I’m sure there are a few important dates that remain on your calendar year after year. There are happy days like birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and reminders of major life changes. And there may be a few sad days as well, like the anniversary of the death of a loved one that likely is not marked on paper but does not pass unnoticed. We make an effort to remember and commemorate these days because they tell us something about ourselves and help us remember who we are.
When God miraculously delivered the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt they didn’t just pack up and leave immediately. God gave them a way to celebrate the occasion with a Passover meal which he instructed them to continue to reenact for generations to come. Passover is the first festival on what would become the liturgical calendar of the Jewish people. Over the course of a year the liturgical calendar tells the story of God’s relationship with Israel through feasts and fasts that repeat in an annual cycle so that they are reminded who they are.
Christians have our own liturgical calendar that helps us remember and embody the story of our own redemption through Jesus. We may know all the facts about Jesus: born in Bethlehem, baptized in the Jordan river, crucified at Golgotha, raised from he tomb, and ascended to heaven. If I already know the whole story I may be tempted to overlook the call of church calendar to follow Jesus through a year of events. It may seem like a pointless imaginative exercise to walk through the pain of Holy Week if you already know that it all ends with the resurrection.
But as we have said many times this year (thanks to James K. A. Smith), we are not just brains on sticks. We are embodied people formed by stories, shaped by passions, and we ultimately become what we love. We can actually be made more like Jesus as we follow him faithfully through the Church Year. Our true knowledge of Jesus doesn’t come through reciting the facts but though identifying with him through feasting and fasting, through knowing him in suffering and joy. As the Apostle Paul wrote, I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:10-11).
This week let the story of Jesus’ suffering, betrayal, and death break into your week and redirect your steps. Accept the invitation to stay close through his darkest hours by reading his story, walking the Stations of the Cross, and sitting at his feet at the time of his death through worship on Good Friday. I find that it is far less like an imaginative emotional exercise than like grieving the death of someone beloved. When we live into these days in an embodied way we find that God’s abundant grace meets us there and transforms us.
And finally, we follow Jesus through his story all the way to the tomb. We sit and wait in the darkness and hope beyond all hope that we will be with him again. When Jesus rises from the dead on Easter we know that his victory is our victory and that his resurrected life will be ours as well. We celebrate in the company of others who have walked with Jesus in order to remember that they are being made like him.
Join Restoration for Stations of the Cross from 4-7 pm and a Good Friday Service at 7 pm on Friday, April 14. And plan to celebrate the resurrection with us on Easter Sunday, April 16 at 10 am.