Holy week services

Warning – this may well turn into a rant (but, hey! it’s my blog).

For the last few years my church has combined with two others in the area to share Holy Week services. One church is Baptist, the other Brethren – all three evangelical. The services are often a bit hit or miss when it comes to quality but I wonder if I’m getting too critical. I find myself picking up on ‘little things’ that irritate me – or rather, I hear something that makes me think, “wait a minute!” and that sets the tone for the rest of the sermon. The shame of it is that I end up focussing on the negative and sidelining the positive.

Tonight’s one combined my pet hates of dodgy theology and poor Powerpoint use. To be honest the Powerpoint wasn’t too bad, but it could have been a lot better. But there’s no excuse for dodgy theology. But, to be fair, it wasn’t too bad unless, like me, you’re a bit nit-picky. It’s not so much what was said, but what wasn’t said. The sermon theme was “Why the cross?”. One of the points made was that the cross shows God’s love for us. God, Himself (as God), suffers on the cross to show us that He’s prepared even to suffer for us to show His love. What’s wrong with that? you may ask. My issue with it is that it’s all God – by which I mean that there’s no humanity. Jesus is portrayed as entirely divine. That has all sorts of implications for the meaning of the cross. It has all sorts of implications about the nature of Jesus and God and the Trinity. Had it been counterbalanced by a consideration of the humanity of Jesus then I wouldn’t be having this rant now, but it wasn’t. Maybe liking systematic theology is a bad thing after all.

And while I’m on the subject of these services, one of them has communion. But it’s on Friday! I feel that that sets the entirely wrong tone. Holy Week is about reflecting on the journey to the cross and on to the resurrection. We ‘stop’ at key events during that journey. One of them is the Last Supper and that happens the day before Good Friday. The Last Supper and its communion commemoration is not the culmination of the week. The cross should be the focus for Good Friday. If I was being really harsh I could suggest that having communion on Good Friday gives passing credence to an RC understanding of the Eucharist as a ‘re-enactment’ of the sacrifice of the cross. Then again, communion is a remembrance of the body broken and the blood shed on the cross, so, in a sense, Good Friday is an appropriate day to remember. But it still doesn’t ‘feel right’. It misses out on the significance of the meal the evening before (although, maybe we could do some foot-washing instead). It conflates too much into a single day. I think the sense of ‘time’ needs to be maintained – that it didn’t just happen all at once; the whole sequence of events was purposeful, not some mad rush to fit everything in.

Anyway, rant over and having got it out of my system, maybe I do need to be less critical, or at least avoid having the ‘hmmm’ bits overwhelm the rest.

One response to “Holy week services”

  1. An interesting ‘rant’ !
    I share your misgivings about the timing of the communion service. It really ought to be on the Thursday unless there are other reasons for the Friday (like it being the only service on – which yours clearly isn’t).
    Dodgy theology … we can all be a bit guilty of that one from time to time. I guess that’s the cross sytematic theologians have to bear (if, as a practical theologian I can say that !!)
    I attended one Easter service that turned into a choir concert and did nothing to inspire me at all. The person next to me was in tears.
    There is an inevitability of the hit and miss in these services. Maybe we should try to rejoice in the diversity of approaches and the unity of purpose and try to let the Spirit guide us to the cross and the empty tomb.
    Just a thought.

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