The Collect for Monday in Holy Week:
Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week:
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
The Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week:
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
At sundry times and in diverse manners, members of congregations where I’ve served have pointed out my growth opportunities. Some have done so with considerable energy. I have in recollection a guy who wanted to know what I was thinking in scheduling Holy Week and Easter in the middle of the local school’s Spring vacation. Hadn’t I even checked the calendar?
The fact is, it never occurred to me in 30 years of ministry that anything might interrupt our most holy week. We observe it when calendar tells us. It’s non-negotiable. Maybe it’s a failure of imagination, but I had no idea what could be so important to change that. I’ve always been committed to keeping the church up and running come what may. (Maybe it’s a point of pride, even hubris.) I’ve walked to church in several feet of snow. I’ve held services in the dark when power outages knocked out electricity. I’ve overcome roads closed by downed wires and even led worship without my morning Starbucks. 9/11 did not stop us from having services. So it feels odd (to say the least) to enter this Holy Week from a social distance, church locked, services online.
A friend commented about this season: This is the lentiest Lent I’ve ever lented. If Lent is a season about giving things up, we’ve knocked that one out of the park (Sorry if that’s a painful metaphor for grieving baseball fans). The current multi-faceted crisis calls for us to give up a lot. It will undoubtedly teach us many things. Like Lent, compared to times in the wilderness, it is a season of both challenge and formation. We will come out different on the other side.
So what might we learn? As we come to the end of Lent, think about what it means that the season calls us to self-examination. As we strip away much of normalcy, daily trips to classrooms and workplaces, casual interaction with friends, dinners at restaurants, gatherings in churches, we may gain insight into what really matters to us, where our priorities lie. We may find out what we really miss. We may find out what we didn’t need after all. As we contend with anxiety and fear, as we face needs for physical and emotional healing, as we pray for brave souls on the front lines of this war, we may gain insight into where we place our trust. We may grow in compassion for those who contend with deprivation 24/7, 365 days out of the year. Take some time this week to reflect on lessons for you and your community.
And as we come to the beginning of Holy Week, we can wrap our minds around the ways we will observe it. I’m pretty sure that however we do that, it will be different than in years past. It may be observed in isolation. It may be observed online. If on some level, we are not feeling the challenge and the pain of what our world is going through, then I suspect we’re probably not paying attention. So even at a distance, we turn to the liturgies of our church, the prayers and stories from scripture to be our guide as they have guided others through the wilderness in the past.
The collect for this Monday in Holy Week (included above, along with others) invites us travel the way of the cross. That cross is different for each one of us. Can we travel that way? The collect for Tuesday invites us to see a way of life in an instrument of death, the cross. Can we embrace that vision? The collect for Wednesday invites us to endure suffering for the glory that will come. Can we keep our eyes on that prize? Let these prayers shape our believing as we walk through this Holy Week, one like we’ve never experienced before.
A friend had to break the news to her grandchildren that she would not be traveling to be with them for Easter, and that they might not be able to celebrate Easter at church. The young granddaughter responded: “Well I guess Jesus is just gonna stay dead this year.” So let me say to this young faithful friend, and remind myself, that while we might not be together on Easter (just like the first disciples who were practicing social distancing behind locked doors), Jesus does not stay dead. We will experience his loving, liberating liveliness in new and unexpected ways, thanks be to God.
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