, prayers, music, and a reflection on the cross of Christ.
Since the first centuries of the Church, the Easter Vigil has marked the beginning of Easter with baptisms, renewal of baptismal vows, and celebration of the Eucharist. But first, the Easter Vigil powerfully retells the story of salvation history beginning with creation, continuing with God’s covenant with the Israelites, and reaching a climax in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is also the first time since the beginning of Lent that we sing Alleluia together as a congregation–a moment that is marked by the ringing of bells, keys, etc. (Please bring bells if you have them.)
Due to the many readings, songs, and baptisms, this service is longer than most and will last approximately two-and-a-half hours. Early arrival is recommended to ensure you are able to find a seat.
Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the high point of the Church year. We finally are able to sing Alleluia together as a congregation–a moment that is marked by the ringing of bells, the shaking of keys, etc. (Again, bring bells if you have them.) On this, our most important holiday, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and the new life that we have in him.