Holy Week is a different kind of week, especially for those who follow Christ, and it should be.
This is the one week of the year when we need to refocus our lives based on what we say we believe - that Christ lived in such a way to instruct our own way of living, that Christ died to forgive the world of sin and then rose again to offer the promise of life eternal. Even if this week is a particularly beautiful week, full of the promise of spring, full of the promises of March Madness, full of anticipation of a few days off, it is still a different kind of week, and we would be amiss if we live our lives through this week as if it is any other week of the year.
As a child, growing up in a United Methodist pastor's household, Holy Week was indeed the most important week of the year. Beginning with Palm Sunday, we often spent much more time at church than any other time of the year. I loved the drama of Holy Week - I still do. Every year I wanted Palm Sunday to be filled with excitement. I wanted shouts and festive singing: Hosanna in the Highest! I wanted hundreds and hundreds of Palm branches. I wanted to close my eyes and then open them and see that I had been transported to that Palm Sunday long ago. I wanted to see Jesus and to shout with the crowd.
And I always wanted Palm Sunday to last and last, because I knew what else was coming. Palm Sunday was never festive enough. The songs and shouts and joy never lasted long enough. I remember going to sleep on Palm Sunday nights sad because the next day the sadness would begin again.
Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week in my childhood household were always quiet. The usual noise was silenced as my father would work on sermons and services that would be preached over the remainder of that week. It felt like all of heaven and earth was preparing for something that was about to happen, and our household reflected that preparation. I always thought everyone I knew - all my school friends, all my church friends, all my extended family, everyone - was experiencing this week as I was experiencing it.
Then Thursday came upon us, and all day long on those Maundy Thursdays of my childhood, I knew that when evening came I would be sitting in a pew at church with my mother and brothers. My father was often creative in special worship services and I felt like I would miss something if I didn't pay attention. No matter what the service was like, we always ended with communion and silence. That silence was heavy and that heaviness went home with me.
Good Friday was always curious to me. Often there was no school, and my mother rarely let us sleep late so we were up early for this dramatic day. Again the silence was present in our home. Often there was a noon service to attend, commemorating the last words that Jesus spoke from the cross. I always felt that these services were long and often totally ignored the beauty of the North Carolina spring around us. It was a day off from school in the most beautiful time of year, and I wanted to be out in it with my brothers, my friends, my thoughts about the week; but, I was in church, and again the heaviness was all around me.
Good Friday evenings were for worshipping at church, further remembering the drama of that Good Friday that happened so long ago. I remember when I was 7 years old my father had a Tenebrae service - a service of shadows and darkness. He had told us about the service because it was the first time that he had ever tried it in one of his churches, but he didn't tell us everything about it.
The music that night was somber. When the service began, the cross was draped in black and the church was already darker than normal. I felt safe because I was with my family and my church family, but I remember feeling uneasy. While we were in church, darkness fell upon the earth around us and the sanctuary where we were sitting. The scripture readings seemed somehow deeper than normal - as if I better pay attention.
Then the moment came when the closing of the grave was dramatized. All was dark and quiet, and suddenly a loud noise startled me and my mother sitting next to me. It was made to remind us that Jesus' death was real.
We all left the church in silence. We rode home in silence. We spent the rest of the evening in silence, getting ready for bed. Before we fell asleep, my Dad explained it again. He told us again that we need to remember and to understand that Jesus' death was real. It was horrible. He felt all the pain and agony of his wounds and our sin. Jesus' death was real, and without understanding that, we could not feel the joy and hope of the resurrection.
This week is a different kind of week, and while I will not spend it exactly as I did as a child, I will observe as many moments as I can remembering what Jesus went through. It is my hope and prayer that this week will help me refocus my life to reflect my faith. It is my hope and prayer that this week will help me to draw nearer to God- to be so close to the Holy One that my eyes will see, my ears will hear, my heart be aware of the mystery of God's forgiving and life-giving love for me and the whole world.
Please join me in observing this different kind of week.
To God be the glory!
On the parish calendar:
Pancake breakfast, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church. Proceeds support Band of Brothers projects.
Easter Sunrise Services: 6:30 a.m. at Mt. Hope UMC, with breakfast to follow; 6:30 a.m. at Nay's Chapel UMC, with breakfast to follow; 7 a.m. at Chapel Hill UMC; and 7 a.m. at First Baptist Church, with breakfast to follow.
Executive Committee meeting, 5 p.m. April 9 at Parish House
Lay Ministry Academy April 13 at Chapel Hill UMC. Contact Carolyn Nettles at 304-269-4184 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Tim Kelley at 304-472-1095.
CROP Walk planning meeting, 3 p.m. April 15.
Appreciation Dinner, 6 p.m. April 16 at Chapel Hill UMC
Baked Steak Dinner, 4:30-7 p.m. April 19 at Chapel Hill UMC. Proceeds support mission trips.
Bishop's visit to Wesleyan District, April 2122
Bishop preaching, 10:30 a.m. April 21 at Chapel Hill UMC
Bishop's Confirmation Rally, April 26 to 27 at WV Wesleyan College. This year's theme is "Confirmed! Now What?"
Celebration of Mission Event, April 27, Quiet Dell UMC. Churches should be collecting donations and holding fundraisers now.