Pastor’s Page -May 2023
Dear St. Paul’s Family, Every month, when the Council meets, we begin with devotions. For…
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Holy Week is my favorite week of the church year. The stories, the emotions, the meals, the symbols, and the music all come together for an incredibly meaningful and moving week of worship. Gathered together in community for this most holy time, we celebrate the central stories of our faith.
On Palm Sunday, we wave our palm branches in the air, celebrating Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. In some churches, this procession is long and elaborate, sometimes starting from a nearby park, and processing down the sidewalk to the church. Other churches celebrate the procession only within their sanctuary, but may involve children or the entire congregation, other musical instruments, a procession around the whole sanctuary, all while waving our palm branches high in the air. This day is full of high energy and emotions as we celebrate Christ’s presence in God’s holy city, the center of religious life at the time.
And so quickly, the mood changes as we continue into the week. For those that read the daily readings for each day of Holy Week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday tell us of Mary anointing Jesus, a worshipful, yet somber act, which leads to questioning by Judas; Jesus speaking about his death, about how he will be lifted high above the earth and draw all people to himself; and Jesus speaking about his betrayal. Where has the celebration gone? How can things turn so quickly? It is sometimes amazing and shocking how quickly the power of sin works on people and transforms love, admiration, and worship, into hatred, fear, and condemnation.
On Maundy Thursday, we gather with Jesus and the disciples around the table at the Last Supper, as Jesus shares one final meal with his disciples, all the while teaching and serving them. We witness Christ’s great love for his disciples and, in turn, all of us, as he gives us a new commandment. Omitted from our readings this night are Jesus’ farewell discourse and prayer for his disciples and world. This night is filled with love, ritual, and service, as we are invited to wash one another’s feet.
On Good Friday, our worship from the night before continues as we hear the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and burial. Often times, this is considered to be one of the saddest nights of the church year, nearly like a funeral for Jesus. But as we read John’s gospel, we hear this is not so! For the Gospel of John, Jesus’ crucifixion is his triumph. It is on the cross that Jesus is enthroned as God and King, as Savior of the world. As Jesus is lifted up, his love, compassion and salvation extend to all people and the whole cosmos. And as we pray the bidding prayer on Good Friday, our prayers reach out just as widely as Jesus reaches on the cross. We pray for the faithful and unfaithful, Christians and people of other faiths, church leaders and those preparing for baptism, world leaders and all of God’s creation.
The Easter Vigil is my favorite portion of the Holy Week service. On this most holy night, gathered outside the tomb, we share the stories of our faith, the stories that shape our identity as God’s beloved children. From creation, to the Exodus, to deliverance from the fiery furnace, we hear of God’s gift of life for God’s beloved. These stories shape us, these stories mold our faith, and these stories tell us who—and whose—we are. Following these readings, we gather around the font and are sprinkled again with the water that washes over us, cleansing us of our sin, and adopting us into God’s beloved family. We are surprised by Christ’s astounding resurrection, and the first Alleluias of Easter are proclaimed as we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
On that bright Easter morning, we gather in celebration once again, giving thanks for God’s amazing promise of eternal life, that just as Christ has been raised from the dead, we too shall be raised to new and everlasting life. Compared to the ritual and sacramental feel of worship the night before, this morning’s worship is lively, with a whirlwind of activity. We gather with friends and family, often dressing nice for the occasion, worship is augmented by special music, and the day is steeped in family and church traditions. We celebrate and give thanks, because Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!
I invite you to join us for these worship services, journeying with me through Holy Week. I encourage you to immerse yourself in the stories, feel the emotions, partake of the sacraments, and make a joyful noise through the hymns and music that we share. Together, we experience the presence and promises of God.
Peace, Rev. Jessica Hahn