A New Kind of Holy Week
Being a pastor on sabbatical during Holy Week is weird beyond words. I have been used to a Holy Week rhythm for 32 years. For 32 years I have had a heavy hand in the events in the churches I’ve served from Palm Sunday pageants and decorations to Maundy Thursday communion and foot washing. I cannot recall all the different ways we have celebrated Good Friday (community worship services from noon-3:00 p.m., stations of the cross, sacred concerts, themes on the 7 last words and modified Tenebrae services of lights). I have led Saturday night Easter Vigils and stood around griddles for sunrise pancake breakfasts. Then Easter! I have shared leadership on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but I’ve never shard the pulpit on Easter Sunday. That was my Sunday! That was the time when the senior pastor had to preach. It was when family members and guests came. It was an evangelistic opportunity unlike any other time than Christmas Eve (for another blog!). And by the time Easter Monday rolled around, I was spiritually hung-over from all the worship, people and spiritual energy expended. Every pastor reading this knows what I’m talking about!
But this year I’m on sabbatical leave during Holy Week! Was that a good idea? Right now my body and mind yearn to be back in the church I love and serve. But here I am in delightful southern France in the spring, with no responsibilities. It is a spiritual desert, almost a vacuum. And God seems to stare back at me and say: “So, now we’re alone, just you and me!” The schedule of church kept me very busy, very active, very noisy. I was continually talking. Not now. Poor Martha is the recipient of most of my ramblings because my French is too garbled for anyone else to understand.
So what I’m doing (and discovering) is the joy of reading one Gospel account of the Passion slowly every morning. Wow! Reading it just for me and not for an upcoming service (preaching or teaching) is so fresh it blindsides me. I recommend this discipline for others to consider. Just sit down with Bible and pen/pencil and read Palm Sunday-Easter in Matthew, then Mark, then Luke and finally John, over and over again. What I am realizing at this early point is how I have conflated a total pictures with snapshots from different Gospels. But when I read one Gospel alone, a lot is missing (like the 7 last words!).
I know the church I serve will do well (even better) without me this Holy Week. They are mature and strong. The staff (Jon, Diana and Bob along with the others) will lead worship, take care of logistics, welcome visitors and convey the Gospel well. Me? I’m just here listening!