“As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. “ Luke 19: 37
Dear church family and friends,
Above is one of my favorite photographs of me. I think it’s because when I look at it I can sense my joy in celebrating God’s love to us through Jesus Christ! “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I say rejoice!”
But the photograph also comes from Palm Sunday, and Holy Week is one of the weeks I look forward to with great anticipation each year. From Palm Sunday through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then the great celebration of faith on Easter morning, once again awakening us to the fact that God loves each of us regardless of who we are.
Obviously, last year’s Holy Week was in the early days of the global pandemic and none of us knew where that journey would lead. The truth is, we are still living with the realities of the global pandemic with friends and strangers becoming ill and dying. Holy Week will be a time when our church demonstrates our love for all neighbors, and also how we use the wisdom God provides by limiting numbers in worship, ALWAYS socially distancing, and ALWAYS masking by completely covering our noses and mouths. If you are not covering your noses and mouths and always masking when you are in public, come talk to me and I’ll tell you about some folks who have died this past year.
So where does this put us? Well, we have started the Holy Season of Lent with an Ash Wednesday service with a message focused on ‘Silence.’ The first Sunday of the Lenten season taught about CHANGES we need to focus on, but the entire season for me is one of SELF-SURRENDER, SERVICE, SACRIFICE, SAVIOR, and STILLNESS. I am hoping that each of us can change our journey in life into a Christ-focus, regardless of where the past has taken us. We will have new banners in the Sanctuary reflecting the call of Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.”
No, we will not be filling the Sanctuary for Palm Sunday nor for Maundy Thursday. Our Tenebrae service on Good Friday will be an opportunity to again worship God at home. And Easter will not create standing room only realities in the Sanctuary. But we do have plans to activate you in worship this Holy Season. In fact, I want you to seriously consider giving up some of your “me” time during Holy Week for God, witness, and your future.
On PALM SUNDAY we will be holding a parade of the PALMS through West Deptford beginning at noon. Our church family will get in our cars with palms. We will roll the windows down and then slowly drive through West Deptford neighborhoods waving palms, honking horns, and shouting Hosannas. Our neighbors will see that St. Paul’s is still actively praising God! E-mail me if you are going to join in the parade so we can order enough palms (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Maundy Thursday, which is when Holy Communion was established by our Savior, has been a night when we have recreated the Last Supper thanks to volunteers. This year I am going to ask each of you to do a couple of things. First, I really am hoping that all the friends and family members of St. Paul’s will join together for Holy Communion during that evening’s streamed worship service. And to showcase our community of faith, I would like each of you to take selfies and send them in or post them to our FACEBOOK page. Let us show the world that our beautiful faces worship and praise God.
On Good Friday, we will again hold the service of darkness. Since you will be home you need to turn the lights off to get the full impact that Tenebrae can bring to worshipers. Light your room with candles and we will gradually darken the Sanctuary and the video stream.
Finally, our current plans for Easter (these are subject to change so keep checking) will include a service in the church’s backyard at 6:30 a.m. Reservations will be taken, and chairs will be set up socially distanced from other families and individuals so we can worship as the sun rises. We will stream our regular 9:30 worship service to the world and then we will hold a NOONTIDE EASTER service with more seating available in the Sanctuary, as we did on Christmas Eve.
We are in a Holy Season, and I pray you each will take the time to find a silent place to connect with God. That’s the best way to sense where God wants to take you in the coming days.