Holy Week is a wonderful week but also one that can be rather busy. Some churches have Passover (Seder) meals during the week to remind them of their Biblical/historical roots. Many have services of Holy Communion; some even practice "foot washing." In many communities there are Good Friday services, and most churches will have an Easter egg hunt for the children. Then, of course, there is the celebration of Easter Sunday, coupled with special music, choir cantatas, Easter lilies, and other special events. For most Christian churches this is rather hectic time.
In the Gospel narratives it is amazing that nearly 1/4 of the stories in the synoptic gospels and 1/3 of the stories in the Gospel of John describe events that take place in a one week period of time. It is very difficult, in such a brief period of time, to wrap one's heart and mind around all of the various themes that are presented. In light of this, I have found it helpful each year to take a "slice of Holy Week" and let my thoughts center on one main theme. This year my slice is the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,
The focus of my attention this year is on John 17:6-12. This is known as Jesus' prayer for his disciples; so I interpret this to be one of Jesus' prayers for me. In this prayer Jesus prays that his followers might experience 4 main things: protection, unity, joy, and sanctification. It is clear, as we read this text, that these are four things that Jesus desires for each of us.
Protection is needed because the world can be a dangerous place. Some of the dangers are physical, others are relational and/or spiritual. How easy it is, at times, to be tempted into an addiction, an unhealthy relationship, an unkind way of speaking, or a destructive way of thinking. Our hearts and minds, as well as our bodies, need protection from destructive forces.
Unity is required in every type of fellowship: marriage, church family, work place, community and school. All we have to do is look to our current political scene to see the destruction dis-unity can bring. It doesn't mean that we always think a like; that is not the goal nor is it even healthy. It does mean, however, that in the midst of differences of opinion we learn to work together to accomplish a greater good. Jesus said it well: "a house divided against itself can not stand."
Joy is more than happiness. Happiness tends to be an emotion that is based on positive circumstances.. Joy is more of a deep seated satisfaction that is evidenced in both good times and bad.
Sanctification, for Christians, is simply the ongoing journey of being transformed into Christ-likeness. The question for each of us is simply: "Am I more like Jesus today than I was yesterday?" If not, perhaps a change in attitude, values, or priorities should be considered.
So this is my "slice" of Holy Week for 2019. It may not be the place where you feel led to focus. But I do encourage you to find a passage or theme and allow your mind to "settle in" during this important week. For this is a holy week: a time when hearts can be touched and our lives can truly be changed.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.