Preparing for Passion Week (or Holy Week)

As I am working on my Passion Week pastoring (preaching on Maundy Thursday/Tenebrae, reading on Good Friday, preaching at Easter sunrise, leading in Easter worship later in the morning), I am also preparing to speak about journeying with Jesus through Passion Week for the Intervarsity chapter at the University at Geneseo, about 25 miles from where I live, this Friday evening. I found it helpful to listen to Peter Marshall’s stirring narrative sermon, Where You There, last night. You can find this on YouTube. I don’t preach like Marshall (few can), but my preaching is always enriched by listening to or reading his sermons (there are several books of his collected sermons). He was a master of narrative preaching. The conclusion of that sermon never fails to stun and thrill me.

Last Sunday I told–rather than reading it–John 12:1-8 and then preached it in narrative style without notes. I didn’t post the manuscript on my blog, but it can be viewed on the Perinton Presbyterian Facebook page. The hymn that followed the message is a rather new and uncommon one, “A Prophet-Woman Broke a Jar,” which touches the several anointing of Jesus narratives in the gospel (the poetry of the hymn is beautiful and scripturally sound). If you don’t know that hymn, look it up. That passage, John 12:1-8, right before John has the entrance of Jesus on that borrowed donkey into Jerusalem, got me into the spirit and rhythm of Passion Week. From it follows the entry of our Lord into Jerusalem, which begins his and our Passion Week, the week unlike any other.

Some suggestions that I will give the Intervarsity chapter, and offer you:

–Read less scripture next week, but read it more. I will limit my daily Bible reading to the passion in John starting in chapter 12, reading slowly and re-reading more than I usually do.

–Select one gospel as your guide and stay with its treatment of Passion Week. Start at Matthew 21, or Mark 11, or Luke 19, or John 12 and keep reading that gospel through the week until its resurrection account.

–Consider some form of fasting, whether from food, electronics, etc., as spiritual discipline. Fasting should never be legalistic. Don’t fast in ways that are harmful to your health. Fasting can serve as a reminder to pay greater attention to greater realities.

–Be in gathered worship on Thursday and Friday in anticipation of Sunday. We don’t hurry to Easter; we journey with Jesus on the path to his resurrection. If your worshiping community doesn’t have services on both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, you likely can find one near you that does. (If you live in the greater Rochester area, I invite you to the services at Perinton Presbyterian.)

Today I continue to work on these ministry assignments and ponder the wonder and glory of Passion Week. Lord, prepare my head, heart, and hands and feet for the journey of Passion Week. I want to follow you. Amen.

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