man in glasses looking upward - just his face in shadows

Holy Week – Making Room for Jesus

Our lives are busy. And Holy Week is a busy week in the church. No matter what Holy Week looks like for your church – whether you have events planned each day, or only on Sundays – it can be hard to simply spend time with Jesus. We miss the forest for the trees or, rather, miss Jesus for all the planning related to Jesus.

Even the disciples struggled with this. After the last supper with the disciples, Jesus asks a few of them to accompany him on a walk. Jesus knows he will need some time by himself as he prepares for the terrible events ahead of him, but wants friends nearby, praying with and for him. They can’t join him in his personal struggle, but they can support him in it.

Jesus asks his friends to simply stay awake and pray nearby. But every time he goes to check on them, they are asleep! Yes, they have had long days, and spent much energy as they dined and conversed at dinner. Yes, they have been filled with food and wine. Yes, it’s late. We understand why they are sleepy, but we also know the urgency of Jesus’ need for friendship and support at this moment.

We also fall asleep in these urgent moments. We can get so caught up in the details, that we forget to stay awake and spend time with Jesus. So – if you’ve planned Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, what are ways that you can engage in, and not simply lead them? Can other people lead what you’ve planned? If your church will be open for prayer or self-guided stations of the cross, spend time practicing what you have prepared. If you are having a community meal, make sure to spend some time enjoying the meal and the company around you. Even at the last supper together,  Jesus truly engaged and enjoyed his time with his friends.

Find the time and space and practices that create holy moments for you to connect with Jesus. All he asks is that we stay awake and be with him. No, we will never fully understand what he was facing on the cross, but we can be with him, as Christ is always with us. This Holy Week, let’s stay awake.

man free-fall sky diving with sun in background

Focus on Leadership: Letting Go

When we get ready to enter Holy Week, many of us are preoccupied with the details of the week – worship services to plan and prepare for, a different schedule, Easter egg hunts, extra people in our sanctuaries and halls. We can forget to take it all in for ourselves – walking with Jesus into and through Jerusalem, eating with the disciples, following Jesus out into Gethsemane, and then into a jail, to his trial, and finally to the cross and the tomb.

We can so easily lose sight of what it’s all about. Not just the individual days, and events of the week, but why Jesus did all of it in the first place. Even when we take each day as it comes – truly diving into the practices of Lent, ending with the deep prayer and solemnity of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and not skipping too quickly to Easter – we can miss the point.

The point being, we are called to submit to God’s will. Submission can be a difficult word. Too often in the church it has been used to abuse others. Slaves, women, people in colonized nations – all have been told to submit to God’s will, but a will defined by people who desire control and power over other people’s lives and bodies. This is not the example we see in the life and death of Jesus the Christ.

It is important to be very clear and very precise when we are talking about Christ’s submission to God’s will. For if we read only the conversation in Gethsemane, if we only hear Jesus’ words on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we miss most of the story. We think that God’s will was for God’s Son to die. But death was not the will, rather it was the inevitable consequence of challenging the prevailing viewpoint of the world.

The values of the world are: Get more, Do more, Be more. Our pride, our ego, our self-worth are all tied up in making sure we are “successful.” But Jesus says: Love more, Love more, Love more. Love God more, Love your neighbors/enemies more, Love yourself more. And putting more love into the world generally means putting yourself out in front less (turns out loving yourself more is directly tied to loving others more).

We must let go. Let go of our pride, let go of our worries, let go of our need to succeed. Loving others does not always mean a happy ending. Human beings have a way of messing up the best things. But God loves us still. And that is what we are submitting to. A love that never ends. We can’t make ourselves perfect – through money or success or a perfect prayer life. We will mess up. And God will love us still. God will bring us back from the dead and breathe life into us again. Our submission is accepting an unconditional love, and letting go of the things that prevent us from accepting that love.