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The Rhythm of Holy Week

In his book, “The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory”, Tim Alberta introduces readers to pastor Brian Zahnd of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph’s, Missouri, who was initially wrapped up in the intense political campaigns of 2016 as an evangelical, conservative pastor but grew disillusioned as he felt like the words and way of Jesus were being obscured in pursuit of power. One of the changes that Zahnd introduced to his congregation, to much controversy, was to shift the church calendar from political and civic holidays to the liturgical seasons.

American holidays - Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day - are not recognized. "What do those dates have to do with us?" Zahnd said with a shrug. "We're the church."

Zahnd’s point was not to disrespect days in our culture that we honor our neighbors but to remind his congregation that the church moves to a different schedule, a different rhythm than of our world. We are part of bigger seasons than just local elections. We are wrapped up in God’s story of love made present on earth.

I am grateful for this reminder of why the liturgical calendar is valuable, even to us as a progressive church.

While we do not follow every feast day in the same way as other churches, we at Church of the Foothills approach Holy Week understanding that time is marked differently. Maybe it’s more poetic. There is a cycle, ever reminding us of where we have come and God’s faithfulness in the past and pointing us toward the future that is still breaking forth.

We listen and read the stories of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his teachings, his last supper, his betrayal and arrest, his crucifixion, and his resurrection for the way they continue to speak to the mystery, suffering, and hope that mingles in our lives, for the longing for God’s wholeness to be realized, for the ways we can reject gifts of God so quickly in our short-sightedness and fear.

Holy Week can still teach us, even in an intense political year, even in a world of violence and war, even when many are confused and isolated.

This week then, let us worship and gather as community with openness to the story of God unfolding in our midst and in our world, trusting that love will move us counter to the patterns of injustice, that resurrection is possible in our terror and amazement.

This Sunday, Palm Sunday, worship begins at 10 AM. We start worship by reenacting, in a playful way, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, a strange and maybe comical moment as Jesus and his disciples face off against oppressive powers of empire.

On Thursday, we gather in the sanctuary at 7 PM to sing beautiful Taize chants that turn music into prayer and lift up a gorgeous liturgy with words from the Iona community in Scotland. We celebrate the Last Supper on this evening. We close by remembering Jesus’ betrayal, shifting our attention to the suffering of Good Friday.

On Easter Sunday, we worship with shouts of joy at 10 AM to celebrate the upside down news that the tomb is empty and death does not have the final word. Rather, love wins.

Thank you for walking this humbling journey with you all.

–Rev. Nathan