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Holy Week

Yesterday, I paid a visit to a minister friend up in Indianapolis, something we had scheduled together a few weeks ago. He told me that it was the tradition of their church community and denomination to have a Stations of the Cross service during Holy Week - a way to travel the path Jesus walked as he went from public enemy to crucified King. I had never participated in a Stations of the Cross service, so I was looking forward to it. I was familiar enough with the service to know it had fourteen different stations, fourteen different readings from the Bible, and fourteen different "depictions" - small works of art that graphically showed a specific scene.

At 10:00 am, I gathered in the mid-century sanctuary of St. John's Episcopalian Church, as the minister, Father Jeff Bower, began leading us through the stations ... first, Jesus is condemned to death ... second, Jesus carries his cross ... third, Jesus falls for the first time ... and on and on to the burial of our Lord. At every station, there was a small wooden carving depicting the scene, and as a small group of us silently gazed at the floor or the carving, Father Bower led us through the readings and the prayers. It was a rather humble service, nothing too dramatic. Fairly stoic as liturgies can be. Yet, as the service began, the sound of rain began to fill the sanctuary. I did not know it, but at that very hour the first of what has been a swath of large storms was careening across Indiana. By the time we were nearing the fourteenth and last station, the rain became a deluge. We ended the service on our knees, before the cross of Christ, with the rain pounding above our heads. I could not help but equate the rain with tears, shed freely and fully like the tears of God that fell on that first Good Friday. The rain was deafening and drowning. Was that what it was like on Golgotha?

It seems that this week has been an apt one for this Holy Week - full of storms and turbulence, a mixture of peace and chaos, of cold and warmth. It has me listening to a lot of soul music - stuff like Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. There's a version of the old gospel tune "Were You There" on a Sam and the Soul Stirrers compilation album that I particularly enjoy, the same tune that Patrick sang last year during our Good Friday service and the same that Bradley will be singing this Friday. The way Sam Cooke sings it, you can't help but feel the emotion. Emotion is - after all - what this week is about.

In our Bible Study this past Sunday, we got to talking about what the cross means for us and to us, and we did some explaining about what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross. But, as we discussed on Sunday, the joy and the mystery of the cross, much like this week itself, is that it is not to be explained, but to be experienced. It goes deeper than the mind ... into the soul, like a good blues song ... if we allow it.

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One other story from my time up in Indy yesterday. After the service, yesterday, Jeff Bower and I stood in the narthex. Together, we talked with a few of the others who joined us for the service. After a while, the others started to head off again - back to work or off to do this or that. Eventually, it got towards lunch time, and Jeff and I headed out to his car to go grab lunch. We didn't get very far. In the short time between 11 and noon, a sea of water had swelled around the church, the run-off from all those rain-tears. Again, another Holy Week story come to life ... this one tied to the our more ancient story stemming from the Israelite escape from slavery: a sea before us, but - thankfully - no Pharaoh and his mighty chariots behind us. We were trapped, in need of deliverance. We did our best to laugh it off, and eventually walked our way around where we could and headed off to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. After an hour or so of eating and catching up, we returned. Hallelujah! The waters subsided ... the way was made clear for deliverance back to my home.

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May your own week be full of God's peace and grace as we continue to experience these holy days,

Wes

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