As we finish our Lenten prepaprations for another year during the early part of April (Wednesday evening servies on April 3 and 10), we anticipate the start of Holy Week.
Ushered in with Palm Sunday (April 14), Holy Week marks the culmination of Jesus’ ministry and life here on earth as our Savior and Substitute. On Palm Sunday He was greeted with shouts of “Hosanna” and with the waving and spread of Palm Branches. So we will also celebrate during the services on April 13 and 14 with songs and hymns ringing out with Hosannas, the Hebrews word meaning “Lord, save us.” Our service will begin with a Palm Procession reminding us to welcome Jesus.
We have the opportunity on Thursday, April 18 to gather together as Jesus and His disciples did. No, we will not climb to an upper room, but we will gather in our santuary to remember what Jesus isntituted for us that evening, the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Reviewing the sections from Luther’s Small Catechism we will reinforce our understanding of the Lord’s Supper. The day is called Maundy Thursday from the Latin word command. On that night Jesus told His disciples “A new command I give you: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also your are to love one another.” (John 13:34 EHV). Jesus showed just how much He loved them and us the next day when He died on the cross. And in the Lord’s Supper He continues to give us that love. Our worship at 7 pm that evening will include the opportunity to receive Jesus’s true body and blood as we celebrate Holy Communion. At the end of the service the altar is stripped bare in preparation for Good Friday. The stripping of the altar is an ancient custom of the Church for Maundy Thursday. It is symbolic of the humiliation of Jesus at the hands of the soldiers. The lights are dimmed to signify the approaching sacrifice. The altar is draped in black to remind us that it took the death of Jesus, the Son of God, to atone our sins. The liturgy ends in silence; the congregation hears no benediction…yet. Rather the services of Holy Week flow into one another as the congregation leaves in silence to reassemble for Good Friday.
On Good Friday, April 19, we will assemble at 7 pm for a Tenebrae service centered around the Seven Words of Christ from the Cross. As the candles are extinguished and the church becomes darker we remember the darkness that coverd the earth as Jesus hung on the cross suffering for our sins. Again we will have the opportunity to partake of Jesus’ True Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday begin the three day or Triduum. Since the last half of the 20th century, Lutherans have been rediscovering the richness of ancient Triduum and adapting the traditional services associated with it for use in evangelical Lutheran worship. Christian Worship: Occasional Services includes these forms of the Triduum services: a Maundy Thursday service that includes the stripping of the altar in preparation for Good Friday; Good Friday: Service of the Cross of Christ; Good Friday: Service of Darkness (Tenebrae); and the Vigil of Easter. In keeping with their origins, the Triduum services are closely connected with one another. Conceptually they are a single service that extends over the Athree holy days.@
The Easter Vigil service is at 6:30 pm (normal Saturday evening time) on April 20. The Paschal Candle is lit at this service and will burn at every service until Ascension.
Easter morning (April 21) begins with a sunrise service at 7:30 am. The newly lit (from the Easter Vigil) Paschal candle is seen as people enter. The songs with returned “Hallelujahs” ring out from the voices of the people. The readings will be a compilation from the Four Gospels presenting the events of the first Easter Day. Easter hymns will be sung by the joyous people. Easter lilies fill the altar area. The response “Christ Is Risen Indeed” is shouted out by the participants. Following a breakfast and egg hunt for the children a second service will be held. The Easter Festival Service is a song service again filled with Easter hymns and readings.
May you use these opportunities during the high points of the Christian Church Year to refresh and strengthen your faith in your suffering, dying and risen Savior. Invite a friend to join you in these observances. Share the wondrous message: HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!