by Doug Rehberg
As I write this we are in the first week of the Lenten Season—the 40 days leading up to Easter. Why is this season so special? Lent is meant to be a time of spiritual preparation for Christians. The purpose of the 40-day length is to recall and parallel the 40 days of temptation that Jesus endured in preparation for His public ministry:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Matthew 4:1-2
During Lent Christians take time to focus on spiritual self-examination, renewal, and growth. In many traditions, Lent is a time of fasting and abstinence. But, in addition to self-denial, Lent is also a time of active practices like alms-giving and acts of mercy, forgiveness, repentance and prayer. Many Christians 'give up' something during Lent in order to spend more time, money, or attention on the active practices previously mentioned. These practices of denial and action are meant to work in unison to prepare the heart to experience anew the power of Christ's suffering, death, and ultimately, resurrection during Holy Week.
This Holy Week, March 25-April 1, we are offering two special services to help all of us to focus on Jesus’ final days, the suffering that He experienced on our behalf, and the magnitude of the gift that we have been given.
On March 29 we will celebrate Maundy Thursday in the Barclay Building. Maundy Thursday, dating back to the early centuries of the Christian Church, is a traditional communion service held on the day before Good Friday as a commemoration of the Passover feast Jesus celebrated with His disciples in the upper room—the first Lord’s Supper. It is a service of solemn reflection as we are reminded that Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, and death are imminent. But Maundy Thursday is more than that.
Maundy is derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment” or “command”. It refers to the new command Jesus gave His disciples at the Last Supper.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
The service itself will involve worship through song and biblical reflection on the work of Christ in the past and its continued benefit for believers today.
On March 30, Good Friday, a Tenebrae Service will be held in the Sanctuary. The solemn observance known as “Tenebrae” is also a long-celebrated Christian service, first celebrated in the fourth century. Tenebrae is Latin for “shadows”. In this service, eight candles are gradually extinguished, symbolizing the denial of the disciples and friends during the suffering of Jesus Christ.
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30
This service is meant to help worshippers sense the gravity of the betrayal of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. On that day of unparalleled suffering, sorrow, and blood shed, God poured out His wrath on His only Son, so that we could be pardoned, forgiven, and redeemed. We are reminded that while the darkness of sin, fear, and defeat is great and always threatening, it is the light of Christ that dispels all darkness. It is only in the light of His presence that we find victory, forgiveness and wholeness.
Make plans to join us for both of these contrasting services. Families with young children are encouraged to bring them. Each service will provide a great opportunity for you to help them to understand the gravity of Christ’s sacrifice and the true joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. On Good Friday childcare will be offered for children up to age 2 in the nursery.
Maundy Thursday—7:30 pm—Barclay Building
Good Friday Tenebrae—7:30 pm—Sanctuary