The Suffering of Holy Week

Sometimes when I teach confirmation classes, the confirmands will ask probing questions. Questions about the faith and about the church—sometimes questions about me as a minister.

One confirmand a couple of years ago happened to see the cross I wear around my neck. She noticed that it didn’t look like most of the crosses she had ever seen. She was very curious about why my cross had Jesus on it. I explained to her that she was very observant and that the cross I was wearing was known as a “crucifix”—used mostly by Roman Catholics—while the cross she was looking at in our sanctuary at the time—and in most every Protestant Church—was empty. This allowed me to have an important “teachable moment” with those confirmands. For the Protestant Church, an empty cross is a symbol of resurrection. For the Roman Catholic Church, the crucifix represents the central mystery of the faith—it is somehow through the suffering of Jesus that we are saved.

I love what our empty cross represents and I hope you do, too. On Sunday we get to celebrate Easter—the great festival of Christianity. Our Roman Catholic friends will celebrate that day no less than we will. But I might like to suggest that as we begin Holy Week, it is imperative that we allow our Catholic friends to inform us.  

The week of Passion is difficult to enter. Starting with a parade filled with Palms that everyone knows is more of a “perp walk” for Jesus. The end is near and he knows it. Then through the events of the week—a betrayal by friends, a kangaroo court complete with a mock trial and then the torture and beatings. Finally, the ultimate insult—crucifixion, Rome’s form of capital punishment, inflicted on the one we call “The Prince of Peace”.  

It is tempting for us to want to bypass all that agony. But we must not because our salvation truly is connected to this suffering of Jesus. And what’s more—and perhaps even more disturbing for us—Jesus commands us to enter into this suffering WITH HIM.

I can’t know what that means for you and I’m still trying to figure out what it means for me, but what is unmistakable is that our Lord has asked all of us who call ourselves “followers” to do exactly that—follow Jesus along this road that leads through Jerusalem and on to the place called “Golgotha”, The Place of the Skull.

There will be two opportunities during Holy Week for you to follow: Maundy Thursday as we commemorate the Last Supper and Good Friday as we hold a “Tenebrae” service—a service of light and shadow that points toward the darkness of the crucifixion. These are both powerful services and I hope you can attend both—each beginning at 6:15 p.m.

I always find for myself that I am much more prepared for the Easter celebration when I have attended to the suffering of Holy Week. So on Easter Sunday, we will have a 6:30 a.m. Sunrise Service on the lawn (weather permitting), then our 8:30 and 10:30 services will both be in the sanctuary (and there is a fellowship brunch served between those two services.

I know you’ll not want to miss a thing.