The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


March 18, 2008

Holy Week

It's Holy Week, and I've received a number of email responses from frazzled pastors, congregation staff and synod staff to that effect. Many pastors are busy writing a sermon a day, if not more. Others are helping the youth plan Easter breakfast, decorating the sancturary and planning worship services that will help members and visitors alike experience the Passion journey.

I usually mark Lent and Holy Week the way many Lutherans do, by attending weekly Wednesday services, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday remembrances. I've been known to take the 2 a.m. slot in the prayer vigil. And then there's the tenebrae services and, finally, the Easter celebration, which I usually attend with my parents and grandmother.

This year I'm doing it differently. I'll be traveling with a group of friends to Kentucky for a three-day backpacking trip. And I've been thinking about how that experience might relate to Holy Week.

Of course, any journey in the wilderness recalls our Lenten remembrance of Jesus' trial and temptation in the desert. I find it interesting that the Matthew text reads: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (4:1). Jesus' sojourn into the wilderness seems to be for the purpose of being tempted.

I won't be in the desert for forty days, of course. But to some small degree, I'll be far from the comforts of home. There will be stones to make my ankles twist and footing unsure. If someone offered to turn those stones to bread, I'd probably take them up on it.

I'm especially looking forward to this trip because it will offer a terrain different from that we usually encounter in Illinois or Wisconsin.

We'll be in Kentucky cave country, which means the Easter readings about the empty tomb and astonished women finding Jesus instead of a gardener will be especially relevant. What would it be like to expect a sealed tomb, but to find that the stone has been rolled away and one's beloved teacher is not dead, but Resurrected?

So I'm marking Holy Week differently. I won't be in the company of a traditional congregation, rather a group of ten fellow hikers in their own wildernesses. But I expect the commemoration will be just as powerful.

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