Holy Week is the greatest of all weeks for Christians. Many churches have various celebrations throughout the entire week. I have already commented on Maundy Thursday. Today is Good (in the East it is Great) Friday. This darkest of days, when our Lord was crucified, is a good, or great, day because on this day our salvation was secured by the action of Jesus our Lord. When I am now asked, "When were you saved?," I answer, "On a Friday outside of Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago!"

In reality Christians are saved by all the actions of this entire three-day period from Thursday evening to early on Easter morning. I was reminded last evening, as we left the Maundy Thursday service in silence, that Lent has come to an end. The preparation is finished. Now we retrace the last days and hours of Jesus’ death and resurrection remembering that this is where our hope truly lies for eternal life.

At the conclusion of the Thursday service the table and sanctuary are stripped of all adornments. The elements of bread and wine are removed, the Holy Scriptures are taken from the pulpit, the beautifully colored Scripture banners removed from our church walls, and the purple coverings and white cloth taken from the table of the Lord. This is all done to quietly remind us in symbol that our Lord was stripped of everything in order to go to the cross for our salvation.

No benediction is given on Thursday evening because the whole of these days is seen as one continuous service. We departed in silence, ready to continue the celebration of the Three Days on Good Friday. I awoke this morning to continue what I entered into last evening.

For those evangelicals who resist this as mere ritualism I ask: "How can you so easily dismiss this ancient practice, rooted so directly in the gospel and Holy Scripture, while you make a big deal over Mother’s Day and July 4th?" For those who do enter into these holy rituals I urge you to prepare your heart deeply and participate in holy faith. This is why Lent was so special, since it prepared me for these hours. Sadly, in the church of my birth we celebrated Christmas and Easter and that was it. (We didn’t even celebrate Good Friday in my childhood church.) I could never go back to this kind of Christian practice. One reason I share in the life of the church, and there are dozens of good reasons to do so, is because you cannot celebrate these kinds of things in private with the same effect and meaning. You need a body of believers, real flesh and blood people, to sit at a table, to take a meal together, to wash one another’s feet, and to sing with profound joy in the midst of a congregation of redeemed people.   

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  1. Steve Scott April 6, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    In regards to tradition, I find the Scriptures most helpful of all. St. Paul said (I’ve never before referred to him as St.) one man regards one day above another, another man regards every day alike. And let each man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Those who write tradition off as mere ritualism make the following error: because tradition has the danger of becoming ritualism, and because this has happened many times throughout history, the observing of tradition is necessarily ritualism. As you’ve shown, this is obviously false.
    As one who has a history of belonging to non-traditionalist or even anti-traditionalist groups, I am now finding others’ traditions a great help to them. Good for all of them. But it should also be pointed out that those who view non-traditionalists as somehow less spiritual, less worshipful, missing out on something (dare I say that traditionalists can have their own version of second blessing theology?) or more prone to heresy, are making, in essence, the opposite error.
    My church does Christmas, Easter, Reformation Day and most Good Fridays. Sometimes I wish we did more, but sometimes I’m glad we don’t.

  2. Rich April 6, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Though “non-traditionalists” and “anti-traditionalists” may be preserved from heartless ritualism, they run an even greater risk of losing all touch with the “Great Tradition” – the tradition of faith handed down to us, including, but not limited to, the scriptures. I concur with John on this one – how could anyone not want to share in the rich heritage and precious treasure of the ancient church? But I’ll admit my bias… I can’t imagine Paul, the other Apostles, or even Jesus ultimately arguing for “non-tradition” or “anti-tradition” in the first place!

  3. A Friend in Jesus April 7, 2007 at 7:08 am

    Holy week is truly a great reminder of God’s love on us and his victory over sin and death. I agree with your post very much. May God bless your family and Happy “Resurrection” Easter!!!

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