The Church's Week
When my children were young we always tried to make their birthdays a special occasion. Lois prepared their requested meal and made their favorite cake, and of course we had ice cream. She also made each one of the kids their own special birthday flag which we hung up on their birthday. For my part, I wrote up a short book for each one which told of the circumstances surrounding their birth, why they were given the name we chose for them, and even a short little song about the meaning of their name. Because each person is special, the celebration of their birthday should be as well. And of course there are always presents.
The response from our children was pretty normal, and yet still unexpected. They decided that they should not be limited to a birth-day but should be allowed to celebrate their birthday-week. Certainly they should be remembered and honored for more than just one day a year. Let’s do this up right, let’s splurge, let’s indulge, after all no one else is just like me!
These ideas came back to me recently as I reflected on the holidays that the church has historically observed and how we have allowed them to be taken away from us. This is primarily our own fault. We have seemed to make Christmas the special day of the year and celebrate it as the birthday of Jesus. Yet we have no real knowledge of what day he was born and the fact of the matter is that the early church didn’t celebrate his birth. They focused instead on his resurrection. Easter celebrates that although again the church did not equate it to a special day but instead celebrated it every week. Sunday Worship was their attempt to combine the weekly time for public worship directed by God in the creation (Genesis 2:2) and in the law (Exodus 20:8-11), with the day of resurrection which was on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1). This became known as “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). But as time passed and a special day was observed for both Christmas and Easter we then let the meaning of these events become hijacked by our culture, who also wanted something to celebrate and some reason to be treated special. So Christmas became all about Santa Claus and decorations and presents, and Easter became about bunnies and chocolate and egg hunts. Somewhere in all the attempts to make ourselves special we lost track of the one who both created and redeemed us so that we could truly enjoy our unique individuality as well as our place in the community of his people. We have allowed ourselves to forget Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas and whose resurrection we observe at Easter
One way of trying to reclaim the importance of Jesus and to honor him as Lord of creation and Lord of our lives is to make some attempt to observe Holy Week. Holy Week is the days between the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his miraculous resurrection on Easter Sunday. This is the story of the Gospels. Indeed all four of them devote the bulk of their focus to these last eight days of Christ’s life. In a real sense this is the church’s story to tell to the world.
But before we can do so we need to make sure that we are not only familiar with the historic record but that we also have personally responded to the Jesus who suffered and died for us. For the last several years we have tried to provide some measure of opportunity to make Holy Week special. In a sense it is like giving Jesus not only a one day resurrection celebration but giving him a resurrection week. To be sure not all the events of this week are ones that prompt a party. After all, he was rejected, arrested, slandered, beaten, and crucified. These are awful realities and yet they were necessary for him to endure in order to provide for us the knowledge of his love and the grace of his forgiveness. So even his death we now mark as being on “Good Friday.” It is not death we celebrate but his substitutionary death for all mankind. This enables us to gain at least a beginning of what the joy of life is meant to be as we affirm resurrection life again on Easter Sunday and on every Sunday of the year. In essence what we are trying to cultivate is not just an annual remembrance but a daily celebration with a weekly reminder.
On the Calendar and Events page of this website are listed the weekly observances we are seeking to provide again this year for Holy Week. Join us for as many as you are able. And as always I hope to see you in Worship.