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Bishop Russell's message for Holy Week


Leave it to a child to ask the question that we older children of God think about but don't say out loud. This was a question asked to me by a little girl a few years ago after a Palm Sunday service. She came up to me and said, “Father Russell, I don't understand why we read this long narrative today about the path that Jesus walks? And why do we talk about his death today when it doesn't happen until Friday?” Now, I've heard enough questions that I know that children can spot a fib a mile away. I really wish I'd had a more theological answer, but I decided to tell the truth and truth is this as I know it: The people who devised our readings realize that 90% of the people who show up on Palm Sunday will not show up in church again until Easter and so this is our one shot to tell them the story of the cross that happens on Friday. This little girl just kind of stared at me and said, “Father Russell, does that mean that Jesus will be lonely on Friday?”

On the night before he died, Jesus gathered his friends at the table and he told them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Holy Week is our annual opportunity and invitation to ponder intensely and intentionally the way that Jesus spent these last few days with those whom he spent it. It's our chance to listen deeply to the truth that he speaks to the powers and principalities of the world. It is our opportunity to look at the life that he lived, and even greater, the love that he gave for our sake that is beautifully captured in the words of Hymn 458 [Hymnal 1982], “My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love to me, love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be. O who am I, that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh, and die?”

In our Episcopal tradition, we have several liturgies to help us walk this path and to ponder the mystery of our Savior's love. I want to invite and encourage you to rearrange your schedules to refocus your priorities so that you might be a part of some of the services at your local congregation. I know that most, if not all, of our congregations will have several liturgies throughout the week and to be a part of that is a way that we can walk more deeply with Jesus and know more greatly his love for us. If you can't get to church, then take the time in the quiet of your home to open up your [Book of Common Prayer] to pages 272 to 284, which are the liturgies of this week. Read the readings that are assigned, pray the prayers, and know more deeply our Savior’s love for you. So I invite you to a Holy Week. Walk closely with our Lord, listen deeply and follow closely so that when you arrive next Sunday to church, that your Easter song will be even greater and deeper, and a deeper appreciation of our Savior’s love for us.

Let us pray. Assist us mercifully with your help Oh Lord, God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts whereby you have given us life and immortality through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

A map of churches in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast is available at www.diocgc.org/asset-map.

The Episcopal Church offers digital access to Holy Week services

The Episcopal Church invites all to virtually join the congregation of St. Paul’s/San Pablo Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Kansas for their Holy Week services. Beginning with the Maundy Thursday Eucharist and Foot Washing service on April 18, 2019, the Office of Communication will live stream Holy Week services through Easter Sunday’s Festive Eucharist. Available on both the Episcopal Church website and the Episcopal Church on Facebook page, as live streams and later on demand, these digital offerings make Holy Week worship accessible to those not attending a service or program at a local church.

See list of services here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/holy-week-2019.

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