by Sam Gutierrez
Once again, we have celebrated the gift of God’s life-giving Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. Now we’ve moved into the second half of the liturgical year called Ordinary Time.
Ordinary Time is the longest liturgical season. It begins on Trinity Sunday and ends on Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent. At the start of this season, Trinity Sunday reminds us that we (and the church) live, move, and have our being within the life of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the end of Ordinary Time, Christ the King Sunday puts the spotlight firmly on Christ who is the centerpiece of and avenue through which God is bringing about wholeness and healing to the entire created order (see Colossians 1:15-20).
Ordinary Time is ordinary in the sense that the days are numbered. The word “ordinary” stems from the Latin words “ordo” (meaning order) and “ordinalis” (referring to numbers in a series). Simply put, Ordinary Time is numbered time.
But Ordinary Time is not ordinary, nor is it merely “numbered time.” Some have noticed that the liturgical calendar can be divided into two distinct but connected parts: the story of Jesus and the story of the Church. The story of Jesus starts in Advent and transitions at Pentecost, when the ascended Jesus sends the Spirit to empower the church to be his hands and feet in the world – his body. Pentecost kicks off the second part of the liturgical year. In fact, Ordinary Time could also be called Pentecost Time.
As the church goes into the world as the body of Christ (by the power of the Spirit), it’s important that the church remembers that its work is really the work of Christ. More specifically, it’s Trinitarian work – Father, Son, and Spirit all working to heal and bring about wholeness to a fractured and broken creation suffering the devastating effects of sin. By faith (by the power of the Spirit) the church participates in the life and the work of the Triune God.
Next year on Trinity Sunday, I’ll delve into various aspects of Trinitarian theology and its implications, but this year, let me guide you to some resources for further reading:
Article 8 of the Belgic Confession attempts to name the persons of the Trinity (buckle your seatbelts – this gets deep!)
A funny video about how all well-intentioned Trinitarian analogies end up as heresies rejected by the church over time.
The Bible Project looks to the story of Scripture to tackle the Question – “Who is God?”
By Rev. Sam Gutierrez
When I was in high school, a friend and I would occasionally drive his 1985 Suburban to an automatic car wash. After the initial soak, suds, and spotless rinse, huge fans with blowers would descend upon the vehicle, sending streaks of water speeding across the windshield. With his finger on the switch, my friend would quickly roll down the windows right when those powerful blowers hit. Hurricane-like winds entered the Suburban, causing papers to fly, wrappers to whirl, and shirts to wildly flap. Nothing could withstand the fury of those gale force winds—our cheeks rippled and our hair twisted and tangled. After it was over, my friend and I would look at each other and say, “that was AWESOME.”
When I read Acts 2, my thoughts wander back to that old ’85 blue Suburban in the car wash. Early in the morning, almost two months after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, 120 people who loved Jesus were gathered in a house in the middle of Jerusalem. The 12 disciples (minus Judas) were among the 120, as well as Jesus’ birth family—his mother Mary and his brothers. These Jesus-followers were sitting in a room when the sound of a heavenly gale force wind filled the whole house. Then, tongues of fire or “little flames” separated and rested on each of them. Next, they began declaring the wonders of God in languages that they did not know or learn.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” God sent the Spirit and gave them the power to…share. The beginning of Acts shows that the early church was given the power to share in two specific ways: with words and with actions.
First, they received the power to share with their words. Peter stood up, addressed the crowd and shared about “this Jesus.” Later in Acts 4:33, we see this power to verbally share again – “with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” When the Spirit came, they received the power to witness about Jesus with words.
Second, they received the power to share their lives with each other. Acts 2:44-47 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
When given power, the followers of Jesus responded by opening up their lives, hands, tables, doors, houses and wallets to each other. They became a community of persons sharing life together in radical and generous ways (without fear of scarcity). In doing so, the early church became a living audio/visual aid demonstrating and participating in the giving and receiving communal rhythms of the Triune God. When the Spirit came, they received the power to witness about Jesus with actions.
How did people respond to the work of Spirit in the disciples? We know that people were bewildered, amazed, and then perplexed. And we also know that many of those people were eager to join this group of Jesus followers. It seems to me that people today often respond in a similar way when they witness the power of the Spirit moving in and through the life of a community that shares deeply and radically. May the Spirit that was given on Pentecost dwell in us and move in us as it did in the early church community. May others witness our community and want to learn more about this Jesus we follow. May we also receive power from the Spirit--the power to share.
Pastor Sam Gutierrez
“What goes up must come down” is a catchy little phrase that describes a fundamental law of nature—gravity.
However, when it comes to spiritual matters, the exact opposite is true--what comes down must go up (read that 3x and feel your head spin!).
Jesus came down from heaven and took on flesh. He lived, died and rose again from the dead. Forty days later he ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives while his disciples watched him disappear into the clouds. Two angels appeared with the gathered group and asked, “why are you staring up at the clouds, Jesus has been taken from you into heaven…” In other words--what comes down must go up.
One true map that marks the path forward is the life of Jesus. If it’s true of Jesus, it’s true of humanity. Jesus humbled himself and took on human flesh. He also ascended. Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 23:12, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” This passage captures this strange spiritual law—what comes down must (or will) go up. If we humble ourselves and bow our knee to Jesus, we’ll ascend too. We’ll rise in the air to meet the Lord Jesus when he comes again in his glory. While we wait for that day, we practice ascension now when we celebrate communion.
Our communion liturgy puts these words before us, “Lift up your hearts… We lift them up to the Lord…” The refrain we say together is more than just a heartfelt expression, it is an acknowledgement that in order to eat and drink the body of Christ, we have to ascend. The Spirit of God will have to lift us up into the heavenly throne room where the body of Christ reigns in glory.
Seminary professor Thomas Boogaart names this reality in his book Heaven Came Down when he says:
"In the Reformed Tradition, communion is ascension. Although very few people realize it, the communion liturgy lifts us up step by step up Jacob’s ladder into the presence of God where Jesus sits on the right hand and the angels and the saints all have their places around the banqueting table… once having passed through the gate of heaven… we add our voices to theirs in singing the song of heaven: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of hosts… having praised the Lord of hosts, we begin the banquet. Jesus is both host and meal. His body and blood are made available to us. During the communion service his Spirit raises us up to heaven, which is the only place where Jesus’ body is available."
This coming Sunday is called Ascension Sunday. Many Christian churches around the world acknowledge and celebrate this important event in the life of Jesus. Jesus had to ascend so that he could take his rightful place at the right hand of God as the exalted King of Heaven and Earth. From there, he will send the promised Spirit to empower the Church to be his hands and feet in the world. As the church does its reconciling work in the world, the Spirit lifts the church into the throne room to be nurtured by the body and the blood of Jesus. We eagerly await the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost, but first, Jesus has to ascend. And, as Jesus ascended, we will too--what comes down must go up!
Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) captures all of this in his hymn See the Conqueror Mounts In Triumph:
Thou hast raised our human nature
On the clouds to God’s right hand:
There we sit in heavenly places,
There with thee in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne;
Mighty Lord, in thine ascension,
We by faith behold our own.
By Rev. Sam Gutierrez
For two thousand years, theologians and lay people have gazed at the cross while scratching their heads, pondering the question, “what exactly happened when Jesus died on that cross?” Different theories have developed over time—Moral Influence, Ransom, Christus Victor, and Satisfaction—to name a few.
If you’re looking for something to do today, Google “atonement theories.” You’ll see multiple ways that theologians (including John Calvin) have tried to understand and name what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Some like to argue about which one is “right,” but most people understand atonement theories to be a like a multifaceted diamond. They offer unique but connected perspectives on an event too big and too beautiful for any one theory to completely capture.
Some time ago, I was surprised by one of my seminary professors who described salvation as “the fiery embrace of God”. It came at the end of a fascinating lecture about different theories of atonement. After lecturing about some of these different theories, our professor spent the last 20 minutes giving us an alternative way to think about the saving work of Jesus: the Fiery Embrace of God. I found this image particularly powerful because of how relational it is. As we are still in the season of Easter, I’d like to spend some time looking at three aspects of God’s Fiery Embrace as a way to understand the salvation that Christ accomplished for us on the cross.
First, we encounter God’s embracing arms. God is a relational being who reaches out to us and draws us close to His heart. Salvation is God’s active choice to embrace people—to love us and accept us in our brokenness and sin. This embrace is not only a personal validation of our incredible God-given worth, but it’s also God’s way of connecting us to his family, which we are adopted into. The first movement of salvation is God reaching out to us in an embrace of acceptance, peace, and self-sacrificial love. The challenge for us is to receive this incredible gesture of God and to believe that God is for us in every way.
Second, the embrace of God is no ordinary embrace because His arms are on fire. This fire represents a refining process that burns away impurity and makes us holy. In God’s fiery arms, we are not only accepted, loved, and adopted into a new family, we are also changed. God loves us as we are, but He’s not content to leave us that way. If the initial embrace of God can be described as “justification,” this refining fire of God has been called “sanctification” and speaks of God’s ongoing work to shape us into the image of his Son, Jesus. God’s saving embrace is not just warm and cozy, it is also burning and purifying. In the first movement, our challenge is to return God’s embrace in gratitude. The second challenge is for us to stay in the embrace and to trust God’s love while He refines us—especially when it’s uncomfortable. God is doing a good work in us, and we allow it to be done. We say “yes” to the fiery arms of God’s embrace.
Third, God sends us into the world as embraced people. We take the fiery embrace of God with us as we are sent into the world to participate in His work of reconciliation and renewal. When God embraces us with his fiery arms, he commissions us and sends us into the world as “embraced” people to witness to this love and to invite others into the fiery arms of God.
The fiery embrace of God is another way to ponder the mystery of what Jesus accomplished on that cross two thousand years ago. Whether you prefer atonement theories, fiery hugs, or some other way of understanding God’s amazing grace, the end result should always be the same—to move us towards profound gratitude for what God has done and is doing to make all things new.
By Sam Gutierrez
An angel was walking down the street carrying a torch in one hand and a pail of water in the other. A woman asked the angel, “What are you going to do with the torch and with the pail?” The angel said, “with the torch I’m going to burn down the mansions of heaven, and with the pail I’m going to put out the fires of hell. Then we shall see who really loves God.”
Richard Rohr - Things Hidden 158
A number of years ago I traveled to India with a group from my seminary. During the ten-day journey, we visited a number of Hindu temples. In one temple, while the group moved on with the tour guide, I stayed behind and watched a young man pay devotion to a god cast in stone. With a coordinated display of ear tugging, hand clasping and multiple dips at the knee, he prayed to the stoic deity. As I hastily joined the group again, I found myself thinking about a person in the Bible named Job.
Although they were separated by thousands of years, Job was something like that young man in the temple - appeasing the gods with rituals in exchange for a shower of good fortune. In fact, poring over the first few pages of the book of Job, we discover that Job is a person who seems to do everything right. He is blameless and upright. He offers sacrifices to God on behalf of his children’s unwitting sins. Everything was going well for him - he was wealthy, healthy and his children were, too. It appears as though the sacrifices were working and as a result, the blessings were pouring down.
But then, something happens…
Job gets sick.
Job is in pain.
Job is confused, frustrated, and angry. He turns toward heaven and hurls questions at God about why his suffering is so great. God hears and answers with a series of his own questions. It’s a chess game of interrogation and, in the end, God’s questions overtake Job’s - checkmate. But it’s not a chess game… it’s a strategic strike. Better yet, it’s precision surgery. God’s questions are a fine-tuned instrument by which He skillfully operates in Job’s superstitious and formulaic heart. By the means of question after question, God attempts a very risky procedure: a heart transplant – a new love for God beyond blessings or punishment. Mysteriously, God attempts to give Job this new kind of love by walking with him into and through suffering.
Throughout the book of Job, Job repeatedly asks why he suffers. Ultimately, Job didn’t need an answer to why his suffering was so great. Rather, he needed to know that God was taking his pain, his protest and his petitions seriously. Job needed to know that he could trust in God’s goodness even though all the current evidence was suggesting otherwise. To get to that kind of trust, Job needed to be reminded, through a series of divine questions, that his wisdom and understanding were severely limited. His newly discovered humility opened the door for trust to walk through.
It’s no surprise then that the Job we see at the end of the book is quite different than the one we saw at the beginning. We no longer find Job demanding answers, asserting his own innocence, or offering superstitious sacrifices. Rather, we find a person who trusts God in the midst of swirling injustices and pain. We find a person who trusts in God rather than in his own righteousness, or in spiritual equations (If I do this and abstain from that, God will bless me).
We find a person who prays for his enemies and shares his inheritance with his daughters (a generous act in those days). We find a person who is free enough to “play” – characterized by giving his daughters enchanted names like: Dove, Cinnamon, and Eye Shadow. We find a person who breaks bread and sits down with his family for dinner.
From what we can observe, suffering and pain have done their difficult and risky but important and necessary work in Job’s heart. At the beginning of the book, the “accuser” asserted that Job loved God only because God blesses him. By the end of the book we learn that Job indeed loves God for God’s own sake and not for the blessings God graciously gives.
Truthfully, there is a vibrancy of love and a quality of trust that can only grow in the fields of pain and suffering. While God leads and walks with us through every dark valley, he quietly plants the “loving God more than blessings” seed that can grow only there.
By Rev. Sam Gutierrez
I have a friend who is a math tutor. She told me that when students throw up their arms in frustration and say things like, “I’m just not good at math,” it is most likely because they have important information missing in their math education—“gaps”. Math builds on itself and students with gaps in their understanding pass through the education system until the gaps are too big or too many and they get stuck. Frustration fills the gaps and spills over through tears and feelings of defeat.
As a pastor, I’m curious to learn how people grow and change—more specifically, how believers are shaped into the image of Christ. There are different ways to frame this conversation, but I invite you to consider the “math” of faith formation. Thankfully, today’s lesson only involves addition and subtraction (no fractions here).
Most likely, the only faith formation you’ve heard about is: addition.
Christian Reformed folks are good at addition. We have a long history of thorough and thoughtful theological education and grounded biblical preaching. We’ve encouraged our young people to participate in children’s ministries, youth groups, and other gatherings. We then guide our youth to continue their Christian education by attending Christian colleges and universities. We take seriously Paul’s admonishment to please God by “growing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). Most of us are good at addition – or at least, we understand it. No need for a tutor yet.
However, there’s another aspect of faith formation where we struggle: subtraction.
I suspect that for many church folks, subtraction is a significant “gap” in our learning. Subtraction is about surrender. Subtraction is about letting go. It’s about letting go of the need to be right, have answers, prove or justify yourself, or the need to be in control. Simply put, subtraction is about dying.
I still remember a chapel talk given by Dr. Syd Hielema years ago at Dordt College when I was a student there. Emphatically and gently he told a room full of young and optimistic students that the Holy Spirit is given to help us to die. At the time, I nodded my head in agreement, but I had no clue what he really meant.
Twenty-three years later, I’ve lived some life and I know what it means to cry myself to sleep, to struggle with depression, to lose hope, to make mistakes, to be filled with fear, to fail, and suffer. Because of this struggle and pain and the surrender that comes with it and from it, I have a better understanding of what Dr. Hielema was trying to say--faith formation is about subtraction too.
Spiritual subtraction is more about tears than it is about theology. Subtraction emphasizes surrender over sermons, grieving over giving, humility over hermeneutics, letting go over liturgy, dying over doctrine.
For many Christians, it’s hard to believe that we might grow equally by subtraction. However, we need both addition and subtraction in order to look more like Jesus. If we only focus on addition, our spiritual lives can start to look like an overstuffed closest packed full of helpful books, practices, insights, ideas, words, accountability groups, Bible studies, service projects, church services, conferences, adult education classes, websites, podcasts, curriculum, blogs and articles (like this one).
In a culture of overstuffed closets, garages and storage units, it’s hard to talk about letting go. It’s hard to talk about dying. It’s difficult to learn subtraction… but we must if we want to grow into the image of Christ.
by Rev. Sam Gutierrez
A number of years ago, I led a group of university students on a four hour walk. We spent weeks memorizing the Psalms of ascent (ancient Jewish pilgrimage songs) and then embarked on our own version of a pilgrimage to “Jerusalem”—a nearby medium-sized hill. We left early in the morning from the university and meandered our way through streets, old neighborhoods, new housing developments and poorly marked trails. As we walked, we talked. We got to know each other. I saw students who didn’t know each other walking side by side sharing stories and building relationships. We sat in parks to rest and we recited the Psalms we had memorized together.
Jesus also walked. Jesus never flew in a plane, rode on a train, drove a car or zipped through dusty streets on a moped or motorcycle. Chances are he never rode in a chariot either—he was too poor for that. Jesus walked. As Jesus walked, he taught, healed, blessed, prayed, challenged, called and formed disciples. Walking is the pace of discipleship. It’s the speed of faith formation. Anything else is just too fast. Human beings were made to walk. Walking is the rhythm of relationship.
I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, the flavors, the variety. But there’s another aspect of Thanksgiving that I like just as much as the feast—the after-dinner walk. This particular walk is mostly a necessity, the result of eating too much. But walking with those who have gathered around the table deepens relationships in a way that eating together does not. Walking is about going on a journey together even if it’s only around the block. It’s the shared journey that bonds. It’s walking shoulder to shoulder. It’s about facing the same direction with purpose.
I’m sensitive as I write this to those who can’t walk because of illness, disability, or age. If you can’t walk, do not be discouraged. Walking is not only physical, it’s also a feeling. It’s a posture. It’s a pace. It’s about slowing down and creating time to build relationship. It’s about breathing deep and paying attention to your surroundings. It’s about journeying alongside someone as they share their story. Thankfully, you don’t have to walk physically to embody the “spirit” of the walk.
I’m also sensitive to our current reality. Because of social distancing, for many of us walking is the only exercise we can do right now. Maybe for the season of Easter (the 50 days following Easter Sunday) we can engage in a “Jesus practice”--the practice of walking. While we walk, we can:
Friends, let me say it again—Jesus walked. What does this mean for faith formation? What if walking wasn’t simply a circumstance of the times that Jesus had to endure, but a way of discipleship?
Jesus walked… maybe we should too?
Rev. Sam Gutierrez
Alleluia–Christ is risen! “Alleluia” is a common refrain during the Easter season. It means “Praise the Lord!” Easter is the second major feast day in the Christian liturgical calendar, followed by a fifty day season allowing us to explore the wonder, depth, and far-reaching implications of Easter morning.
There are many verses in the gospels that pertain to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. One of my favorites is John 20:7 (ESV) “…and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, was not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.” On that Sunday morning two thousand years ago, Jesus woke up from his death sleep. His eyes opened and he untwisted the funeral robes he was wrapped in. Next, he folded the cloth covering his face and placed it neatly on the ground. This simple and silent moment speaks loudly about God’s redemptive work. Death is defeated once and for all, but not with fireworks, bullhorns or flashy billboards. God’s defeat of death is marked by Jesus calmly and quietly folding up the death cloth.
Yet in that moment the world shifted on its axis. Nothing has ever been the same.
Easter is not only the defeat of death, but is also God’s stamp of approval on the Jesus way—the path of peace and nonviolence. God does not resort to redemptive violence; God saves the world through redemptive suffering—by taking the violence upon himself. This is why the first Christians were called followers of “the way.” This “way” is the way of love. The church is called to follow Jesus in his way of love and to join God in his work of healing and reconciliation—praying for and loving enemies rather than excluding them and exterminating them. The radical gospel movement is towards inclusion rather than exclusion, towards reconciliation rather than retribution.
This is why many of the lectionary passages during the Easter season are drawn from the book of Acts. Following the resurrection, the lectionary texts highlight how the good news of Easter works its way from the garden tomb into streets, cities and homes. The early church speaks and lives the message that death has been defeated, fear has been unmasked, and “the Jesus way” is the only way to bring healing to our world (and our hearts).
Easter is a feast day—I pray you were able to feast and to celebrate the risen Christ with your loved ones at home. But the season of Easter continues for the next fifty days—fifty days to pray, read, talk, eat, laugh, reflect and dive deep into the far-reaching implications of Easter morning. Take a moment to reflect on God’s quiet and calm defeat of death, when Jesus took off the cloth covering his face, folded it up, and placed it neatly to the side. Alleluia!
Rev. Sam Gutierrez
A few years ago, some friends and I toured the home of the multi-talented artist Prince. We waited outside patiently while a volunteer told us about the artist, his home/studio, and how he built it with the intent of opening it to the public after his death.
After passing through a door where Prince’s penetrating eyes were painted above the frame, we entered an open and light-filled space that was said to be the place where he felt most comfortable. On one side of the large space was his private eating area and on the second floor was a bird cage housing two white doves (Majesty and Divinity) whose quiet cries were spilling into the space below.
The tour guide asked us to observe a moment of silence and pay our respects to Prince, whose ashes were in a tiny purple box on a podium in the center of the room. I was surprised because although I had anticipated seeing lots of purple during my tour (I was not disappointed), I had not anticipated standing in the presence of Prince himself. As I stared down at the little purple box, a disturbing thought flooded my heart, “That’s how we all end up—as ashes in a box.”
Reflecting on my experience later that night, I had to be honest with myself about my own fear of dying. While I journaled, I uncovered an even deeper fear—my fear of being forgotten. Prince will be remembered for a long time. He had an impressive studio and home, starred in movies, and gave an iconic super bowl performance in addition to his countless records, accolades and awards. But what about me? What have I done? What will be left behind when I die? Will anyone remember me?
The sad truth is, in a short period of a few generations, almost everyone is forgotten. Maybe some of us keep detailed records of our family tree, but even then, all that might be left of a person’s entire lived existence are some pictures and a few scattered details. It’s enough to make a person fall into despair and wrestle with questions of legacy, meaning, and how to live a truly significant life.
As I thought about all of this, I remembered a story when a criminal hanging on a cross next to Jesus turned to Jesus and said “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) I had never given much thought to that criminal’s request, but now the Spirit was whispering in my heart, “That’s the key!”
If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that sometimes I am motivated by my fear of being forgotten. I am desperately attempting to create something that will last. But my anxiety settles when I remember that there is Someone who will remember me—someone who will remember my name and who I was. Someone who knows me and knows everything about me. Strangely, I have much in common with that thief hanging next to Jesus.
Lately, whenever I feel fear about my own mortality and my place in the history books, I pray the prayer of a criminal, “Jesus, remember me.” I can feel my fear start to diminish as the Spirit confirms deep down in my heart--Jesus will.
By Pastor Sam Gutierrez
As we grow into spiritual adulthood, we come to see more and more clearly that following Jesus will cost us something. It requires us to die to our selfishness. It requires us to lay down our wills. It requires us to abandon false pursuits. In other words, following Jesus means… we have to die.
Jesus teaches us to pick up our cross and follow him. Jesus never asks us to do something that he himself is not willing to do first. During Holy Week, we see Jesus struggle to lay down his life and trust in God’s provision, goodness, and care. It’s not easy to do. With surrender comes a great deal of struggle. Dying is hard. Yet, the call of Jesus remains, “follow me.”
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and concludes the following Sunday on Easter morning. The days between are a journey that includes Jesus’ confrontation with religious authorities, washing the disciples’ feet, a final meal, and Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
Holy Week is one of the most significant weeks in the Christian Liturgical calendar. Here are five key moments from Holy Week to pay special attention to:
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the city swells with pilgrims from all over the region to celebrate the feast of the Passover. As Jesus enters the city, people place palm branches on the ground before him, celebrating his arrival as if he is a victorious king returning from battle. But Jesus rides a donkey, signifying that he is a different kind of king—a humble servant who identifies with the poor. His victory will be one of self-sacrifice and ultimate love, not military might.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus eats his final meal with his disciples and washes their feet. In bending down and washing his friends’ and enemy’s feet, Jesus demonstrates true spiritual maturity and models for us the right use of power and authority – to serve others rather than self.
The suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus redeems the whole word by laying down his life and trusting completely in the love of the Father. Jesus’ life, broken and poured out, shows us the depth of the Father’s love for us. Jesus cries out from the cross, “It is finished,” meaning that Jesus has completely paid for our sins and has done everything that needs to be done to bring about the reconciliation and renewal of the whole world.
A strange, empty and “in-between” day. Jesus is dead. The hopes and dreams of the people who followed Jesus also died on Friday. Hope is gone. The light of the world has been extinguished. This is the end of the story…or is it?
Jesus is raised from the dead. His resurrection is a stamp of approval of his faithful obedience to the Father and a decisive victory over sin – a triumph of life over death. Hallelujah! He is Risen! Yes, He is Risen indeed!
Holy Week has the potential to form us in powerful ways. The invitation is to participate and find our story inside the big story of God’s loving, redemptive work. The main lesson of Holy Week is if you want to live, then you have to die.
Holy Week will look and feel different this year. The “shelter in place” mandate means that we will be walking the Holy Week road with those in our households and watching online worship services. But we also walk with Jesus – who is with all of us – in our homes and in our hearts. He is calling us to lay down our lives and follow him through the pain of Golgotha. He is calling us to rise with him on Easter morning. Alleluia.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”