My husband Joe and I were in the Garden of Gethsemane in late January. The olive trees, gnarled and old, will stay with me for a long time. Our guide told us some olive trees live up to 2000 years. So, the olive trees we gazed upon that day are connected, somehow to the olive trees that Jesus was among on his last night with friends.
I’m a church person, and Maundy (Holy) Thursday of Holy Week is my favorite, for many reasons. Palm Sunday, just days before is always joyous, but for me, can feel unfinished. We wave the Palms, we hear the story (almost always a dramatic reading in my experience) of Jesus’ journey from the triumphant palms to the cross. Thursday, for me, begins with friends. Jesus washes the feet of those he loves, which certainly begins with awkwardness, but ends with love. Then, after dinner, he shares Holy Communion with them. Then, Jesus heads to the Mount of Olives to pray.
Luke 22:39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’
The church built on the site of the Garden of Gethsemane contains a protected hunk of rock, which is believed to be the site where Jesus knelt to pray. Pilgrims come to pray there as well. Prayer continues to change the world, one prayer at a time.
The story continues. Jesus rises from his prayers, and is arrested- taken to his trials before Pilate and Herod. Then the beatings, the crown of thorns, the list goes on. But, for me, having started that terrible evening with his friends makes it bearable somehow.
It is not my intent to minimize the suffering and sorrow of that night, but to put it in a human perspective.
Holy week is here. Come to church, my friends, and bring along someone you love. Someone who makes the hard times better. And while you are there, smile, and make eye contact with someone new, someone who may be struggling with their own hard times, or someone whose faith can help you survive your own. We are here for each other, different as we are, figuring out how to live, how to pray.
We need each other. In Holy Week. In everyday life. That’s the purpose of the church. That’s what Jesus came to earth to create.
Join us Palm Sunday, April 14 at 9:30 am, Maundy Thursday, April 18th, at 7 pm, Good Friday, April 19th at noon and 7 pm, and on Easter Sunday, April 21st for the Resurrection of the Lord, at 9:30 am. Holy Cross is located at 1998 Lansing Ave NE, Salem, OR 97301. www.holycrosslutheran-salem.org