Greetings to you faithful Pastor’s Letter readers!
As periodically occurs, this week I ended up in a big picture conversation with Tom Struwve (our piano player, long time invested volunteer, and deeply thoughtful Christian guy) who asked the kind of reflective question I have come to expect of him. After spending well over an hour fleshing out plans for our holy week services together, he leaned back in his seat stared past me and pondered out loud: I wonder, what would Jesus say about all this..? What I think he was getting at was something to the effect of, is all this particular time and energy spent preparing for Holy Week worth it (to Jesus)? Is it important? Is it of value beyond the experiential impact of the few hours worshippers are physically present partaking in these Holy Week services?
As Tom continued reflecting, wondering himself more deeply into his own (perhaps) rhetorical question, I believe I heard Jesus’ response echo in my heart. Immediately upon hearing Tom’s reflective question, what would Jesus say about all this? I heard repeating within me (yet somehow not of my own thinking) this simple statement, I am glad that you are sharing my story; it needs to be heard.
I suppose that is the spirit and intention of Holy Week: sharing the tender yet commanding story of Jesus’ final interactions with his disciples/friends in the upper room, sharing the story of his passion and death on the cross, sharing the story of the women who discovered the empty tomb, and encountered the risen Christ. As I explored the layers in this statement whispered to me by the Holy Spirit, I too wondered, and began doing what pastors often do, interpret: we’re telling Jesus’ story in creative ways so people today might hear it more deeply, know and experience the story of Jesus life and death in new and different ways… we need to keep telling and retelling the story… but something in me was telling me that these interpretations/unpackings of the simple statement I heard within me somehow muddled its simplicity, and after a few days had passed with this statement still rattling around in my head/spirit, and a new thought struck me.
I doubt that Jesus is not likely to be notably and specifically gladdened by the telling and sharing of his story to people who have already heard it, such that they might hear it again in a new and different ways (though growing deeper in our experience and wonder for the passion narrate, or any part of Christ’s ministry is certainly a wonderful side effect for us disciples of Christ). I believe that Jesus is indeed gladdened by the sharing of his story, that needs to be heard, with those who are not so familiar with it, who have never heard it, or at least have never experienced Maundy (Holy) Thursday or Good Friday services before.
I am struck with the following unsettling realization: over the last few years, our (Thursday & Friday) Holy Week services have some of highest ratios of time and energy committed over attendance out of any services held throughout our liturgical year. In part, this has to do with the fact that it is natural/good/right that we would invest a lot of time & energy into planning/implementing Holy Week services, but it is also in part to do with the fact that our Maundy Thursday & Good Friday services have far more than a few empty chairs. Now, I am not attempting to guilt anyone here. My goal in sharing this reality is not specifically to get you (faithful Pastor’s Letter readers) to come to the Holy Week services; my goal is to get you to invite others to come experience Holy Week at Cross of Hope (to hear the story that needs to be heard). Specifically, invite those who may not be so familiar with the scene of the upper room, the passion of Christ, the brutality of his crucifixion… because without hearing the tenderness and brokenness of the journey, the (out of context) destination sounds far less profound at best, and oddly confusing at worst. More simply put, hearing that Christ is risen each year is far less meaningful/impactful when one has not first heard and experienced the deep sense of loss and brokenness of Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, and death on the cross of Good Friday.
I am glad that you are sharing my story; it needs to be heard. The worship team has taken on the (holy) responsibility of telling the story each year, but I entrust the responsibility of making sure it is heard to you faithful Pastor’s Letter readers. It’s time we all take our mission statement to heart, take it on as our communal and personal mission statement, we must invite our friends, neighbors, random acquaintances… (and not just the Christian ones) to come to church where we share Jesus’ story is shared in creative impactful ways
because it needs to be heard.