Holy Saturday

Today a grave holds him
who holds creation in the palm of his hand.
A stone covers him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.
Glory to your saving work,
by which you have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
Your holy resurrection from the dead.

—Orthodox Church, The Matins of Holy Saturday

Why do we call this Friday “Good”?

Although Catholics and Protestants in the past have followed somewhat different forms, in both camps the observances have been such as to cause people to ask, “Then why do we call this Friday ‘good’?” Emphasis has been on the seemingly senseless suffering of Jesus rather than on the purposeful humiliation of God through which redemption comes. In other words, we have failed once again to read the sacred story backward. Friday has been observed as if Sunday had never come.

Good Friday can and should proclaim divine purpose as paramount. Indeed, the term “Good Friday” may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.”

This day is good precisely because God was in control at Calvary. The crucifixion of Jesus was not some bad deal that God had to try to make the best of; it was a working out of divine intention with a view to the salvation of an otherwise doomed creation.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 96

First Things First

Before there was a command to love God, there was the revelation, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  There is no truth, no validity in our worship if the one we worship is not the true and living Creator and Redeemer.

—Garry D. Nation, “The Essentials of Worship: Toward a Biblical Theology of Worship,” Journal of the American Academy of Ministry 5.3 & 4 (Winter-Spring 1997): 6-7

Holy Week

Mounting opposition:

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him by stealth and kill him. (Mark 14:1)

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. (Mark 14:10)

In that context:

And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. (Mark 14:3)

“There Jesus was, in a dark and desolate land; and lo! out of the heart of a woman, a spring of fresh water sprung for the thirsty Christ! He valued it.”

—G. Campbell Morgan

Come to the Table 12

I don’t think we can ever say too much about the importance of an active exercise of mind and heart at the communion service. . . .

Holy Communion demands us of private preparation of heart before the Lord before we come to the table. We need to prepare ourselves for fellowship with Jesus Christ the Lord, who meets us in this ceremony. We should think of Him both as the host of the communion table and as enthroned on the true Mount Zion referred to in Hebrews 12, the city of the living God where the glorified saints and the angels are.

The Lord from His throne catches us up by His Spirit and brings us into fellowship with himself there in glory. He certainly comes down to meet us here, but He then catches us up into fellowship with Him and the great host of others who are eternally worshipping Him there.

We are also to learn the divinely intended discipline of drawing assurance from the sacrament. We should be saying in our hearts, ‘as sure as I see and touch and taste this bread and this wine, so sure it is that Jesus Christ is not a fancy but a fact, that He is for real, and that He offers himself to be my Saviour, my Bread of Life, and my Guide to glory. He has left me this rite, this gesture, this token, this ritual action as a guarantee of this grace; He instituted it, and it is a sign of life-giving union with Him, and I’m taking part in it, and thus I know that I am His and He is mine forever.’ That is the assurance that we should be drawing from our sharing in the Lord’s Supper every time we come to the table.

And then we must realize something of our togetherness in Christ with the rest of the congregation. . . . [We should reject the] strange perverse idea . . . that the Lord’s Supper is a flight of the alone to the Alone: it is my communion I come to make, not our communion in which I come to share. You can’t imagine a more radical denial of the Gospel than that.

The communion table must bring to us a deeper realization of our fellowship together. If I go into a church for a communion service where not too many folk are present, to me it is a matter of conscience to sit beside someone. This togetherness is part of what is involved in sharing in eucharistic worship in a way that edifies.

—J. I. Packer, “The Gospel and the Lord’s Supper,” in Serving the People of God, vol. 2 of Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, 49-50

Come to the Table 8

The eucharist became the showing forth of the death of One whom death could not hold.. .. The Lord’s Supper was celebrated not on Thursday night, the time of its institution, or on Friday afternoon, the time when our Lord died upon the Cross, but on Sunday morning, the time of His resurrection.

—William D. Maxwell, Concerning Worship, 13