March 15, 2018
Traditionally, the Stations of the Cross refer to images depicting the journey Jesus walked from his condemnation and sentencing at trial to the laying of his body in the tomb. The images are customarily displayed around the sanctuary of a church, and people are encouraged to visit the stations during Lent. At each station there are prayers, reflections, and scripture read. This journey is thought to have been adapted from the practice of very early pilgrims to Jerusalem at Easter who would follow Jesus’ path on the Via Dolorosa, which was thought to be the actual path Jesus took on his way to being crucified. The Stations of the Cross developed in order to provide this experience to pilgrims around the world, no matter where they might be. The fourteen stations begin with Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and end with his followers laying his body in the tomb.
At Church of the Resurrection, we take a journey around our building together at two different times on Good Friday. An officiant and a musician lead the service. Each station is marked by a plain wooden cross. At each station we read the passage of scripture associated with that moment on Jesus’ journey and take a moment to reflect with song and prayer. Our Stations of the Cross service was designed by Pope John Paul II.
Amidst the intensely corporate pilgrimage of Holy Week, the Stations of the Cross stand out as an opportunity for a uniquely individual encounter with the Lord. With a liturgy of only two voices, no homily, and a multitude of scripture readings, this service is crafted to be a private devotional experience. We are invited into a one-on-one encounter with Jesus as we walk alongside him on the road to his crucifixion.
As we contemplate each action that took place on Jesus’ journey to his death, we are invited to ponder the intentionality with which Jesus embraced his rescue mission. Each station takes Jesus deeper into betrayal, suffering, and death, thereby bringing us closer to the moment of our redemption. This paradox evokes an overwhelming love for our Savior as he suffers and stumbles, and it brings us hope amidst the darkness of human sin.
Join us for Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, 4/19, at 12:30pm or 2pm.
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 Good Friday here.
March 14, 2018
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, 3/29, 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.