’Tis the season! No, not the November-December holiday season, but ’tis the spring holiday season. Though Spring Break is a needed respite from school, the busyness of early spring feels more like the holiday rush than it does a “break.” The one positive is that days are longer…which makes me feel like I need to get more done every day. Maybe all of this is because I have young children at home. Yard work, baseball, turkey hunting, end-of-the-year school projects, more yard work, and whatever else I am probably forgetting… Maybe it is because of any number of other things going on in my life right now – preparing for a new baby, presbytery meeting and committees, upcoming General Assembly, and the items on my to-do list (a list I have misplaced somewhere). I don’t know. Life just seems crazy right now, and there is no end in sight. I know most of you are in the same boat – family plans and events, Eufaula Pilgrimage, yard work and gardens, your unfinished to-do list, family dinner this Sunday, candy for the Easter baskets… What else am I forgetting?
Oh yeah, I forgot about Easter! ’Tis the Easter season, right? This is “Holy Week” – Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday… On top of everything else happening in my life and your lives, this week is supposed to be different, special. I am supposed to be more…to feel more…holy, right? Well, add it to the list I guess…
My first two paragraphs were meant to be hyperbolic (while remaining quite true!), but I hope they capture what so many believers experience during this time of year. Much like the Thanksgiving-Christmas season, “Easter season” is a time of busyness and craziness with a few “holy-days” that are supposed to be the “reason(s) for the season.” And when Holy Week arrives, many (most?) professing Christians suffer under an inescapable, vague pressure to conjure religious affections, just as they do with Christmas…
“Shouldn’t I feel peppier on Palm Sunday, maundier on Maundy Thursday, glummer on Good Friday, and ecstatic(er) on Easter Sunday? I need to forget about the rest of my life on these days because this is Holy Week… What’s wrong with me? I’m not feeling what I’m supposed to feel! Am I really a good Christian?” How many times have you had those thoughts or similar thoughts?
Brothers and Sisters, stop! This week is simply another week of your life, no different than any other. The events of Holy Week happened over 2,000 years ago, once and for all, never to be repeated. Attempting to picture events in your mind’s eye, struggling to summon the “right” feelings for the occasion, attending church because this is one of two times each year “I’m supposed to be there” – trust me, those are spiritual dead-ends. Is it wrong to give special consideration and reflection to the events of Holy Week during this time of year? Certainly not! Yet it is far better to give continual consideration and reflection to those events no matter the time of year, is it not?
Dating back to the Early Church (2nd century A.D.), so-called holy-days have never ceased to be a point of controversy. The vast majority of church history favors the use of some form of liturgical calendar in addition to Sabbath observance, yet the Reformed & Presbyterian tradition historically rejects such a calendar, emphasizing the Lord’s Day to the exclusion of holy-days. Which side is right? Which side is wrong? Honestly, does it really matter (cf. Rom. 14:1-23; Col. 2:16-23)?
Arguments for and against holy-days notwithstanding, I do believe they can provide at least one great benefit to believers of all ages – conviction. They convict us that we really do not cherish, comprehend, and contemplate the glories of Christ and his gospel as much as we ought. On holy-days, when believers start to think, “Something is missing,” they are absolutely correct. Something is indeed missing, not because religious affections have not appeared on particular days, but because they have been absent on all other days. What believers so often think they lack on Easter Sunday (or any other holy-day) is actually but a sampling of realizing what has been lacking on so many other days. And such conviction is by no means a bad thing!
On a side note, I can only imagine that fifty more opportunities to stir up conviction of sin, reflection on religious affections, and desire to experience more fully the grace of God in Christ would altogether revitalize a dying Western Church. What do you think would happen if every Lord’s Day received the same hoopla as Holy Week (or Christmas)?
So how should you and I approach this week? This year, I urge you to take a true break from vain attempts to raise your religious fervor. Take a break from the annual attempt to make this Holy Week “the holiest yet,” a break from self-manipulating your emotions, and a break from beating up on yourself because you are not feeling “how I’m supposed to feel” (whatever that means…). Live this week as you would any other. Live for God’s glory. Love, honor, and serve him above all else. Love and serve your neighbors. Approach the coming Lord’s Day in faith, expecting him to bestow his promised blessings and approach the Lord’s Table in the same manner. Fulfill your responsibilities in this world (“Six days you shall be laboring…” ~ Ex. 20:9a). Do those things – and do them consistently throughout the year – and I promise the pressures of the “Easter season” will evaporate before your eyes.
This week, rest with blessed assurance that Christ Jesus interposed his precious blood for his people, paying all their debt on the old rugged cross. Up from the grave he arose so that he might win the final victory over sin and death. Christ is risen indeed, now sitting at the right hand of God the Father. And because he lives (and reigns), one day he will return and gather to himself all his elect so that they too might have fulness of life in him. Never take a break from those truths because, as you hold more tightly to them, God’s own Spirit remakes you into the image of Christ, making every week holier than the last.