The 4 days of Holy Week that shape my life

Mar 23, 2016 by

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It’s Holy Week and, for the first time in my professional life, I’m not guiding a church through it. The freshness of simply being a sojourner is allowing me the opportunity to reflect on this sacred season in a new way. So here’s what I’m thinking about Holy Week this year and how I intend to allow Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday to further shape my faith, posture and practice.

Maundy Thursday. It was the bizarre kind of calm.

It was one more shared table with a community of worshiping doubters. A familiar story set the soundtrack for the evening, yet there existed an unfamiliar dissonance. The foot-washing was awkward. Jesus’ words carried a new desperation. His teaching on the necessity of sacrificial love fell on the deaf ears of friends who were about to scatter, deny, and betray.

He shared with them the bread and wine anyway. Common elements were transformed into symbols of sacrifice and an extraordinary invitation.

This Thursday, as I taste the bread and wine, I will do so as a worshiping doubter. I will acknowledge that I am a wanderer who is beloved by God. As I share the bread and wine with family and friends, I will remind them that God loves them not because of who they are (or aren’t) but because he wants to. Together, we will acknowledge our tendency to scatter, deny and betray; confess it to one another and ask for the grace to live sacrificial love.

Good Friday. It was the scary kind of dark.

That God put on flesh and came into our neighborhood seems ridiculous. That he wore a cross on our behalf is incomprehensible. That he died not only for sinners but as a sinner is simply unbelievable. And that his death was necessary? Unthinkable!

Apparently, ours is a God whose love is ridiculous and incomprehensible and unbelievable and unthinkable. His is a cross-shaped love that jumps borders and defies logic. Ours is a God who embodied the posture of the cross because he couldn’t imagine living without us.

But he still died. That day ended in death. And hope died for a community of people who banked their future on his claims.

This Friday, I intend to embrace the dark and scary through the practice of lament.

  1. I will identify and lament the ways that I still abuse power at the expense of others.
  2. I will lament that I am more prone to talk about the cross than to embody its posture on behalf of the marginalized, exploited and misunderstood.
  3. I will lament how accumulation and preservation make my love far to reasonable.
  4. I will lament how these three realities perpetuate the pain of so many around the world.

Holy Saturday. It was the deafening kind of quiet.

Looking back on that fateful weekend, we see how, in the muck and the gore and on top of a Middle Eastern rock, God did his best work. So good was it that God exclaimed its completeness in the hoarse whisper of Jesus: “It is finished.”

When it was over, they rushed to get the body down and secured in a tomb. The Sabbath was upon them. It was time to rest.

As they entered into a Sabbath saturated in disappointment, far from their consciousness was that original Sabbath… the one in the garden. If you remember, God had previously done his best work there. He had spoken existence into being, a speech that crescendo’d all the way to humanity. God saw that it was good. It was complete. He was done. And then he rested and invited humanity to do the same. That is, God invited us to take a leisurely step back and savor the beauty and completeness of his work.

For Jesus’ community, Sabbath had dawned again. Only this one followed a new pinnacle of God’s work: His death. Like in the garden, God’s work was complete. It was good. He was done.

This Saturday I intend to take a leisurely step back to savor the beauty and completeness of God’s work. I intend to rest and reflect on the ways in which his redemptive love reaches me and my family and continues to transform us. I will ask God to help me imagine what it means to expand his redemptive wingspan in our neighborhood, city and throughout the world.

Easter Sunday. It was the wide-eyed kind of pulse-quickening reality.

God got back up. That means that what happened on the cross mattered. Life was restored. Hope was restored. Sight was restored. Relationship was restored. Flourishing was possible.

God got back up! And if God can get back up from death, then what can’t he do?

This Sunday, I will celebrate the hopes, dreams and relationships in my life that have been restored. I will identify the areas of my life, city and world where restoration is still necessary and I will ask God for the grace to live in a Friday posture with a Saturday certainty.

Jer Swigart is a faith leader, a social innovator and the co-founding director of a peacemaking training organization called The Global Immersion Project. He and his family live in Bend, Ore. He blogs at, where this post first appeared.

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