Holy Week at City Fellowship
by Pastor Russ Pflasterer
At the risk of sounding kind of crass, if there is a “Super Bowl” of the Christian Year, it’s Holy Week.
At City Fellowship we have always been mindful of the church calendar, and the reason we have done so, is because we want our whole year to be organized around the remembrance of Christ. We are a forgetful people! We NEED special days - Holy Days - set aside on the calendar every year to re-orient us to what is most important.
And there is nothing more important than Easter!
It is Resurrection Sunday! Every other Sunday of the year is supposed to serve as a reminder of Easter Sunday. In fact, when we get out of bed every single day, we should see it as a mini celebration of the ultimate resurrection on Easter Sunday. There is nothing more central to the Christian faith than the resurrection of Jesus, therefore there is nothing more central to the Christian Calendar than Easter. This is a holy day so big that it takes a whole week, no, actually a whole MONTH to celebrate it.
Let me just take a moment to let you know what is going on in and around City Fellowship that is meant to prepare our hearts for the immense joy that comes with the celebration of Resurrection Sunday:
Lent is a time of fasting and prayer that extends over the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. This is a time for us to reflect on our own sin, our desperate NEED for a savior. It is a time of repentance, of turning away from our sin and toward our Christ. This Lenten season, I pray you have been able to participate with the whole church by following the Presence 40 Day Fast Guide that my brother, Ryan Pflasterer, put together for us.
Just a quick encouragement: It is easy, this close to Easter, to kind of give up on the fast. Hang in there with it! The lament of the Lenten fast is a big part of what makes the celebration of Easter so very sweet!
Traditionally, Palm Sunday serves as the “opening ceremony” to Holy Week. It is a remembrance of Jesus’ final entry into the city of Jerusalem and the celebration of the crowds that met him there, shouting out their praises, saying “Hosanna to God in the Highest” and lining his pathway with palm fronds (ironically, it will be this same crowd that will be crying out, “Crucify Him” on Friday).
For the last four years, we have had the honor of marking Palm Sunday in a Unity Service with Historic First Baptist Church and First Baptist Church on Highland. Unity Services are a long-standing practice, especially in the tradition of the African-American church, intended to remind us of the family connection between individual houses of worship. It is an honor for us to be invited into this fellowship every year and trust me when I say that you don’t want to miss this. Let us come ready to receive a blessing from our brothers and sisters and eager to show reverence and respect for the varied traditions to be found in the family of faith. The service, on March 25th, begins at 10:30am at First Baptist Church on Highland. Please dress in such a way as to show honor to our sister churches.
Holy Week traditionally remembers the events of the “upper room” on Thursday Night. On the evening before his arrest, Jesus spent his final hours with his beloved disciples, washing their feet and sharing a final meal with them. Most Maundy Thursday events include remembrances of those two events.
While we do not have any “official” Maundy Thursday events this year, I wanted to let you know that I have been asked to preach at St.Luke’s Episcopal Church on Thursday night, March 29th. Their Maundy Thursday services begins at 7:00pm, and Rev. Gayle McCarty wanted me to make sure that City Fellowship is invited to attend!
Please note that there will be no childcare available. And also, that while there IS a foot washing portion of the service, there is no expectation for you to participate if you are one who would rather just keep your feet to yourself!
On Friday the 30th at 7:00pm, we will hold our annual Good Friday service at the church building. This service holds a very special place in my heart, not only because it is so moving, but also because it has borne so much good fruit over the years. This is what is traditionally called a Tenebrae service, in which the last seven sayings of Jesus on the cross are recited and reflected upon. One of the most powerful elements of this service for us is that we have held it, every year, as a silent service. We enter and exit in silence and reflect silently on the readings and songs as they are performed. The powerful effect of silence upon the soul is surprising, and I REALLY recommend that you find a way to attend. Again, childcare will not be available, but the “cry room” on the second floor will be open.
In stark contrast with our Good Friday service, our Easter Sunday Celebration is LOUD! And, as we do every year, we will be raising the roof with a moment in the service dedicated to “making a joyful noise” before the Lord. You are invited to bring whatever obnoxious noise-maker you want and let loose with it in Praise of the Most High God, who was not content to leave us under the curse, but instead sent His Son to become a curse for us on the Cross.
But death could not hold Him down! And that is why we celebrate so loud and proud on Easter Sunday! There will be folks getting baptized, the City Dance Ministry will be performing, and the choir will be in full effect. Let me tell you – and I mean this in all seriousness – if you are on a spring break trip during Holy Week, make sure you come back early enough to get to church on Easter. Change your plans now if you have to. Tell mama that you have to leave a little early because you want to be at City Fellowship on Easter Sunday. You won’t regret it, not because it’s the best “show” in town, but because the joy of the Lord will be palpably in the air. It’s like electricity! Our Easter Celebration will be on Sunday, April 1st, at our usual time of 10:00am at the church building.
One of the reasons that I love the Easter Season so much is because it draws out our holy imaginations. Can you imagine coming to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday morning only to find it open and occupied only by an angel saying,
“… why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, for He is RISEN!”?
I don’t know if it is even possible to really imagine what kind of joy would be in your heart at a moment like that! But I do know that the season of Lent and the events of Holy Week are given to us in order to help us get as close to that moment as we possibly can on this side of Jesus’ return!
We'll cap off our Our Holy Week events with lunch together after our Easter Sunday service. Mike and Jamie Booth have graciously offered to host our entire church family for a potluck lunch and egg hunt for kids! So bring your friends and family, and a dish to share as you're able, and come celebrate the resurrection with your City family. I am looking forward to celebrating Holy Week with all of you. Make plans to attend as many of these events as you possibly can! All of them will serve as a balm for your soul!