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Here’s a ‘Bible series’ for you: Holy Week at a Presbyterian Church

March 26, 2013

This is one of the weeks when, in the words of the great Marj Carpenter, I am “sinfully proud to be a Presbyterian.”
Actually, I am always proud to be a part of the branch of the Christian faith known as the PC(USA) – I love the open-mindedness and that we do consider ourselves a branch — not the whole tree. Of course I know that there are positives and negatives with any religious group. But this is the place where I believe God called me to be, and I am awfully happy about that – never more so than Holy Week.
Here’s why: If you are serious about an authentic exploration of faith, it’s a good week to be a Presbyterian.
If you want to take part in a real “Bible series,” you can turn off your TV and head to church all week long.
On Palm Sunday, the children parade into sanctuaries waving palm branches, singing “Hosanna!” This is the beginning of Jesus’ final steps on this earth. The journey will lead ultimately to an empty tomb.
If you go directly from Palm Sunday to Easter, with nothing in between, you have missed a lot. Some churches frankly don’t want you to hear about sacrifice because they are afraid you won’t want to come to their church. This is sometimes called the fine print on the Christian contract. Servanthood and sacrifice are critical, if sometimes missing, parts of the Easter story.
Many of our churches offer worship on Maundy Thursday, providing an opportunity to step into the Upper Room for the Last Supper. Some churches, including mine, offer a Tennabrae Service on Good Friday as well, including a gradual extinguishing of lights symbolizing the darkness of the tomb.
Throughout the rest of the week, the community of faith walks symbolically with its Messiah toward the cross. Each day at mid-day, there is prayer and scripture reading in the chapel at my church. Every day is another step closer to the cross, and we meditate as individuals and a community about what that means to us and the world God so loved.
When I consider the opportunities the members of my church are offering our community this week, it makes me thankful for all the places where Presbyterians are providing a faithful witness to Christ — a truly biblical alternative. People, we need each other. Honestly, if your Easter week is no more than an egg hunt and Brother Bob telling you Sunday what God has “laid upon his heart,” well, you’ve missed it.
Walk with Christ. Contemplate his steps.
Come to church all week long.
Easter morning is glorious and you should not miss it – but the truth is that it cannot be fully experienced without first trying to come into some sense of the agony of the cross and the darkness of tomb.

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