Tag Archives: Holy Week
By the Rev. Darren Miner
The Gospel reading today is problematic. It is problematic from the perspective of history and from the perspective of social norms.
Let’s deal with the historical problem first. This same story is told in all four Gospels, but the Gospels don’t all agree on the facts of the matter. In Matthew and Mark, the anointing took place at dinner in the house of a Pharisee named Simon the Leper. And there, Mary anointed Jesus’ head, not his feet. In Luke, it is a notoriously sinful woman of Galilee, not Mary of Bethany, who anoints Jesus’ head and wipes her tears from his feet with her hair. Now, these discrepancies don’t mean that the Gospel story is fake news. It just means that, as this story was handed down from one generation to the next, some details got lost in transmission.
Now for the issue of social norms! We live in a new age, in the age of the “Me Too” Movement. One major concern of this movement is the protection of “personal space.” The need for such protection is clear. A couple of years ago, Donald Trump was caught on tape bragging about how he liked to kiss and grope women without their permission. More recently, Joe Biden has been criticized for making unwanted physical contact with women he didn’t know very well. In our society, the perpetrators of such boundary violations are, more often than not, men, and the victims are women. But in today’s Gospel story, the “perpetrator” of the boundary violation is a woman, and the “victim” is a man. There is no doubt about it: Mary of Bethany violates Jesus’ personal space without permission. One wonders what the leaders of the “Me Too” Movement think about this Bible story!
By the Rev. Darren Miner
As I’ve said many times before, the liturgical season of Lent is a jarring time. Well, Holy Week is even more so! Today, Holy Week begins, and by a quirk of liturgical history, we get the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem juxtaposed with Matthew’s account of the Passion. For this reason, this Sunday is given two names in the prayer book: Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion.
A variety of pious customs have become associated with this Sunday, all of which focus on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In Russia, pussy willows are carried in procession. In South India, flower petals are strewn on the floor of the sanctuary during the reading of the Gospel of the Palms. (The sexton must just love that!) And in the United States, we solemnly bless palms and carry them in procession as we sing Jesus’ praise. A favorite pastime of both children and adults is to make crosses out of the palm fronds and then keep the crosses on display in the home until Shrove Tuesday. On that day, the palm crosses may be returned to church, burned, and made into the ashes for Ash Wednesday.
By the Rev. Darren Miner
I said before that Lent is a jarring time of discontinuity. Well, Holy Week is even more so! Today, Holy Week begins, and by a quirk of liturgical history, we get the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem juxtaposed with Mark’s account of the Passion. It seems redundant that the church reads a Passion account on Palm Sunday and then again on Good Friday. But it does serve a purpose, I suppose. For one thing, it lets us all know in no uncertain terms what we are in for in the coming week—namely, a protracted experience of Jesus’ last days.
Later in the week, on Thursday evening, we will gather to commemorate the Last Supper, to share a simple meal, and to prepare the church for the most difficult day of the Christian year, Good Friday. On that Friday, we will gather in the afternoon, at the hour of Jesus’ death, to hear another Evangelist’s account of the Passion of the Christ. On that day, the Church asks her children to fast as a token of their love for their Crucified Lord. I would encourage you to participate as fully as you can on both Thursday and Friday; there is no better spiritual preparation for the great feast of the Resurrection on Easter.
But I get ahead of myself! Today, let us enter into the story of Jesus’ torture and death by considering one of the so-called Seven Last Words from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The words are troubling for so many reasons. But perhaps the most troubling thing is that they tell us that the Son of God experienced the abandonment of his heavenly Father. For a moment, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity experienced a sense of disconnection from the First Person of the Holy Trinity. This is momentous in its import. For in that moment of emptiness, God experienced what it feels like to be abandoned by God! In that moment of emptiness, God experienced what so many of us experience at some point in our lives, the feeling that God has left us behind. That feeling can come when we’ve prayed and prayed and still our loved one dies. It can come when we ourselves are seriously ill and begging for a bit more time on this earth. For sometimes the answer to that prayer is a stark No. Each of us, I think, will eventually confront a sense of God’s absence. Each of us, in our own little way, will someday undergo our own Passion.
In that moment, what are we supposed to do? To whom should we turn? Well, the answer is to follow our Lord and Master Jesus Christ and to do what he did in his darkest hour. He turned to God, shared his anguish with his heavenly Father, and expressed his continuing faith. Yes, even in those words of seeming despair—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—we find a hidden declaration of continuing faith. At that moment, when Jesus could have said anything at all to express his sense of abandonment, he quotes the start of Psalm 22. As Jesus well knew, this psalm of lament ends on a note of faith, and even hope: “My soul shall live for [the Lord]; my descendants shall serve him; they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever. They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done.” Jesus, even in this last word from the Cross, expressed his trust in the God whose presence he could no longer feel. And we, who are Jesus’ descendants by faith, should we not do as our Master taught us in his last moment of earthly life? I pray that each of us, in that dark hour when we feel that surely God has forsaken us, will find the spiritual strength to proclaim, “My soul shall live for the Lord!”
© 2015 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
By the Rev. Darren Miner
Bible Readings for Good Friday http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearABC_RCL/HolyWk/GoodFri_RCL.html
Jesus lives! Never forget that, not even on Good Friday! This liturgy is not a funeral for Our Lord. This homily is not a eulogy. We do not come together to mourn his loss.
Instead, we are gathered here today to remember Our Lord’s death and, in some small way, to grapple with its meaning for us. As distasteful as it may be, we must contemplate Jesus’ hideous torture and agonizing death on a cross, for it is at the cross that our sins meet God’s love.
On Good Friday, our liturgy is different from any other liturgy in the year. It’s a muted liturgy, a bleak liturgy, a liturgy stripped bare. On this day, the focus of our attention is the cross—a simple, wooden cross.
This cross is a paradox. On the one hand, the cross is a symbol of torture and shameful death. Crucifixion was the fate of rabble-rousers and rebels in the Roman Empire, and hanging on the wood of a tree was the fate of Jews accursed of God. On the other hand, for Christians throughout the world, the cross is the preeminent symbol of our faith and a sign of hope.
Come and worship with us during Holy Week and Easter. Everyone is welcome at The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation
April 13 – Palm Sunday – Holy Communion: 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. (Bilingual – English & Chinese)
Our Palm Sunday service starts with the blessing of palm leaves and a procession of the assembled worshipers carrying the leaves into the church. The service then continues with the reading of the Passion of our Lord, followed by Holy Communion. Please join us as we start this important week.
April 15 – Tuesday in Holy Week – 10 a.m. Stations of the Cross & Holy Communion
The Stations of the Cross are a devotional depiction of the final hours of Christ. This service takes the worshiper through a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer by revisiting the chief scenes of Christ’s suffering and death.
April 17 – Maundy Thursday – 6 p.m. Agape Supper & Holy Communion
The Maundy Thursday service commemorates Jesus’ Last Supperwith a simple agape supper at 6 p.m., followed by Holy Communion. The service starts downstairs in our parish hall, and it concludes in the sanctuary with the stripping of the altar in preparation for Good Friday.
April 18 – Good Friday – 12 noon Good Friday Liturgy
The Good Friday service commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and death in a moving, contemplative service.
April 20 – Easter Sunday – Holy Communion: 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. (Bilingual – English & Chinese)
Come celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at one of our Easter services. Our service includes special Easter music as well as our traditional “Flowering of the Cross.”