I read recently the Rev. Buddy Stallings’ letter about Holy Week. He said to the people who worship at the church he pastors that he had come to believe that we each get what need and what we can absorb from Holy Week. He talked about how some people take it all in—attending service each day of Holy Week, soaking in all of the Triduum, celebrating the Easter Vigil and then rising early for the Sunrise service—how some dip in here and there, and how others jump from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday without blinking an eye. What I loved about what this kind-hearted pastor said was his permission-giving way of looking at and talking about the many different ways of entering into this week that is central to our faith. Buddy Stallings’ letter challenged me to rethink what I would write this week
I had planned to write a letter encouraging all of us to go slowly through the week—taking time to read the scripture appointed for each day, spending time in prayer and in reflection and joining together with one another in worship and prayer on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter. I had planned to ask us all to walk together through the week. But now I’m having second thoughts.
Not all of us can walk so slowly through this week. Not all of us have time or energy or even the desire to attend all of the services of the week. Not all of us are in a Holy Week frame of mind. Some of us are in the midst of Eastering—experiencing moments of new life or grand reversals; some of us are caught up in the winds of the Spirit blowing the fires of Pentecost into our days; some of us are in an Advent time or season waiting expectantly for God to be birthed again in us; some of us are living Good Friday over and over again; and some of us are deep into ordinary season following Jesus in a life of discipleship.
But truth be told we live many of these moments simultaneously—the pain of the path to Golgatha in the midst of the Eastering in our lives. Sometimes it’s a case of catching a glimpse of a memory in a moment quite different from the memory. Sometimes this simultaneous living is part of the complexity of our lives and the many roles we play—Advent in the workplace and Easter at the kitchen table. Like the black line Manet painted around the figures in his painting, the days and seasons of the church year draw our attention to the very pattern of our life in God and our life with one another—as individuals and as a community.
This week I will attend the Maundy Thursday service. It’s one of my favorites. I love the tensions in the service for they speak to the tensions in my life and I love the stripping of the altar—the silence and the solemnity. On Good Friday I’ll be attending the Urban Way of the Cross. It’s something I’ve done, in one form or another, for seven out of the last eight years. It reminds me of the many ways Christ is crucified today and of the times when people pick up Christ’s crossbeam or wipe his brow or just sit with him. Holy Saturday is a time for me to be quiet and to be by myself. I need the emptiness of the day and I need the time alone. You’ll see me at St. Michael’s on Easter morning. “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” speaks gladness and new life to me in a way that nothing else really does. But first you’ll see me at St. Martin’s at 8:00 celebrating hope and reversals and new life with people who not only long for but also see most clearly the Easter moments in their lives and the Good Fridays too. And then you’ll find me Easter night sitting with my community—the part of the Body of Christ in which I live my growing awareness of the living God in my life and our life together and our life as part of God’s creation. But I’m not sure I’ll be living Holy Week this week. I’m feeling caught and carried by the winds of Pentecost. Not sure how that will affect my living of the week.
Each of us decides how we live our days. And each of us determines what we bring to the living of our days. It is my hope and prayer that each of you takes this week and lives it where you are—be it Holy Week or Easter or Pentecost or Advent or Christmas morning or deep in ordinary time. Let God’s story inform the living of your days and let your days inform your understanding of God’s story.