Holy Week refers to the week before Easter, the holiest time in the Christian calendar. It begins with Palm Sunday, the day marked by Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, when he was treated like a king. It progresses to Maundy Thursday, when we remember the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples. The next day – what we refer to as Good Friday – we remember with somber hearts Jesus’ death on the cross. The somber tone of this day lingers through Saturday. But we rise on Easter morning with joy remembering that death did NOT win. Jesus rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven, where He remains with his Heavenly Father as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
A Old Testament prophet foretold that the king would ride into town on a donkey (the symbol of peace). Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead to a village to bring a donkey for him to ride into the city of Jerusalem. As he passed, the crowds were elated and joyously shouting “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!” waving palm branches (a symbol of nobility) and laying them across his path. They were awaiting an earthly king, but God had a much different way of bringing salvation to them if they would only believe in Him. Palm Sunday reminds us that – as we look for someone to fight our battles on earth – no one could overcome those battles better than Jesus…the King of Kings.
“Maundy” isn’t a word we use in the English language so it’s foreign to many, especially in its use when talking about Holy Week. It’s a shortened version of the Latin word “mandatum” which means “commandment.” The night before Jesus died, he dined on a Passover meal with his disciples in the Upper Room. During this time, he foretold that one of them would betray him. He broke bread and shared a cup of wine with them, asking them to also do this in remembrance of Him, as he would die soon. He commanded to the disciples to love others as He had loved them. At Midway, we commemorate this time of the Last Supper with self-led reflection. You may come anytime during the hour that you like. You’ll be given a bulletin which will guide you through silent prayers of reflection and repentance. When you’re ready, you may come to the altar and receive Holy Communion from one of our clergy. Stay and pray at the altar as long as you like, or linger in your pew as you contemplate how you can show love to others.
At Midway, we conduct a noon tenebrae “Service of the Nails.” “Tenebrae” comes from Latin, meaning “darkness.” A somber service, it makes use of gradually diminishing light to symbolize the events of that week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry, through Jesus’ burial. During our time together, we’ll ponder the last seven phrases Jesus spoke from the cross and one-by-one we’ll drop a steel nail (provided at your arrival) into a metal bucket…a jarring and dramatic reminder of the part we each have in perpetrating sin, and also our need for God’s redeeming love through the death of His only son. A dramatic slamming book at the end evokes the finality of closing the tomb. The service ends in darkness and all depart in silence to ponder the impact of Christ’s death, and to await the coming Resurrection.
The most joyous holiday in the church, Easter is a time of joy and renewal. Followers of Jesus saw their darkest days – days of despair, grief, and unrelenting agony – replaced by the miracle of hope and eternal life for all who truly believe that He suffered and died to forgive our sins then rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven to remain with his Heavenly Father forever. Remembering the women who went to Jesus’ tomb early that morning and found it empty, with the heavy stone rolled away, Midway offers a beautiful sunrise worship service in our historic chapel. As you arrive you’re given a candle, which allows us to proceed in the darkness that spills over from Good Friday. Birds outside the chapel loudly proclaim the daybreak – much as it must have been that morning more than 2,000 years ago – and when the weather is good, sunlight streams through the east-facing stained-glass windows just as the service concludes, a joyous experience that leaves the heart overflowing and assured of God’s presence and unending love for each of us as His children.
We also offer the three regular worship services as usual – 8:30, 9:45 and 11:00 – with a glorious spread of refreshments in between services in the Adult Gathering Area (belltower entrance).
Please be our guest at each of the Holy Week services. You will experience Easter in an entirely different way this year, and you will have a renewed sense of peace and closeness with Christ that only comes with walking that dark journey together.