Gratitude Day 251
Mon., Apr. 15, 2019
John 13:34 – (Jesus said,) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Reality hit home on Saturday. For the first time in 20 years, I will not be leading a worship service during Holy Week. Yes, I will participate. I will provide music. But it’s been two decades since I have simply been a participant during Holy Week and not a “planner.”
I love Holy Week. I love the messages, the stories the symbolism and the agony. While some of these stories are difficult to read and understand, I simply can’t get enough of the Holy Week stories from the four gospels. Every time I read them, I discover something I missed or forgot or ignored in previous readings.
For these past two decades, I have loved trying to bring these stories into today. Re-enact them. Help understand some of the symbolism and meaning. Bring them into situations and contexts with verbiage that maybe makes a bit more sense for us today.
As I was lamenting with Hubby Rick about not leading a Holy Week worship service, he chimed in and said he was going to miss helping me lead Holy Week worship. For nearly all of those 20 years, Rick has taken an active role in helping with at least one worship service during Holy Week. He’s been Peter, Judas and even portrayed Jesus. He’s memorized lines and lines. For weeks after Easter, he would spontaneously break out into one of the lines in the middle of something maybe or maybe not related. He’d hold up a piece of bread and recite a line from a drama he helped with. Or in the car, use a line to emphasize some point he wanted me to hear.
This winter, we had some water in the basement and a few things got wet. Rick has this old pair of sandals that literally are glued together. He’s had them for years. They have outlasted their value. I wanted to throw them away. Rick calls them his “Jesus” sandals. He’s worn them for probably every Holy Week, Advent, Christmas Eve and random other drama he’s been in since we’ve been married. Just in case he might be recruited again, he wanted to keep his Jesus sandals. And so, they remain in the basement.
I think it is easy to skip from Palm Sunday right to Easter and miss some of the great messages and stories that happen in-between. I’ve been pondering how I want to celebrate and honor Holy Week this year. Maybe you’re interested in some of my thoughts? Maybe you might want to embrace some? Just in case, I’ll share a few thoughts below.
- Attend Holy Week worship services. Seriously, just get your butt in the pew. Or a chair. Often, lots of effort is put into designing these worship services. I know the messages are complicated and not always kid-friendly. But there are great opportunities to discover these stories again. Pick at least one service this week to attend. Enter the worship space ready to have your heart touch. And maybe, it just will be.
- Read through at least one account of the Holy Week stories in one of the gospels. On Saturday, I encouraged folks to read through John’s Gospel. This Gospel has the most comprehensive recollection of Holy Week events. But honestly, just pick one of the gospels. For Holy Week narratives, look at these chapters of the various gospels: Matthew – chapters 21 – 28; Mark – chapters 11 – 16; Luke chapters 19 – 24; and John chapters 12-21. In some of the gospels, if you read a chapter a day this week, you would cover the narrative. Some more and some less. Take your time as you read the stories. Pause. Think about what you’ve read.
- Watch a movie that draws you back into why faith is important. “The Passion of the Christ” recalls the last hours of Jesus’ life. Yes, it is graphic. But it’s a graphic story, quite honestly. The last couple Good Fridays, after worship, Rick and I have taken in a movie with a spiritual theme. Last year, we saw, “I Can Only Imagine.” The year before, we watched “The Shack.” There are lots of other options. It’s become a special way we relate to faith this week.
- Discover a Seder Meal. This is one of my all-time favorite traditions of Holy Week. Jewish people celebrate Passover this week. Jesus was celebrating the Seder or Passover meal with the disciples during the night we call the Last Supper. Jesus took this Jewish meal and reinterpreted it for us as Christians. If you are not able to participate in a Seder Meal, read a children’s book about the meal and see how Jesus used this meal to help explain who he was and what his purpose was to come to earth.
- Take a piece of wood and pound a nail into it. As you pound the nail into the wood, think of Jesus being nailed to a cross for your benefit. Put this piece of wood in a place where you can see it all week.
- Another story I love is when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. I know … washing someone else’s feet seems a little weird. The first time someone washed mine on a Maundy Thursday, it changed my view of the Last Supper. I was living overseas at the time. The other American woman I was living with and I gathered with a family of five and we washed each other’s feet. It was powerful. I know this may not be for everyone. But see if you have one friend who might do this with you. If you do this, read the account from John 13 before you wash each other’s feet.
- Fast a meal or two this week. Then, take the funds or food that you would have normally used for these meal(s) and donate to a local food pantry.
- Wear a symbolic item all week. I have a couple different items that I have used. Sometimes, I wear a favorite cross. I also have a ring that I bought in Israel that looks like a crown of thorns. The only rings I usually wear are my wedding rings. So, wearing this ring all week makes it special.
- Put yourself in a special place and spend some quiet time with God. About 10 years ago, I traveled in the Holy Lands. The only “free” time we had was our last afternoon in Jerusalem. We could do what we wanted. I wanted to spend the afternoon in the Garden of Gethsemane. My friend Mary Ann and I walked to the garden and spent a couple hours independently there and in the Mount of Olives. I will always consider this one of my most special times with God. It happened because we planned for it and made it happen. It doesn’t have to be all afternoon. Just create space.
- Pick a verse or two of scripture and make it your special verse of the week. One example? The scripture at the beginning of this blog. Jesus speaks these words at the Last Supper in John’s gospel. Recite your verse every day. Write it on a card and keep it in a spot where you will see it at various times throughout the day. Make it a verse or two that speaks of why there is a Holy Week.
While Holy Week will be different for me this year, I have every intention of making it a great week. I pray you will as well.
For special ways to recall the last days of Jesus’ earthly life, I am grateful.
Holy God – The gospel writers certainly wanted us to know how special the last days of Jesus’ life were. This is why they dedicate so much space to these events. May we embrace these special stories this week. Amen.
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