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Dear Hyde Park Pilgrims,

Don’t finish what you can’t start.

That’s a twist on the classic cliché, but it is sage advice for our tendency to jump quickly to Easter without moving through the Passion. Our stores are stocked with plastic grass and chocolate bunnies, yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a Maundy Thursday gift basket or a Good Friday greeting card.

It’s emblematic of a culture that wants the reward without the discipline, the quick fix without the sacrifice, the finish, without the start.

That’s why Palm Sunday is so important. It offers a formal invitation into a week of discipline and darkness that we would rather ignore. But such avoidance turns the empty tomb into an empty victory. As my seminary theology professor frequently asked: “If Jesus is the answer, then what was the question?”

If Easter is a day of victory, then what has been defeated?

The gospel’s answer to that question is found in the stories of Holy Week. After Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem:

  • He cursed a fig tree for not being fruitful.
  • He emptied the temple of self-serving moneychangers.
  • He confronted religious leaders who questioned his authority.
  • He challenged notions of financial stewardship by praising a poor widow.
  • He warned his followers of imminent persecution and called them to vigilance.

And that’s before we even get to Maundy Thursday, before we enter the upper room. If we have any inclination to jump ahead to Easter morning, the Bible proclaims, “Not so fast. You’re not ready. There is much you need to hear.”

It’s captured in the words of Medieval mystic Thomas a Kempis:

“There will always be many who love Christ’s heavenly Kingdom, but few who will bear his cross. Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity. He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting. Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him. Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion. Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross.

If you want to experience a truly powerful, meaningful Easter finish, then start the journey this Sunday with humility, repentance, and obedience to God. Remember your membership vows and use Holy Week as a time for spiritual renewal.

  • Offer God your Prayers of praise, confession, gratitude, and intercession for others.
  • Worship God with your Presence, with less a need to be entertained and more a desire to glorify God.
  • Present God your Gifts, not for your own benefit, but for the work of God’s Kingdom.
  • Pledge to God your Service, knowing that your only reward may be a cross.
  • Honor God with your Witness to others, inviting them to experience God’s love with you.

At the very least, I invite you to join us for all of Holy Week, not just for Easter morning. Allow the services of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday to stir your conscience and call you to discipleship. For the full schedule of Holy Week, click here. Be sure to sign up to serve in hospitality on Easter morning. And invite others to join you in services all week long.

Through scripture, sacrament, and solemn ritual, let’s experience the drama, passion, and power of the week that turned the world upside-down.

See you at the starting line!