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A holy smorgasbord

This edition of Drinking the Cup shares a diverse Holy Week experience on the road.

Assistant to Bishop, Michigan Area

When you’re asked to leave the pastorate in favor of a Superintendency or other staff position like Clergy Assistant to the Bishop, you give up a lot. You give up the regular rhythm of preaching. You give up the intimacy of pastoring one congregation – giving up that pastoral role with people you love. You give up the joy of the life of one congregation.

But you gain plenty of things, too. One of the things that you gain is more freedom to live out Sundays and holidays with more flexibility – gaining a greater appreciation of the church of Jesus Christ from a different perspective.

So, I had a diverse Holy Week, not tied to one congregation. It includes the beginning of a much anticipated post-Easter vacation to North Carolina. Here is part of the glorious Holy Week smorgasbord that I  experienced.

Palm Sunday.  On Palm Sunday, Diane and I were in Chicago visiting our oldest son and family. We attended their church, All Saint’s Episcopal Church in the Lincoln Square area of Chicago. This was a joyous Palm Sunday celebration, with lots of children, including a parade around the block. The congregation was very diverse, representing this north Chicago neighborhood. The service did not reflect the confusion that many services have trying to do both Palm Sunday and Passion Week. They stuck to Palm Sunday with only hints of Passion Week at the end. They did a dramatic reading of the main characters surrounding the Palm Sunday event. Much of it was about the confrontation with the Powers and Principalities, and it could have come right out of Walter Wink’s “The Powers that Be.” The diversity, the celebration, and the theology all touched my heart.

Maundy Thursday.  I attended our home church, Kalamazoo First UMC, for the Maundy Thursday service. The focus was on the towel of service. We were challenged to take off our shoes and socks and go through the service, including Communion, with them off. And while we didn’t do a foot-washing, we were encouraged to experience the vulnerability. Theologically, it helped drive home the point concerning the radical reversal of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. The cosmic truth of this reversal is almost too powerful to comprehend, but it was an awesome witness that night.

Good Friday.  The plan was to attend the evening Good Friday service at the Springdale Mennonite Church in Waynesboro, VA. But we got there late and missed the service – the first Good Friday service I’ve missed in decades. I’m glad that forgiveness is abundant.

Easter Saturday.  On Saturday morning, Diane, Hannah and I went to Monticello – an American Cathedral. I am only partially kidding. The home of Thomas Jefferson is beautiful, right now in springtime splendor. And it celebrates the genius and complexity of the man. Jefferson’s religious views have been much debated over the years. He was a man of the Enlightenment and is often described as a deist or a unitarian. He famously revised the Gospels by removing all of the passages which seemed to him to be miraculous or mythological. The remaining passages – the ethic of Jesus – love your God with all your being and your neighbor as yourself –  were embraced by Jefferson as the greatest ethical teaching ever.

Easter Sunday.  Easter Sunday morning, Diane, Hannah and I attended the Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Diane and I lived in North Carolina while I was in seminary at Duke, so the NC version of United Methodism was not too surprising. But the slight cultural differences were apparent, especially to Hannah. The pastor was committed and folksy. The sanctuary was inviting and beautiful, tastefully balancing tradition and current technology. I am always touched when I go into another United Methodist Church in another part of the country and see the UMC Hymnal that I love so much. The celebration of the resurrection of Christ was joyous and heartfelt. I am proud to be with brothers in sisters in Christ from North Carolina or any other part of the globe, and pray that we can remain together.

While I miss Holy Week in one congregation to which I am appointed, I am grateful for having the opportunity to experience Holy Week in this fashion – a small slice of the fullness and diversity of our faith.