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Journey Through Holy Week With The Moderator

Photo: Dusk over Ferry Links near Golspie, Jimmy Hudson
Photo: Dusk over Ferry Links near Golspie, Jimmy Hudson

JOURNEY THROUGH HOLY WEEK WITH THE MODERATOR

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Albert Bogle, leads us on the Easter journey to Easter Sunday.

Sunday

 Easter invites us to believe that all will be well. The message of Easter is about a costly forgiveness that gives us all a new beginning. It invites us to look to the cross and the crown of thorns and the nails prints in his hands. It speaks of a love that goes beyond our human understanding. It is a kinship love. The great truth and mystery of Easter is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

How amazing that the creator God is relationally connected with you and me. By the power of the Holy Spirit he is revealing himself to us. Now his final act of redemption is demonstrated with a resurrection.

What an amazing idea God's greatest act of creation is to make a man and a woman like you and me into a new creation. Changing us from being self-centred people to becoming people who long to live in community and communion with God.

 I believe  God is calling us at this time to build a church not made with hands but a church that is built upon relationships centred around our love and commitment to Jesus Christ. Peter in his epistle speaks of the calling of the church as being living stones built into Christ the cornerstone.

I believe this understanding of church is going to be more essential than any other expression that we might be tempted to promote. At the heart of such a church is the opportunity to meet and be refreshed by the living Christ in regular acts of Communion and fellowship.

The Gospel offers healing to a world of broken relationships! All is going to be well because Jesus is alive and interceding for us. Hallelujah! What a Saviour! What an Easter!

 

Saturday

It's Easter Saturday. Friday has passed. One cross out of three stands empty while a tomb remains sealed  and guarded by soldiers. This is the day when heaven and hell and all creation needs an interlocutor who can speak a word of freedom of hope of victory.  Who can speak such a word to break the deathly silence?

The Spirit of God, who breathed upon the waters and brought life into being, will soon complete the creation song. Through the death and suffering of the Son the whole earth will break into Hallelujahs! Death  will be redeemed transformed into life.  

"Oh death where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory?”

This is the waiting time. This is the day we wait with expectation knowing all will be well. This is what it means to live by faith. In one sense we live our whole life as Christians in the Easter Saturday experience. We can only believe that which we have been told. We can only believe looking into eternity through a window that is not completely transparent. We can only have a glimpse of what will be.

But our own personal Resurrection day will surely come. Then we shall know as we are known. So we continue to wait, living and abiding in faith, hope and love.

Grant us Oh Lord the strength to keep waiting and believing. Oh what joy what vindication when we too shall experience Resurrection!

 

Friday

Today is called 'Good Friday'  but what could be good about it? We sing our songs of deliverance. We sing our songs today of gratitude and repentance. But we sing because we believe God turns bad things into good things.

When all is lost. When faith has gone, when the evil day has come upon us. When we face our own Calvary. When our earthly love turns sour, when friends abandon us. When the courage to continue disappears. When we cry as individuals: "Oh God, you've abandoned me". It is then we can begin to see the power of the cross.

Calvary speaks to us of our human failure and God's empathy with us. It tells us there may well be suffering and death but we can be sure that there will be a Resurrection. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. God has not abandoned us - he has redeemed our lives. Look beyond the cross and you will see the glory of Resurrection.  I love the passage in Lamentations where it  says:  “Hope returns when I recall this one thing the steadfast love of The Lord endures for ever.” 

Hope is another word that leads to Resurrection.

Christians have see in this day an opportunity to reflect upon the Cosmic Christ. This is an enactment of creation God becomes man in order to redeem humanity through suffering and death.

 

Thursday

Today is known as Maundy Thursday. Can you turn your imagination back to biblical times? The preparations have been made for Passover. All the disciples arrive to find that the one who has taken on the role of servant is Jesus.

He wraps a towel round his waist and proceeds to wash the disciples' feet. It is quite a different scene from that described in  Monday's reflection. There are no onlookers, no perfume, no tears, just Jesus washing feet.  He does to the disciples what the woman did to him. Jesus is expressing his love for his disciples.  When it comes Peter's turn he has a choice to make. He has to swallow his pride and allow Jesus to wash his feet or hold on to his own insecurity. Love always operates at the expense of pride.

What follows this incident, of feet washing is, in fact, the heart of the gospel story. Jesus takes bread breaks it and shares it. He takes wine and pours it and invites his disciples to drink it.

In this great act he gives to Christians a symbolic act of his love and devotion. He  invites us to become part of him and he becomes part of us. He stands with our brokenness as individuals and he reminds us that we are part of his body his resurrected body.  He dies in our place that we might live in and through him.

The significance of this upper room moment comes about when we understand it in the light of Resurrection.

 

Wednesday

We have all faced a midweek crisis. Holy Week has its own midweek crisis.

In the story related in the Gospels people are plotting and scheming to discredit Jesus, while some of his disciples are concerned not only about his safety but also their own. Confessing faith in Jesus Christ will always have a dangerous element attached to it.

Jesus once told his disciples that if they followed him they would have to be prepared for persecution and misunderstanding. He once told them: ‘If they stoned the prophets what makes you think you will not also be stoned?’

Today let us think what Holy Week means to people in different parts of the world who find themselves under threat of violence and personal abuse. Some have a choice to make while others can't even make the choice to escape because they have lost all hope.

Today let us remember people facing a midweek crisis.

Lord, open the eyes of the oppressed and broken that they may feel your presence close to them leading them out of the place of trouble into the glorious hope of Resurrection.

 

Tuesday

Mark 14:12-26

When it comes to Tuesday during Holy Week we are too often caught up with the meaning and significance of the Passover meal that we forget the planning and preparations that went into making it happen.

Today let us think about the people who work behind the scenes in so many churches across the country in order to make Easter a meaningful and joy filled experience. I'm thinking of the Marthas of this world.

No doubt the venue had to be booked, food prepared and arrangements made. Then there was Judas making his own arrangements to betray Jesus. This part of the story is such a mystery, one which we shall never quite understand. Yet do we not find glimpses of our own personality being displayed in Judas' action? We may not make preparations to sell Jesus for 30 pieces of silver but do we not betray him when we refuse to walk the way of suffering and struggle?

Picking up the cross and facing self-denial is a call to betray ourselves and our own personal ambitions in order to live our lives in the service of Christ and others. When we turn away from such a calling are we betraying the presence of Christ at work in our lives?

Believing in Resurrection should give us the courage to look beyond the suffering and humiliation of cross carrying to the sheer joy of stone rolling.

 

Monday Part Two

Luke 7:36

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Traditionally it marks the beginning of Holy Week. This is the time when Christians throughout the world are invited to walk with Jesus and share in his sufferings and in so doing enter into the meaning of his death, but also his Resurrection. Holy Week only has significance because there is an Easter Sunday to celebrate.

You know in a strange kind of way, every week is holy for the Christian. The gospel only has significance  when we realise the power of its teaching for our everyday " walk-about- life". Take the story of  the woman who poured perfume over the feet of Jesus. It's a beautiful story that captures a wonderful sense of intentional personalised gratitude.

Jesus has been invited out for a meal and the host forgets to welcome him properly, whether intentionally or unintentionally we are not told. Then a woman from outside the circle of invited guests gives him a heartwarming welcome. Yet, if the truth be told, I often think would I be embarrassed by her actions like the others around the table.

 You see the point of the story is this: since  becoming a friend of Jesus her life had changed, she had found a new direction. She believed her past had been forgiven.

 Often it is those outside the church, who are more  "in the church" than they might imagine. Did Jesus not say something to the effect that we are known by the fruit or actions of our lives? Today it is once again those on the edges  of faith who perform the kindest acts of gratitude to God. Their activities may be quite unconventional yet they can be so memorable and honest, meaningful and deeply sincere.

 Jesus points out to everyone, where much has been forgiven we shouldn't be surprised when someone expresses their gratitude in an extravagant manner. Perhaps we all need to be careful how we judge each other's acts of worship. It may reveal more about us than the one we are judging.

 

Part One

Sometimes we Christians try to approach "Holy Week" as though we were encountering the story for the first time along with the first disciples. To do so may have some merit, but it is to approach Holy Week, in my mind, from the totally wrong perspective.

We cannot live in the past. We are a generation alive in the 21st century and it is from a post-Resurrection view that we need to engage with Holy Week. In other words it is through the power of the Resurrection that we can begin to grasp the significance of the event that took place upon the cross at a place called Calvary.

Holy Week invites us to go back in time and reflect upon what took place  2000 years ago, but it is a journey back from the future. It is a journey we must take aware of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. It is a journey we make in order to explore the deeper meaning of our baptism. It is a journey we take in order to reflect more deeply upon the eschatological implications of the Last Supper. It is a journey we take so that we can engage with the struggle we all encounter between faith and doubt, forgiveness and guilt,hope and despair. Holy Week must take us to a place beyond tears to the place of redemption, forgiveness and expectation. This can only be if we do so from the perspective of a Resurrection.

During the next few days I hope to explore some of these themes on this website.

It is my prayer that in doing so you will encounter the risen Lord Jesus for yourself and in doing so you will understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for a person like you. You see the message he came to share is still relevant. His Life is inspirational. His words are transformational. His being can be encountered in Communion.