Travelling towards Easter
I do love the Easter season! I have been busy preparing our Easter programme of events and services and so anticipating the richness and astonishing events of Holy Week and Easter Day. Easter to me resonates so strongly because it is so much like life itself. There is the triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday where the people wanted to make him their king – one which was based on worldly ideas of freedom from Roman occupation – a situation which changed rapidly once they realised that was not what Jesus was ultimately about; to Jesus’ last supper, a wonderfully reflective occasion in an Upper Room in Jerusalem which we will relive at our Maundy Thursday Service in church; his betrayal by Judas who also was disappointed it seems about the direction Jesus was heading in, to the injustice and unfairness of his trial and the horrors and cruelty of Good Friday. Those who welcomed him on Palm Sunday shouting ‘Hosanna’ just a few days later were rejecting him and shouting instead ‘Crucify!’ Expectations and disappointments abound in this final week of Jesus’ earthly life. How like life is this with many putting others on pedestals only to try to knock them down later?
Of course Jesus’ ideas and talk about God’s kingdom was hard to understand then and as I often have said understanding the cross is a life’s work and discovery. I have though been reading a small book called ‘Hanging by a thread’ by Sam Wells, which explores the questions that the cross poses to us today. He suggests that the crucifixion was not just about fixing human problems but instead suggests it was the culmination of God’s disarming purpose to be with us, no matter what. It is this desire of God’s to be with us, to enter into our world and our lives, to delve into the evils and sins of this world as he allowed himself to be betrayed, arrested and crucified, that for me makes Holy Week such a special time, when I feel closest to God, perhaps because of his suffering. He is not outside of our suffering you see – that is the amazing thing. He was not outside of our temptations either – he was tempted too yet as the bible says was without sin.
So I am looking forward to Palm Sunday when Holy Week begins and we can have the chance to accompany Jesus, to be with him as we remember his final week. So this year we are going to have a Palm Sunday procession starting from Bennetts Green, just along from Capel News, where the small pond is. Our donkeys that memorably joined our Nativity service last December are coming along and will lead us along the street to church where we will have an all age service followed by Hot Cross Buns. We will be handing out palm crosses which will be blessed at the beginning of the procession. Do join us and maybe bring something to wave as we process down the street! Later that week on Maundy Thursday we will be thinking about the Last Supper and will be re-enacting some foot washing. We will be joined by St Mary Magdalene, Holmwood, and St Peter’s Newdigate. The service traditionally ends in silence as the disciples follow Jesus out to the garden of Gethsemane where he will be arrested. We take all the vestments from the altar and there is space for prayer and silent reflection for a short while afterwards.
The following day is Good Friday and for our service this year the choir will be leading us in a service of spoken words and sung chorales from Bach’s St John Passion. The service begins at 10 am and will run for approximately an hour and a half. There will be time for silent reflection as we relive the Passion according to John’s gospel. Do come and go as you wish if you cannot stay for the whole time. It should be very special. Then in the afternoon we will have the usual village walk meeting at the village hall car park, ending back at church for tea at 4pm. It is wonderful to get out into the countryside surrounded this year very much by the spring flowers and new shoots everywhere.
Finally of course, having travelled with Jesus to the cross and to his tomb we return once more on Easter morning to the garden where we discover along with Mary Magdalene and the disciples that Jesus has risen from the grave and death is no more. Jesus has triumphed not in the way the world wished him to, but in a way far better, the way has been opened to the fullness of life intended with God the Father. The great news is that it doesn’t just start when we physically die – we can enter into that new life now if we ask him! Resurrection abounds not only through the new life we see around us in the natural world, but in our own lives as one thing may come to an end, but with God, there is always something new to come. Why not let him take you by the hand this Easter and let your journey be his too.
With my love and prayers as ever