At a time that seems now like years ago, but was probably just the beginning of the semester, we who plan and lead worship at the Chapel looked at the calendar and were amazed by how late Easter is this year. It’s nearly as late as it can be. (Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon in a Northern Hemisphere spring so the latest possible date is April 25. We’re missing that by just four days!) It felt, to me, like we’d be waiting forever.
Now the time is here! Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday this Sunday.
Lots of other stuff is here too. There are papers to write (and read and grade), exams to design, take and grade. Conferences and job applications and other plans for the summer to think and stress out about.
Just before beginning this writing assignment, I reworked my checklist for the week, taking it from “desired but impossible” to “necessary and challenging.”
“April is a marathon,” said someone in my hearing just recently. It was an expression of resignation.
“Marathon.” Twenty-six point two miles of grueling work. They say that it killed the guy who ran the first one.
I know that there are passionate long-distance runners among us, but for the rest of us, this sounds like something best to be avoided. And yet, there is no getting out of it. April has begun. The marathon has been joined.
The temptation for many of us will be to see Holy Week and its calls to worship as an intrusion upon all that needs to be done. After all, it’s not always this late in the semester. We usually have more time, or different time, or something that doesn’t feel like this harried pace. It might feel like the best course of action, the best use of time is to keep running right through it all.
On the other hand, Holy Week and its invitations of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday along with the opportunity of this year’s “Were you there?” narratives, offer, not an intrusion, but a refocusing respite and time of renewal.
Along the marathon course, volunteers stand with energy drinks at the ready. Experienced runners know to drink before they feel thirsty or risk dehydration.
Perhaps in light of your deadlines, you’ll have to make adjustments this year. If you’re a student, you might decide to stay on campus over the Easter weekend because you know you won’t get any writing done if you go home. Each of us needs to plan our work and work our plan.
I encourage you to work worship into it. Not because it’s something you owe God (we owe God more) or because it makes you a better person (it might), but because the rhythm of Christ’s dying and rising empowers every day of a Christian’s life. It is the reality in which we ground our value as a people bought with a price. It is Christ’s victory over all-that-threatens-to-destroy that makes our daily work – all of the creative things with which we fill our calendars – have any lasting value.
My plan for this year is to take the time, from the beginning of worship on Thursday night to the end of the service on Easter Sunday, and set it apart. Yes, there might be some quiet reading. I’ll probably need to do laundry and I’ll spend part of that time thinking through a sermon for Easter Sunday, but I’ll not be scurrying about, from one thing to another in an effort to get all of the boxes on my list checked. It will, instead, be time for rest and resurrection.
April 10, 2019
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