If you read my blog often, then you probably are aware that this past week was Holy Week. On the blog I shared some thoughts as we journeyed from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday, Holy Saturday and then Easter Sunday.
What you may not know is that my Mom and Dad were out visiting us and joined us for the fun. That was such a wonderful time. I feel bad because we really didn’t take any family pictures while they were here, but that has never been the biggest priority for my family. The biggest thing to me was simply their presence. They were here with us, and that was so wonderful.
For the first time in at least 15 years I had no major Holy Week worship responsibilities. That was strange. But I am sure it was stranger for my mom, as this was the first time in 42 years for her that she didn’t have any major Holy Week worship responsibilities. In that sense it was very different. It was a new experience to just be present and worship. It was also a new experience to worship in new or different contexts.
Speaking of worship, on Maundy Thursday, we had the joy of being able to worship with both Redeemer Lutheran Church and Westwood Lutheran Church at Westwood for their annual combined worship service. It was a beautiful service with hand washing, and a fantastic sermon on the relationship between vocation and serving by Pastor Kelly Chatman. I really wish that I had a recording of that sermon, because it was just full of wonderful imagery and Lutheran understandings of vocation grounded and related to love and service- key pieces of Maundy Thursday.
On Good Friday, we were able to worship together at Trinity Lutheran Church. This was probably the most meaningful and moving Good Friday service I have ever been a part of. The way it was so intentionally designed around the passion narrative and Good Friday story from the gospel of Luke made it stand out first of all, from the way it wasn’t the same as the lectionary. But additionally, the way poetry and music were integrated was just gorgeous. Pastor Stephanie Vos also added a beautiful and short reflection at the end of the service leaving open the questions that Good Friday creates.
On Easter Sunday, we worshiped in two places. First of all, we joined my brother Thomas at Redeemer Lutheran for their sunrise service. Their sunrise service is held outside in the congregation’s courtyard and that was a fun and meaningful service to be together, hearing the birds, and singing accapella. Pastor Kelly Chatman preached and used one of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s stories about a farmer, eagle, and family of chickens to help illustrate what Easter is and what it is about. After that, we enjoyed a beautiful breakfast and great conversation at the church. From there, it was out to Trinity to attend two of its Easter Sunday services and to hear Pastor Dan Poffenberger preach. Like Pastor Kelly, Dan had a wonderful story in his sermon too- his about a boy, a grave, literally touching death, and recognizing that his father was not in the grave. Beautiful! Attending one of those services though was a totally new and strange experience for me. There were upwards of 800 people at one service. In my life, I think I have only been to one or two services with that many people at some place or another.
Overall, the worship experiences were amazing. Though I did feel a little odd not helping or leading in some capacity. But I knew going in that would be the case. What helped this though, was the family and community around me. Having my parents in town really brought the feeling of family that made me nearly ignore those feelings of strangeness about not being involved. Joining my brother gave me feelings of Holy Weeks past. Being there and worshiping with my wife made me know it was okay.
Add in the presence and community of many friends gathering for potlucks and other family dinners (including a birthday dinner for upcoming birthdays) and that made it special. This year was indeed different. We didn’t have a 800-1000 Easter egg hunt in the woods of my parents’ backyard, but we still had a 50 Easter egg hunt around our apartment.
Even though this year was different, it was beautiful in its own way. The presence of my family and friends, the presence of community, really is what is at the heart I think of the reminders and truths of Holy Week. By remembering our baptisms, and the love which is present, we understand what being a part of the larger community of God’s people is all about. By having so many wonderful people in my life and being blessed by them here locally, back in the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere is a reminder too.
Yes, this year has been different. But that’s okay. Life and experiences aren’t meant to always be the same. There is no one right way to do anything. Yes, I might have been worried that I didn’t sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” as the opening hymn on Easter at any worship service, but its okay. The world did not end. If anything, this year reminded me that it’s okay. Things change, but the promise of love, the support of family, and the presence of others and myself, grounded in the presence of God are constant.
So, if you observed Holy Week, what do you feel and think about in looking back at last week? What was the same? Different? What stands out from your experiences this past week? Did you gather at all with family and friends? If so, how was that?