Why go along with Holy Week? Why would it be really good to follow Jesus into the chaos and pain of his last days on earth? Why would we do that?
It’s not “fun” (or is it? Palm Sunday might still be okay; some churches use a donkey!). It would be a lot nicer to just leave that whole week out and skip over to eggs and Easter.
Problem though is that the bit before Easter is actually pretty fundamental to followers of Jesus.
Without at least scratching on the deep emotions and experiences of desolation that Jesus (and his disciples) must have gone through, our Easter joy will not be too profound. And if our Easter joy is not too profound, maybe that’s a sign that our faith might not be too deep either.
So maybe it would be a good idea to go along with what the churches offer, and see if some of it touches our heart and connects us to our real-time life experiences here? Which in turn would bring God a lot closer to our senses and make him/ her somewhat more real.
Palm Sunday has a great deal to do with the psychology of masses, with their wish to idolise but then to turn around and claim the opposite, if influenced that way. Where are we in that crowd?
Maundy Thursday is the Quiet Day at St James' – a good opportunity to take time out and reflect, whilst being safe from having to talk… And the joint evening service at Chingford Methodist Church, where Jesus’ Last Supper will be remembered, where some disciples will share their thoughts and memories in meditations and where some feet (or hands) may be washed. Can we allow ourselves to be served that way?
Some churches have a wake through the night into Good Friday, they watch and pray with Jesus and the disciples (who, of course, nodded off…). If you can find a church that follows this ancient tradition – this would be a very deep experience of a different kind, lonely, probably, and yet connected.
Maybe see if you can find someone who has ever done this sort of prayer.
And Good Friday: quiet and probably evocative morning meditations in our churches, followed by the walk of witness in Chingford, this year on the road, carrying the cross publicly, handing our Easter eggs with little Easter greeting notes to people in shops and streets. Then a short act of worship on Chingford Green.
How does it feel like to show up to this and publicly be associated with that Jesus of Nazareth?
The Saturday can feel quite empty after all this. It’s time of waiting. Time in limbo. Hushed Easter preparations, getting everything ready for the big day.
Whoever can, do go and find a church which celebrates the Easter Vigil: A worship often starting at 3am in darkness, Easter fire in front of the church.
It is such an experience: in the liturgy being carried through from the creation of the earth (darkness) to the making of humans and the first sin (apple, disobedience) through the history of Israel and her prophets to the birth of Jesus, then his death and finally, with the arrival of the Easter light from the outdoors fire, the spreading of light to all candles, and an immense awe and joy goes round.
The victory of life over death, of light over darkness, of love over hatred is thoroughly celebrated, sung, admired, proclaimed. Then Eucharist and breakfast.
Our reformed Easter Sunday is a bit of a slimmed version of this. We do it in a non-conformist-way, the other way around: breakfast, Communion, worship.
What matters is the joy. What matters is the deep laughter, the relieved giggle that life has triumphed over death.
This is soul food, our core; Jesus lives, God loves his world, and we have experienced it! We are experiencing it, it flows on from us to others.
I really hope and pray you go to worship this Holy Week – if not here, then wherever you are.
Yours, in Christ,