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Posts by: Ellen Richard

A Peek into Holy Week: Good Friday

April 06, 2017

Good Friday is a solemn remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice of his own life so that we might find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. This is not a somber recapitulation of Jesus' death, but rather a thankful and reverently joyful recollection of his death that gave us life. This day and the next—Holy Saturday—are the only two days of the church calendar when there is no Eucharistic celebration. Traditionally, this service can be held at three o'clock in the afternoon or later to mark the hour of Jesus' death according to the Gospels.

It is believed that the liturgy for this service is derived from the earliest days of Christianity. The service begins in silence and with prayer. The clergy process into the room silently, dressed in black. In some traditions, they prostrate themselves before the cross at this point. Our readings for the day are from Isaiah's Suffering Servant poem (Isa. 52:13­–53:12) and from the sermon to the Hebrews in which the author explains Jesus' role as our great High Priest and Mediator (Heb. 10:1-25). At this time, we return to the same Gospel reading that we read on Palm Sunday—the Passion (John 18:1–19:37). This service also includes the praying of the Solemn Collects in which we intercede for the church, our nation, and the world. Our Communion for this service consists of wafers that have already been blessed during the previous night's Maundy Thursday Eucharist. Good Friday is not a Eucharist service because we are remembering that Christ's body was in the grave, and we are waiting for his resurrected body to bring us new life. Finally, we take time to venerate the cross. At Church of the Resurrection, we lay the cross down on the chancel stage, and all who are led take a few minutes to touch the cross and pray. It is a powerful time of connection to our sacrificial Savior.

In the pilgrimage of Holy Week, Good Friday brings us to a somber and contemplative halt. From the moment the silent procession enters the sanctuary until we all leave in silence, we are invited into a focused contemplation of Jesus' death on the cross. Each scripture reading, prayer, and song points us to one man's experience on an ancient instrument of torture. Why? Because we believe that the moment Jesus died on the cross was the moment the entire world was rescued from sin and death. That is why we spend so much time savoring the reality of the cross.

On Good Friday, we celebrate both the specific instant in history when Jesus redeemed us and the reality that it can meet us in our sinfulness today. We invite the Holy Spirit to give us the grace to acknowledge our personal sinfulness and and then to immediately find forgiveness available at the cross. It is a stunningly personal opportunity to ask the Lord to highlight the sins keeping us from drawing close to him and then to set those sins down on the wood of the cross.

Join us Friday, 4/14 to experience the forgiveness and healing found in our remembrance of Christ's death on the Cross. We have the following services on Good Friday: 

Stations of the Cross, 12:30pm & 2pm
Good Friday Family Service, 3pm
Good Friday Evening Service, 7pm


This is Part 4 of our "Peek into Holy Week" series. In the days leading up to Holy Week, we're taking time to prepare our hearts and minds so that we will be ready to hear the voice of the Lord. Read the next post about the Great Vigil of Easter here.

A Peek into Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

April 06, 2017

On Maundy Thursday, we gather for the second service of Holy Week, which marks Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples prior to his arrest by the Jewish leaders. On this night, the apostle John recorded that Jesus washed his disciples' feet and gave his disciples the model for the Eucharist and a "new command" to love each other as Jesus loved them (John 13:34). Maundy is a word derived from the Latin which means "mandate" or "command." 

Jesus takes on the position of a menial slave in the act of foot washing. This would have been unusual behavior for a rabbi at that time—a rabbi should have humility but never give up his station of superior authority. Jesus adorns himself as a slave and washes his disciples' feet in the manner of ancient hospitality. It was custom to wash the feet of one's guests before dinner when they had arrived from a long journey. Normally, disciples would have been the ones serving their master, but Jesus' behavior is different in order to show his disciples how his Kingdom has turned social norms upside down. And, he is preparing them for the greatest dinner of all.

For this is also the night that Jesus institutes the Eucharist, the meal we share as the family of God in remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross. That night Jesus and the disciples shared the Passover meal as the first family of the new Kingdom of God; this meal remembers the most important event in Jewish history, the Exodus from Egypt. Many Jews of the first century were waiting for a Messiah who would lead a military and political takeover of Israel and reclaim it from Rome; they envisioned a second Exodus. Bread and wine play a significant role in the Passover meal, and during the Passover meal, there is much unleavened bread and wine consumed. The unleavened bread is called "the bread of affliction" to remind the Israelites of their suffering in Egypt and to remember how they left in such a hurry that there was no time to let the yeast rise before baking. There are five cups of wine integral to the Passover meal. There is varied interpretation, but generally, the first four cups correspond to the four terms God used to describe how he would deliver Israel from Egypt (Exod. 6:6-8)—literally, they are cups of salvation. The fifth cup of wine is left at the place set for Elijah, who it was hoped would return to announce the coming of the Messiah. Jesus connected for his disciples the hope for a second Exodus to the deliverance they would yet experience in his body's death and resurrection.

The church continues these practices today on Maundy Thursday. The foot washing after the reading of the Gospel and the sermon was a common practice by the fourth century AD. During the day, there is a ceremony to bless the holy oils used throughout the year. Finally, this is the last Eucharist meal consecrated until Easter Sunday. The priest consecrates elements for this service and enough bread for reserve Eucharist on Good Friday. Customarily, Maundy Thursday extends into an all-night prayer vigil, commemorating Jesus' request that his disciples stay up praying with him in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest.

The Maundy Thursday service invites us to allow Jesus into our whole lives. Jesus shows his tender love for us through the vulnerability of washing our feet. Jesus washes us of our sin through his broken body and his blood spilled out on the cross through the sacrament of Communion. This service is intensely embodied—we are invited to see, hear, and feel Jesus with us.

In the midst of a worship service it feels both bizarre and startlingly vulnerable to strip off our shoes and socks and place our feet in a basin of water. The foot washing portion of the service forces us to be exposed and vulnerable. It is in that place that we can receive healing and the fullness of the Lord Jesus' love for us.

In the Gospel reading for this service, the disciple Peter is indignant when Jesus asks to wash his feet. Either Peter does not want his Lord to stoop to such a lowly place, or he does not want to show Jesus his dirty feet (or both!). How easy it is to sympathize with Peter in this moment. But instead of appreciating Peter's concern for him, Jesus says, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me" (John 13:8).

Jesus displays his incredible humility and the fullness of his humanity—he is not above us or our bodies. Jesus became one of us, and a servant to us, in order that he might bring us into full relationship with God the Father—that we might share eternal life with him. Jesus' servanthood, seen in the washing of feet, is then fully realized in his death on the cross.

Join us Thursday, 4/13, at 7pm to experience the presence of Jesus at our Maundy Thursday service.



This is Part 3 of our "Peek into Holy Week" series. In the days leading up to Holy Week, we're taking time to prepare our hearts and minds so that we will be ready to hear the voice of the Lord. Read the next post about Stations of the Cross here.