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Posted: March 21, 2013 9:18 p.m.

A powerful Easter journey

I look at the calendar and realize tomorrow is already Easter4Kids. Let me explain. That’s an event Abiding Grace has been putting on for years now, a free event for all the 3 to 10 year olds in our community. It’s a day to celebrate the real meaning of Easter. (You still have time to register your children at e4k.abidinggrace.com, but I digress). But here’s the thing. It always takes place the day before Holy Week starts.

So do you understand what that means that tomorrow is Easter4Kids? What that says to me is Easter is right around the corner. This Sunday begins Holy Week. Can you believe it? It seems like the Christmas decorations just came down. Actually, I’ve noticed some of you still have them up. Obviously, Easter snuck up on you, too! It’s time to switch out the ornaments for eggs, the lights for Easter grass, the reindeer for bunnies.

But is that really what Easter is about? Think about it. For a couple thousand years, we’ve been celebrating this thing we call Easter. Today, it’s a festival of pastels and candy, bunnies and eggs. The stores seem brighter and cheerier selling the yellows and pinks and blues of the season.

This Sunday, we mark Palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem to the praises and palm branches of the crowds. (Palm branches were a way of showing honor to a traveling dignitary). The crowds were cheering him and welcoming him with their “Hosannas” — praising him as one coming in the name of the Lord.

But it didn’t last. By Monday, he had turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple and was being needled by the leaders of the very same people who had just sung his praises. Tuesday and Wednesday brought more of the same. Thursday, he said goodbye to his disciples, was betrayed and arrested. And by Friday, they had him on a cross. That’s “Holy Week.” That’s the setup for Easter.

And really, to appreciate Easter, to experience what it really is, you need to walk through that week with his disciples. You need to realize the context of this day is one of suffering and pain and death. The mood had been disappointment. Realizing that, then the pastels and prettiness of Easter can have its effect. Then you can realize how amazing the message of the empty tomb is.

That’s why, each year, we make this Holy Week journey. It starts this Sunday when we’ll gather at 10:30 a.m. for our Palm Sunday service. This year, we have the privilege of hearing the Prep Singers from Luther PreparatoryHigh School as a part of that service.

Then Thursday, we consider the time Jesus spent with his disciples in that upper room, giving them the gift of the Lord’s Supper and preparing them for his death. Our Maundy Thursday service commemorating that is at 7:30 p.m.
And the scene grows even more somber as we gather Friday at 7:30 p.m. to contemplate the seven statements Jesus made as he hung dying on that cross, paying for our sins.

Our Good Friday service includes special music and application of all seven of those statements.

We take the time to consider the weight of this day and its significance.

Then, Saturday is silent as we let it sink in and contemplate the extent to which Jesus went for us — death.
And only then, having walked through the week with the disciples, can we properly celebrate the victory of the empty tomb on Easter.

Only then can we run with those disciples to see the proof and cry the tears of joy our Risen Savior brings.

Only then can we sing with full understanding Job’s words that have become that most famous Easter song:
“I know that my Redeemer lives / What comfort this sweet sentence gives / He lives / He lives who once was dead / He lives my ever-living head.”

Having made the Holy Week journey, that song means so much more because now we know what it means. Now we understand Easter means victory and joy and life forever. That’s what Jesus said, isn’t it? “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14)

So join us on this Easter journey. Yes, come for the celebration of Easter in the 7 a.m. outdoor (weather permitting) Sunrise service and the 10:30 a.m. Celebration service (inside). Come for the brunch and Easter egg hunt.

But, this year, think about joining us for the rest of the journey and see what that does for your Easter joy.

This Saturday is Easter4Kids. That means that Holy Week starts Sunday. May God bless your Holy Week with his word.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.

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