Just like a gardener spends time in the spring clearing a space, digging up invasive roots, preparing the soil, and sowing seeds, Christians spend time during Lent preparing the ground of our lives for a deeper connection with God and a renewed relationship with our neighbors and our hurting, hopeful world. During Lent, we look for what needs to change to make room for the new life God offers us.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day (plus Sundays) season of Lent.
On Ash Wednesday, we mark our foreheads with a cross made of ashes from the burnt palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday service.
This mark is rich with significance. The cross is a sign of our faith that God can transform even the most terrible and final ending into a glorious new beginning. Indeed no power on earth can stop God’s boundless love for us. Placing ashes on the head was a Biblical practice that demonstrated grief and repentance—the desire and intention to turn in a new direction.
With these ashes, we mourn the wounds of the world and acknowledge our commitment to Jesus’ Way of radical love and reconciling justice. We recognize our mistakes and failures so we can be free to move in a new direction. Because they are the dusty remains of palm branches, these ashes also remind us of our mortality and our connection to the whole cycle of creation.
Our Lenten journey culminates in the events we celebrate during Holy Week.
So much of our faith is connected to what happens in this week of great excitement, fearful denial, painful sorrow, and violent force subverted through the power of love and forgiveness. We warmly invite you to come on a journey that leads not only to a cross but also to an empty tomb and the wonder and joy of resurrection. Your experience of Easter will be so much fuller and richer when you participate in all the worship opportunities of Holy Week.
Holy Week begins with a joyous, festive, and somewhat disorderly procession into Jerusalem. Instead of a red carpet welcome, people throw their own cloaks and hastily cut palm branches into the streets to show their support of the man riding on the donkey. They shout “Hosanna!” to express their eager hope that Jesus will save them from their Roman oppressors. The excitement of the crowd is palpable and dangerous: Jesus is publicly challenging the legitimacy of Roman rule. When he confronts the corrupt practices of the temple money changers, he only further increases the threat he poses to those in power. It won’t be long before they decide he must be silenced.
Join us this Sunday as we follow the One whose humble Way of extravagant hospitality, reconciling justice, and healing peace threatens to overturn the powers of violence and oppression. Like the first century crowds, we’ll wave our palm branches, raise our voices in glad shouts of blessing, and sing joyful songs of praise. Throwing your coat/cloak on the ground is optional.
We take time to consider our point of view on this subversive spectacle and the message it proclaims, as well as the events that follow. We discover anew the surprising gifts to be found amidst the struggle and pain of this Holy Week. And we’ll remember why we have hope even when all seems lost.
**Please come a few minutes early this Sunday if you can as we will be starting our worship service outside on the front lawn and we don’t want you to miss a moment of the joyful excitement! There we will reenact joining Jesus and his disciples on the Mount of Olives and follow Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We sing, we wave our palm branches, and we raise our voices in shouts of Hosanna (“God Saves”)!
This is the night that Jesus shared a last supper with his disciples, washed their feet, and experienced their betrayal and abandonment. So in this service, we celebrate communion, wash one another’s feet, and keep watch as we listen to the story of this night unfold. Worship will include a service of Tenebrae (Latin for “shadows”) with lessons and a gradual dimming of light.
This night we remember how God’s love, made flesh in Jesus, endured the pain and violence of the crucifixion.
In our Good Friday service we experientially, kinesthetically connect with the Way of the Cross. It is an interactive, contemplative worship service that prepares us to appreciate the gift of the empty tomb. We witness Jesus’ rejection, suffering, and death with sorrow and hope, knowing God will transform them into the joy and wonder of resurrection on Easter morning.
On Good Friday, the Stations of the Cross are followed in the below order:
Jesus is condemned to death
Jesus carries his cross
Jesus falls the first time
Jesus meets his mother
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Jesus falls the second time
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Jesus falls a third time
Jesus clothes are taken away
Jesus is nailed to the cross
Jesus dies on the cross
The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
Jesus is laid in the tomb
It is a deeply moving service full of prayer, song and contemplation.
After the unthinkable happened, after their teacher and leader had been arrested and brutally executed, after betrayal and fear had made so many run away to hide, when it seemed as though all was lost, some women get up at dawn on the first day of the week. They decide to go and see Jesus’ tomb, perhaps to mourn, perhaps to wash and anoint his broken body in an effort to give him the respect and compassion so absent that horrible Friday afternoon.
When they arrive, they are greeted with a startling discovery: an angelic visitor is sitting on top of the stone that is supposed to be blocking the entrance of the now open tomb. This visitor has a message for the women to hear and share: the tomb is empty because Jesus who was crucified has been raised as he said, and you will get to see him in Galilee.
On Easter Sunday, we encounter the shock, amazement, confusion, fear and awe of that first Easter morning. What does it mean that God’s love can bring forth life in a world filled with violence and death? What does it mean that when everything seems over, dead, and buried, hope can spring up? How do we respond when the heavy stones that obstruct our path are rolled away? What do we do and what do we do differently in the light of Christ’s resurrection? Just what does God’s life-giving, grave-shattering Spirit make possible in our world today?
Come and see!