April 1, 2009

Jesus, 1x

Holy Week: Christianity in normal playback

Think of each Lord’s Day worship service we share as Christianity in fast-forward. A Sunday morning order of worship is designed to take us through a complete sweep of life in relationship to the living God—the entire faith, in 70 minutes.

In accelerated playback, it looks something like this: We are weekly confronted by the grandeur and grace of this God, which prompts our prayers for a broken world and our confession of our broken lives. That raw confession is met by a ready assurance that the Judge is also our Redeemer—and so we sing and celebrate that inexhaustible love. The world and our lives reframed by this grace, we are then ready to hear a fresh word from the Lord. It is a living word, brooding with power and possibility; we cannot help but respond to its call. And so we gather our treasures, we offer up the work of our church, and we ready ourselves to reenter the world and our lives with a new vision of what God is up to among us. All the while, throughout this weekly fast-forward, we draw widely from the breadth of scripture: a psalm here, a gospel reading there, perhaps a passage from an epistle to round the whole thing out. Scripture: here, there, and yon. This is Christianity, at 10x.

If every Sunday is one more stab at the complete package, one more race from start to finish, then think of Holy Week as our annual opportunity to playback Christianity at normal speed. One week a year, we slow down the narrative of Jesus’ life and ministry to its normal, proper pace. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday each in their own way give us the opportunity to walk with our Lord frame by frame through the divine drama: the humility of his service at the table, the betrayal by his friends in the garden, the pain of his demise on the cross, the silence of his death-absence on Saturday … the astonishing news of his victorious transformation on Sunday.

These four days are the core of our Christian confession, the building blocks we use to stack up the remainder of our belief and action as we do business with this God. Holy Week presents us Jesus, at 1x.