Last Sunday marked the beginning of Holy Week, the most important and sacred time in the Christian calendar. In our compartmentalised western society, we have tended to divide these services off into separate and independent services, each with its own ‘theme’.
In the first centuries of the church, however, the Christian Passover (Pasch) was seen as a unity, telling the full story from beginning to end. This week we begin the journey through Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, from the triumphal march, the supper table, to the cross, and finally Easter dawn.
Maundy Thursday emphasises love and service, which is symbolically expressed in the ceremony of the foot washing, and the central place of the Eucharist.
Good Friday moves to the passion and cross of Jesus, focusing on the telling of the story as the gospels record it.
Holy Week helps us to make sense of our suffering in a world that is deeply flawed and broken. It is about pondering the deep paradoxes of Christianity, and remembering that our lives are not neatly divisible into two halves, where pain is bad and pleasure good, or brokenness is failure and holiness is success. It reminds us that fullness of life means embracing both halves of the equation.
It resolves the paradox of suffering not by deciding that God is indifferent to our fate, but by proclaiming that the same God willingly suffers that fate. It offers the metaphor of brokenness as a gift, not a liability. In one of the great paradoxes of Christianity, God’s presence and divine consolation is found in the cross. The story is indeed redemptive.
I would encourage you this week to sit and ponder these paradoxes, and not just rush to Easter Sunday and the resurrection. I would also encourage you to participate in the full journey by coming to all the services, and to walk on this road that invites us to consider that our human longing for spring is somehow fulfilled on a bare hill where a bare cross holds the body of a crucified man/God.
As Peter said (John 6:67), “Where else could we go?
Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine
Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018.
Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister.More from Rev Elizabeth Raine