By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
“I am too busy….” What is your excuse?
For some, the constraints of employment responsibilities or health issues present insurmountable obstacles which stand in the way of responding to the invitation of worship. For others, the excuses offered may be less precise. Excuses offered as the soft sounds of violins are heard playing in the background enhance the drama of the moment. What rationale do you use to excuse yourself from sharing in the life and worship of your community of faith?
Woody Allen once quipped, “80% of life is just showing up.” What percentage of life experience and your spiritual journey have you missed, by not, “showing up…”?
As the Christian faith community observes the days of Holy Week, the stories associated with the last days of Jesus’ earthly ministry are shared within the context of worship. The stories of the Palm Sunday procession, through the experiences of Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem during the week, to a meal shared with his disciples, the Garden of Gethsemane, his Trial, the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion and Entombment are presented with a purpose. To hear those stories, to witness that journey, as a part of a worshipping community, is to prepare to fully experience the fulfilment of the promises of God in the person of our Risen Lord.
At the heart of that spiritual pilgrimage is the Triduum, the last three days of the time we know as Holy Week. During that time the community of faith has as its focus the experience of sharing the story of The Last Supper, and the Passion and Death of Jesus. As the sun sets on Saturday evening a New Fire begins to blaze, a Paschal Candle is lit, and brought into the midst of the place of worship as the person carrying it sings,” The Light of Christ”. As the Light of Christ breaks through the darkness, those gathered for worship respond: “Thanks be to God”.
The liturgy of the Easter Vigil creates an opportunity for the community of faith to hear, once again, the Biblical stories of Creation, the prophetic promises of divine Redemption and the joy – filled message of the Resurrection.
In response to that Scriptural proclamation of Divine Love, the community of faith has the opportunity to declare its faith in Jesus, renew its Baptismal vows and begin to experience the joy of the Easter Season.
Who would not want to be a part of that celebration?
The concept of actually participating in community worship is an essential element in the commitment of the Baptismal Covenant. The question is asked: “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers”? To paraphrase that exchange, the question may be heard as: “When the community of faith gathers for worship, will you show up?” The answer is one which reflects commitment. “I will, with God’s help.”
Worship is not an opportunity of being entertained. It is a moment of divine mystery, when our relationship with our Lord is being nurtured. The stories of faith are Spirit – filled words which carry a power of their own. Scripture in the midst of worship is not boring.
No matter how many times we read words of Scripture or how often we hear the stories of faith, we have the opportunity to experience them in new and different ways.
Each day of Holy Week is a step along the way of faith. The journey allows us the opportunity to bear witness to the power of Divine Love at work in the person we know as Jesus.
The Gospels indicate that after Jesus was seized in the Garden of Gethsemane, by the soldiers of the High Priest, the disciples of Jesus made their choice, “Then the disciples all deserted him and ran away.” (Matthew 26: 56) We have the opportunity of making a different choice.
Gathering for worship, in Canada, in 2017, is not simply an act of devotion. Sharing in worship with other Anglicans in our parish, our deanery or our diocese, declares to the community at large who we are as people of faith. We believe that the redeeming love of God, expressed in the person of Jesus, is that which can transform the lives of individuals and have an impact in God’s world. What statement do we make when we claim that the normal pattern of activity in our lives renders us helpless and leads us to choose to shy away from the opportunity to share in worship, especially during Holy Week and Easter.
The exuberance of the declaration, “Christ Is Risen”, which permeates the Season of Easter, can only be truly valued and appreciated when we trace the pilgrimage that leads us to that expression of joy. In order to follow that Way, all of us need to, “…show up…”, and share the journey.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese of Huron.
(Featured photo: Mike Wilson, Unsplash)