Updated: Apr 12
Holy Week beckons us towards maturity, the place where honesty and hope meet. It invites us to look into the depths, to see that resilience, richness and the presence of a crucified thirty-three year old can be found, when life doesn’t give us what we expect. The Cross of Jesus Christ changed everything on a cosmic scale, and it is also continually changing everything for each of us in a personal way. The Cross shapes us, inviting and enabling us to become more like Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Whilst most people didn't expect to give-up this much during Lent! We need repeated wisdom & perspective in all that is being faced. We don't wish our encounters with our God this Holy Week to be diminished even in the light of Covid-19. As John Piper wrote, “This Holy Week fix your gaze steadily on Christ as he loves you to the uttermost!”
Wintershall are offering The Passion of Jesus and One Good Friday story online on Good Friday because they can't perform live in Trafalgar Square. These resources will be available on Good Friday at their Facebook page at 12 and 3pm. You do not have to be a Facebook member to see it, it is open to everyone & other resources here. Here's a fun children's Easter cartoon summary about the sacrifice of Jesus, and wider resources for Holy Week use with children & families,
Here's some planned resources for the coming four days... There's notes, questions & points to ponder alongside the video resources that will also be linked here. These video resources will be posted on our church facebook page, at 8am each day.
· A Maundy Thursday reflection by Ian Carpenter, and the song, Jesus at the Centre by Adam Graver
· Good Friday, where ‘Jesus meets us in the waiting’ by Julie Douglas, and the song, Waiting Here for You by Adam Graver
· Holy Saturday, for ‘a purposeful in-between day?’ by Johnny Douglas, and the song, Worthy of it All by Adam Graver
· Easter Sunday, where ‘Joy conquers fear!’ by Sue Haward, and the song, Raise a Hallelujah by Adam Graver and Barbara Ball
Jesus called and those disciples responded without hesitation. They may have seemed rash and zealous. Here we find ourselves in the most curious of weeks. We could hardly imagine how it was for the disciples to live the days of that first Holy Week. Hopeful patience may have been what they felt, at best.
You and I have had to wait uncomfortably in the past; you and I are waiting now... waiting for lockdown to end, waiting for deaths from COVID 19 to subside, waiting for loved ones to get better, waiting for marriages to take place, for birthday parties, for children to return to school, waiting for results for exams that we haven't taken, waiting to see and touch and hug our loved ones again, to see that new-born baby for the first time in the flesh, waiting to give honour to those that we have loved who have died in this period. We are waiting, uncomfortably.
The church knows how to deal with waiting. It waits for the coming of the kingdom... In Lent we await the changes that come in one-degree shifts as we approach Easter Day. Each of our waiting moments is undesirable but neither are they pointless or endless - this too, shall pass. So as we wait and watch and grow together, even though we are apart this Holy Week, may our heart toward Christ increase, may our thankfulness grow daily, may our waiting cause us to hear the voice of God more clearly, may our partners result in our love and care for each other grow. As Christians, we wait in hope, because it is through waiting, reading scripture and discerning Gods voice that we discover the leading of the Holy Spirit. For us as a church family this difficult, demanding waiting is vital for a flourishing church that loves God, grows family and increases hope.
The only way forward is for the church to be as the apostle once remarked 'transformed by the renewal of our minds' Romans 12 v 2. Renewal is understood in different ways - it's a recovery of something lost, a betterment of the present, or an exchange of the past and present for a glorious future. There's more for you and me to see and discover every day, whether this is your first Easter as a Christian or your fiftieth! Yes we wait; we wait to be together, we wait for individuals, families, communities and nations to heal. We wait to see what life looks like on the other side of COVID19, we wait for those who have lost their jobs to return to work or find new employment. We wait for the changes to our lives that will inevitably happen; we trust these are for the better for all. It's how we wait that's important; as Johnny said on Sunday what does this confinement do to our character. The difference for us as Christians is that whilst we wait, we are always waiting with confident Easter Hope.
Maundy Thursday - John 13
1. Read the passage in two different versions of the Bible – what immediately strikes you from them?
2. ‘The activity is foot-washing … the reality is service … the value that underpins it all is love’. How comfortable are we with Jesus washing our feet?
3. Picture the scene and the different characters around the table – for Judas it was going to be a night of betrayal; for Simon it was going to be a dark night of denial, for the nine disciples it was going to be a dark night of fear. Whom do you have most sympathy with and why?
4. This was the night before Jesus death – He knew He would be crucified the following day and yet His thoughts and actions are centred on the disciples. What does this say to us about the character of Jesus?
5. What do we understand v1 to mean ‘having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them till the end’? The original Greek word is ‘teleos’; a word that has two meanings ‘ to the fullest degree’ or ‘to the end’.
6. The word ‘end’ in the Greek frequently signifies ‘to perfection’ – Jesus loved His disciples and loves us ‘to perfection’. Think back over your journey as a Christian – how has God’s love changed you?
7. Why is serving one another so important? What are the new ways we can serve others in these days of confinement?
8. v 6-10 Peter does what Peter does best; he protests against Jesus washing His feet and then goes overboard; v36-38 Peter promises to lay down his life for Jesus but later that night denies him. What aspects of Peters character do we recognise in ourselves; how do we then pray for ourselves to be changed?
9. Maundy Thursday offers us a choice like no other time in the church year. The choice is about vulnerability, intimacy and love. What choice will you and I make in these days?
Points to ponder
‘Two washings might come to our minds this Maundy Thursday. One by Pilate, the other, by Christ. Two washings, and two whole worlds. One of sin, the other, of grace. One of death, the other of life. One of abandonment, the other of fulfilment. One of blame, the other, of blessing and we find ourselves in-between’.
‘Towards the end of his life, Albert Einstein removed the portrait of the scientist, newton from his wall and replaced it with a portrait of Ghandi. When asked why, he explained it this way ‘the time has come to replace the image of success with the image of service’.
‘We never stand taller than when we stoop to serve’
‘In a very short time life for the disciples was going to fall in; their world was going to collapse in chaos around them. At such a time there was only one thing to do – stubbornly hold on to trust in God … If in the darkest hour we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that purpose is love, even the unbearable become bearable and, even in darkness, there is a glimmer of light’. William Barclay.
Good Friday - John 19 v 16-30
1. Read the passage in two different versions of the Bible; what immediately strikes you from this passage?
2. What do you struggle with about the cross and Good Friday?
3. v19-22 how do we understand Pilate’s actions?
4. What scriptures are fulfilled in this passage and why is that important? (see Ps 22 v11-18, Psalm 69 v 1, Is 53 v5)
5. What is significant about the characters scripture records stood near – Mary Magdalene (Luke 8 v 2, Acts 26 v 18); Salome or Mary, the mother of James and John, the one whom Jesus had rebuked (Matt 20 v 20-24); Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 2 v 35) and John, the ‘beloved’ disciple (John 13 v 23)?
6. v26 Even when dying on the cross Jesus was concerned about his family how do we show we value and care for our families in these days of separation and social distancing?
7. Why is John entrusted with the responsibility for Mary and not Jesus brothers? What duty or responsibility has God given you this Easter?
8. v28 Jesus says ‘I am thirsty’ – what are you and I ‘thirsty’ for now?
9. Jesus cries out ‘tetelastal’ v 30 – it means to bring to a close, to complete, to fulfil’. How would we explain this to a non-Christian?
10. What will be the legacy words of your life and mine?
Points to ponder
‘Christ became what He was not, ‘sin’, in order that we might become what we were not, ‘the Righteousness of God’ Martin Luther
‘For the cross is more than a place of shame and suffering. It is also a place of love; love made concrete, love made real’.
For you and I to move out of darkness into light, Jesus had to move from the light of heaven to a darkened world; for you and I to be delivered from the power of Satan to the power of God, Jesus had to be abandoned and forsaken by God. For you and I to be delivered from guilt to forgiveness, Jesus had to be made sin for us; for Jesus to make me rich in blessings, He had to become the poorest of the poor’.
‘In Jesus statement ‘it is finished’ we have a declaration of salvation that is both momentary and eternal. We are saved at a specific point in time; ‘it is finished’, our debt is paid we are ransomed from the kingdom of darkness and then we confidently rest in the reality that ‘it will continue to be finished’ because we are in a position of grace and stand justified for all time before God. One Greek word, tetelastal, spoken in the perfect tense, by Jesus on the cross, and it was finished, at that moment and for all time’. Leon Morris
Easter is not a day – it is a season, and a way of life. Had Christ not hung on the cross, taken on our sins, and defeated Satan’s power, His rising again would not have been as meaningful. We wouldn’t be singing hymns about it. The New Testament probably wouldn’t have been written. And no one would have eternal life.
Holy Saturday isn't just a rest day. Holy Saturday is a day of silence and stillness, waiting and wondering, remembering and hoping. Perhaps that is what faithfulness looks like on Holy Saturday. There is not much to do except be present to the reality of what is, to sit opposite the tomb. On Holy Saturday, nothing much seems to be happening; just the waiting. Jesus descended into hell, as the creeds recall. Holy Saturday is a difficult day. We so much want joy to replace sorrow. That’s not what Jesus does. Instead, sorrow is transformed into joy, the tomb becomes a womb, and death gives birth to new life. Christ’s triumph is not apart from death but within death. Scripture is mostly silent about today. Some traditions believe Jesus descended into hell to preach salvation to the lost souls and defeat Satan’s grip. Scripture does state the women left his body in a tomb and hurried away because their tradition said they had to wait to prepare his funeral until after the Sabbath was over.
2. What does this day in the journey of Holy Week mean for you?
3. Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy member of the Jewish Council and a ‘secret’ disciple of Jesus. Whilst the ‘public’ disciples fled Joseph took a stand in asking for his body in order to give a proper burial. In what ways are you and I secret disciples?
4. The women had been at the cross and now they followed Joseph to see where Jesus was going to be buried so that they could anoint Jesus body. They were not called to do great things; they did what they could. What things are you and I being asked to do in these days of restriction?
5. Four people were changed in the process of Jesus death – the thief, the centurion, Joseph and Nicodemus. What was different for each of them and why?
6. John Piper wrote, "I do not deserve to escape, for I know my own heart. But I trust Christ, and so I know the judgment will be turned to joy. Though He slay me, yet will I trust him. For precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." What do you make of this?
7. How you negotiate the silence of God in the unfolding activity of God even in the darkness & the unknowing? How do you and I handle ‘things of mystery’?
8. How might you and I sit with God, and the story of redemption this Easter?
9. Jesus lies alone in the tomb. What do you make of the aloneness of Jesus?
10. As you journey through this Easter, think of what Jesus is doing for your sake even though you can’t see His hand? Can you trust him 'even when I don't see that He's working'?
11. What are you and I thankful for today?
Point to ponder
"When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn't go off and leave us. He enters into our trouble and saves us." Eugene Peterson
Easter Day - Matthew 28 v 1-10
1. Read the account of this first Easter Day in all of the gospels (Mark 16 v 1-8; Luke 24 v 1-12; John 20 v 1-9) – what strikes you from these verses?
2. Why is Easter important? What does it mean to us today?
3. How is Jesus resurrection both promise and provision?
4. In what ways does the resurrection of Jesus give us confidence? (see also I Cor 15 v 17).
5. What difference does it make in your life and mine to be an ‘Easter people’?
6. Everyone was afraid (v4, 5, v8 and v10) – why and what is our hope and comfort?
7. The women were looking for Jesus (v5) and the disciples were hiding (v7) – which camp are you and I in today and why?
8. Are you and I operating from a Good Friday or Easter Sunday world?
9. Read and think on what these scriptures mean for you: Phil 3 v 10; John 10 v 10; John 20 v 29
10. ‘Because He lives’ …. How would you finish this sentence?
Points to ponder
‘Easter is not primarily a comfort but a challenge. It’s message is either the supreme fact in history or else a gigantic hoax’. CS Lewis
‘The way of the cross is the way of suffering. Christians are called to die, not kill in order to show the world how they are loved by Christ’.
‘God has been known to plan a celebration in the midst of a cemetery. God appearing in the strangest places, doing the strangest things. Stretching smiles where there were only tears. Hanging a bright star in a dark sky. Arching rainbows in the midst of thunder-clouds. Jesus calling names in a cemetery’. Max Lucado.
‘By His resurrection Jesus has forced open a door that had been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought and beaten the king of death.
Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the new creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened’. CS Lewis
The Resurrection awaits your response...
Jesus came singing love. He lived singing love. He died singing love. He rose in silence. If the song is to continue we must do the singing’.