In unimaginable love, God has taken on our humanity – including all our mortal terror, sorrow, and pain – and invited us, in exchange, to participate in the mystery of eternal life that is God’s own nature. God offers us, in that exchange, a partaking of divinity so deep that it amounts to union, … God in Christ is so profoundly with us that that “with-ness” is who he is: Emmanuel.
-Deborah Smith Douglas, 21st century
Holy Week is here! On this Sunday, Palm Sunday, we enter into the holiest week of the year for followers of Jesus. During this week we will ride the roller coaster with Jesus as we join the crowds in celebrating him and acclaiming him “King” as he rides into Jerusalem to waving arms and hands, branches and cloaks strewn on the road in front of him, and shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We will create our own Palm Parade beginning the 10:30 a.m. worship as we gather first in the Kelsey Building to begin worship, then carry our palms through the renewed Garden Chapel into the Sanctuary.
On Thursday, April 13, we will begin to enter the depths of betrayal of Jesus as we gather in the Kelsey Building at 6:30 p.m. for an Agape Feast. We will remember as we share simple Middle Eastern food which we bring to share together how Jesus and his first followers gathered in an upper room to share the Passover Meal. We will experience again the washing of feet, remember the model of service which Jesus set for his followers. We will share in the Sacrament of Communion, breaking bread and sharing a cup, as Jesus instructed his followers to do as a way of remembering his life and death for them. We will then experience the Service of Shadows, hearing the scripture readings that speak of the betrayal and abandonment which led to Jesus’ agony in the Garden and before the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor Pilate, leading up to his death on the cross. We will conclude this powerful worship in our Garden Chapel under the full moonlit only by torchlight.
On Friday, April 14, we will gather again in our Sanctuary at 12 noon to host our sisters and brothers in the faith from several community churches for a Community Good Friday observance. We will have six pastors from neighboring churches join in reflecting on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. Rachel Lebon will add a musical solo reflection on one of the Words and Jay Harragin will join in leading the music.
All of these experiences are designed to help us remember and reflect on the “unimaginable love” which God has shown to us by taking into God’s own experience the full reality of our humanity, including our “mortal terror, sorrow, and pain.”
All of this, of course, leads to the grand, glorious celebration of the Christian Faith on Easter Sunday! This year we are not participating in a Sunrise Worship by the Bay, but we will have our regular Sunday schedule. We will begin our celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus at 8:55 a.m. in our newly renovated Garden Chapel which will include sharing in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. At 10:30 a.m. we will gather in the Sanctuary for our Easter Festival Worship with special musical presentations by our Choir, a special Easter Message for the Children by Pastor Steve followed by Faith Classes for them in the Kelsey Building. Then at 11:45 a.m. the children will gather in the Garden Chapel to begin the Annual Easter Egg Hunt presented by the Board of Christian Education.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida