It’s a Three Day Weekend!

Easter Vigil at Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection in 2023.

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 related to the word “mandate” that references Jesus’ mandate that his followers love one another as they have been loved by him. At our 7 p.m. service at the Chapel, we’ll celebrate the love that Jesus offers. Then, we’ll act on it by offering foot washing as Jesus – in counter-cultural selfless service – washed his 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 of) 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, a symbol of the risen Christ. Then we’ll light a new candle from that fire and carry it into the Chapel where, in semi-darkness, we’ll share rescue and salvation stories from the Bible, like the Great Flood, the Exodus, and the Three Men in the Furnace. These show how God has always pulled life out of death. Then, we’ll remember how God has done the same for us through the waters of our baptism. After that, we’ll hear the account of Jesus’ resurrection and announce the news again that that tomb did not hold Jesus but that he has been raised and is alive today and gather for the Lord’s Supper to celebrate the presence of the risen Jesus among his people.

Then, we’ll gather Sunday morning at 10 a.m. to celebrate the Resurrection some more. 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 and are 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.

Pr. Jim

Rev. Katherine Museus and Rev. James A. Wetzstein serve as university pastors at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University and take turns writing weekly devotions.

March 27, 2024