“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
—Mark 16: 6b-7
It is out-of-the-ordinary for a preacher (well at least this preacher) to be relaxed on Good Friday. But relaxed I am as I sit to write this blog post. Usually, there are many frantic moments throughout Holy Week—and the three days of the Easter Triduum (when we remember the love feast of Maundy Thursday, the passion of Good Friday and the silence of the tomb on Holy Saturday) are filled not with grace and prayer, but with last minute composing, printing, multiple worship set-ups, a few really great curse words, a least one fight with the photocopier and lots of fretting about one’s Easter Sermon. Freed by our circumstances of an Easter sermon and worship service to plan I found myself with plenty of creativity for our ’dinner church’ on Thursday and our lovely vigil on Friday. And it was good.
I even had time to read a bit of theology and attend to my facebook feed throughout the week—and I happened upon a wonderful reflection that spoke to the almost universal angst that preachers have about their Easter sermons. You know, this is IT—the biggest moment of the Christian story, the foundation of our good news, the heart of the gospel that we preach 364 other days a year! We realize that for some folk who will be with us that day, it may be the only exposure to the good news that we get to offer. Needless to say, that responsibility can weigh heavily. Easter—Resurrection. Christ is Risen. The part of the story that puts us on the field for the long game. This. Is. It. Easter—the biggest and best piece of Jesus’ whole gig. Or is it? I wonder.
As we prepared for and then experienced Maundy Thursday with the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the cup, as we remembered the humble power of Jesus washing his disciples feet, as we heard and enacted Jesus’ new commandment to love one another, as we literally anointed each other’s hands with a soothing balm, as we talked about and experienced the bond that gets created in the sharing of a meal with others, as we heard Alexi sing “Were You There”—the experience of love and shared care was so obvious in our little sanctuary that more of us than the pastor were weeping.
The best advise I have ever gotten about worship and peaching for these high, holy days is to get out of the way and just tell the story. You don’t need to add opinions or illustrations or historical, critical, theological exegesis—because the story stands on its own. On Thursday night, when we talked about bread breaking, Tripp H. observed, “When you share a meal you get connected in important ways, and it doesn’t matter where it happens, it could even be at McDonalds.” Aaron O. added, “Even when we know a friend is going to fail us or betray us, like Jesus knew, we still have a bond from sharing a meal that carries us through the disappointment.” Talk about a story!
This Easter, the only sermon I need is the one preached by those two 15-year-old-boy-men. This Easter, Maundy Thursday feels like the heart of the Easter Story to me. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This Easter, Love Wins.
May you find that ‘Thursday-Kind-of-Love’ this Easter and may it carry you to the ends of the earth to love one another.
Love, Rev. Wendy