Fourteen years ago a film premiered during Lent. The film was about these final days we are entering, the week that changes the world.
There’s a scene in the film of Jesus falling flat on his face into a dusty road; surrounded by crowds, a crown of thorns on his head, the heavy timber he is carrying comes down hard on his back
He falls at the intersection of an alleyway where we see his mother Mary huddled in anguish as she waits in horror to glimpse Jesus passing.
When Jesus hits the ground just yards from her, Mary flashes back to a moment when as a child Jesus stumbled and hurt himself. In the memory, Jesus runs to her in pain and she takes him into her arms of comfort
Startled back from her vision, back to the reality of her son laying prostrate in the dust, Mary springs to life and rushes to Christ’s aid. When Jesus sees her, he shoulders his cross, and as he slowly rises back to his feet, he looks at Mary and says, “Behold, mother, I make all things new.”
Once a year Christians let this story be the priority in their lives. We take children out of music lessons and sporting events. We don’t plan social engagements. We pause. We take a deep breath. We put ordinary busyness on hold. We take a long weekend of sabbaths.
We pray. We sing. We lament. We remember. We find silence and dwell in it. We worship.
We ENTER the story together by the Spirit in gathered liturgies that re-enactment the gift of the Last Supper, the command to love as God has loved us, the anxious questions and perspiration of Gethsemane.
The past is present. The events of the life of Christ, the history of God in the flesh, participate in eternity and so are available to all times and places, and in our liturgies we experience their ever-present grace.
We climb the holy mountain to take a hard look at the cross, at our own violence against God, at the Love that forgives even as we betray and deny and flee, as we smite and whip and nail and mock.
In the quiet of Holy Saturday we ponder a world without God, where death reigns without the resurrection, not privy to the work Jesus is doing to tear down the gates of hell and trample down death by death, to set their captives free.
Then we gather once more with great joy to accompany the women in the vanishing darkness of the garden at dawn where we learn that death is not the end of anyone or the end of the world, that the resurrection is the end of all things.
I want to encourage you to disconnect from the grind and walk the way of the cross this week, to stay with Jesus and the women and John in the darkness of Golgotha which must come before the new dawn.
You will never quite understand the community of the church, ancient practices, or the deeper meanings of this week until you let it take over your life once a year.
And with every passing year, as you keep this sacred week sacred, free from other obligations and pursuits, you will see and experience and encounter Jesus Christ anew.
So I invite you to surrender your agenda and enter contemplation of the mighty acts whereby God has reconciled the world to himself in Jesus Christ, the things only Jesus can do for we cannot in a lifetime do them ourselves, where we find genuine rest from our labors in the acts of Love that make the world new.
Everyone (your neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, family, and friends) is welcome at Holy Redeemer. Being a parish means our community is everyone’s home. If you really want to imitate Jesus, invite your enemies.
These are times when we are gathering as a community (childcare is available at all services):
Maundy Thursday Eucharist: 7 p.m.
Good Friday Stations: Noon, 1 and 2 p.m.
Good Friday Service: 7 p.m.
Easter Potluck and Egg Hunt: 9 a.m.
Easter Eucharist: 10:30 a.m. (bring bells!!!)
With all my love,
PS: There is an alternate Good Friday service at Carol’s Car Wash in Hazel Park at 12:30 p.m. Pastor Mark Alan Gray of our Detroit sister congregation, Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist, is the preacher and I’m leading the liturgy. Harrison is leading the songs. All are welcome.