by Jason Byassee
Our lives are run by a series of different schedules. These are sometimes conflicting. As a parent, the school year runs my family’s life: when is spring break? How long is summer vacation? These questions determine our lives. As a sports fan our lives are run by games. I love it, especially this time of year. Those are two powerful schedules that determine who we are.
The church also has a calendar that determines who we are. And this week is the height of that calendar. Holy Week is the summit from which we look down on and evaluate all the rest of the year. And do we ever have a Holy Week planned for you. I want to encourage all of you to take part in all of Holy Week. It’s the week where we walk with Jesus down a lonely road to Golgotha, called “Skull Place,” to die. And yet that death is not the end.
All week please be specially attentive to scripture and prayer. One approach to Holy Week would be to read the passion stories in all four gospels. It will take a while, but it will help you live into what Jesus experienced with his betrayal, arrest, torture, death, and his end-that-was-not-the-end. As a church we will gather on Wednesday of Holy Week at 5:30 p.m. in the chapel during the time when we normally celebrate the Eucharist. This week we will celebrate a foot washing, where Jesus, the greatest, takes the role of a slave. Please wear shoes you can remove with relative ease (hard this time of year when it is not yet warm, I realize!). We will remember who our Lord is, and what it means to serve him, as we wash one another’s feet.
Thursday we have our dramatic representation of the Last Supper, “Is it I?” directed by Paul and Diana Haas. This has become a mainstay here in the High Country. We invite you to experience it again or for the first time. Twelve men in our church become the disciples on the night of Jesus’ last meal. We learn what each is thinking when Jesus announces that one will betray. And we learn a bit about each of the twelve and how their lives ended as powerful witnesses to Jesus. It has been said that the best “proof” we have of the resurrection is this sorry lot of losers transformed from deniers and betrayers into those who would give their lives in martyrdom for what they had seen and heard. The best “proof” Jesus has now is your and my life. Sobering thought, isn’t it? Enough to make you and me get ourselves to church, isn’t it?
On Friday we will begin our celebration with The Stations of the Cross, portrayed by Dr. Cynthia Taylor, followed by the seven last words that Jesus says from his cross: “Father, forgive,” “I thirst,” “It is finished,” and more. Our preachers are seven of our leaders at this church and beyond: Carrie McClain, our own pastor Jeff’s wife, herself a seminary graduate and aspiring pastor; Caitlin Tremper, a graduating senior at App bound for divinity school; Renee Choate, longtime leader at our church and at others; Eric Heistand, campus minister with Cru at App, Austin Eggers, seminary graduate and from a long-standing family at our church; Chief or Buddy Price, longtime pastor of Banner Elk Christian Fellowship (now in his 90s!); and from my staff Dana Holden, director of our preschool, and a seminary grad and leader in the church herself. Each preacher gets all of 3 minutes, 180 seconds (we won’t go over an hour!), to illumine her or his portion of scripture. These are some of the most gifted preachers we have, people who love our church, please come and support them and worship on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.
On Holy Saturday we will have an Easter Egg hunt and other children’s activities at the church from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30a.m. All the world waits on Holy Saturday for what’s to come.
Easter Sunday will begin early, 6:30 a.m., while it is still dark (John 20:1), when the women first came to the tomb. We will worship in the chapel. Our first sunrise service in some time will include music, preaching, communion. Our regular worship services at 8:45 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and Crossroads at 10:55 a.m. will be full of visitors. As we worship the newly risen Lord that day be sure and greet and welcome and speak to those not normally in church. What a gift that God sends us angels in the form of visitors on these holy days.
And what a gift to serve a crucified and risen Lord together in these mountains. Blessings for Holy Week.