Holy Week Reflections

April 14, 2014


In the observance of Holy Week and Easter, we will post a new reflection by a faculty or staff member.

Monday, April 14th

Dr. Ed Waggoner, Assistant Professor of Theology in The Rt. Reverend Sam B. Hulsey Chair in Episcopal Studies

“And [the angel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God’” (Luke 1:28-30)

We ask God to be present in our daily lives and in our communities. But we underestimate how anxious we feel about what we could learn when God does appear. What does God think of us? What does God think of me? In our true heart, where we are less given to posturing for others, a greeting from God can sweeten the air for days. Let that happen. As Holy Week begins, God respects and enjoys us.

Tuesday, April 15th

Dr. Coleman Baker, Soul Repair Program Manager

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lost it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.” (John 12:24-26).

But if it dies. . . These words do not merely reflect on the significance of Christ’s death, but invite his followers to follow Jesus into self-denial, suffering, into death, into abandonment.

This is reminiscent of Mark’s recollection of Jesus saying “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” (Mark 8:34-35) and of Paul’s declaration “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20).

How do our lives reflect this willingness to deny self, to suffer, to be abandoned, to die for what we believe in?

Wednesday, April 16th

Roger Wedell, Program Director for Financial Well-Being Grant

“Lema Sabachthani” – the anguished cry from the cross. American artist Barnett Newman startled the art world and many Christians when he exhibited his “Fourteen Stations of the Cross”. The phrase “lema sabachthani” is a sub-title for the series of 14 canvases. Newman wrote: “Lema Sabachthani – why? Why did you forsake me? Why forsake me? To what purpose? Why? This is the Passion. This outcry of Jesus. … the question that has no answer.” The paintings can be seen on the National Gallery of Art website – www.nga.gov. These human scale canvases (each 78” x 60”), viewed together, do not recall specific events so much as the compressed impact of many, disparate events – past and present. Using only raw canvas, white and black paint, Newman draws the viewer into the experience of emptiness, abandonment. We have the ease of knowing that Resurrection will come; but, in the now of our lives, in this Lenten Season, in the midst of this Holy Week, our pulse quickens at the unanswered and unanswerable question – why?

Thursday, April 17

Terry Ewing, Senior Associate for Brite Advancement

The day begins in stillness, and finds its way to night.
The darkness of the morning, gives in to light but never quite.
The morning refuses to grow up straight: missing steps and dropping balls, fumbled words and broken plans.
Without a place, without a sound the darkness winds round and round.
The One is captured and marched away.
Is Hope defeated?
Is Love thrown down?
May the darkness of this time reveal the new day yet to come.
May the glory that is hidden be the glory that is yours,
On this day.
Each day.

Friday, April 18

Shelly Matthews, Associate Professor of New Testament

“Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last . . . . There were women watching from a
distance . . . .“    Mark 14.37, 40a

“Each of us wishes for one like the Magdalene to go down with us into death, to stay with us to the
end. . . .”  Jane Schaberg, The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene

Judas betrayed, Peter denied, and the other male disciples forsook and fled, but on the day of the state execution, the women were watching.  While some have tried to diminish the significance of their witness, by stressing that they watched from afar, or suggesting they were at less risk than the male disciples, I take it as a sign of the depth of their courage, fueled by the strength of their love for their wrongly executed friend.
Would that we could love with such courage, keeping watch, staying to the end.

Saturday, April 19

Esther Mombo, Luce International Scholar

49“But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” 55“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes.But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment”. (Luke 22:49,55-56

What went on in the minds of these women on this Sabbath day? This Sabbath must have been for these women one full of sadness, despair, questioning and anger. It was a not a day of rest but one full of anxiety perhaps in low tones, planning the next thing they would for Jesus. In solidarity with each other and their commitment to Jesus they planned on how to go back to the tomb after the day the Sabbath. For these women, giving up was not an option, but doing something in the hard situation was one way of going forward. The realities of death are always before us but like the women,

“we stand before your tomb and wait, clutching the only truth we know hoping that yet again the power of your love will break this mountain.”

Easter Sunday

Newell Williams, President and Professor of Modern and American Church History

“Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality. . . . You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. . . .everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness. . . .” (Acts 10: 34- 43).

All are forgiven.  It matters not who you are or what you have done or left undone.  This is the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth for the writer of Acts.  In a world that assigned different values to Jew and Greek (and to other nationalities), to slave and free, and to male and female, this was a radical word.

It is still a radical word:  the radical message that we are to believe; the radical message that the church is to share with all the world.  All are forgiven.  Jesus is risen!