Lent is in full swing and we’re rapidly approaching the center of the church year, Holy Week. Late in Lent this lectionary year we hear many readings from the gospel of John. Often cited as being the more difficult and ‘heady’ gospel, John emphasizes the depths of Jesus’ authority and personhood where the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) tend to focus a bit more on Jesus’ ministry.
This month has Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple, comparing himself to the bronze serpent lifted high on a staff, and promising similarity between sown seeds and his eventual death. Communally, we sing of these important images, using the words from the hymns “Canticle of the Turning,” “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” and “Now the Green Blade Rises.” We finish the month with Palm/Passion Sunday, kicking off our yearly Holy Week observance proclaiming Jesus as Lord of all and asking him to come save us, then retelling his Passion according to Mark.
Holy Week is the center of our church year and gives us an opportunity to reflect on the central tenets of our faith:
Maundy Thursday focuses on the new commandment we receive from Jesus to love one another as he has loved us. On this night we sing songs to remind each other that neighbors in need of loving care are all around us. At the close of the service, our attention turns toward Good Friday as a lone voice chants a psalm of lament while the altar is stripped.
Good Friday recounts the Passion story of Jesus, sung by a trio of voices, set in the context of Jesus’ triumph over death on the cross. At the end of the service, Jesus on the cross is likened to a flourishing tree, despite being choked by our human self-hood, words of hope for this Good Friday.
Easter Vigil is THE NIGHT! This is when everything happens: Jesus Christ breaks forth from the tomb and is risen, we hear the greatest hits of the Old Testament, alleluias are restored, water flows for baptism, bread and wine are shared in communion, and God grafts us into the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Throughout it all, we lift our voices and spirits in song. We tell the story, pray for help, proclaim God’s goodness, and praise God for once again bursting forth from the tomb to show us that death does not have the final word.