Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week at Home

As I've deepened in my faith over the years, Holy Week has started to take on more and more significance for me each year. Of all the weeks in the Christian calendar, this one commemorates so many pivotal moments in Christ's life on earth, and it's very fraught with emotion for me. There is the bittersweet festive beauty of Palm Sunday, the quiet, pondering days at the beginning of the week.

Maundy Thursday, with its memories of the Last Supper brings fellowship and yet the sadness of knowing what will come. The darkness of Good Friday, this time tempered by the joy of what comes next as it all crescendos into the almost uncontainable joy of Easter. Christ is risen! Our God keeps his promises and saves us in love.

Even though I am not Catholic, I go to a reformed Protestant church that celebrates many parts of what once was the traditional Christian year in most churches. I treasure the church services of this time, but how to remember and bring this amazing time home?

Decorations - I got this idea from a friend: She places all the festive Easter decor in one place so she can grab it easily, and then waits until after dinner on Saturday night to lay it out. Up until that time, the house is decorated in the more somber colors of Lent. And as a reminder of the time, I will often also serve hot cross buns. For those who don't know the significance, it's been a great conversation starter.

Fellowship - Those days leading up to Easter are days of waiting, but I love them also as days of fellowship. Before Maundy Thursday service, we'll often have a simple meal with friends, where we serve one another and read the story of the Last Supper aloud.

Prayer - I used to simply wake up on Easter, put on a colorful dress and head off to services. Now I'm discovering that this time of year is more meaningful when I pray and ask God to prepare my heart for both the somber commemorations of Holy Week and the exuberant triumph of Easter.

Reading - I'm a reader; words reach my heart the fastest. And some of the wonderful works written about Lent and Holy Week are amazing. I still remember attending a reading in college of an old American Medical Association Journal article discussing the medical aspects of Christ's crucifixion. Though told in very scientific language, it was impossible to hear that and remain unmoved.

And this year, I've been reading a wonderful collection of sermons and essays that I highly recommend. Called Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, it is edited by Nancy Guthrie and contains wisdom from classic theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as more modern authors like R.C. Sproul and John Piper.

This book moves one thoughtfully through so many aspects of Holy Week. John Piper discusses how Jesus followed His Father's will, setting His face to go to Jerusalem even though He knew it meant death. Charles Spurgeon, Adrian Rogers and others write in depth of the meaning of various parts of Christ's time after His arrest - the bullying of the soliders, His keeping silent before Pilate, and so on.

Looking at these aspects of Christ's last days on earth in such depth makes me ponder the amazing sacrifice of that death on the cross more deeply than I have in years. And amid all the wonderful lessons I learned in this book, there is one that I've learned this Holy Week that I truly want to cling to in the future.

In his essay, "Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit", the late James Montgomery Boice absolutely shook me up. He points out how Jesus on the cross, in His agony, still used Scripture when He spoke aloud. That really struck me, and Boice's admonition really stuck with me: "You need to fill your head with Scripture and think of your life in terms of the promises of Scripture now. If you do not do it now, how will you ever find strength to do it when you come to die?"

And I think that is much of what Holy Week is about for us in this home - bringing God's Word into our home, remembering Christ's story, and consciously living in His promises.

Book note: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross
Nancy Guthrie (ed.), Crossway Books, $12.99 (2009)

1 comment:

  1. We own "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross" and I always intend to read it, but it never seems to get off the shelf. Think I'm going to go read some now.

    P.S. I used to attend a Reformed Presbyterian church before I got married and moved to Canada. I miss it a lot.