Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reflections on Lent and Holy Week

I have found that if there is one major difference about Lent as an employee of a church versus simply being a church member is that as an employee you are held much more accountable for your Lenten disciplines than you are as a church member. I made it no secret that I had given up junk food for Lent (no soda, cookies, candy, chips, fast food, etc), and people didn't let me forget; especially the youth that I work with. One Sunday night, during youth group, I had brought strawberries and whip cream for the kids to snack on. I had a strawberry with whip cream and one of the kids started to give me the third degree for eating whip cream. I never thought of whip cream as junk food, it's more of a condiment, but after that point I didn't eat whip cream.

But there was more to Lent than not eating junk food. I taught my first Pre-Communion (First Communion) class. It was a small class of just four kids, but I really enjoyed it. And, after five weeks, when Maundy Thursday rolled around and it was time to give communion to the kids for the first time, I was almost in tears. I don't think that I have ever been a part of or worshiped in a Maundy Thursday service that moved me as much as that one did. Communion, especially now, has lost some of it's luster, but seeing the pure joy and excitement in the eyes of the children as they held out their hands and received communion for the first time was enough to make anyone's heart leap with joy. And then to see the parents overflowing with joy as their child fully enters into relationship (communion if you will) with the rest of the congregation, there was so much joy present in that moment. I don't know if I will ever be able to top that Maundy Thursday experience.

Good Friday service was enjoyable, but the Easter Vigil was another special experience. Instead of just having people read through the many readings of the night, people volunteered to read and had creative liberty to do as they wished. Some simply read, some did a creative narrative retelling, but one parent was rather creative. He read through the passage of Ezekiel talking about the dry bones and each time he said "dry bones" he had the half a dozen kids that he had up there with him shake, rattle and roll the various instruments that they had. The kids got so into it, it was hard not to smile at this somber passage.

Easter Sunday came, bright and early with the sunrise service at 7am. It was a small service, but it somehow set the day apart from other Sundays. Not to say that Easter Sunday is just any Sunday, but it somehow changed the tone for the rest of the day. And perhaps one of the most joyful parts of the day for me (and simply because it is something that I have wanted to do since I was a kid) was to stand at the front of the congregation, at the start of the service, before announcements were given and say, "Alleluia, He is Risen!!!" And then have the congregation respond, "He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!!!" There is power and joy in those words and it is such a different experience to say those words from the other side of the pew.

All in all, I enjoyed Lent and Holy week. Holy week was not nearly as stressful as I thought that it was, but maybe that is simply because I am an intern right now and not a full blown pastor. But I think that with one Holy week under my belt now, I can say that I can look forward to another ... and another ... and another (you get the idea).

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