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Friday, April 2, 2010

Could Holy Week Survive Without the Church?

What would happen if churches closed their doors during Holy Week and Easter?  No Maundy Thursday services, no Good Friday liturgies, no lilly packed altars on Sunday morning.  This is a ridiculous thought, not unlike a shopping mall choosing to close their doors during their busiest week. (Which is usually and ironically the week before the celebration of the birth of Jesus.)  If ever a religious community should gather, it is to mark the events of Holy Week right?  I wonder….

Before going any further with this heresy, let me say that I find great meaning in the services of Holy Week.  I will be there Sunday morning singing “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today” as loudly as my children will allow.  I believe in the power of gathering to tell the story, to recount the events, to reflect on what it all means today.

What it all means today….that is what sometimes gets lost amongst the palms and the lilly’s and the choruses of “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”  What does all this matter for the world we live in today?

Earlier this week Inward/Outward  sent out this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself (a sinner, a penitent, or a saint) on the basis of some method or other, but to be human--not a type of human, but the human that Christ creates in us. It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.

Source: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

When our Holy Week services become just religious acts, we miss the point and we miss God.  When the story is integrated into what is going on around us, we have a better chance of, as Bonhoeffer says, participating in the sufferings of God.

One of the best experiences I ever had during Holy Week was participating in a liturgy using the Stations of the Cross.  These stations of the cross were not artwork nailed to a church wall. Rather we walked around a poverty wracked neighborhood in Chicago.  We read and prayed in front of homeless shelters, crack houses and children playing around broken glass.  The sufferings of Jesus never felt more real.

So back to my original question:  What would happen if the churches shut their doors this week?  How would those of us who consider ourselves followers of Jesus mark the events of Holy Week?

Just one idea:  Walk around your neighborhood (or apartment or condo or office or any "secular" place) and look for signs of Jesus' suffering and resurrection.

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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  1. Great message! And amidst all the suffering, Jesus showed us that LOVE is what makes it possible. Thanks!

  2. No good ideas. But since I have a key to the church, I'd sneak in and pray a little.