Monday of Holy Week
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Monday, April 6th: Psalm 36:5-11; Isaiah 42:1-9; John 12:1-11; and Hebrews 9:11-15. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
It’s Monday of Holy Week. I love the concentration of faith during this especially sacred time. Lent has the ability to fuel my spirit like no other. It’s the focused awareness of how much Jesus loves us that not only sustains my spirituality long into the Pentecost Season, but lifts it up.
I once traveled with a group of Sunday School children and youth to the Northfield Mountain Power Station in Erving, Massachusetts. During the night when power generation is cheaper, they pump 5.6 billion gallons of water 700 feet up to a reservoir at the top of the mountain. Then, during the day, when power generation is more expensive, they release that reservoir of water. The flow turns four humongous turbines that generate power to send out on the grid.
Trying to maintain the metaphor, the darkness of Lent and especially its culmination in Holy Week is when I can push those spiritual waters up higher and hold them in my soul’s reservoir just like Northfield Mountain pushes the water higher at night. Then, when I need them, I can count on that stored-up spiritual energy to fuel my spirit just like those turbines create energy during the times of greater need.
Lent and now Holy Week are not meant to exhaust us, but to enliven us. Give up something for Lent and then that Easter indulgence is extra special. This year because of the COVID-19 shelter in place advisory my daughters won’t be coming home for Easter and we won’t be seeing friends. Usually, however, Sharon cooks up a storm and the house is filled with the delicious fragrances of kielbasa and ham. I choose not to eat meat on Good Friday and the Saturday of Holy Week. It’s a small sacrifice on the day Jesus is crucified and on the day that Jesus lies dead in the grave of Joseph of Arimathea even as those delicious smells make me hungrier than usual. Then, after our Easter worship Service, the kielbasa and ham tastes better than at any other time of the year. This is one of those special rewards after a Lenten sacrifice.
But the deeper, more profound Lenten experiences are not meant to be set aside on Easter Sunday. They are meant to carry us higher. The insights and experiences of Lent are to help us grow closer to Jesus, our crucified Saviour. It must have been a heavy weight for Jesus to carry to the cross as He witnessed His nearly total abandonment. On Maundy Thursday we will recall Jesus’ betrayal and desertion by His closest followers, but also, where were all of the people whom He healed, the ones Jesus embraced when everyone else pushed them aside, the crowds who hung on His words of good news. Jesus gave everything He had for them, and now they were gone. I like to think that our Lenten presence helps to right that wrong. It’s theologically convoluted, but I like to think that during Lent and especially during Holy Week that our concentrated spiritual attention helps to ease the anguish of Jesus’ abandonment. This makes no theological sense. Jesus is in heaven’s perfection, but I still like to think back to the battered and isolated Jesus of 2,000 years ago and hope that our faith-lives today may right that wrong. And that personal connection with Christ should not be forgotten when all of the other Lenten “sacrifices” are finished on Easter, that connection should carry us higher.
And who is this Christ, this Saviour, whom we approach? Deutero-Isaiah had a glimpse of Him hundreds of years in advance. The prophet shares God’s revelation: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. … See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare.”
Jesus sums-up the “new things” that God declares and we are His privileged followers. May Holy Week not only sustain us in our journey, but carry us higher.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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