March 25, 2013 by Pastor Ben McIntire
It is Holy Week: the week leading up to Easter Sunday, when liturgical churches (Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, etc.) recognize the significance and central importance of God’s miracle of raising Jesus from death. To meditate on this great event, we live out the story of Jesus’ final week during our own week. We call this story Christ’s “Passion” because this word comes from the Latin verb to suffer. To most people, “passion” means a strong emotional connection to someone or something. A person might say he loves his wife “passionately;” or a medical doctor might be “passionate” about her work on behalf of her patients. Both of these uses can contain an element of sacrificial love, for the spouse or the patients, and so they are good examples of what we mean when we talk about Christ’s Passion. (On the flip-side, saying one is passionate about golf, scrapbooking, or videogames is NOT a correct use of the word!)
As Christians, we live out the Passion story of Christ during Holy Week, usually by worshipping on Thursday, Friday, and sometimes Saturday as well. Each of these worship services is meant to focus on a different event of Christ’s Passion. On Thursday, we celebrate a service called MAUNDY THURSDAY. Again, the word “Maundy” comes a Latin word, mandatum, which means “mandate” or “command.” It comes from the Gospel of John 13:34 when Jesus tells his disciples at the Last Supper, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” This Last Supper of Jesus took place on a Thursday night, as Jesus celebrated the Jewish festival of the Passover with his disciples. For this reason, many churches will celebrate Holy Communion (also called the Lord’s Supper) at this worship service in remembrance of this event. Finally, this is also the night when Jesus took water and a towel and washed his disciples’ feet, to show them that he is both Lord and Servant. They too are to be servant leaders as they establish the Christian faith later on. Usually, the Thursday service ends with the story of Jesus’ betrayal by his friend and disciple, Judas, and the worship is left to continue on Friday.
The Friday service is called GOOD FRIDAY because this event is good news for us who are sinners in need of a sacrifice and forgiveness. Good Friday is the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus, and show our gratitude to God for this amazing, sacrificial act. On Good Friday, Jesus Christ (who is God’s Son, and also God in-the-flesh) was executed as a criminal. Yet this man was the only innocent and sinless person to ever live on earth. Therefore, when he willingly let himself be handed over and killed, he took upon himself the sins of all people, of all generations, from the whole world and put those sins to death along with himself on the cross. With all sin put to death, we have all been freed from its terrible power, and may now live in God’s grace and forgiveness. To paraphrase Martin Luther, “Christ takes what belongs to us, our sin, evil and death, and bestows on us his own gifts of forgiveness, righteousness and eternal life.” That is indeed Good News to receive on Friday.
HOLY SATURDAY is often a day when churches hold an Easter Vigil; sometimes a worship service or perhaps an all-day event where the faithful may come and go as they wish, to spend time in individual prayer and meditation during this time when Jesus’ body lay buried in the tomb.
Finally, EASTER SUNDAY dawns with many churches holding Sunrise Services, gathering to worship at the break of dawn, just as the Gospels record the faithful women went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with the appropriate burial spices. But to their surprise, they found the tomb empty and the stone rolled away. An angel was there to give them the miraculous news, “You are looking for Jesus. He is not here, he is risen!” Good news for Jesus, and great news for us as we are promised to share in the resurrection!
I got this recipe in an email this week, and so I share it with you, especially if you have young children, to help teach them about the Easter Miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, and what it means for us. Have a blessed Holy Week!
1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 large marshmallows
Each triangle shaped section of crescent roll represents a tomb. Take one marshmallow per triangle, which represents the body of Christ. Dip the marshmallow in the butter and roll in cinnamon and sugar mixture. This represents the oils and spices Jesus’ body was anointed with upon burial. Lay the marshmallow on the dough and carefully wrap it around the marshmallow. Make sure all seams are pinched together well so that the marshmallow will not ooze out of the seams. Bake according to crescent roll package directions. After letting cool, break open the tomb! The body of Christ is no longer there! Celebrate the sweetness of God’s love in this miracle!