Holy Week’s a-comin’, friends. After basically missing the whole shebang last year due to a case of extremely overdue pregnant-itis, I’m stoked for this year.
Holy Week, the high point in the church year that begins with Palm Sunday (April 9, this year) and ends on Easter Sunday (April 16), is the best.
If the church had a Super Bowl, Lollapalooza, book launch, and wedding ceremony all rolled into one, Holy Week would be it.
It’s a big week. It’s THE week. Don’t be like last year’s 9+ months pregnant Courtney and let it pass you by.
Here are 10 ways to enter in to Holy Week.
1. Plan your week
Check your calendar and clear away nonessentials. Commit to making your spiritual life the top priority for this week. Look over the church calendar, get those services on your schedule, reach out to friends to attend with you.
Hire babysitters if you need. Figure out the week’s meals. There is no shame in $5 Costco rotisserie chicken and a bag of salad five days straight if it helps. (Can I get an “Amen”?)
Failing to plan is planning to fail, as they say.
2. Pray through the week
Where does God’s story connect with your story?
Perhaps you, like the disciples, are weary.
Maybe you’re desperate for God to bring new life into a painful place.
It could be that you find yourself on the road alongside Jesus, carrying a cross, or in the crowd that mocks him.
Approach this week prayerfully, asking God to help you find yourself in this epic, haunting, true story.
3. Read through the palm/passion story
You can read the Gospel of John’s version here.
4. Attend a Palm Sunday service
This sets the stage for the week ahead. The crowds welcome Jesus, then turn on him. We do the same. Sing the songs, wave the palms, pray the prayers, and join in the ancient Gospel story.
If you’re in Orange County, you’re welcome to join us for ours. More info here.
5. Journal your responses to Lent
What has this Lent been like for you? A slog? A joy? A blur?
Journaling is one way to keep track of the many Lents of your life. Write about what you gave up, if you did. Write about what you took on, if you did. Write about what you learned, how God met you, where you felt stretched, what you heard from Jesus.
6. Put a sermon or two into your audio listening rotation
There are some phenomenal sermons out there on the interwebs, and there’s nothing like a good word from Scripture to help ground your heart this week.
I usually jog to Pandora’s running mix (Yes, it has a lot of Justin Timberlake and Meghan Trainor. Don’t judge.), but during Holy Week I put on a sermon or two.
If you want a recommendation, Anglican priest Kevin Miller’s sermon on loss, grief, and the tomb from last week is really powerful. (And just a warning: the sermon discusses the pain and loss of miscarriage.)
7. Attend a Maundy Thursday service
On Maundy Thursday we remember the Last Supper of Jesus – the act that began the sacrament of Communion (or Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, depending on what your denomination calls it).
On Maundy Thursday we remember more than just the meal, though. We remember that on that night Jesus, Lord of all, showed he was the servant of all by washing his disciples feet.
Some churches practice foot washing on Maundy Thursday. Most don’t. As one of my former pastors said, “We don’t wash feet on Maundy Thursday, because if we did, half of you wouldn’t come and the other half would be out getting pedicures beforehand.”
Washing feet is not a common act of service anymore. We don’t really need it. We wear shoes; we drive cars. Our feet are pretty clean.
But Maundy Thursday is a great day to reflect on how we can serve one another with the love of Jesus. How we can serve our neighbors, unconditionally, repeatedly, sacrificially, whether they go to our church or believe in Jesus or not.
8. Attend a Good Friday service
I am a bubbly, happy, upbeat person, but Good Friday is usually my favorite service of the year.
On Good Friday we have permission to be sad. To feel the weight of the year’s grief, our own struggles, the sins we’ve committed and the ones done against us.
It’s a sad service that helps me come face to face every year with the ways that being human is achingly, exhaustingly difficult. With my longing for God to come and make all things right again. With my fears and failures and losses and shame.
We know how the story of Jesus concludes. (We’ve all read ahead.) But on Good Friday we sit with the disciples wondering if this is really it. If it’s really all over.
It’s an important, holy, weighty thing to enter into the crucifixion of Jesus, to ponder what it means that God died, to think about the cold tomb and the shell-shocked disciples.
Don’t miss Good Friday.
9. Find some silence on Holy Saturday
Whether you’re preparing a big Easter feast or half a dozen church services or a houseful of relatives, take some time in silence on this day.
Read through the crucifixion from the Gospel story. Let its brutality stay with you. The coldness of the tomb. The despair of the disciples. The grief of Jesus’ mother. The darkness.
The fact that Jesus did all of that willingly, for you.
Let those pieces of God’s story speak into the dark places in your story, your life, your heart.
Wait and pray and hope for the morning that is to come, both tomorrow and at the end of days.
10. Celebrate Easter
Like, celebrate, celebrate. As in, no-holds-barred, joy-of-all-joys celebrate. Feast. Dance. Sing your heart out. Break out that flowery dress or gingham tie you only wear once a year. Let the kids have some sugar.
This is THE day. Make it a holy one in your home and in your heart.
What happened on that day (of Easter) became, was and remained the centre around which everything else moves. For everything lasts its time, but the love of God – which was at work and was expressed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – lasts forever. Because this event took place, there is no reason to despair, and even when we read the newspaper with all its confusing and frightening news, there is every reason to hope. —Karl Barth
Bunnies and chicks are optional, but celebration isn’t.
Jesus is risen.