Holy Week Services

cranach-altar-victory It’s a custom in our churches to have special mid-week services through the season of Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter. These services are a reflective time, an opportunity to contemplate the work of Jesus Christ that has brought about our rescue from sin and death, and provided eternal life. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, we have a single mid-week service with a focus on our repentance, in preparation for remembering the great events of our Lord’s passion (suffering and death) and resurrection. In the final week before Easter, we have two or more special services, each with a special theme and focus.

This year, our mid-week services that follow Ash Wednesday have been about the cross of every Christian, as an echo or shadow of the cross of Jesus, by which we have been redeemed. This so-called “theology of the cross” defines the Christian’s life on Earth, yet is frequently missing or subdued in the teaching of many churches. No wonder, it’s not exactly upbeat! In the same way that some would like to portray Jesus as victorious while forgetting what He had to do to obtain the victory, so also some would like to suppose that a Christian’s life on earth is filled with giggles and rose gardens, while forgetting that these roses have long, sharp thorns. Our midweek Lent meditations are meant to refocus our faith upon the reality of every Christian’s life.

Holy Week is the climax of the season of Lent, beginning with Palm Sunday. Jesus entered His royal city on Earth to the shouts of “Hosanna!” from a vast crowd of jubilant people, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah. Thus, we recognize that He is indeed the One chosen by God to take away the sins of the world, just as the Passover lamb was chosen by each Israelite family on the 10th of the month, in preparation for the Passover to be celebrated only four days later, when that lamb would die and become the meal of their salvation (Exodus 12:3-6).

Four days after Palm Sunday, we celebrate Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday. “Maundy” is a form of the Latin word “mandatum,” which refers to Jesus’ command given to His disciples on that night (John 13:34). Our focus is upon the feast of love instituted by Jesus during the Passover meal with His disciples, which we call the Lord’s Supper, or the Sacrament of the Altar. Following the Passover meal, Jesus and His disciples went across the Brook Kidron and ascended the Mount of Olives, where His intense prayers helped to prepare Him for His imminent suffering. See ELH 295 for a meaningful meditation on that time in our Lord’s life.

Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph. But when Jesus was crucified, it was really the end of death for the whole world. The nature of death has changed as a result of the death of Jesus. It cannot hold you any more. Even the ungodly will rise to life again on the Last Day, though unbelievers will also get their wish: not to be saved from eternal punishment by the suffering and death of Jesus. The torment of hell is on display when Jesus hangs upon His cross, forsaken by His Father as He bears the guilt of the whole world. In this way, He took what would have been an ordinary Friday in the fallen world, and turned it into a day for our deliverance from God’s wrath. It became Good Friday. We will hear about the passion and death of Christ, as we contemplate its meaning through hymns and meaningful responses.

Holy Saturday follows, when we remember that Jesus rested in His tomb through the Sabbath. Then, when evening comes and the ancient Israelites would recognize the beginning of the next day, we may begin our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection with a brief service for Easter Vigil. This year, for the first time, we have planned such a service to be held at 8:00 PM, at Bethany. We will again begin to sing Easter hymns and the Hallelujah, as special readings added to the Office of Compline (ELH p. 128) lead us into the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Then on Easter morning, we plan to gather in Hood River in Idlewild Cemetery, where we will greet the sunrise on the Lord’s Day with our joyous hymns and readings. After that, we will have the festival services at the usual times: 9:00 at Concordia, and 11:00 at Bethany.

There is nothing more important in the existence of any human being than these events and deeds of our Lord, so we invite everyone to join us in our meditation and celebration of these greatest works of God.

Why Christian Schools? (part 1)

Here is an article written by a Lutheran pastor and headmaster of a classical, Lutheran school in Idaho. It is posted here with his permission.

Why Christian Schools? (part 1)

By Rev. Sean L. Rippy

Remember that saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”? It means that sometimes we can get so caught up in our day to day activities that we lose sight of the whole picture. There’s a time and a place for putting your head down and plowing ahead, but like the logger who made record time cutting down the wrong forest, we need to make sure that we take the time to step back and ask foundational questions like, “Are we doing the right thing, and are we doing them in the right ways?” For Christians this is especially important as we believe that we must make sure that we do what God wants us to do (the right thing) in the way God wants us to do it (the right way).

When it comes to Christian education, we are beset by any number of daily hardships. Christian education is hard work, it’s time consuming… and it’s expensive. In light of this and how much of our taxes already go to public education, it is easy to ask the questions why should we, individually as parents, sacrifice the extra time and money to send our children to a Christian school, and why should we, corporately as a church, sacrifice our time and money to provide another form of education? Isn’t the public school system good enough? Aren’t there better things we can do with that money?

These are difficult but important questions to ask, and they ultimately point to the foundational questions: What does God want us to do in Christian education, and how does He want us to do it?

As Christians, our first instinct to questions like these must always be to look to the Holy Scriptures to see what God has to say to us, for there, and only there, has God revealed His divine will to us. So what does God say about Christian education?

The first thing we see in God’s Holy Writ concerning education is that God has commanded Christian parents to provide a Christian education for their children:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV)

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pedants for your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9 ESV)

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

Did you notice the emphasis Moses put on his exhortation to parents? “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9). Wow! Either Moses was on too much caffeine that day or he’s telling us that Godly education is really, really, really important.

It seems clear that God wants Christian parents to provide a Christian education for their children. God wants parents to teach their children the laws of God and the good news of the Gospel. God wants them to teach their children the Bible and morality. God wants parents to defend their children from the ravenous wolves who would try to wrest faith away from them and who would mislead them and turn them away from God and His Word and His ways. God wants parents to protect their children from the antichristian worldviews fed to our children through tv shows, movies, music, books, and even schools.

However, while the primary responsibility of raising children in the ways of the Lord falls on the parents, God has also graciously provided assistance in this endeavor in the form of the Church. The Christian Church on earth is also commanded by God to provide a Christian Education.

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matt. 28:18-20 ESV).

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’” (John 21:17 ESV). Shortly thereafter, our Lord will command Peter to feed His sheep, thus distinguishing lambs- the young, from the sheep- the adults.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11-14 ESV).

“And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: ‘Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them.’”(Deut. 5:1)

“’Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess.’” (Deut. 6:1)

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17 ESV).

Let’s be clear, God provides the church to assist parents in their God given responsibility to raise their children in the ways of the Lord, not to take that responsibility away from them. In fact, the church cannot raise a child in the ways he should go without the parents putting the teaching into practice at home. The child may learn good discipline and morality at a Christian school, but the parents must reinforce this at home, else all is lost. The same goes for teaching the Bible. The child will receive Biblical education at a Christian School, but God expects parents to continue teaching the Bible at home. In fact, the Small and Large Catechisms were written to be used by the parents to teach their children. Look at the heading of each chief part- “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.”

In summary, the Bible teaches that parents are to provide a Christian education for their children, and to aid in that department, God has commanded that the church provide education ministries.

Look for the continuation of this article in next month’s newsletter where we’ll discuss what kind of Christian education God wants us to provide for our children.