Holy Week Lent is a time of conversion, a time for changing ourselves and our actions as we strive to better live into our baptismal vows. Holy Week makes a fitting conclusion to this time of conversion, in that what we celebrate during Holy Week radically challenges the way we see the world, at times standing on its head things we thought we knew.
On Holy Thursday, we remember and celebrate Christ’s institution of the Eucharist meal, that is, Jesus taking bread and wine and teaching his disciples about how to remember him during his last supper with his followers and friends. A memorable part of the Holy Thursday service is that the priest washes the feet of people from the congregation, mirroring Jesus’ action of washing the feet of his disciples before the meal. We may be so used to observing this foot washing on Holy Thursday that we forget how radical a thing it is. In Jesus’ time, when sandal-wearing would have been prevalent, foot washing was part of hospitality. A home owner would provide a bowl of water and often a servant to wash the feet of those who came to visit. Jesus, the son of God and leader of this group, takes the role of a servant, showing hospitality and waiting on his friends. In so doing, Jesus overturns the servant-master hierarchy, becoming the servant himself. In so doing, Jesus demonstrates that central to being a leader is serving others.
Think about the world in which you live. What hierarchies do you observe that might be similar to a servant-master hierarchy? What can you do to reverse these hierarchies? How can you live out the call to provide hospitality and service to others, particularly those who are in the greatest need?
On Good Friday, the focus of the liturgy is the cross. It is a solemn day; the altar is stripped bare and no organ plays, as people reflect on the meaning of the cross. Many churches practice the veneration of the cross, when people come forward to kneel before and touch or kiss the crucifix. Again, when we think of it, what a seemingly odd practice it is to kiss an instrument of torture and death. Yet we do so not to glorify violence but to remember the cost of what Jesus did because of his love for all humanity. The cross reminds us that following Jesus is a path that requires sacrifice. Loving God and neighbor in a world of violence and sin may sometimes cost us dearly.
Think about the world in which you live. What sacrifices are required of you to follow Jesus and to show your love of God and neighbor?
As if the reversing of hierarchies and the call to follow the road of the cross is not enough to make your brain do flips, then comes Easter, when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the promise of new life. Death is not the end; raising Jesus from the dead, God shows us that love is stronger than any other force in the world. In our world, it is hard to believe this Easter message, so bombarded are we with images and stories of illness, death, violence, tragedy, and sinful interactions between people. Perhaps the most “Christian” thing we can do in our lives is to try to live not in sadness, hate, and fearfulness, but with bold joy, love, and hope, trusting that God’s love indeed has the power to do all things.
Think about an average day in your life. How would living with bold joy, love, hope, and trust in God change the actions you take, your interactions with people, and how you think and feel about yourself, others, and the world?
Photo courtesy of Jule’s K. via Creative Commons licensure