The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Saturday of Holy Week are Job 14:1-14 (affliction, pain, and suffering), Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 (in your unfailing love, rescue me), 1 Peter 4:1-8 (live not by desires, but by the will of God), and Matthew 27:57-66 (the burial of our Lord Jesus).
The Easter Vigil service is a separate service with a large number of readings. The readings rehearse the story of salvation through the Hebrew Bible as well as the first Easter story. The historical use of the Vigil was a baptismal service for converts that had been prepared over a period of several years for entrance into the church. Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (circa 225 AD) gives some details of the event:
They shall all keep vigil all night, reading and instructing them. Those who are to be baptized are not to bring any vessel, only that which each brings for the eucharist. It is indeed proper that each bring the oblation in the same hour. At the hour in which the cock crows, they shall first pray over the water. When they come to the water, the water shall be pure and flowing, that is, the water of a spring or a flowing body of water. Then they shall take off all their clothes. The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family. After this, the men will be baptized. Finally, the women, after they have unbound their hair, and removed their jewelry. No one shall take any foreign object with themselves down into the water.
Even a tree has more hope!
If it is cut down, it will sprout again
and grow new branches.
Though its roots have grown old in the earth
and its stump decays,
at the scent of water it will bud
and sprout again like a new seedling.
Low in the Grave He Lay, stanzas of the hymn text by Robert Lowry (1874):
Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Good Friday of Holy Week are Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (the Suffering Servant endured our pain), Psalm 22 (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?), Hebrews 10:16-25 (Jesus our Great High Priest gives us confidence), and John 18:1-19:42 (the Passion of our Lord Jesus).
From With One Voice by Reggie Kidd (p. 88-92):
He hung alone. Well, not completely alone. There were the thieves – one a new friend, one a scoffer. There were the three Mary’s, his own mother among them. There were the soldiers, doctors of pain and humiliation. And there was the crowd, wagging their heads and hurling abuse. Although Jesus was not completely alone, he was. He was left desolate by the One whose presence truly mattered. God’s Son lifts a bitter dirge of forsakenness to a Father who promised he would never abandon his own. He who knew the Father’s voice from eternity and was the author of sound for all creation heard nothing but silence. God seemed for an instant to be an atheist. Jesus, feeling the presence of the Father being withdrawn from him, quotes one of the laments David gave to Israel in Psalm 22. To know the God who is, is to look to him even when he won’t make eye contact. To know the God who keeps covenant is to sing to him, even, perhaps especially, when you fear he may not be listening.
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, hymn by Isaac Watts (1707):
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Maundy Thursday of Holy Week are Exodus 12:1-14 (instructions for observing Passover), Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 (I will lift up the cup of salvation), 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (Jesus on the night betrayed took bread…cup….), and John 13:1-17, 21b-35 (Jesus eats the Passover with the disciples).
Traditionally, Maundy Thursday liturgies contain a ceremony where congregants wash each others feet, just like Jesus did at the last supper. And so,
A Summative Theology of Feet
- Genesis 18:4 – Abraham encounters the Lord in the form of a trinitarian/angelic appearance at the oaks of Mamre. Abraham bids them to stop and, “Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet.”
- Exodus 3:5 – Moses encounters the Lord in a burning bush. Moses is told by God, “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” The experience of God was transmitted through the toes.
- Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
- Luke 7:38 – Jesus is encountered by a questionable woman while eating dinner. She proceeds to caress his feet with a mixture of her own desperate tears, expensive perfume, her own hair, and the saliva from her kisses. A cultural no-no? You better believe it. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach them about forgiveness. He ends by saying to her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
- John 13:4-5 – Jesus wishes to demonstrate a sacrificial relationship to his disciples. He wants them to get a mental image of the upside-down character of the economy of God’s Kingdom. He serves his followers by washing their feet.
- John 19:18 – After Jesus was sentenced to death, “they nailed him to the cross.” Tapered spikes were hammered through his feet, piercing skin, tendons, and bone through to the rough wood of the cross.
- Matthew 28:9 – On the first Easter Sunday, after the women were visited by an angel that told them what happened to Jesus, they take off running to find the other disciples. They are greeted by Jesus, alive and well. It says that the women, “ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him.”
- Romans 10:15/Isaiah 52:7 – “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” The proclamation of God’s Kingdom is so good that even the dirty feet that bring it are exquisite.
The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Wednesday of Holy Week are Isaiah 50:4-9a (Servant’s humiliation and vindication), Psalm 70 (may all who search for you be filled with joy), Hebrews 12:1-3 (let us fix our eyes on Jesus), and John 13:21-32 (Jesus fortells his betrayal).
John 13:21-30 (NLT):
Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”
The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. So Judas left at once, going out into the night.
How awkward that last supper must have been?!? Can you imagine the bizarre, stupefying events that must have left the disciples feeling like they had the wind knocked out of them? First instead of the traditional Passover they get the orders for a new covenant, a new meal, a new way of doing things like they’ve never been done before. Then the leader takes the towel and basin and washes the smelly, sweaty, animal-feces-stained feet of the no-name, reject followers he had called out of their lame lives. Then he starts talking about betrayal and accuses Peter of denial. If I were a disciple that had walked with Jesus, seen miracles, healings, dead people get out of tombs, this supposed-Passover celebration would have been the icing on the cake! I would have been left dumbfounded. Nothing was what you thought it was going to be.
Even more dumbfounding for us who see the story unfold 2000 years later is the fact that the betrayer was present at the table. Jesus was putting the whole “love your enemies” thing into practical application right there at the table. Jesus didn’t kick Judas out. He didn’t deny him entry to the table fellowship that night. He didn’t take away his “disciple card.” He welcomed him, supped with him, and included him – just like Jesus does with everyone. Just like Jesus does with us every time betrayal enters our hearts. When we turn our backs on God, when we forget he exists, when we scream our discontented situations at him – he welcomes us at the table. Always.
Prayer for Wednesday of Holy week (from the Book of Common Prayer):
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the suffering of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ you Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Tuesday of Holy Week are Isaiah 49:1-7 (Servant mission in the world), Psalm 71:1-14 (they say, “God has abandoned him.”), 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (cross is foolish to world, wisdom of God), and John 12:20-36 (Jesus speaks about his death).
John 12:23-26 (New Jerusalem Bible):
Jesus replied to them: Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me, must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.
From Chapter 9 of the Didache concerning the Eucharist:
Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:
We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever.
And concerning the broken bread:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”
Commentary from Audrey West:
Where is Jesus? He is with the Father (1:1; 14:11), and he dwells among us (1:14; 14:23). He is leading his followers to eternal life as he moves toward the hour of his death (12:32-33). Before much longer he will be “lifted up” on the cross (12:32, 34; 8:28) where he will lay down his life for his friends (15:13). Even as a grain of wheat falls to the earth in order to fulfill its true purpose, Jesus is lifted up from the earth in order to fulfill his, so that he may draw all people to himself. (12:24, 32). It is there, at the cross, that we will see his glory (17:24).
I have decided to do a series of posts for Holy Week 2011. I’ll post at least once each day of Holy Week. Not everyone may realize there are lectionary texts assigned for every day of Holy Week (not just Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil). So I will post the texts for each day, possibly some comments, and probably some quotes from others to help us reflect.
As a way of introduction to Holy Week, a quote from Robert Webber [Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 118-119]
As I contemplated the spiritual journey of Holy Week . . . I knew this was not a week for shopping, vacation, parties, or hilarity. I sensed this was the week that above all weeks was to be set aside for the journey into death. I knew the worship of the church would take me by the hand and lead me step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth, if I would allow it to do so. I resolved then and there to walk in the way of the cross. I purposed to make this the week God intended it to be for me, a week of intense spiritual struggle–and reward!
The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Monday of Holy Week are Isaiah 42:1-9 (the Servant is a light to the nations), Psalm 36:5-11 (all humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings), Hebrews 9:11-15 (Christ came as High Priest), and John 12:1-11 (Mary anoints Jesus).
Hebrews 9:11-15 (New Jerusalem Bible):
But now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, not made by human hands, that is, not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement, may restore their bodily purity. How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God. This makes him the mediator of a new covenant, so that, now that a death has occurred to redeem the sins committed under an earlier covenant, those who have been called to an eternal inheritance may receive the promise.
A quote from James Alison (in “Some Thoughts on the Atonement”):
This puts many things in a slightly different perspective from what we are used to. It means, for instance, that the picture of God in the theory that we have that demands that God’s anger be satisfied is a pagan notion. In the Jewish understanding it was instead something that God was offering to us. Now here’s the crunch with this: the early Christians who wrote the New Testament understood very clearly that Jesus was the authentic high priest, who was restoring the eternal covenant that had been established between God and Noah; who was coming out from the Holy Place so as to offer himself as an expiation for us, as a demonstration of God’s love for us; and that Jesus was acting this out quite deliberately.
It’s that time of year again for worship musicians everywhere.
Lent is drawing to a close. Our 40 days of inward contemplation are about to turn to outward celebration. We’re ready to enter Jerusalem with fanfare and triumph. But not the political triumph of leader on a war horse. The triumph we prepare for is humble and rides on a mule. We’re ready to enter the last week that gives way to the first week.
This is game time for the worship musician. We put lots of hours and creative energy into thinking, designing, preparing, rehearsing, and executing what we hope will be meaningful, worshipful events.
Thus it is quiet here. May our strivings and movements find stillness and anticipation from the tomb.