Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Week

Holy Week

As we were setting my schedule when I first arrived, Rev. Kristen Brown said I would be attending Holy Week events with her.  I had no idea what all would be involved and how much I would learn.

I continue to pray for you, the readers of this blog.  We serve a mighty God!  Being in Jerusalem, in the old city, turns thoughts to it's history.  Jerusalem's history contains His story of salvation for all people.   

Palm Sunday

Opening Prayer at St. Andrews 

for Palm Sunday

     When Jesus came into Jerusalem for that last supper the crowds were singing and dancing, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” Palms were waiving and coats were tossed on the ground---all for the victorious One, Hosanna in the highest. No matter that he came on a donkey instead of a white steed. He had arrived past soldiers and checkpoints to deliver the people. Even the stones were shouting out and could not be silenced. What were the stones crying out? What are they crying out now? Are we listening to our still speaking God in the land many call holy? Or have we blocked up our ears or worse silenced God?

     Many people come to the holy land to see the places where the sacred story took place---where the shepherds camped that cold starry night, where Jesus was born, crucified and resurrected. They come to feel the holiness imagining the story took place here and here and here. They come to visit the old stones. Now this is an important part of pilgrimage but this is not all we must do. We must also listen to the living stones, the Christian Arabs, the Muslims, the Jews who are suffering now, crying out under an occupation that many call not only illegal but a sin against humanity.

    We must put our ear to the ground and hear the marching steps of both the soldiers coming for another early morning raid and children playing in a dusty alleyway. We must put our ear to the ground and ear the buzz of a Caterpillar bulldozer demolishing another home and a group of men dancing the dakbe at a wedding. We must put our ear to the ground and hear the cries of a woman who is crying herself to sleep because her husband, her son, her daughter have just been arrested without charge and are now being tortured in a prison somewhere she can’t get to. We must put our ear to the ground and hear the gentle whisper of olive leaves in the wind that are saying, “ This is us, Palestine, our roots run deep, nothing can uproot us from our land.”
     Our still speaking, crying, shouting, whispering God calls us today to follow Him down the Mount of Olives, into the upper room,  the garden of Gethsemane, the Via Dolorosa all the way to the cross. And finally, we who have been entombed ourselves, are asked to roll away the stone and behold the angel, allow the holy fire to fill us. We who know what death looks and smells like are asked to believe in life everlasting based on an empty tomb. This is our holy week mission and it begins today. Let the church say Amen.

Written and used in the service by Rev. Loren Mc Grail, Global Ministries United Church of Christ,  Ecumenical Partner with Church of Scotland.

During the event that our celebration of Palm Sunday remembers, Jesus was praised as the Mesiah and king.  We know from Scriptures after the events that we refer to as Holy Week, he is alive, our savior and reigning king in the Kingdom of Light.

The call to be a part of the kingdom Jesus established is a call we all should take seriously.  In the prayer Jesus taught us to say, we pray, "your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."

Jesus was serious about us post Easter people understanding His kingdom teaching.  Acts 1:3 tells us that after Jesus' resurrection "...He appeared to them (believers) over a period of forty days and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God."

Hearing praises in many languages was a taste of heaven.

At the end of this day Kristen and I had walked slightly over 11 K in the hot sun, having had many experiences to ponder.  Wish I had time and space to share more from Palm Sunday.

 Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday was not as an important day in my celebration of the Easter season as it will be after this Holy Week in Jerusalem.

I suggest a video on YouTube, 71 Maundy Thursday Chuck Knows Church.

Maundy comes from a Latin word that means commandment.  Maundy Thursday is a day to remember the new commandment Jesus gave the night of the last supper.  John 13:34, "Love One Another. "

Our rememberence service in the old city began with reflection and communion.  We then walked from the church in the old city to the church located on the grounds of the garden where Jesus prayed.

 Seeing Rev. Kristen Brown,  our Methodist Liaison,  participating  as clergy, brought my praises to God for the gender equality championed in the United Methodist Church.   Meeting people I knew along the way helps me see how God's love creates family.

The Bishops carrying the cross were able to live into Jesus' new commandment to love; they had to forgive those who spat on them and the cross as it passed. 

Good (Bad) Friday

What we refer to as Good Friday for most Christians here it is titled Bad Friday.  In Jerusalem it is remembered by walking through the Old City.  The Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross are titles given to the walk.   This walk includes the locations in Jerusalem where Jesus journeyed after his condemnation as he carried his cross to the place where he was to be crucified.

At each of 14 stations Scripture, meditations and prayers are offered.  We sang hymns as we walked.

There were many other groups walking, it was important to follow the right cross.

At some locations our view and the devotional atmosphere was blocked by things we would rather not have seen.

Our walk ended in a beautiful church in Old City Jerusalem where we prayed, were led in prayers and sat in silent meditation before the cross.  A lovely and needed ending to the walk.

Holy Saturday Ceremony

The Great and Holy Saturday event when the Holy Light emerges from the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is explained in an article written bu Dr. John Tleel in the Easter Alert on the Kairos Palestine web,

He states that this Holy Light remains a mystery.  "Interpretations and explanations, beliefs and fantasies continue to occupy the minds of simple people, as well big minds of all times.  The cermony is enriched with several extremely symbolic and historic component, which elevate the atmosphere to the highest religious and unique emotional conditioning."

In the article he explains the cermony and shares his "deep personal conviction on the momentary, moment when earth meets heaven, only once a year."

The article goes on to explain, that when the Patriarch comes out of the Edicue, he raises the burning candles, blesses the crowd and the bells of the Holy Sepulchre ring the crowds are full of thanks to God.  They hurry to have their candles lit, to take this Different Light from all the other lights of our unstable and embattled region and the world today, to their homes, to their shops, towns, cities, countries and abroad.

The Palestinian Christian boy and girl scouts are ready to parade, drum and play their bagpipes as part of the joyful pandemonium in the streets of the Old City and beyoud.

Denied Entry

Sadly, we were not allowed in to be a part of this joy.  We were denied entry,  physically pushed, no reason given.

In my heart, I had to depend on God's grace not to hold animosity toward the worshipers of other faiths who were being allowed entry to their worship ceremonies.

Biet Sahour

Having been denied entry, we moved on to Biet Sahour.  The Christians in this near by village were celebrating the Holy Light event that had happened in Jerusalem as they waited for the Holy Light to be brought to their  village.

Holy Fire Arrives from Jerusalem

It was my learning experience as I celebrated the Holy Saturday tradition with Palestinian Christians.  Waiting with them as they waited for the Holy Light to arrive from Jerusalem and being with them as they carried it into their homes and got it ready to pass on to others.

Jesus is the Light of the world. 
Holy Saturday is a reminder that we are called to pass Christ's light to others!

Easter Sun Rise Service

I attended the Sunrise service, referred to as the dawn service, at St Andrew's Scots Memorial Church.  Rev. Kristen Brown,  the Methodist Liaison,  is an ecumenical partner at this church.  She provided music and accompaniment on her flute.

The sun did not shine at dawn, but the church bells rang from many locations in Jerusalem. 

Easter Breakfast

St. Andrew's provided an excellent breakfast before the morning service.  There were colored eggs from Bethlehem.   Helen, who is blind, taught me a Palestinian tradition, finding out who has the strongest colored egg.

Easter Morning Worship

"Christ has Risen, He has truly Risen, Hallelujah! "