Something gets lost when Holy Week becomes #HolyWeek. But you might as well prepare yourself for what’s coming–the holy hashtags are already starting to trickle onto social media and you can expect a flood when the weekend arrives. How should we think about encountering God in a time when the sacredest days transform into trending topics?
For this, I enlisted A.J. Swoboda, a pastor, professor at George Fox Evangelical Seminary, and author of A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension between Belief and Experience. Drawing inspiration from what Jesus’ disciples must have experienced during the first Holy Week, he offers reflections on how to hope in times of uncertainty, ambiguity, and doubt. Here we discuss how Holy Week–even in the digital age–can be a time of spiritual renewal.
RNS: In a couple of sentences, how does viewing Christian spirituality through Holy Week change our thinking?
AS: [tweetable]Christians are very selective about the parts of God they are willing to love.[/tweetable] Of course, Holy Week as we’ve come to call it, has three ultimate days—Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday. Each of these days is of great importance for our understanding of the Christian faith. Jesus died a painful death, sat in a tomb for a day, and then resurrected to new life. I’m convinced that most Christians tend to pick and choose the one or two days that they like. But we are invited into the whole weekend—not just our favorite part. The Christ-follower must be open to the pain of faith, the awkwardness and uncertainty of Saturday, and the joyous victory of Sunday. Christianity is not a movement of preference, and experiencing Jesus fully as he is to be demands that we enter all elements of his passion.
RNS: You’re book is called A Glorious Dark, and you’re talking here about topics such as awkwardness and doubt. Is your approach to Easter weekend kind of a downer?
AS: Yes, but the gospel’s portrayal of the initial Holy Week was quite downer. One of the disciples, on that first Saturday, went to Pilate to get the body of Jesus. He carried it. Heavy. Hard. Smelly. Odious. And Joseph, they called him, placed the body of Jesus in the dusty earth of a tomb. Now, did Joseph ever think when he joined Jesus’ movement that part of discipleship would have been about carrying the body of his Lord? I don’t think so.
What a downer. But it is appropriately down because Joseph didn’t do so for no reaason. He did it because he had hope—hope in the resurrected Lord. If I’m being a downer, I’m simply trying to capture the original emotions of the disciples; emotions, I’m convinced, we have no permission to ignore as Christians in the 21st century.
RNS: If Christians want to celebrate Good Friday with their friends and/or families in ways other than a church service, what do you recommend?