Tag Archives: Holy Week

Surely it is God who saves me

Surely it is God who saves me;
trusting him, I shall not fear.
For the Lord defends and shields me
and his saving help is near.
So rejoice as you draw water
from salvation’s living spring;
in the day of your deliverance
thank the Lord, his mercies sing.

Make his deeds known to the peoples;
tell out his exalted Name.
Praise the Lord, who has done great things;
all his works his might proclaim.
Zion, lift your voice in singing;
for with you has come to dwell,
in your very midst, the great
and Holy One of Israel.

–Words: Carl P Daw (b. 1944); paraphrase of The First Song of Isaiah
–Tune: THOMAS MERTON, by Ray W. Urwin (b. 1950)

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Death wasn’t the end of the story

It’s Good Friday. The day that Christians observe as the day Jesus hung on the cross and died. A day when death seems to have triumphed. But, of course, death wasn’t the end of the story…

As I like to do every Good Friday, I’ve perused numerous blog posts, reflections, and prayers centered on the theme of the day. One of the posts I read provided a recommended song list to listen to as an observance of Good Friday. As I perused the list, I came across one song on the list that I knew from an album I’d bought years ago. But I’d never focused much on the lyrics, until today.

The song that struck me so poignantly on that list is “What Sarah Said”, by Death Cab for Cutie. When I came across it on the list, I pulled it up on my phone and listened to it. Chills were sent down my spine. I was overwhelmed at the words of what Sarah said. I encourage you to listen to the song. Think about what Sarah said. Think of your loved ones, Remember how precious every moment we have on this earth. And, above all, remember that death never gets the final say…because death wasn’t the end of the story…

Here are the lyrics if you’d like to follow along:

And it came to me then
That every plan
Is a tiny prayer to Father Time

As I stared at my shoes
In the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409

And I rationed my breaths
As I said to myself
That I’d already taken too much today

As each descending peak
On the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me
Away from me

Amongst the vending machines
And year old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye

It sung like a violent wind
That our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds

And I knew that you were truth
I would rather lose
Than to have never lain beside at all

And I looked around
At all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself

Cause there’s no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous paces bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes round
And everyone lifts their head
But I’m thinking of what Sarah said

That love is watching someone die

So who’s gonna watch you die?

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Holy Saturday: A Reflection

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This year, Holy Saturday is hitting me a little differently. This is normally a day that I forget about. I quickly move from the celebrations of Maundy Thursday (Christ’s last supper and footwashing), to Good Friday (remembering his death on the cross), and then often move my thoughts directly to the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter. However, this year I find myself contemplating the depth of Holy Saturday.

Why have I always rushed past it? Why is it an often forgotten about observation? This is the day we remember Christ being laid in the tomb. Perhaps it is because this is the most painful part. There is no more body for us to see on the cross. No more body to be prepared for burial, wrapped in linens and spices. The body is no longer in our midst. It is buried, sealed away in the tomb…for now.

We all are living in our own versions of Holy Saturday. Personally, I feel a connection with the recent loss of my mother. She died a few months ago, and this time without her is a sort of perpetual Holy Saturday. Her body is no longer with me. She has returned to the earth…for now. She is already living in light perpetual in the presence of God and all the saints, but for me, and my earthly body, I can no longer be with her. Not until I join her in the light of God’s presence.

But this is the hardest time. It is the time between the death and the rising for my eyes that I am living in. It is the hardest time. The time when faith is tried the most. When fears can easily give way to doubt. When the love I once knew so well can turn into remorse or anger. It is through Christ’s example of life, suffering, death, and resurrection that I can rest assured that my mother and I will be reunited someday. On her death bed, I told her that I believe when she awakes in heaven, we will all already be there together, resurrected in the time of eternity in the presence of God. Time has no meaning to God, and I believe that when we die of our earthly bodies, we not only enter our heavenly bodies, but we enter the realm of God’s time, where all earthly boundaries and explanations lose their meaning.

Mom is already with me. But for me, now, in this earthly body, I am living in a sort of ongoing Holy Saturday. We have Christ to thank for unlocking the gates of heaven for all of creation to receive the free gift of salvation into eternal life. Thanks be to God!


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Holy Saturday Reflection (Lent Day 40)

Holy Saturday, to me, is a day in the life of the church of mourning and remembrance of the life of Christ. And, most importantly, it is a day to acknowledge the end of Christ’s life, and yet the beginning of new life to come. It is in death that new, everlasting life begins. Death is not a thing to truly mourn…we mourn for those still on the earth. But we rejoice with those in heaven: the angels, the saints, and all of eternity, who rejoice at the everlasting life that was won for all in the death of Jesus on the cross. So, Holy Saturday is not a day that we mourn for ourselves…or even for Christ. We mourn for those who put Jesus to death…and who still put Jesus on the cross in their ignorance of the unconditional love that God has for all of us in Jesus Christ. We mourn for those who, each day, deny that love that is given freely to the world. Those people who live in darkness without acknowleding or embodying that love…and yet, just around the corner, just a day away, just a word away, is new and unending life. That day of Easter, of the empty tomb, of radiant light, is free for all of creation. It is for those who don’t see it that we mourn. And it is for all of us that Christ died and returns each day in our hearts.

The duteous day now closeth,
each flower and tree reposeth,
shade creeps o’er wild and wood:
let us, as night is falling,
on God our Maker calling,
give thanks to him, the Giver good.

Now all the heavenly splendor
breaks forth in starlight tender
from myriad worlds unknown;
and man, this marvel seeing,
forget his selfish being
for joy of beauty not his own.

His care he drowneth yonder,
lost in the abyss of wonder;
to heaven his soul doth steal:
this life he disesteemeth,
the day it is that dreameth,
that doth from truth his vision seal.

Awhile his mortal blindness
may miss God’s lovingkindness
and grope in faithless strife;
but when life’s day is over,
shall death’s fair night discover
the fields of everlasting life.

–Words: Paul Gerhardt, 1648; trans. Robert Seymour Bridges, 1899
–Tune: O WELT, ICH MUSS DICH LASSEN, melody att. Heinrich Isaac (1450?-1517); harm. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)


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Good Friday Reflection (Lent Day 39)

We simply cannot fathom the depth of the love that God has for us. We can only say “thank you” for that love, made known to us in the selfless life of Jesus Christ. Words cannot express what the life of Jesus has done for our world, for all of humankind and all of creation. Songs have been sung, scriptures have been written, monuments have been carved, and churches have been erected all to glorify God in Jesus Christ. But nothing comes close to compare to the glory that God enfleshed in Jesus Christ. On this Good Friday, all of creation mourns for the pain that Jesus endured as he was tortured and put to death on a cross, in deep humiliation and pain. We cannot say anything that will suffice. We can only say “thank you.”

There is a green hill far away,
outside a city wall,
where our dear Lord was crucified
who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell,
what pains he had to bear,
but we believe it was for us
he hung and suffered there.

He died that we might be forgiven,
he died to make us good,
that we might go at last to heaven,
saved by his precious blood.

There was no other good enough
to pay the price of sin,
he only could unlock the gate
of heaven and let us in.

O dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
and trust in his redeeming blood,
and try his works to do.

–Words: Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), 1848
–Tune: HORSLEY (William Horsley, 1774-1858)

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Maundy Thursday Reflection (Lent 38)

The rituals of Maundy Thursday are, to me, the most beautiful in our Christian tradition. This is the night when Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples, and washed their feet and commands them to love one another as he has loved them. It was after the Last Supper and washing the disciples’ feet that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemene to pray and was arrested. This last night of Jesus’s ministry was perhaps the most powerful. The one in which he tells his disciples to share that unconditional love to the world, and to make his love known to others in such acts of love.

At my church, we share an Agape Supper with each other every Maundy Thursday evening. It is something I look forward to every year. After the supper, we have a foot washing ceremony. When I first attended the Agape Supper years ago, this was a hard part for me to accept. But the foot washing brings to life those words of Jesus on his last night of freedom. We enact that love that Jesus has for us in washing each others’ feet. We pour the clean water over another’s feet and tenderly wipe them dry. And in doing so, we remember the love that Christ has for us, and that we have for each other as disciples of Christ.

Our tradition is, after the Agape Supper and footwashing, to process from the Parish Hall to the Church where we have the Maundy Thursday Eucharist. After the Eucharist, we symbolically strip the altar bare of all adornment. The only thing left is the cross, which we shroud in black cloth. The bare altar is a visible reminder of Christ being arrested and taken from us.

These traditions are powerful physical reminders of Christ’s obedient call to be arrested, tortured, and crucified. Just as each Christian is called to obediently resist evil and hate, and to embrace love and charity, we remind ourselves of that nakedness and vulnerability that each of us must embody through stripping the altar bare.

Photo (c) 2012 courtesy of Don Vish

Photo (c) 2012 courtesy of Don Vish

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Holy Wednesday Reflection (Lent 37)

One of my favorite prayers in my Church’s tradition discusses the eternal changelessness of God. The prayer reads:

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours
of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and
chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The fact that God is changless is a hard concept to fathom. We cannot begin to grasp who God is, or what God is like. Our language and thought capacity fail us, though we try. I believe that the closest we may get to understand God is in Jesus Christ, God’s perfect revelation of God’s self to the world. In Christ’s life, passion, death, and rising again, we are made one with God. Thanks be to God!

Sunset to sunrise changes now,
for God doth make his world anew;
on the Redeemer’s thorn-crowned brow
the wonders of that dawn we view.

E’en though the sun withholds its light,
lo! a more heavenly lamp shines here,
and from the cross on Calvary’s height
gleams of eternity appear.

Here in o’er-whelming final strife
the Lord of life hath victory,
and sin is slain, and death brings life,
and earth inherits heaven’s key.

Words: Clement of Alexandria (170?-220?); para. Howard Chandler Robbins (1876-1952)

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Holy Monday Reflection (Lent 35)

We begin Holy Week with a triumphant shout of “Hosanna in the highest!” as we remember Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, and the people spreading their cloaks and palm branches on the path he followed into the city. This beginning of Holy Week starts with this triumph and pomp and circumstance. And yet we know how it will end.

As Holy Week begins, we turn our journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. And we ask ourselves: what would we have done? If we had been there, would we have been one of the people waving palm branches as Jesus entered the city? Or would we have been one of those in the crowd shouting: “Crucify him!”

I’d like to think that I might be the one who welcomed Jesus by spreading my garment on the path, and shouting “Hosanna in the highest!” And yet, each day, in the sins that I make, I am actually shouting “Crucify him!” The absolutely unbelievably beautiful thing is that, even those who shouted “Crucify him!” were loved by him. Christ loves us all. Even when we fail. We cannot escape that grace and love that Christ made known to us. Thanks be to God!

palm sunday

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Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow

Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
where the blood of Christ was shed,
perfect Man on thee did suffer,
perfect God on thee has bled!

Here the King of all the ages,
throned in light ere worlds could be,
robed in mortal flesh is dying,
crucified by sin for me.

O mysterious condescending!
O abandonment sublime!
Very God himself is bearing
all the sufferings of time!

Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
where the blood of Christ was shed,
perfect Man on thee did suffer,
perfect God on thee has bled!

Words: William J. Sparrow-Simpson (1860-1952)
Music: Cross of Jesus by John Stainer (1840-1901)

–From the album Hymns Through the Ages, sung by the Beverly Hills All Saints’ Episcopal Church Choir.

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Ah, Holy Jesus


1) Contemporary version by Sufjan Stevens:

2) Piano only version, played by Eric Wyse:

3) Organ only version, played by William Neil:

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
for our atonement, while we nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.

Words: Johann Heermann (1585-1647); trans. Robert Seymour Bridges (1844-1930)
Music: Herzliebster Jesu (later form of melody by Johann Crüger, 1598-1662, arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685-1750)

— 1) From the album Silver & Gold by Sufjan Stevens.

— 2) From the album Reflections Volume 2 – 60 More Songs of Devotions by Eric Wyse.

— 3) From the album He is Risen! – Favorite Hymns of the Easter Season by William Neil.

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