By the Rev. Chuck Treadwell
It was good to see you in church last night. And I sure hope to see you all in church today or tonight as well. No, in fact, I expect to see you there. And not just tonight, but Saturday/Sunday too. The last three days of Holy Week have long been established as vital observations for the Christian Life. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter – or the Paschal Triduum – act out for their participants the Passion Narrative of Jesus. By participating in each of these liturgies, the congregation literally re-members those events in the life of Jesus and the first Christian community.
On Maundy Thursday we gather with Jesus and his friends in a neighbor’s loft and hear Jesus’ final words and prayers. We experience Jesus wrapping a towel around his waist and washing the feet of his closest friends – showing through his own actions the expectations of the kingdom of God – a life of humble service. And we receive from him a bit of bread and a sip of wine and listen to him promise that in this simple act he will be with us throughout time and eternity. Then we strip the altar and the church of the signs of Christ’s presence, preparing for the horrors of Good Friday.
On Friday – called Good only because of what happens later – we experience the agony, betrayal, and injustice – simultaneously betrayed and betrayer – and Jesus being condemned to death. We see him laid in a borrowed tomb and realize, at least for that moment in time, that God is dead.
After staggering numbly through the day on Holy Saturday, we gather in the School Courtyard for the Great Vigil of Easter and rehearse the whole story one more time. We light a new fire – the fire of God saying “Let there be light” – and hear portions of the salvation story from beginning to end. We are laid in the tomb with Jesus. And in that tomb we can almost hear the voice of God say “Let there be light” again – and the light of life reinvigorates Jesus’ body – and our own – and the bodies of those being baptized. A new life begins. Then we can finally shout “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!”, and we are raised with him. This resurrection is marked by the joyful celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Here we experience over and over, yet anew each time, this feast with Jesus and the Company of Saints. And we are sent out – having experienced the intimacy of the Upper Room, the horrors of the Crucifixion and Entombment of Jesus, and the Glories of his Resurrection – to live our lives as risen people.
So cancel your other plans. Come join your brothers and sisters in Christ as we walk the Paschal Triduum – the holiest of days – and reaffirm the joy of the life of faith. I’ll see you tonight.