Hope Lutheran Church
An Invitation to Holy Week
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ (that means you),
I invite you, your family, and anyone else you can think of to join us for worship in these early days of April, especially during Holy Week. Why especially Holy Week? Good question! First a little bit about Holy Week.
Holy Week actually began a few days ago, on Palm & Passion Sunday. On this day celebrated each year, the church commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, while those gathered on the path leading from the Mount of Olives to the city, waved leafy branches and laid them on the road. (see Mark 11:1-11) His journey into Jerusalem, accompanied by shouts of “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,” would be short lived, however, as only 5 days later Jesus would be greeted by this collective cry of the crowds, “crucify him!” Palm & Passion Sunday prepares us to enter more deeply into the last days of Jesus, and specifically into his institution of Holy Communion at the last supper (see Matthew 26:26-29) and his betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial. (see John 18:1-19:42)
Holy week continues each day of the week between Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter, but over the years Holy Thursday and Good Friday have borne more significance. Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday, is a day when the church commemorates the washing of the disciples’ feet (see John 13:1-20), the new commandment Jesus gives to “Love each other as I have loved you” (see John 13:34, the word Maundy is traced back to the Latin word mandattum, meaning command), and the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the meal we call Holy Communion.
Good Friday recounts the final moments of Jesus death. It is a dark day filled with a range of emotions for worshippers around the world. It is a day when we recall our own sin that drove nails through the wrists and feet of our Lord, our gratitude for one who would lay down his own life for that sin, our confusion as to why God chose this way toward salvation, our frustration with a world broken by competing forces of good and evil, and our sadness as we hear the stone rolled over, sealing the tomb. Good Friday is good in that the blood of Christ shed on the cross was the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2), yet it is bad in that Jesus was whipped, crucified, and died, while people who loved him grieved the loss of one so loved.
Easter is our big day. It is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope we have in God’s promised resurrection for us and all creation. (see Romans 6:3-5) Our imaginations run wild at the thought of the empty tomb, trusting that our God is not dead, but is the one, true living God who defeats the death-grip that, well... death has on us. This promise of resurrection and eternal life, we believe, is not one that becomes ours sometime in the future but is one that we possess even now. This promised gift compels us to respond to God’s amazing love by loving and caring for our neighbor.
So, why do we especially invite you, your family, friends, and neighbors to join us throughout Holy Week? We do so because in these few days we experience the fullness of God’s redemptive work in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. We experience the devotion Jesus had among his disciples, as he washes their feet, taking the posture of a slave. We experience the darkness and grief of Good Friday, along with the pain, suffering, agony, and death of Jesus. We require our youth to attend these services because our journey through the valley of the shadow of death demonstrates all the more the power of God and God’s promise of life on Easter morning.
We encourage you to join us throughout this week, because there cannot be resurrection from the dead, without death first. Jesus cannot be raised to new life without first bearing the cross. There cannot be an empty tomb, without a body first being laid to rest. Join us as the power of God breaks the power of death once and for all. Join us in responding with shouts of Alleluia! Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!