From Ash Wednesday to Easter there are some strange words and strange days. Some of the words we use make sense. We call it Ash Wednesday because we have ashes (which come from the burning of the palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday) put on our forehead (I try to make the mark in the shape of a cross, but it usually just comes out looking like a smear).
The name Palm Sunday kind of makes sense as we remember and celebrate the beginning of Holy Week and the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem, but only the Gospel of John mentions palms.
We celebrate Maundy Thursday with communion remembering this was Jesus’ final meal with the disciples. The word ‘maundy’ comes from the Latin word for mandate, and we remember in the Gospel of John, Jesus does not have a Last Supper scene with the disciples, instead he washes the disciples’ feet and gives them a new commandment, to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12). That’s the mandate we are to follow, to serve and to love.
Good Friday by most accounts should be called ‘Horrible Friday’ or ‘Tragic Friday’ because of the torture and death of Jesus on the cross. Some will try to tell you that the word ‘good’ as it is used here comes from some form of ‘God’ but the evidence is not really there. Instead we have the evidence of the cross: Jesus died on a cross so our sins would be forgiven, that all who believe in him will have eternal life, which is good news, even though it comes at a painfully high cost.
And then there is today’s word, ‘Easter.’ I would love to tell you that ‘Easter’ means ‘resurrection,’ but it does not. It probably comes from a pagan festival celebrating the arrival of spring and the new life spring brings. Christians kind of stole the word from the pagans and used the word Easter to talk about the new life that Jesus brings to all through his resurrection. It’s kind of interesting in a way, because the secular word kind of stole the word ‘Christmas’ from us to mean Santa Claus, etc. So we stole this word to celebrate the resurrection and that is good news each of us can share in these three simple words: Christ Is Risen! A vocabulary we can all understand and celebrate.
Prayer: Loving God, through the power of your love, neither death nor sin are the final word. The final word is grace, and for this we give you thanks.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.