Holy Week is what many Christians call the week leading up to Easter. It begins with Palm Sunday, moves through the week (sometimes including Maundy Thursday) and especially Good Friday, and concludes with Easter Sunday. The most recent scholarship on ancient Christianity has shown that this week was considered to be a part of the larger “Easter” celebration and that it existed before the longer and more complicated “Lent” season came into practice. It existed, in some form, as early as the 3rd century, though the Easter celebration appears to go back even earlier. The main emphasis of this week is to focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the central act of salvation in the Christian religion.
Christ Church in Lakeland is celebrating Holy Week with a Palm Sunday service this Sunday, March 29th at 10am, a Good Friday service on April 3rd at 5:30pm, and then an Easter service on April 5th at 10am. We would love to have you join us for worship, and we wanted to say just a few words of explanation about each service.
Palm Sunday is a day of celebration primarily based on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as told in the gospels (Matt. 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19). The practice of having palm branches in worship is of medieval origin, but the dedicating of the day to celebrating the triumphal entry goes back to the 3rd century or earlier. At Christ Church, we will hand out palm branches to the children at the beginning of the service, sing songs which recall the triumphal entry as well as the kingship of Jesus, and learn about the connection between the resurrection of Lazarus and the jubilant crowd greeting Jesus as he rode into town. This will all take place within our normal Lord’s Day worship service, and we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper at the conclusion of the liturgy. We don’t attach any special ritual significance to the palm branches. They are partially decorative, but they also serve as a visual reminder of the historic occasion, showing that we believe the events of the gospel really did happen in real space and real time. And they’re also just a lot of fun!
Our Good Friday service is probably the most unique service we hold. It is a sort of modified Tenebrae Service, though without the candles. It follows a similar pattern to our Christmas Eve service, but the subject matter and overall tone are dramatically different. The mood of the service is penitential, and it begins with an extended confession of sins, much longer than our normal one for Sunday mornings. It does have an absolution, because even on the darkest of days we have assurance of salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ, and then it moves into a cycle of Scripture readings and singing. We work through the passion of Christ as told by the Gospel of John, and the service concludes in darkness and a silent recessional.
This service is supposed to be solemn and even sad. It commemorates the death of Christ, and it also emphasizes why that death was necessary, our sins. If we never take the time to meditate on the severity of our sins and their role in the crucifixion, then we cannot properly understood our salvation. But Good Friday is not an end in itself. It is a sign post, and it always points forward to Sunday.
He is risen indeed! Easter Sunday is when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His triumph over the grave. This is a joyous occasion, and it has historically been the most important feast day in the life of the Church. Our Easter service will be built around our normal Lord’s Day worship service, but it will have special hymns, prayers, and scripture readings focusing on the occasion of the resurrection. We will conclude with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and the entire event should be characterized by happiness and gratitude. There will be no Sunday School on this day, as we encourage everyone to continue celebrating with friends and family.
We would love to have you join us for these services, and we hope that they can be a special time of worship and renewed appreciation of the work of Christ on our behalf.