We’re about to head into the biggest weekend of the year at the Chapel of the Resurrection. It’s the celebration of the history-making event from which the Chapel gets its name: the resurrection of Jesus on the first Easter.
Like any great three day weekend, we get started the night before with Maundy Thursday, a name that is related to the word “mandate” and references Jesus’ mandate that his followers love one another they have been loved by him. At our 7 p.m. service at the Chapel, we’ll celebrate the love that Jesus offers and then we’ll begin to act on it by providing those in attendance with an opportunity to have their feet washed, just as Jesus – in an act of counter-cultural selfless service – washed his own followers’ feet. Yet, Jesus’ self-sacrifice doesn’t end there. The service will conclude with our remembrance of Jesus’ arrest and complete abandonment. The Chapel will be in total darkness.
It’s a three day weekend, but things are about to get heavy.
Friday is called “Good” because the day centers on Jesus’ willing sacrifice for all of humanity and the whole creation through his complete humiliation and shameful death on a criminal’s cross. Crucifixion was a complete humiliation. The goal was to strip every shred of dignity from the accused. Jesus willingly takes on this shame as his own. His intention is to take on your shame (for whatever you might be ashamed) as his own as well. By the end of our service that starts at noon (Jesus was hung on the cross at noonday) we’ll be singing our praises to the cross because it is the instrument by which Jesus takes our shame away from us. So we call the day “good.”
The Biblical accounts of the crucifixion tell us that after Jesus died, some of his followers asked to take his body so that they might give it a decent burial, they do this before sundown on Friday. It would seem that the story of Jesus has come to an end.
God’s stories never end in death.
On Saturday night beginning at 8 p.m, we’ll gather at the Chapel to light a fire in the darkness, then we’ll light a new candle from that fire and carry it into the small lower chapel, called Gloria Christi, and in the semi-darkness, we’ll share stories from the Bible, like the Great Flood, the Exodus and the Three Men in the Furnace, that show how God has always pulled life out of death. We’ll introduce a new believer into the death defying action of God through the gift of Holy Baptism and then we’ll announce the news again, that Jesus was not held by that tomb but has been raised and is alive today and we’ll gather for the Lord’s Supper to celebrate the presence of the risen Jesus among his people.
Then Sunday morning at 10 a.m., we’ll gather again. A celebration like this lasts all weekend long.
You’re welcome to join in any part of this weekend. You’re especially invited if you’ve never been before, especially if you don’t really understand what’s going on, especially if you’re not sure that you believe any of it.
God never waits for us to have it all figured out before the gifts of life are given.
Peace be with you.
March 28, 2018
Rev. James A. Wetzstein serves as one of our university pastors at Valpo and takes turns writing weekly reflections.