Dear Friends in Christ,
Holy Week and the Great Three Days form the center of our worship life, drawing us into the deep mystery of salvation. This is also usually the busiest, fullest time of the year at Grace. From Palm Sunday processions to the gifts of Maundy Thursday given in feet washed and bread broken; from the solemn adoration of the cross and the sung Passion on Good Friday to the return of the light as the Great Vigil of Easter begins; from the praise of choir, brass, and timpani to our full-throated Alleluias on Easter morning, this is always a week of profoundly moving, celebratory services proclaiming the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord.
It goes without saying that this year will be different. The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping how we do so many things, including how we worship. But this pandemic does not change who we are, for it cannot change what God has done for us in Christ. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. This is still true, and we hold to this promise in hope.
The mandate of Maundy Thursday is that we love one another as Christ has loved us. In following this command, we reveal God’s love to the world. We respond to COVID-19 by loving one another, and the best way to do so in these times is to maintain physical separation. Nevertheless, we remain together in Christ, a community of connection and care. So what does this mean for our worship life?
Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion
(live-streamed at 8:30am) marks the entry into Holy Week. While we will not gather in the narthex and atrium to begin our service, we still lift our Hosannas in praise of our King. We will hear the Passion narrative from Matthew’s Gospel, remembering how quickly our shouts of acclamation turn to cries of "Crucify!” Grace is not distributing palms this year, but you are encouraged to affix a green branch of any kind (even one made from paper) to your front door in solidarity with Christians around the world and in prayer for all people.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
we will use the order for Responsive Prayer and hear the appointed readings for each day from the Gospel according to John. These brief services (10-12 minutes) will be posted on the Grace River Forest YouTube channel each morning at 6:30am. You may view them at whatever time they would enhance your devotional prayer life.
(live-streamed at 7pm) marks our entry into Jesus’ final hours. While we will not experience foot washing or celebrate the meal Jesus instituted on the night before his death, we will focus on the mandate Jesus gives. Nothing about this pandemic changes either Christ’s command to love or our call to live out his command. The service will end with the stripping of the altar as we hear Psalm 22.
(live-streamed at 12 noon) is centered on the adoration of Jesus’ cross. We will hear (spoken, not sung) the Passion as told in the Gospel according to John, during which candles will be extinguished.
• The Great Vigil of Easter begins our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Rather than live-streaming this service from Grace, we have adapted this
liturgy for use in the home
. It begins with the Easter Proclamation and the lighting of a candle. We then hear the history of salvation told in twelve passages from scripture, with options provided to reduce the number of readings to either seven or four. Next is the Affirmation of Baptism - get a bowl of water ready! We close with prayer and the Easter Acclamation. The past few years at Grace, we’ve gathered at the end of the Vigil for a celebratory reception with cheesecake and champagne. You might consider a similar celebration in your home.
(live-streamed at 8:30am) is the culmination of this week, and the full celebration of the victory won for us by Jesus Christ. It will be different this year, but it will still be Easter. While I won’t hear you, I know you and I will be singing the same words from the final stanza of “Thine the Amen”:
Thine the glory in the night
no more dying only light
thine the river thine the tree
then the Lamb eternally
then the holy holy holy
thine the splendor thine the brightness
only thee only thee.
This year is different in so many ways, but God’s promises are unchanged. In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has promised to be with us in all things. No matter what. And so we will once again mark his journey to the cross and his glorious resurrection. Someday, soon I pray, we will gather together again. We will receive once more the meal Christ has prepared for us. We will join our voices in prayer. But for now, our Lord comes to us wherever we are. In God’s Word, Jesus is present for us. In our songs and prayers and praises, we are united.
In the unending hope of Christ,
Links to livestream Holy Week worship and bulletins
You will find links that take you directly to each of our live-streamed worship services, as well as bulletins for these services, on the
Holy Week worship page
on the Grace website.
To find the Grace channel on YouTube type “Grace River Forest” in the YouTube search box.
Thine the Amen
Text: Herbert F. Brokering, b. 1926
Text © 1983 Augsburg Publishing House, admin. Augsburg Fortress.