Yes, it’s Holy Week. Come with me and I’ll show you what’s about to unfold.
Tomorrow night is Maundy Thursday. This year in our congregation we are celebrating a “Seder supper,” which is a full remembrance of Jesus’s last supper with His disciples. We will go into our Life Center where tables will be set for a formal dining experience, complete with candles, china, and silver service. At the head table will be a “seder plate,” prepared with several specific “Passover meal” foods, ready for use in the meal and service.
We will remember that Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover (“Seder”) meal that night Jesus was betrayed. They were eating and remembering The Exodus, when God brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. At that meal Jesus changed its Old Covenant meaning of The Exodus into God’s New Covenant, which was to be in the work of Jesus as the Savior of the world. The bread and wine of the Old Covenant now became the spiritual body and blood of Jesus in the New Covenant.
In the Seder supper, we Christians now participate in both the Passover meal of the Old Covenant and the Holy Communion of the New Covenant. This is a wonderful combination of Old Testament history and salvation, and our New Testament history and salvation, and a fine dining experience that is both epicurean and spiritual.
The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means mandate or command. Jesus gave two important commands that night at The Last Supper. One, to love one another as He has loved us. And two, to continue to do the eating and drinking of Holy Communion in remembrance of Him.
Friday of Holy Week is “Good Friday” and we remember the crucifixion of Jesus. We call it “Good Friday” because it is so wonderfully and amazingly good for us that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us all our sins. And so we give special emphasis to worship on this day. Some Christians worship in extended services from noon to 3 p.m. to mark the time Jesus was on his cross. Others worship in the most solemn worship service of the entire year, using a service called “Tenebrae,” which means “shadows.” In this service there is a progressive darkening of the sanctuary as worshippers meditate on the “Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross.”
In our congregation all worshippers will enter our sanctuary at 8 p.m. in solemn silence. Seven candles will be seen in prominence on and around the altar, each one lit. Then, as we read the utterances of Jesus as He hung on the cross, we will hear brief reflective meditations on each of these seven beautiful statements. Interspersed with these meditations the candles will be extinguished one by one, and we will either sing the great hymns of the faith which bring us to the cross of Christ, or listen to the choir or soloists bring us music in the mood of solemn remembrance of what Christ did for us on His cross on that day.
We believe and declare that, by His death on that cross, Jesus defeated Satan, crushing him underfoot, and freeing us from our sin, death, and the power of the devil. At the conclusion of this service, we will all leave in total silence, even continuing our reverent silence out into the parking lot and as we drive home in our cars. I have been told by some members that this is the most “impressive” service of the year.
Of course, Holy Week concludes on Easter Sunday with the glorious celebration of the declaration that Jesus, whom we saw crucified and buried, is no longer dead but that He is risen from the grave. “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” the angels say. “He is not here. He is risen. Hallelujah!”
This good news will ring throughout everything we say, do, sing, and celebrate on Easter Sunday. The sanctuary will be decorated with the traditional Easter lilies, which will “trumpet” the life-giving message of the resurrection of Christ. Banners will give witness to the sadness-turned-to-utter-joy theme of this great truth. All the music and preaching will resound with joy and excitement for the new life we are given in Christ and His Resurrection.
Oh yes, there will be Easter bonnets, new dresses, new ties, and an Easter egg hunt. But these have no value in themselves. They are only joyful physical reminders that Jesus’ coming back to life gives us and the whole world the real new life we so desperately need and want, both now and for eternity.
I encourage you all to attend the Holy Week and Easter services in your home church. If you are without a home church at this time, please come and join us at Prince of Peace. Wherever you “live out” Holy Week, you will receive the greatest blessing there is — The Good News in Jesus Christ.
[Find Kollmeyer at princeofpeacefayette.org. Easter sunrise outdoors 7:30 a.m., contemporary 9:15, traditional 11:15.]