In my previous posts, I introduced the Church season of Lent as the preparatory time leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. Easter Sunday is now only two weeks away. However, our minds are more likely turned to upcoming events of the secular calendar: Spring Break, April Fools’ Day, the Masters. Because media and merchandisers champion and manipulate our calendars for their priorities, I’ve been forcing myself to think about Easter Week (aka Holy Week). I want to encourage you to, as well.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday (always the Sunday before Easter; this year, April 1st), which remembers Jesus’ entrance into the city of Jerusalem. As Jesus entered the holy city of Israel where he would be mocked and crucified (rather than rightfully crowned as king), the crowds cried out ‘Hosanna!’ and laid branches of palm trees down before him (John 12:13). Palm Sunday inaugurates the week of Jesus’ suffering to save the world. As he turned and entered Jerusalem, he was also entering into the passion that would secure the rescue of all who believed.
Maundy Thursday* commemorates the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with his friends on the evening he was betrayed by Jesus and handed over to the authorities. Passover is the meal (still) observed by Jewish people to remember God’s deliverance of them from their bondage in slavery through the blood of a lamb. As a good Jew, Jesus observed this meal with his followers on the eve of his death. But Jesus also gave new meaning to Passover by becoming the true Passover Lamb. He also gave a new command to his followers that they should love others the way he had loved them.
It is generally accepted that the name Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin word mandatum (meaning commandment) which is the first word of John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.”
This year on Maundy Thursday, City Church will partner with our Monument Avenue neighbor, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, for a service at 7pm. All are invited as well to a community meal before the service at 6pm in Grace Covenant’s basement fellowship hall. The meal is $5/person with a $12 family maximum.
Good Friday** recognizes the day that Jesus died on the cross and was laid in a tomb. It is good for us because it was bad for Jesus Christ. On that Friday, the eternal Son of God was abandoned by His heavenly Father and cried out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ But in that act, Jesus was assuaging the wrath of God, so that all who believe would be free from the guilt of sin.
This year on Good Friday, City Church is holding a service together with our sister church, Northside Church of Richmond. The service will take place at 7pm at their location: Battery Park Christian Church at 4201 Brook Road.
Why bother with all of these ‘extra’ services? It enriches our celebration of Easter. The good news of Christ’s bodily resurrection (and therefore our bodily resurrection) is better to us when we’ve paused to reflect on his suffering and our sinfulness. We learn to have our lives attuned to the rhythm of God’s work rather than the rhythm of our American culture. We use the liturgical calendar at City Church not because it is Biblically required or because it is sinful not to. We use it because it helps us worship God and encounter the love and mercy of Jesus more.