We all like happy times when we celebrate and smile and sing upbeat songs. No one wants to talk about the dark and sad times, but we all know that is important. We celebrate the life of a person who dies because we know their life isn’t over! We are very lucky that we are living this side of the resurrection – we know death, dark and sadness is not the end. The forty days of Lent represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation and preparing to begin his ministry. We need to remember why we have a special worship for Ash Wednesday and why we gather on Wednesdays, besides great food and friends, and why you should come to all of the Holy Week services.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, 40 days (plus Sundays, which is a time of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control. It is usually a time to avoid luxuries or rich food or bad habits. It is also a good time to add something to strengthen your relationship with God, i.e. devotionals, Bible Study, or adding a spiritual practice. It gets its name from the in the imposition of ashes - that come from the burning of the palms from the Palm Sunday of the previous year. You will usually hear the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is time to remember and reflect on what God has done for you and what you have done and could do better for God.
Wednesdays during Lent
During Lent, Immanuel UCC meets on Wednesday nights at 6:15pm for a dinner and learning. We have learned from monologues, Bible Study videos, and this year we will be focusing on Cultivating and Letting Go, not only on Wednesdays, but also on Sundays. Wednesday nights will look different each week. We will have ongoing art projects that everyone can take part in, and healing and wholeness practices. Each week will be something different, and each one can help you learn and think through things during this Lenten season. This will be from March 13th – April 10th.
Holy Week? Palm Sunday?
Then comes Holy Week! This is an exciting roller coaster of a week, but you need to go down to the dark bottom of the hill, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, to fully experience the mountain top time of Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with a parade type atmosphere, with people laying down palm branches and cloaks to cover the ground for Jesus. It was their version of rolling out the red carpet! That is what people did in that time as a sign of great respect. Christ comes in on a young donkey and not a large horse to show his humbleness. People had heard about the amazing things Jesus was doing, and were showing their respect and love for him.
Later that week tables have turned, and the government is coming after him. On Maundy Thursday we remember the last time Jesus gathered with his disciples, shared Passover with them, and celebrated the Last Supper with them. The word maundy comes from a Latin word for commandment because of what Jesus said to his disciples in the upper room on that night, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another,” (John 13:34). That night we remember the last night that Jesus spent with his disciples, all the while knowing what was to come for him. We celebrate communion with each other with a simple meal and service.
On Good Friday we remember with heavy hearts the crucifixion of Christ on the cross. Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, was betrayed and arrested, put before the courts, found guilty and sentenced to death by crucifixion. We remember these events with a worship service of stripping the church (taking all the color and shine out of the sanctuary), communion at the foot of the cross, darkness, and time to reflect on what Jesus went through and what it means to each of us. There are a few thoughts on why it is called good. Some say it is because it is holy and therefore good. Another thought is it is a corruption of God’s Friday.
On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, that he defeated death for everyone! Therefore, we can get through Lent. We know the end, it turns out good! Lent is about walking with Jesus in the wilderness and if we go from Palm Sunday to Easter, we skip out on the hardest part of Jesus’ journey. Please join us on this journey of Lent, from Ash Wednesday through Holy Week, and celebrate the empty tomb together, learning and growing closer to God all the way.