The Stories and Rituals of Holy Week

Stories make my small world larger and allow me to understand deeper truths about life.   Rituals bring me comfort and mark parts of my life as important.  I love them both, which is good because the churches best tools to communicate God’s love are story and ritual.  At her best, she uses both to draw people closer to God.

The rituals of Holy Week help us enter into the story. We are part of the parade on Palm Sunday and shout with the crowd when we read the Passion.  We share a meal of bread and wine on Maundy Thursday as Jesus did on the night he was betrayed.  We drag a wooden cross on Good Friday as Jesus dragged one down the road to Golgotha.

The rituals of Holy Week make the story telling not just a head thing, but a heart thing.  We feel the hopelessness of the crucifixion as we extinguish candles and strip the altar in the Tennebre service on Maundy Thursday.  There is mournfulness in the dark Good Friday service full with choirs and ending with lone voices asking “Were You There”.  We start the Saturday Vigil outside, at a bonfire, telling the story of the light God brought to our world in creation.  From the flames we light our Christ candle as a sign that the light God brought is Jesus and hope builds within us.  We surround the Good News of the resurrection on Easter with celebration and abundance, adding trumpets to our music, banners to our procession and hundreds of fragrant lilies to our sanctuary.

The Church emphasizes Holy Week with good story telling and important ritual, because this week is the core of our faith.  What happens to Jesus is what saves us.  Clear out your calendars for the four the opportunities to Worship, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Each is different.  Each tells a different part of the story.  Each contains rituals that make sense of the story.  Each is led by musicians, pastors and members who take seriously their responsibility as story tellers and worship leaders.

The five services of Holy Week are meant to be experienced together.  You will get so much more out of Good Friday if you experience the love of Jesus in foot washing on Maundy Thursday.  The celebration of Easter is richer when you are anointed with oil, remembering your baptism into the faith in the Saturday Vigil the night before.  Don’t pick and choose do all of them.  It will be a good gift of faith for you.  Set the DVR to record your favorite shows.  Make apologies to your softball team or children’s soccer coach.  Go out to eat with spouse, family or friends before the evening services begin.  Our faith is important.  Let God’s gift of Jesus come alive for you this week and make sense of deep truths about life.

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