From Our Pastor

Holy Week

Posted 13 April, 2017 by Pastor Keith Ritchie

I write this letter on Maundy Thursday, just a few hours before our service of worship at 7pm. I look forward to this service, knowing this to be a powerful and blessed time. Jesus told us to do this in remembrance of him, so we worship and remember. (See Bill Curlee's artwork for Maundy Thursday.)

Tomorrow, we gather for a noon Crosswalk service. This service begins at First Church. We have partnered with Wesley Memorial for several years in offering this service. I find this to be an inspired time in which through song, prayer, and scripture, we are drawn closer to Christ and experience anew his suffering love for us.

On Sunday at 7am, we remember the women's discovery of the empty tomb. A new addition to this service this year will be the placement of a fire pit on the front lawn of the church where the service is held.

This fire will be part of this service for several reasons. It will remind us of Christ as the light of the world. It will remind us of the light of the resurrection breaking into the darkness of death. It will remind us of how Jesus, raised from the dead, spoke with his disciple, Peter, by a charcoal fire. Finally, the light from this fire will be used to light the Paschal Candle during the 11am service.

During the 11am service, we conclude our time with the encounters between Jesus and the many persons of the gospel of John. The encounter before us this week is between Jesus and Mary Magdalene; an encounter held by the empty tomb. Thanks to Sharon Clanton for her painting of a scene appropriate to this scripture, the painting found in our Lenten devotionals. The Chancel Choir will also sing "A Jubilant Song" with special accompaniment during this service.

Yes, this is a demanding time of year in the life of the church - and I would not have it any other way. In these services of worship I always experience the presence of our life-giving and victorious God anew. In these services of worship, I discover again a God who gives all he can and does all he can to bring us into relationship with him.

In 2004, after a week in the hospital, my mother died of congestive heart failure at the age of 84. She died the day before Easter. I'm sure the church I then served would have understood had I not led worship on Easter. However, I led worship on Easter. Not to have done so would have been another loss for me. Not to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus - especially now that my mother had died - was unthinkable to me.

Having worship on Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday, I am grateful to anticipate proclaiming the good news of resurrection Easter morning. To do otherwise is not an option.

I ask for your prayers as Paula and I leave for a week's vacation at the Outer Banks after Sunday services. Maegan Mitchell will lead worship on April 23rd; Tim Gearheart of Wesley Memorial UMC is on call.