I experience feelings of longing every Maundy Thursday worship service. Longing for my fellow church members who couldn’t, or chose not to, attend Maundy Thursday.
Participating in one or two Holy Week services leaves a huge gap in the retelling the story of Jesus’ passion. It steals from the depth and power and strength of Holy Week.
I have good news today. The Holy Week services are right in front of you. You can experience anew the pain and power, the gore and glory, of Jesus’ terrible triumphant path to the cross.
Holy Week Services
Traditionally, there are three Holy Week services. It starts with Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem before His betrayal. It is often marked with palm branches and shouts of praise.
The next service is Maundy Thursday. The term “Maundy” is based on the Latin word for “command.” It comes from John 13:34, “A new command I give you…” Maundy Thursdayfocuses on the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Some churches also recall Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in this service.
The origins of the term “Good Friday” are debated; the weight and measure of the service are not questioned. Good Friday retraces Jesus’ passion. It is the perfect preparation for Easter Sunday.
But why should I attend these services?
Experience the Entire Story
If we miss an episode of a favorite television show, we can catch up by watching it “on demand.” Not so with live worship services. To experience the entire narrative, attend all the services.
Binge Watching for the Soul
We find time for “binge watching” our favorite television dramas. Think of Holy Week as “binge watching” Jesus’ entire passion through worship services.
Sights and Sounds and Symbols
Holy Week is the most sensory driven worship of the year. Waving palm branches on Palm Sunday. Stripping the altar on Maundy Thursday. Shouts of “crucify him” on Good Friday.
It Should Have Been Me
As Christians, we acknowledge Jesus died specifically for our sins. There are times when this understanding becomes almost academic. Not on Good Friday. Good Friday fills our senses with this reality.
Holy Week closes with Jesus’ death and burial. It is a painful way to close out the week. But, there is no more effective way to prepare for the joy of Easter Sunday.
Experience All of Holy Week
I know attending all three is challenging. There were years when our kids had high school baseball or softball games on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. Yet, there were ways to attend all the services.
This year, I start Holy Week at Christ Our Savior of the Valley in Alderson, WV and celebrate Easter at Good Shepherd in Mentor, OH. I will mark the remaining Holy Week services at churches between these towns.
That’s a fair amount of travel. Holy Week services make each mile worthwhile.
(A PDF copy of this post can be downloaded for congregational or personal use from the “Documents & Forms” page under the “President’s Office” tab at oh.lcms.org.)