This Sunday begins the drama of what Christians call Holy Week. Holy Week includes the days leading up to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. The earliest allusion to the custom of Holy Week comes from the latter half of the 3rd and 4th century, so this is an ancient tradition!
At UUMC, we will observe three special and unique Holy Week services including Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. These three services help to tell a piece of the story of Jesus’ final week of life and ministry.
Palm Sunday remembers when Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem for the last time. The disciples borrowed a donkey for Jesus to ride on. Crowds gathered and waved palm branches and placed cloaks on the ground to greet Jesus as if he was a king. Everyone shouted and cheered because they were filled with excitement and hope about who Jesus would be and what Jesus would do.
The worship service on Maundy Thursday remembers the final two commands that Jesus gave us the night before he was killed. Maundy comes from the Latin word Mandatum and means command. On that night, Jesus gathered to observe the Passover Seder with his disciples. In the middle of the meal, he did two new things. First, he knelt to wash the disciples’ feet. This was a common act for servants, but it was surprising for someone like Jesus to humble himself to that position. Second, he instituted a new ritual with the bread and the cup which today we call Holy Communion.
Good Friday remembers the final hours before Jesus’ crucifixion and death. On this night, the drama is intense and recalls Pilate, Ciaphas, Peter’s denial, the crowd shouting “Crucify him,” the casting of lots, and nailing Jesus to the cross and even more.
Easter Sunday immediately follows Holy Week and culminates the story in the glorious proclamation of an empty tomb. It is tempting to limit our Holy Week experience to Palm Sunday and then jump to Easter, but we miss the depth of the Christian message if we miss Thursday and Friday.
This year, the services will offer you an opportunity to experience the meaning in a deeper way through ritual acts of foot-washing and communion as well as a dramatic reader’s theatre of the gospel on Friday night. Last year was the first year that we offered a foot-washing and we invited Evelyn Strubinger to offer her reflections about the experience. In addition, we have a little preview into the service on Friday to share with you!
See you in worship!