Holy Week is upon us which means there is one thing playing on repeat in my house, car, phone, and anywhere else I listen to music, Jesus Christ Superstar. I love this musical, and as a former theatre kid that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Holy Week, for those that need a refresher, starts with Palm Sunday, where Jesus rides into the city of Jerusalem, continues with Maundy Thursday, the observance of the last supper and the start of the new covenant through communion, going through Good Friday where we observe the death of Jesus, and finally ending on Easter Sunday where we celebrate the resurrection.
The musical Jesus Christ Superstar, for those who have never listened to it, follows a similar timeline. It starts just before Palm Sunday, and ends around Easter. The show does something that I consider to be incredibly rare, which is painting Judas in a sympathetic light. In my book (which is available now through the store), I intended on having a chapter about Judas Iscariot and how most preachers, teachers, and church leaders get him wrong. The same can be said with the Pharisees, and that is they are not the bad guys. Too often we need a good and bad example, because living in the gray is harder to navigate. But Holy Week takes place in the gray areas, and aside from how great the score and lyrics are, I’m convinced that’s why this musical will endure. Getting into the complexities of the situation, and not glossing over the story as Holy Week often does (I say glossing over, but most of our services aren’t designed to engage the material, just regurgitate it).
This is a time of year that, as I have gotten older have really grown to appreciate and love. It started when we lived in Grand Rapids and the church we attended moved away from their Jewish roots stuff, and started to adopt more traditional liturgical practices. When we left that church and started attending a reformed church with some friends, that started on Ash Wednesday. From there, we moved to Columbus and started attending a church that really reinvigorated my love of the church when it is trying its best. If we had stayed there, I would have been content in never working in professional ministry again. And it was there that really grew my love of Holy Week, even though we only had one full experience there (we moved in the middle of Holy Week in 2020). In those services space was created for reflection, the remembrance that death will come, but like Spring, something always comes back around even if it is in ways we don’t expect it. Plus, the communion bread was made fresh for every service, and there is something about that intentional care that can never be topped by a wafer.
This year, I find myself in an interesting spot. Normally I am eagerly anticipating each service, but now as every day passes there are two count down clocks. The first is, the pastor I work with leaves on April 24th and there is a large unknown mountain ahead of us through that. The second, the one that has most of my attention, is that my wife is inching closer to delivering our son. This last one has had me terrified for about 30-some weeks, because if all goes well, there will be at least three of us in our circle for the rest of my life. The same reverence that I’ve had for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, making space for the known and unknown has me a little more freaked out. Before there was some weight, but this year it feels like a millstone around my neck.
I recognize that this all may sound mellow dramatic, but it is in the forefront of my mind this year.
May your week be filled with new birth, or the revitalization of a part of your life you thought was long dead, but is now back in a healthier way.
Grace and peace.