Wednesday, March 28, 2012


            We live in a fast paced world that seems to always be rushing toward something else. Because of this we often miss the present. Don’t you feel that way when you go to the store? We could be in the middle of winter but the stores will have all of their spring clothes displayed. I have always found it rather strange that next year’s new cars come out in the summer of the current year. How can I buy a new 2013 Ford when I am in the middle of 2012? We are so much in a hurry to get to the next thing that we miss the present thing. Simon and Garfunkel had a song that began with the words, “Slow down you’re moving too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last…” I agree with them. We all need to slow down.
            Easter is a week and a half away. The clock is ticking as we rush to celebrate the resurrection. We feel the pressure to plan services and put everything in place for Easter Sunday. But in our hurry to get to the end of the story we miss the story. Philip Yancey, in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, points out that the four gospels actually slow down as they approach the end of the story. Together they devote a full third of their narrative to the last week of Jesus’ life. For most of us who grew up in church, we are quick to jump from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday to the Hallelujahs of Easter and pass over some of the most profound and critical events in Jesus’ life.
            In preparation for Maundy Thursday I bought a Haggadah, which is a Jewish guide for Passover. It would be like the Advent guides we use at Christmas time. The difference is that it is used all at once on the night of Passover. I have been impressed with the leisurely feel of the text, as it recounts the story of the God’s deliverance from Egypt and the Exodus. A traditional Passover meal will last several hours. Each part of the story is rehearsed and explained. There is no hurry to get to the end of the story. The value is in becoming a part of the story in a personal way.
            The Gospel of John devotes only one chapter to the resurrection and one to the post-resurrection appearances. John devotes eight chapters to the final week of Jesus’ earthly life. Some of Jesus’ most profound and intimate teaching is found in those eight chapters. It is there that we learn about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. We find out about the role of the Holy Spirit and what it means to abide in Christ, as branches abide in the vine. It is also in those eight chapters that we get to listen in as Jesus prays for himself, his disciples and us! Finally, we find ourselves walking with Jesus through the ordeal of his trial and execution. Those are hard words to read, yet they are an essential part of the redemption story.
            I have struggled for some time with the reality that we (in evangelical circles) devote four plus weeks to preparing for Christmas and give, at best, one week to Easter. Other faith traditions do a far better job of preparing their people for the most important event of the year. In response to my own lack I introduced a Maundy Thursday service to my church a number of years ago. Our tradition today is to observe Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I have to confess that I still feel like I am rushing toward Easter. I feel the pressure to prepare four services in the span of one week. I don’t feel the freedom to slow down and experience the drama of Holy Week.
            This year we are encouraging our small groups to observe Maundy Thursday in homes. My hope is that we can learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters how to slow down and enter the story for ourselves. But alas, I have to hurry up and prepare a guide to be distributed on Sunday so that people can slow down on Thursday. “Slow down, you’re moving too fast…”

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

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