It's Holy Week!
Pastor Mark Wickstrom in Vegas used to joke that this was every pastor's favorite week.
SO. MANY. SERVICES.
This is my first year as the lead pastor for Holy Week, and I'd have to agree with Mark that it's my favorite, even though Holy Week can be overwhelming (but that's the point of this blog, right, that Jesus IS overwhelming?)
Here at St. Philip we begin tonight with a Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday tomorrow night, Easter Workshop on Saturday, and finally Easter on Sunday morning.
If you're not part of a congregation, or if you haven't been to church in awhile, this is one of those weeks that can kind of draw people back, or at least make you think ...
Hey, hey ... it's Holy Week ... Maybe I should check something out, go get my feet washed on Maundy Thursday, hear Jesus' last words on Good Friday, shout Hallelujah on Sunday morning before I eat some ham and hard-boiled eggs.
More than Christmas even I think, Holy Week can be a time where those of us who yearn for a connection with God, with Jesus, wonder again about making church a part of our lives.
For me, even when I was a heathen sportswriter in Southwest Florida, I made a point to attend Holy Week services. All of them. And I'd really encourage this for anyone out there who's wondering about maybe coming back to Church this week.
Maundy Thursday is a great chance to really see a church for what it is. It's often a smaller, more intimate service, and sometimes pastors mail it in and people kind of go through the motions. But then sometimes churches really try to make this service, humble as it is, mean something.
And the smaller atmosphere means maybe you can meet people and genuinely get to know a few of them without the hustle and bustle of Easter Sunday, and you'll experience why we practice Holy Communion every week, what Jesus' New Commandment really meant, and what the Last Supper was really all about.
Some churches even do footwashing, hand anointing; one church I know of does a Living Last Supper. It's a great chance to experience Worship Creativity, and get a feel for what church can be like today in 2014. It might be different than your childhood memories, or in a good way, it might bring back positive memories from childhood church.
Then there's Good Friday. Often churches will do some sort of drama or musical performance for Good Friday. It's such a vastly important service, especially for those of us Lutherans or lapsed Lutherans who grew up on the Theology of the Cross, and the idea that God's death is necessary in order that we all might experience the fullness of real, everlasting Life.
So you come to Good Friday, at night, it's dark, everyone's wearing black - and in that blackness and sorrow of the cross, there is beauty. Choir members, hardy, strong, hard-working, so proud in their own small part of making the Passion and Death of Christ real, so that the Resurrection on Sunday might be real, too.
I experienced a great illustration of this Passion of the Passion during Bible Study this week.
At St. Philip we did up Palm Sunday really big. The procession, the palms, a New Member Installation, kids sing ... but we didn't read the Passion Gospel that many churches read on Palm Sunday. We save it for an important Good Friday service that we encourage all to - and many do - attend.
So to prepare for Good Friday and Easter, at Bible Study this week we read the whole Passion reading from the Gospel of John, the entirety of Chapters 18-19. Each woman took a sentence and we read it around the table. And when we got to the parts about Jesus being beaten, bleeding, about his followers denying him, about the way he thirsted at that last moment ... women began to weep.
We felt the Passion of the Passion together in that experience. We gathered with the First Christians around the Cross and we felt the power of that Death so intensely together. We grieved for Jesus as he suffered, and we grieved with God as his Son hung on the cross.
This led to a great discussion of where we find Jesus today, in incredibly unexpected places -- because the Cross was the first unexpected place of all, where God revealed Godself in all His glory.
That Bible Study passion experience revealed to me the Power of the Church and the power of Holy Week itself.
See I could read the Passion text alone, in my room, and maybe I'd even weep to myself.
But it's only in the Community of the Church that I experience fully the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We felt it differently that day because we felt it together. Our tears and our sorrowful joy mixed with the tears of the martyrs, from Ancient Rome to modern-day Syria. Our community became the Christian Community, and by His blood we were connected and made brothers and sisters in Christ.
That's what going to Church, making a point to get there, in person -- that's what going to Church on Easter and throughout Holy Week is all about.
Can you be a Christian without going to church? Sure, I suppose you can. But you're missing out.
**If you're in Chicago, come join us at St. Philip this week so that we might be together with the God who died and rose again. We're at 1609 Pfingsten Road; Glenview, IL; 60025: just south on Pfingsten from Glenbrook Hospital and Glenbrook South High School.**
**Maundy Thursday services are at 7 p.m. with Holy Communion and Hand Anointing**
**Good Friday services are at 7 p.m. with our choral cantata In the Shadow of the Cross**
**Kids Easter Workshop for ages 3+ is Saturday from 1-3 p.m.**
**Easter Sunday begins at 8 a.m. with the Easter Breakfast**
**Easter Service is at 9 a.m., filled with joyous hymns, the Glenbrook South Brass Ensemble, and shouts of Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!**
**And don't leave without grabbing an egg from our Easter Egg Hunt, on Sunday at 10 a.m.**