As we experience a Holy Week unlike any other, one of isolation and distancing, it is more important than ever that we journey with Jesus through this week towards the cross and the resurrection. We may not be able to gather together at this time, but God has given us the gift of time to think, reflect and ponder anew the events of Holy Week. These reflections will help us to do that. It might be helpful for you to set aside a small table and to gather the following items (as far as you are able) to place on the table each day.
Palm Sunday: either a palm cross or a palm leaf cut from paper
Tuesday: a heart
Wednesday: a small jug or small bottle of perfume
Thursday: either a picture of bread and wine, or some bread and a small wine glass
Friday: a cross
Saturday: a stone
Sunday: a candle and garden flowers
Each one acts as a symbolic reminder of Christ’s journey, and the journey of our pilgrimage
towards the Cross and onwards to Easter Sunday.
May God bless you with his hope and perseverance as you journey with Christ through Holy Week.
(If you are unable to join us online for Service@6 at wiveychurches.org.uk/online-church then this reflection will enable you to enter into the spirit of Palm Sunday and begin your journey with Christ to His Cross and Resurrection.)
The symbol for today is either a palm cross that you may have from last year, or a palm leaf that you could simply make with paper and scissors. Place the palm cross or palm leaf on the table.
Reading: Matthew 21:1-11
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Hopefully, you will have been able to collect a Palm Cross from your church door over the weekend. The palm cross symbolises for us Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The crowds (larger than normal because so many have gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover feast) are shouting and making so much noise that the whole city is stirred. ‘Who is this?’ they ask. “Jesus, the prophet,” is the reply. On this Palm Sunday, who is Jesus for you? Can you see him at work in these difficult times? Where does he give you comfort?
Lord Jesus, help us to notice your presence in our lives. Even when things feel difficult and hopeless, remind us of your guiding presence with us, and open our hearts and eyes to discern you journeying ahead of us through the suffering which you are bearing and overcoming for us. Amen.
Monday of Holy Week
The symbols for today are coins. Place some coins on your table.
Reading: Matthew 21:12-13
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
When people, whether Jews or Gentiles, came to the Temple they came to make the necessary sacrifices to God. In the Temple courtyard merchants were selling pigeons and doves, but you needed special temple money to buy them. Worshippers were being cheated by the money changers, while the dove market was a racket. The whole setup was dishonouring to God and that was what made Jesus so angry. A place that should have maintained the highest standards for God’s people, was letting them down badly. Greed is the main driving force behind this cheating of God’s people, and greed, often driven by fear is certainly still in evidence in our culture today. We saw it in the recent stockpiling of goods and the subsequent selling of items, like toilet rolls, at inflated prices on ebay. What measures can we take to ensure we are not perpetuating this kind of behaviour in our lives?
Loving God, you call us to honour you all that we do as we journey towards the fullness of your Kingdom. We pray for courage to stand in your Name against behaviour that is dishonouring to you and your people. Amen
Tuesday of Holy Week
The symbol for today is a heart. Cut a heart shape out of paper and place it on the table.
Reading: Matthew 22:34-40
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Perhaps one of the hardest things we are commanded to do is to love our neighbour. It is very easy to judge, to criticise and to complain about others, far harder to love them. Coming to a place where we can offer unconditional love to everyone, is arguably the work of a lifetime. We can only achieve success in this as we allow God’s Holy Spirit to live and grow in our lives: “In your hearts enthrone him: there let him subdue all that is not holy, all that is not true.”. At this time of isolation, the best method we have of loving our neighbour is to stay away from them! The phone and the internet are now our best forms of communication, no matter how much we long to see others face to face. Whom can you phone today and offer love to?
Lord Jesus, you taught us to love our neighbour, and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. Help us to stay in touch with people through phone calls, the internet, cards and other means through this time and offer them our love and friendship. Amen.
Wednesday of Holy Week
The symbol for today is a small jug or a small bottle of perfume. Place them on the table.
Reading: Matthew 26:6-13
6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
I wouldn’t like anyone to pour perfume on my head, but in this case it would have filled Simon’s home with a beautiful fragrance and would have cooled Jesus’ head. This perfume was worth a year’s wages and, on the face of it, it does seem quite indulgent and wasteful as we hear the disciples protest. But in fact, this misses a bigger point. This woman, some believe her to be Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha, is in fact showing, in a very visual and generous way, her adoring love for Jesus. Is your love of him equal to hers? How might you show him your adoring love today?
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, for by the power of the cross you have redeemed the world. We pray for the generosity of your Spirit to fill us with your compassion for each other and our neighbours whom you call us to serve in the name of your deathless Love. Amen
The symbol for today is bread and wine. Either draw a picture of bread and wine and place on the table or if you have a small piece of bread and a small glass place them on the table.
Reading: Matthew 26:17-30, 36-56
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. 20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” 47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” 55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
How might that celebratory Passover meal have felt for Jesus. He knew that it would be his last meal on earth, and he knew that one of his disciples, one of his friends, was going to betray him into the hands of those who were plotting to kill him. And despite his feelings, he gave us the legacy of the Lord’s Supper. We are unable to meet together and share in the Lord’s Supper today, but maybe over dinner you might take a moment to give thanks to God for all the blessings you have received today.
And then we move to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is troubled and seeking comfort from God. ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ How strong Jesus was to give his life completely into God hands. Are we able to trust God completely with our lives? Then the betrayer arrives. Jesus is delivered to the enemy using the most intimate weapon, a kiss. How must that have felt? Are there times in our lives that we have betrayed Jesus? ‘All the disciples deserted him,’ driven by fear. How can we not be controlled by our fears, and stay faithful to Christ whatever the circumstances?
God our Father, your son Jesus Christ did not submit to fear, but was obedient to the end and drank the cup of suffering prepared for him. May we who share his table watch with him through the night of suffering and be faithful not only to Him, but also in our prayers for the courageous Christians throughout the world who continue to suffer for their refusal to betray Christ. Amen
The symbol for today is the cross. Place a cross on your table.
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews. 38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. 45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” 55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[f] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. 57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
With much pain and suffering, Jesus Christ died on a cross on Good Friday. Abandoned by his disciples, in great physical pain, and with the crowd mocking him, he made the greatest sacrifice of them all – he sacrificed himself. It truly must have felt as if God had forsaken him. The moment of his death brings momentous events. There was an earthquake and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. The curtain in the temple marked out the Holy of Holies from the other areas. The curtain that covered it was 18 metres high and made of thick material. The Holy of Holies was the most sacred part of the temple where the Chief Priest could only go once a year, on the Day of Atonement, with the blood of the animal sacrifices to atone for their own sins and the all the sins of the people of Israel. The tearing of the curtain meant that access to God was now available to all who believe in Christ. On seeing these events the centurion believed, and in that moment of belief the man who had nailed Jesus to a cross would have been welcomed and received with open arms into his kingdom. Just as we, through our belief in him, are welcomed and received with open arms.
Eternal God, in the cross of Jesus we see the cost of our sin and the depth of your love. In humble hope and fear may we place at his feet all that we have and all that we are, so that we may receive your resurrection life and walk with you in the freedom of your Holy Spirit to do the good works which you have prepared for us to walk in, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The symbol for today is a stone. Place the stone on the table.
Reading: Matthew 27:62-66
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Holy Saturday is an empty day. After two eventful and sorrowful days, the hopes of the disciples have come crashing down around them. Jesus, their Lord and friend; the one they had followed and learned from; the one who had performed many miracles in front of them; the one who they believed to be the Messiah, was dead. Their minds unable to understand his words about rising again, they were desolate. I am sure that there are times in your life when you have also felt this desolation. Spend some time sitting with that feeling of desolation, and listen out for God speaking to you in the midst of it.
Loving God, as we experience times of desolation and sorrow, may we empty ourselves of all pride and self-reliance, so that your Holy Spirit may hold us in the love which overcame death itself for us. Be our strength and our guide as we look towards the new dawn of your victory over the darkness of death and sin. As we travel through this day speak to us in the depths of our hearts, and cast out our isolating fear. Amen
EASTER SUNDAY – ALLELUIA CHRIST IS RISEN!
The Symbol for today is a lit candle. Place the lit candle on the table. If you have some garden flowers it might be nice to place some on the table as well.
Reading: Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” 8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
He is Risen Indeed – Alleluia! We may not be able to shout out those words together in our church buildings this Easter Sunday, but we can shout them out in our own homes, or maybe more appropriately in our gardens. The two Marys would have no idea what they were to meet when they arrived at the tomb. And then an angel, looking intimidating enough to scare the guards, greets them and tells them not to be afraid. ‘He is not here, He is risen.’ I would love to have seen the look that crossed their faces at this news – nothing about Jesus was ordinary, nothing was normal, he had the X Factor, but this? One look inside the tomb would have confirmed the angel’s story. Then they ran, afraid but joyful, to tell the disciples. Then out of the blue, Jesus himself appears and greets them. Their response? They fall to the ground, clasp his feet with their hands and worship him. After the most sorrowful of days, we arrive at the happiest of days. And these two women recognise Jesus for who he is and worship him. How will you worship him in joy today?
Risen Lord Jesus, as Mary Magdalene met you in the garden on the morning of your resurrection, so may we meet you today and every day. Speak to us as you spoke to her, reveal yourself as the living Lord, renew our hope and kindle our joy, and send us to share the good news with others. Amen
If you can, please do join us in our Easter Worship online at 6 p.m. today at wiveychurches.org.uk/virtual-church