Forming Faith Blog

A Holy Week Meditation (March 28, 2021)

A wooden cross and palm frond on a brown background. Symbol of Holy Week.

We are fast approaching the end of Lent, with Palm Sunday and Holy Week very soon. Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem and headed to the cross. His journey is almost to its end.

Many of you have already planned (or have a good idea about) your Palm Sunday and Holy Week events. If not, or in addition to, I am offering the complete, free Holy Week lesson from our new Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story (NL) family home curriculum, as well as a full weekly devotional “bulletin insert” also for that week. You can email or otherwise send these to your congregants as further faith formation resources.

Stressed Out

No matter what, you are likely stressed. Adding to the normal church-related Lent/Holy Week/Easter stress (church finals week), we are still in a pandemic. You have had more time to plan and adapt since the emergency adaptations we made last year, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful. The changes we have needed to make have likely caused a sense of sadness to pervade your work, a sense of loss of many meaningful, in-person traditions.

Here are some of my reflections on the upcoming week. I hope they might be helpful for you.

Palm Sunday

As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

Luke 19:37-38

Luke has continued his focus on the kingdom of God and specifically Jesus as the anointed king. Here the disciples are praising God for Jesus’ miracles and acclaiming Jesus as the promised king, bolstered by the symbolism of Jesus arriving on a colt (see Zechariah 9:9). They speak the truth. We know what’s going to happen, but those disciples probably only saw triumph coming, likely the re-establishment of the Davidic kingship and freedom from oppressive rule. The Great Reversal is not explicitly stated, but we know that Jesus’ kingship will not be established through violence or “deeds of power” but through self-sacrifice and the appearance of defeat.

Practice: Take a deep breath in, hold it for a few seconds, and then breath out slowly. Imagine the scene of the triumphal entry, the sounds, smells, and sights.

The Lead-Up

The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.

Luke 22:2

This troublemaker acclaimed as the Messiah represents a very real and present danger, both to the religious leaders and the people as a whole. If Jesus were to become a king and fight the Romans, the Romans would not be forgiving, nor would they only punish the specific rebels. See the events of 70 CE to see that these leaders were essentially correct. But they also didn’t know that Jesus’ kingship would be so different. It would be simultaneously no threat to power, but also a greater threat to violent power than they could imagine.

Practice: Take more deep breaths. As you do, reflect on any fears you are currently feeling. How are you reacting with fear? Offer these thoughts to God and then let them float away.

Maundy Thursday

And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Luke 22:20

Jesus again taught his disciples the true meaning of his kingship. He had arranged that this climax of his story would take place during Passover. This festival commemorates the freedom God gave Israel from slavery. During this symbolic meal, Jesus establishes a new covenant beyond the covenant at Sinai, as promised by Jeremiah.

Practice: As you continue your meditative breathing, reflect on the taste of bread and wine and memories of communion that come to mind.

Good Friday

And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

Luke 23:35-37

This misunderstanding of Jesus’ kingship continues through the crucifixion. If the messianic king is to free Israel from oppressive power, but Jesus is defeated by that oppressive power, then he is certainly not the Messiah of God.

Practice: Think about a significant time of doubt or misunderstanding in your life. Remember how you reacted. Lift this to God as you continue your breathing.

Then [the criminal] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [Jesus] replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:42-43

Whether the criminal truly understands Jesus’ kingdom or not, he has not lost faith. He trusts that this is part of the plan and Jesus will somehow prevail. Jesus—in terrible pain—acknowledges the man’s faith and comforts him. He might be in pain and dying now, but there is still reason for hope.

Practice: Think about a time of pain in your past. How did you move through it? What gave you hope? As you continue deep breathing, pray for God to give you and others hope through the pain.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Luke 23:44-45

Jesus’ death was not a simple event, but a cosmic one. Darkness covered the land as if the sun was mourning Jesus’ loss. Seemingly unconnected at the time (how could the priests connect it?), a miraculous event happened with the curtain that protected the priests from the Holy of Holies. The universe has shifted.

Practice: If you are not already, close your eyes and continue to breath. Pray for light in the darkness, both for yourself and others through you. Continue meditating until you are finished.


Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

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