SpiritStirrer

sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

Category: Holy Week

Holy Saturday

"One Afternoon In January" by Nick Kenrick CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“One Afternoon In January”
by Nick Kenrick CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I often think about the disciples on Holy Saturday. I see them heartbroken, confused, and defeated. They had heard Jesus say that he would be resurrected but now that promise seemed like false hope and empty naiveté. Their savior changed them, helped them see a new way, but now it seems like that’s all that this savior would do. Now he is dead and Rome is suspicious of those who gathered around Jesus, so the best chance to survive and not suffer Jesus’ fate is to go back to life as they knew it before.

For those of us who know the end of the story it is easy to hold the tension of Holy Saturday. We are getting prepared for Easter. Cooking, getting outfits ready, and those of us who are pastors might be practicing the Easter sermon. But today over two thousand years ago, followers of Jesus did not know, the world did not know, creation longing, aching for salvation yet salvation now seemed farther away than ever. Sin’s winter attempting a hostile takeover over spring!

We too go back to our old ways. Maybe we have tried to start again so many times that we feel defeated, maybe life has thrown a few twists that we did not expect, maybe we are just tired of trying again.

This Holy Saturday hold still . . . look around . . . know that there are many who get it, who have been hopeless, who are afraid, who think that maybe all these years of following Jesus have been for naught, who now think that their savior was a sham.

This Holy Saturday hold still . . . look around . . . creation too is longing with you! Pay attention for morning is coming . . .

Holy Saturday: Dressing the Church

A nod to my brother Josh Hale (expatminister) who has written a wonderful post about how pastors can observe Holy Saturday.

His post got me thinking about what I enjoy the most as a pastor on Holy Saturday. I especially enjoy sleeping late (by sleeping late we mean till around 7:30 am due to our living alarm clocks), spending time with the family listening to music, and taking extra time drinking my coffee with Shannon.

Yet, my favorite part of Holy Saturday is dressing the church for Easter. This started some 3 years ago when I was appointed here at Squyres UMC. In a small congregation we need all hands on deck and after a very busy Friday (which includes an amazing fish fry & Easter egg hunt) everyone in the church is exhausted. So my first Holy Week I volunteered to be the one to come in on Saturday evening and dress the church.

Maybe it reminds me of those wonderful days at Candler School of Theology where I served as the sacristan for the Office of Worship. There I prepared the space for worship every week. I would walk into that sacred space and take my time, almost as if each movement was a prayer, getting the space ready for the community to gather.

All these years later it is still a prayer. I walk into a bare space (it was “stripped” on Holy Thursday) and begin to bring back signs of celebration. Banners, paraments, fine linen, candles, the cross that will hold flowers, the book that holds the Great Thanksgiving.

Each detail reminds me of the events of the past season. I can remember my dirty hands on Ash Wednesday, what seemed like an endless set of Lenten Sundays, the Hosanna’s of Palm Sunday, our re-membrance of the Last Supper, and the blowing out of candles last night.

Now little by little it comes to life again.

I am thankful for this time in an empty sanctuary. A time to reflect and remember the great honor that it is to be a pastor. I am thankful that this time reminds me of these words from Gordon Lathrop:

The pastor lives among symbols. The pastor cares for symbols, sets out symbols for other people, hopes these symbols may hold people’s lives into meaning. Symbols are, as Gerard Manley Hopkins would say, the “gear and tackle and trim” of pastoral ministry. Or they ought to be. Words, stories, sacraments, images, gestures: pastors have really nothing else.

(from Pastor: A Spirituality, pg. 1)

As we continue on this journey to Easter, may we take the time to reflect, rest, and be thankful. And for those out there who will be walking into empty sanctuaries to prepare, may dressing the church become your prayer today!

“For I received from the Lord:” A Holy Thursday Reflection

“It would not have been God’s table
if they hadn’t all been gathered around it:
the betrayer and the friend
the power-hungry and the justice seeker
the faithful and the fickle.”

from “it would not have been God’s table” by Cheryl Lawrie

The Last Supper - Chartres Cathedral

We gather today to begin a journey again. We have been here before, for many it might seem like yesterday, for others it has been long forgotten. We gather around rehearsed texts, worn by their reading year after year. We gather around a table, full at first, but will end empty and plain. We gather to receive from the Lord again.

Cheryl Lawrie in her poem has forced me to consider what we have received. It is a meal, a re-membrance, a gathering. But it is the type of gathering and who it is that gathers that begins to give us clues, strong clues, as to the identity of this meeting, the reason for why it has been given for us to receive. It is people that gather, real people, who have lived real lives, saints and sinners, one and the same.

It is fitting that this becomes the beginning of a tragedy that becomes an epic drama of cosmic dimensions. God made human gathering with people in need of restoration, in need of hope. Like at many other meals, stories are shared and actions speak louder than words. The host becomes the meal, the master becomes the servant, the guests are called to follow the master’s lead, the filled called to share what will soon be out poured for all the world.

God’s Table becomes the perpetual re-ordering of our lives towards God-likeness. Those who gather are those who know that they needed most. So we receive and receive so that we can give and give, so that we can have the strength to carry on through the trials, disappointment, and surprises of the world. Love enacted in our outpouring, in our braking, in our giving.

We gather to receive so that in the midst of darkness, the light of love can shine for the life of the world. May we hear the call to gather, whoever we are, may we hear the call to walk the way of love, may we hear the call to die so that we can live again!

The Beginning of the End: A Palm Sunday Reflection

We have all welcomed Jesus with fanfare. Those amazing moments when he seems near, when life is going our way, when blessings overflow. It is easy to shout “Hosanna” then, it is easy to gather others like us to do the same. Rolling the red carpet we are ready for Jesus to take over, he is on our side, doing what we know is “right.” Our expectations are high, we can’t imagine Jesus failing us now.

Obviously not much has changed in 2,000 years. Jesus had to be the answer to prayer for the many who gather to welcome him. His miracles and his constant speaking with authority must have been refreshing to the many who struggled for a voice, who hungered for real leadership. I’m sure that they thought that this time their struggles would be over, if only Jesus would take over, overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom of Judah to its rightful place, then all would be made well.

After these many weeks of Lent we too have experienced Jesus. Maybe a bad habit has been broken, maybe a new spiritual discipline has taken hold, or maybe our spiritual life seems “back on track.” Now we are really ready for Easter!

So we welcome Jesus into our lives, hearts, and community. “Hosanna to the king!”, we proclaim. Thankful, excited, and triumphant we gather to worship. We too carry palms and lift our voices in song. Although we rehearse this saga year after year the ending to this story still seems to surprise us.

Although we think we are ready for Easter, we are not. We now must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we now need to be reminded of what all this preparation has been about.

I pray that all of us embrace the rhythm of this week. Let us not miss the rest of this story, its twists and turns, its increasing drama, its transforming power.

May this week be the beginning of the end . . .

(To be continued . . .)

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