Christians believe God offers us time as a gift. One of the ways we receive this gift gracefully is by marking time according to the life of God in Christ. So we live by seven-day weeks in honor of God’s creating in six days and resting on the seventh. We keep this last and seventh day holy by waking up and worshipping, weekly, in a way that honors Christ’s resurrection and the new life we live in him.
The more I live this Christian walk, the more I realize I simply cannot do without the weekly gathering for worship. If I miss worship, it leaves a massive hole in my life, in my week. This is not to say that I find every Sunday worship service stimulating or life-changing. Often I don’t. Many weeks, church is just what I do that day. However, I know Christ is there—he is present in that meal we serve, alive in the words spoken, available to the prayers we pray, honored in the hymns we sing. That’s enough for me to show up.
Yes, God is in many places (all places), and not just in church, but I know God promises to be alive and available especially in that community, in that place, so I go there.
And then there are weeks like Holy Week. This coming week, we take what is already remarkable—every Sunday being the Lord’s Day, after all—and make it even more so. There is an astounding superfluity to the worship offered Holy Week that can astound us. We try to keep the other patterns of our life the same. We would prefer that soccer practice, or work, or house cleaning, or e-mails, or any other set of obligations, should continue to take precedence. It is difficult for us to concede our time, even for one week, and conform it to the life of Christ.
I think this is precisely why Jesus’ agonized question the night before his crucifixion—Are you asleep? Could you not keep awake for one hour?—has continuing relevance (Mark 14:37). Our culture, and we ourselves, would prefer to sleep through this next week and keep doing what we always do, rather than do the more arduous work of staying awake and attentive to what it means that Christ was crucified on our behalf, and raised to new life, that we might rise with him (Mark 16:6; 2 Corinthians 4:14).
So this is what we do on this week. We begin the week with the procession of palms, in memory of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Then we take time to read the passion narrative, slowly, carefully, attending to all the details of Christ’s final days of life (Mark 14-15). We spend this Holy Week in prayer. We stop doing some things. We start doing others.
We make space in our lives for the worship services of the three days—Maundy Thursday, remembering Christ’s last supper and the washing of his disciples’ feet; Good Friday, the day of his crucifixion and death; and Easter, the day of a surprising empty tomb—because in them we hear and see so much of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, that the truth of Christ begins, again and again, to take on even more reality than our own lives. Christ’s life becomes our life.
And in the midst of this we also find ways to celebrate our community together. We share a common breakfast (Palm Sunday 7:30 to 11a.m.). We hunt for eggs (also Palm Sunday, 9:15 a.m.). We gather with friends and family for meals and fellowship. We put on special clothes. You may have other Easter traditions.
Yet the point remains, that we keep the main thing the main thing. We re-structure our time so that our time is conformed to the Lord’s time. We tell time this way so the Lord’s story becomes our story. The Lord’s story becomes our story so that what is promised by Paul in Romans is confirmed, “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (6:4)