Upcoming in Worship
Please visit “Crossroads at Home” for online worship and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Palm/Passion Sunday, April 5: “Entering the Passion of Jesus: Picturing Ourselves in the Story” Lenten worship series concludes; Rev. Susan Sytsma Bratt preaching on “The Garden: Risking Temptation” (Mark 14:32–36; Ephesians 6:11–17); Worship Team online only at 9:30 a.m.
Easter Sunday, April 12: Rev. Susan Sytsma Bratt preaching; Worship Team online only at 9:30 a.m.
Lenten Worship Series and Book Study
The events of Christ’s Passion, which take place during the last week of Jesus’ life, often don’t receive enough time in our worship and study. These stories are important to our faith journey and our identity as followers of Jesus. And yet we often move too quickly from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday with little time to take in the dramatic story of that last week. Throughout the six weeks of Lent we will “freeze-frame” moments in Holy Week so we might put ourselves in the picture, thereby “Entering the Passion of Jesus.” How might taking a closer look at the ancient story open us to deeper conviction for our role in its ongoing message? Starting March 1, our Sunday worship series is inspired by Amy-Jill Levine’s book by the same name, to be studied with Pastor Susan on Wednesday nights through April 8. Watch chapter videos for free online here: “Entering the Passion of Jesus.”
Lent and Easter: Times for Repentance and Celebration
The seasons of Lent and Eastertide celebrate the most important aspect of Christian life: the redemption and salvation of Christians through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for Baptism, a period that included the discipline of fasting. Christians today focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something, or volunteering and giving of themselves for others. It is a time of solemn remembrance, repentance and reflection, a time to recall our Lord’s last days. During the season of Advent we are led from darkness to light; during Lent we walk a road from light to the darkness of the crucifixion.
The forty days of Lent (between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday) correspond to the forty-day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and the forty-year journey of Israel from slavery to a new community. Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. For additional information about Lent, please read “The give-and-take of Lent.”
Beginning with Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world anticipate and prepare for Christ’s victory over death. It is a day of penitence and remembrance of our sins of the past and our ultimate mortality. Branches previously waved on Palm Sunday are burned to ashes and used to make the sign of the cross on the forehead. The ash cross is a visible sign of sorrow and repentance for sins; these attitudes are symbolized by the liturgical color violet used throughout the Lenten season.
Palm/Passion Sunday is a dual celebration at the start of Holy Week. “Hosannas” are proclaimed and palm branches are waved to herald Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem—in stark contrast to the events soon to follow. The term passion refers specifically to the suffering of Christ in His final days and hours.
Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper and the beginning of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The adjective maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, which means commandment. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave the disciples a new commandment: to love one another as He had loved them (John 13:34). Prior to breaking bread with the disciples, Jesus washed their feet. Maundy Thursday worship services include Holy Communion and sometimes foot washing as well.
Good Friday may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.” Most other nations prefer Holy Friday, Great Friday, and Long Friday, among other names. It is a day that proclaims God’s purpose of loving and redeeming the world through the cross of Christ. God was not making the best of a bad situation, but was working out God’s intention for the world—winning salvation for all people. We call it “good” because we look backward at the crucifixion through the lens of the resurrection. Often a dramatic Tenebrae (“darkness”) service is held on Good Friday, where lights and candles are gradually extinguished until the room is in complete blackness (a color of mourning); worshippers may leave in silence.
Commencing after sundown on Holy Saturday, the Great Vigil of Easter is actually the start of the Sunday morning celebration of Christ’s resurrection. The Light of the world is reborn and darkness has no more power, symbolized by white decorations for triumph and purity. Because early Christians were baptized at this time, we renew our own baptismal vows at this service, and pure white decorates the sanctuary.
In 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea set the date for the celebration of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox, March 21. For this reason, the date of Resurrection Sunday changes each year and can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25 inclusive. Eastertide then lasts fifty days, after which Pentecost is celebrated—the “birthday” of the church as recounted in Acts 2.