This Sunday we begin Holy Week–our second during this pandemic. Things are beginning to shift and change (more on our timeline to return to on-campus worship below), but still–it will be another Holy Week without some of our most cherished traditions. Instead of gathering around one long table in a beautiful room to live out the Maundy Thursday story together–we’ll be zoom-linked at separate tables. Instead of gathering in a beautiful darkened sanctuary to bear witness to the death of Jesus together on Good Friday–we’ll gather wherever we are to share a video of testimonies of our members–linked by our faith, not our location. We will be able to gather–separately but in person–on our beautiful campus to walk the stations of the cross set up in our labyrinth on Holy Saturday. We will be able to flower the cross separately and have that edited into a video we can share on Easter Sunday. It will be closer–but still so far from where we want it to be.
It’s okay to be sad and sick of it and honest about those feelings.
And–it’s good to let the Spirit remind us that all of these cherished traditions we won’t have this year–as beautiful and meaning-filled as they are, they are not our faith. We enjoy them, but they are not our faith. They are gifts from God, but they are not God. They are the outward signs of what Jesus has done for us, but they are not the gift of grace.
We don’t have new life and hope in Christ because we flower the cross or sharing a beautiful meal or have joyful engaging in-person worship services. All these things are good and of God and the Holy Spirit uses them–but they are not the gift. They are only the signs of the gift. Just as when Jesus healed the blind or multiplied loaves or stilled the storms–those acts weren’t the gift–they were signs of the gift. They were startling acts of beauty and goodness meant to point us to the power, tenderness, mercy, and abundance of the Kingdom of God we have access to through Jesus. We don’t worship the signs–we worship the God they reveal to us.
Everything we’ll miss this year (and pray God, only this year) is good–but they were never the things we came to worship. The Resurrection of Jesus–the power and love of God’s heart towards us, this is real. This will not be missing or altered. This is the reason we sing–even now. especially now.
I hope you’ll listen in as we think about how to participate Holy Week together–even when we’re apart. I know that if we come to this week asking, seeking, knocking–seeking abundant life in Christ and a fresh anointing–the Lord will be faithful to give it to us.