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Holy Week 2013

For the readings for Holy Week, go to our Online Lectionary.

At this time seven years ago, I was leaving the Cathedral in Halifax following our Reaffirmation of Vows and Blessing of Oils. I was preparing for my first Holy Week and I was feeling completely out of my depth. I had been taught well, but it is a whole different experience when you don’t have a supervisor to fall back on.

I went to greet my then bishop, now Primate, Fred Hiltz. I told him how overwhelmed I was feeling, trying to write sermons for each day. He asked me why I was preaching through Holy Week. “I don’t know,” I replied. “Aren’t we supposed to? Isn’t that what people expect?”

Archbishop Fred responded, “Let the liturgy preach. The Holy Week liturgies speak for themselves. If you say anything, simply point people to the liturgy. That is enough.” I relaxed and thought, “Well, if my bishop doesn’t write sermons for Holy Week, then neither will I!”

Now that I serve a community with many people who are relatively new to Anglicanism, I realize that the liturgies don’t speak as clearly to those who have come from a different tradition or no tradition at all. The liturgies are full of symbolism, and if the symbolism is unfamiliar, it can become confusing and distracting, shutting people out rather than drawing people in.

Still, I hold to the advice to keep the remarks short and point people to the liturgy. Holy Week is a drama, and I spend more time creating a liturgy that draws people into participating in Christ’s journey from a historical view and also bringing our own lives, joys and challenges into the Easter story, then I do writing sermons.

I’ve chosen to give all of Holy Week one post because many of us carry our preaching through the week, and it is often closely tied to our liturgies. What are you looking forward to sharing with your community this Holy Week? What does your road to the cross look like? What word are you bringing or hoping to hear?

Dawn Leger

About Dawn Leger

I am a priest in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, having served in Stouffville, Ontario. I think preaching is a profound and great privilege granted to us by God and our Church. I love the reading, the writing, the proclaiming, the dissecting and the dialogue. I also love to cook, sing, read and laugh, in no particular order.

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3 Responses to Holy Week 2013

  1. Matthew Griffin

     

    I’ve been quite struck, Dawn, by words I read yesterday by Samuel Torvend, a professor at Pacific Lutheran University. He writes this about Holy Week, and I’m digesting what his words will mean for me as our steps draw nearer cross, passion, and resurrection.

     

    As Christians enter Holy Week, the temptation is every present to imagine that the worshiping assembly is traveling back in time to ancient Jerusalem: to watch Jesus enter the great city, share his last supper, suffer and die upon the cross, and be raised on the third day. Such a perspective – supported in much preaching and sung in many hymns (“Were you they when the crucified my Lord?”) – easily transforms Christians into a crowd of pious spectators watching a series of interesting characters in a sacred drama from the ancient past. A very safe way to move through Holy Week.

    But the liturgy is not a drama, even a sacred drama. Rather, it is an ensemble of words and actions through which the Spirit of God is drawing Christians more deeply into their own identity as the public Body of Christ in their town or city, drawing the assembly toward its baptismal charter, drawing the assembly into that life which flows from the Easter font and table: into ordinary lives that nonetheless manifest the ethics of God in a world that experiences innocent suffering, bears unnecessary hunger, knows injustice at the hands of the powerful, and yet yearns for an alternative way of living, yearns for a life of meaning and purpose, a life and perhaps even a community that takes seriously the paschal mystery of death and hope.

    A year ago I was told by one clergy person that preaching in Holy Week is best filled with charming anecdotes for the visitors who will show up in church. Really? Charming anecdotes, amusing stories, and excursions to ancient Palestine? This is the best that leaders can offer in a culture marked by economic anxiety, political polarization, and terrible violence? Jokes and amusements? Is it just possible that the logic of the liturgy actually offers an alternative way of living in this world together: a way marked by care for the youngest and oldest among us? A way marked by compassion? A way marked by active resistance to the forces that destroy the creatures of God? A way marked by service to the most vulnerable among us? A way marked by the promotion of God’s justice for the poor, the orphan, and the forgotten? Honest to God: is that not a way marked by HOPE — but one that just might call us to die to charming anecdotes and easy-going lies?

  2. Matthew Griffin

     

    I’ve been quite struck, Dawn, by words I read yesterday by Samuel Torvend, a professor at Pacific Lutheran University. He writes this about Holy Week, and I’m digesting what his words will mean for me as our steps draw nearer cross, passion, and resurrection.

     

    As Christians enter Holy Week, the temptation is every present to imagine that the worshiping assembly is traveling back in time to ancient Jerusalem: to watch Jesus enter the great city, share his last supper, suffer and die upon the cross, and be raised on the third day. Such a perspective – supported in much preaching and sung in many hymns (“Were you they when the crucified my Lord?”) – easily transforms Christians into a crowd of pious spectators watching a series of interesting characters in a sacred drama from the ancient past. A very safe way to move through Holy Week.

    But the liturgy is not a drama, even a sacred drama. Rather, it is an ensemble of words and actions through which the Spirit of God is drawing Christians more deeply into their own identity as the public Body of Christ in their town or city, drawing the assembly toward its baptismal charter, drawing the assembly into that life which flows from the Easter font and table: into ordinary lives that nonetheless manifest the ethics of God in a world that experiences innocent suffering, bears unnecessary hunger, knows injustice at the hands of the powerful, and yet yearns for an alternative way of living, yearns for a life of meaning and purpose, a life and perhaps even a community that takes seriously the paschal mystery of death and hope.

    A year ago I was told by one clergy person that preaching in Holy Week is best filled with charming anecdotes for the visitors who will show up in church. Really? Charming anecdotes, amusing stories, and excursions to ancient Palestine? This is the best that leaders can offer in a culture marked by economic anxiety, political polarization, and terrible violence? Jokes and amusements? Is it just possible that the logic of the liturgy actually offers an alternative way of living in this world together: a way marked by care for the youngest and oldest among us? A way marked by compassion? A way marked by active resistance to the forces that destroy the creatures of God? A way marked by service to the most vulnerable among us? A way marked by the promotion of God’s justice for the poor, the orphan, and the forgotten? Honest to God: is that not a way marked by HOPE — but one that just might call us to die to charming anecdotes and easy-going lies?

  3. Dawn Leger

    Charming anecdotes? Oy. Holy Week is a lot of things. Charming ain’t one of ’em. Challenging words to be sure. I wonder what it would look like to have a series of liturgies that do not have us re-enacting “history”.

    For example, one of my pet peeves is Palm Sunday in Canada. We don’t have palms. So we strip trees and have them sent to us as if that were enough to transport us to that crowded, dusty, loud and noisy gate. Then we have a disorganized, murmuring clumsy parade through the church singing an English hymn. Remembering, also, that according to Luke, there were no palms. People laid down their clothes. Let’s see THAT on a Sunday morning.

    So a liturgy of Holy Week that draws us into the themes of the story rather than the dialogue of it is intriguing to me.

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