“The WHY . . . ? . . . Series” – part 3

“The Why . . .? . . . Series” is not about answers because WHY’s intention is to help us explore, expand, and to accept the courageous invitation to grow through the actual journey we call our lives.”

“WHY have Holy Week?”

My oldest brother, Jerry, died on a Saturday. As it was becoming evident he was in the last stages of his life, his son Ryan, who lived 300+ miles away was called home for this last part of the journey. Amazingly, on the Wednesday of the last week of my brothers life, he was able to sit in the living room and had a really nice visit with his Ryan. When we talked after Jerry had died, Ryan said he was grateful for that Wednesday and had even thought, “For someone who’s dying, you sure look pretty good!”

A hospice nurse shared, and this information is in the booklet they give to families who are a part of hospice care, that it’s not unusual for a person in the last stages of their life to have a “rally” and a period of clarity. The nurse said, “it’s like they get a shot of adrenaline and are themselves for a period of time . . . and then they return to the dying process.”

Palm Sunday is a “rally time” for Jesus- and for us. Jesus is quite coherent and is making it very clear he has some last minute things to share with the world before he dies, so this bears asking: “Are we listening?” While we know Jesus didn’t disappear or do nothing between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday, in the worship world we appear absent until Thursday.

Maundy Thursday is Jesus giving his parting blessing. “Wash each other’s feet and love one another as I have loved you.” One of the ways we honor our loved ones who have died is to take their best attributes and pass them on while adding the spice of the best parts of our story. At times we wish our loved one could still be with us, but one of the reasons we have Holy Week is to remind us, since we will all someday die, learn to really live in the time we have.

Good Friday is a visible reminder that death is a part of everyone’s journey. On Maundy Thursday it’s a tradition to strip the altar at the end of the service just like a person would be stripped by the funeral director in order to prepare for burial. Good Friday is how Jesus’ death invites us to strip away every distraction and false god we have in our life and to pay attention to and learn from Jesus’ last words. The “Good” isn’t in the dying, it’s in what would be coming next. When we die we get a new address; for those who remain we get help in this life because of the creative power God passes on to us through the resurrection.

WHY have Holy Week?

– To remind us that death is a part of the journey, so live fully in the here and now.

– To help us know death is not the final word, so live fully by learning from Jesus’ example.

– To strip away all our pretenses and to serve and love one another as Jesus showed us.

May our Holy Week observances guide us to let go of the thoughts, words, and actions which don’t help us as we let them die; to rally in our faith journey by letting God lead; and to trust God to help us in this life until we come face to face with God in the next.

God’s peace,

Pastor Jim