A message from Fr. Chris for Holy Week & Easter...
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I feel very privileged to be able to write this as I prepare to celebrate my third Easter with you. During Holy Week and Easter, you are warmly encouraged to join us in worship as we share in Christ’s own journey from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the empty tomb on Easter Day. These are the richest liturgical days of the Christian year.
This past Sunday (Palm Sunday) we celebrated the greeting Jesus got from cheering crowds, who waved palm branches to welcome him as he rode into Jerusalem. The words they shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” tell of a King, like no other - one who comes not to conquer by force as earthly kings, but one who comes in the name of God, as God. One who comes in love. This service began outside on Ashton New Road where our Palm Crosses were blessed.
During our Maundy Thursday service, which begins at 7.30pm, we will celebrate the institution of the Last Supper in which Jesus shares bread and wine with his disciples. At the Lord’s table, no one is left out. Not Judas who betrays him. Not Peter who denies him. Not the ones who say nothing but flee and desert him when he is arrested. This shows us that despite what we are, what we have done, and what we have failed to do, Jesus gives us a meal sharing himself with us. He comes to us in our weakness and guilt and shame and gives us his body and blood right in the middle of it all. This service will also contain the Washing of Feet in commemoration of Jesus washing the feet of each disciple, such was His deep love for them and his deep and abiding love for us. When Jesus commands his disciples to love one another as he has loved them, the command is for love of a new level, love unknown before but love He has demonstrated.
The Good Friday Liturgy which begins at 2pm celebrates the ultimate proof of God’s love for us. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Each of the four New Testament accounts of the passion of Jesus Christ contains some unique emphases on the love of Jesus Christ expressed in his passion. Luke’s account is the only one which records what Jesus said immediately after he was nailed to the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”. Jesus asks his Father to forgive us for every evil thought, every mean word, every selfish act, every besetting sin, every expression of hate, every grudge, every outburst of anger, every twisted motive, every expression of smug self-righteousness, every skeleton in our closet—in short, every sin in our lives. The Veneration of the Cross, which is an integral part of the Good Friday Liturgy, allows us to offer a sign of respect and love to all that it represents for each of us personally.
During the Easter Vigil and Service of Light on Holy Saturday at 8pm, we will not only renew our baptismal promises but we will be baptising a whole family who have become part of our church community this year. This will be a very special service for them and for us as we enfold them into our church family.
And of course, the love we encounter throughout Holy Week will culminate on Easter Day with a sung Eucharist at 10.30am. Jesus’ resurrection is about God loving us so much that God is willing to go to any length to find us in all the wrong places. Like Mary Magdalene, we go looking for God in the familiar, in the places we expect to find God. But in Jesus’ resurrection God finds us when we are down and out, when we are at the end of our rope, when all hope seems lost. God rolls back the stones that bind and confine us. God stands waiting with a familiar voice to call us to new life and then bids us to “Go and tell.” Resurrection has no meaning, no purpose, no place unless like Mary Magdalene we go and tell it! Resurrection has no meaning if we cannot share the Good News of Easter to a world living in Good Friday! Resurrection has no meaning unless we are willing to live as Easter people.