The last two weeks I’ve shared devotionals written by members of a2 Church, in Alabama. From what I can tell, their church is not a liturgical church by any stretch of the imagination. But they decided to observe the liturgical season of Lent and, in so doing, have posted daily devotions for people to read on a special blog they created.
This week I want to try and draw this together, for we are also not a liturgical church as many of us think of the term: we don’t follow the church calendar (accept for Christmas and Easter), and we don’t observe the church seasons or follow the daily readings of other Christian denominations. But this week is a unique week in not just church history but over-all history. This week commemorates the passion of Jesus – his last week on Earth. Jesus came to “seek and save” the lost, he came “to serve, not to be served” and “to give his life as a ransom for many.” Certainly it is important to remember and honor his last week.
Today is Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday – two terms often used to describe the same day. In short, it is a reminder of Jesus entry into Jerusalem the week he was scheduled to die, and it is also to prepare us for the journey ahead this week to the cross and the empty tomb. So I ask you: what are you doing special this week to focus on the gift of God’s grace, love, and mercy through Christ?
When I was young Holy Week was a big deal – I mean a BIG deal. We went to church almost every evening of the week (except for Monday & Tuesday, if memory serves). Throughout my life I have pretty much continued that focus – if the church I happened to attend wherever it was I was attending did not do Holy Week services I found one that did. It has always been a source of strength and comfort for me to go through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter AM services. Several years ago I came to the realization that Good Friday is, at least for me, perhaps the second most important day of the Church year – more important than Christmas even (and second only to Easter) – for it was on Friday that Jesus died to redeem me. Fortunately, Good Friday is one of the few religious observances/holidays that has not been hijacked by our consumerist culture (we may have Santa and the Easter Bunny, but it’s hard to find a good way to sell a bloody cross)
I would challenge you this week to do something special – something unique – to focus you on what God has done in and through Jesus. Perhaps it’s finding a place to attend a special service, or reading a special book, or going on a private, spiritual retreat. A great resource (one I’ve used for years) is to read through Jesus Final Week by Max Lucado, a book that is divided into reflections on each day leading up to the Easter. This year Melissa and I are doing something new, and that is reading through 3:16 by Max Lucado – which offers reflections on John 3:16. Another thing I’ve done is downloaded a sermon series entitled Christ on the Cross from Mars Hill Church in Seattle that looks at different aspects of Jesus’ crucifixion. If you need suggestions for some specific resources please email or talk to me (or Pastor Bill), or check out the links on the blog to a2 Church, because there are many, many guides for this week.
Spend time this week praying and meditating on what it is God did on Good Friday and Easter; consider what it was like on Thursday night for Jesus to know he would suffer and die the next day and be ripped apart from his father. And then ask yourself, “How should I respond? What do I need to do to appropriately live like what Jesus did is true?” Too often we live as practical atheists – attending church on Sunday but then the rest of the week people would have a hard time telling we’re anything (or anyone) more than just a “good person”. Spend time this week meditating on what Jesus did and what it meant to him – and what it now means to you.
It will change your life – if you let it.