Dear Members and Friends of Immanuel United Church of Christ,
What a strange Holy Week this will be! We are used to gathering together with great joy at the end of Lent to raise our palm branches high, shout hosanna, and welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. We are used to gathering together on Maundy Thursday to wash feet, celebrate communion, and then begin the descent into darkness as Jesus is betrayed and arrested. We are used to gathering together on Good Friday to recount Jesus’ trial, relive his crucifixion, and leave on the somber note of a crucified Messiah. And we are used to gathering together on Easter morning to celebrate with joy our Lord’s resurrection.
What do these all have in common? We are used to gathering together! To being in one another’s presence in a shared sacred space, singing together, praying together, receiving communion together, listening to the good news together.
Yet, sadly, these incarnational practices will not be available to us this year. Sure, we can hear a message on YouTube, but that is by no means the same – or even a satisfying substitute. And yet, for the moment, it is all we have.
Though this Holy Week will be strange, I’m sure it will be one that we will all remember. We will remember how we longed for each other’s presence, to hear each other’s voice singing and praying beside us, to feel the energy of a shared faith in a shared space. And perhaps, we’ll never take these gifts for granted again. Perhaps a newfound gratitude in our gatherings will overwhelm us and cause us to share our lives more generously and joyously in the future.
But for now, we must make the most of what’s available to us. Over the next week I hope to provide at least a Palm Sunday message, a Maundy Thursday reflection, a Good Friday reflection, and an Easter message. If all goes as planned, we have a special surprise for Easter that I believe will encourage you greatly. All these will be available at our YouTube channel which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQjMFJ2pUMi79UirP8xXvLw. (I realize this is a honking-long url but that could change in the future. We currently have 96 subscribers. If we gain 4 more subscribers, we can personalize the url and make it more user-friendly, so please be sure to subscribe – if you haven’t already – and hit the “bell” for alerts about new content.)
Well, that’s it for now. Please know that your Immanuel staff is praying for your health, welfare, patience, and peace during this difficult time. Don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to serve you.
Though this Holy Week will be strange, I pray that the familiar and comforting message of God’s love revealed in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection will bring a newfound joy, fresh faith, and enduring hope to your life.
Grace and peace,