Christians are an Easter people. We’re about resurrection, new life and an awakened relationship with God through Jesus.
But like skipping Advent before Christmas, we have a bad habit of jumping all the way to Easter with giving a teeny nod to Holy Week. For evangelicals, this can be especially telling. We often forget that it’s not Easter at the moment.
It’s Holy Week (or Passion Week, depending on the tradition you come from).
This year, Easter begins on Sunday March 27th. Until then, we are still in a Lenten mode focusing on the last days of Jesus before the crucifixion.
“But Sunday’s a-comin’!”
Oh how we love to insert our mirth, our hope, and our child-like joy. It doesn’t help that in North America, most places are seeing signs of spring — daffodils, baby chicks, bunnies, scads of pastel colours, and the melting of snow. Physiologically, we feel our bodies waking up after a long, dark, dreary winter and it’s hard to channel that natural joy into a spiritual discipline. The waking of our bodies is a beautiful tie-in for the Easter message, only…
…it’s not Easter.
When we jump to Easter or call all of Holy Week “Easter”, we’re not giving significant parts of Christ’s life their due. Now the flip side of this contention is that we can get a little too hung up on words. Someone might say to me “Happy Easter”, and I know they probably mean all of the events leading up to and including Easter. Does there really need to be a big deal made out of terms and titles?
Not a huge deal to the point of breaking people apart; but a big enough deal to call people back to the roots of who we are and Who we love.
And the reality is: we jump to Easter far too fast.
If you’re like me, you might not have any idea what Maundy Thursday is (I didn’t until college). And perhaps like me, Good Friday services began dropping off the scene at churches because people preferred a free long weekend over observing a horrific historic event. Easter morn was just fine in kind of grouping all of that together.
But in that lack of observance we’ve lost many nuances and forms of community that come with holding back until Easter dawn arrives. We forget that Jesus communed with those who would betray him (don’t be so hard on Judas; they all fled, remember?); we forget the never-seen-before footwashing served by a rabbi to his disciples (instead of slaves serving the Master); and we forget the Jesus’ priestly prayer in the Garden moving us from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday:
“Make them one as we are one.” (John 17).
In becoming part of a liturgical church, it’s been a huge gift and a source of frustration moving slowly through Holy Week without jumping ahead to Easter. In case you didn’t know, none of us Lutherans have said “Hallelujah” or “Alleluia” since the start of Lent. Those words are Easter words, and will be expressed with jubilation come Sunday morning. Until then, we observe the solemnity and the fear and the topsy-turvy God-in-the-world day by day throughout the week.
Our church is hosting a Seder Meal: a Passover meal observed by Christians as Christ shared the Last Supper with his disciples. I have my own qualms about this practice. Since connecting with Jewish friends of mine I’ve come to understand that hosting Seders without inter-faith dialogues or learning from Jewish friends and neighbors can often look like cultural appropriation. Even if we feel that we have a right to such a practice, the reconciliation between Jews and Christians is still ongoing. From my friends’ perspectives, it would be wiser for Christian communities to host Seders in partnership with synagogues and other Jewish community leagues than to go rogue. But that’s only my opinion in wanting to honour a people who have been celebrating Passover for thousands of years more than Christians. It’s not that a Christian Seder is wrong. Not at all! I simply believe Christians need to host them in partnership with Jewish communities first, or accept invitations to Jewish Passovers in an effort to seek our neighbors’ best interest.
But enough of that rabbit trail.
Back to the point at hand: it is not Easter yet, friends.
Part of our spiritual disciplines as Easter people is to be incredibly mindful of the moments we’re presently in, especially in Holy Week. Jesus shared the Passover with his friends, but how were they to know it would be the final meal they would share together? Sure we can read in the Gospels about Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection and the bread broken then, but stay in the moment.
His disciples did not.
His disciples may have had an inkling that He was acting somewhat odd, talking about betrayal and all. But it was Jesus. Dude’s always weird. What of it?
But then foot washing?
Wait a second!
Wait a second…
Jesus is both intentional and tender with his friends, and yet distracted and anxious. Why?
What’s going on?
As we move into the climax of Holy Week, hear the call to come back to the moment: it’s not Easter. We haven’t even begun yet. We’re still sharing a meal with our Love and our Lord, sensing that something’s coming but being fretful and anxious about what.
Come back to the moment.
It’s not Easter, my friends.
We must face Death first.