A Map for Navigating Holy Week

As we jump into Holy Week, here are some options to guide your reflection on Scripture, one for using printed Scriptures and another is for listening and reflecting audibly. I'll also note opportunities to participate in prayer and worship with communities of people both in your area and around the globe. Do all of these, or none of them, but especially during this week, do something! Everything I'll list here will be reliable, so choose whatever draws your attention.

Option 1: Reading Through the Week

The first option is to use the passages from the Revised Common Lectionary to guide your reading this week. Normally the lectionary only gives passages for Sundays, but during Holy Week and some other special days of the Christian year, it also provides readings on some weekdays. While most of its readings rotate through a three-year cycle, the readings for Monday - Friday of this week are the same every year.

Monday of Holy Week

  • Isaiah 42:1-9: The first of four "Servant Songs" of Isaiah, all of which are included in the readings during this week. These songs both point forward to an individual (the Messiah), and describe Israel at its best. This passage describes the Messiah as one who "will not shout or cry out... a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out" until he brings forth justice on earth.
  • Psalm 36:5-11: Praise to God for his love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice.
  • Hebrews 9:11-15: How Christ's blood on the cross was superior to the blood of temple sacrifices, establishing a new covenant, so that we could be set free from sin.
  • John 12:1-11: To begin the week leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus visits the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus for the final time. At a dinner given in Jesus' honor, Mary enters and pours expensive perfume on Jesus, drying his feet with her hair.

Tuesday of Holy Week

  • Isaiah 49:1-7: Isaiah's second Servant Song, expressing that although the Messiah would be sent to bring Israel back to God, he would also be made a light for the Gentiles, so that he could "bring [God's] salvation to the ends of the earth."
  • Psalm 71:1-14: A plea to God for deliverance from the hands of the wicked. Although others will say, "God has forsaken him," the Psalmist pleads, "Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me."
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-31: "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God..."
  • John 12:20-36: Jesus predicts his death, saying that "the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified," and "unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

Wednesday of Holy Week

  • Isaiah 50:4-9a: The third Servant Song of Isaiah: "I have offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard... I have set my face like flint... It is the sovereign Lord who helps me."
  • Psalm 70: A plea to God for help when faced with the threats of enemies. Contains the words so often repeated in traditional prayers: "Hasten, O God, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me."
  • Hebrews 12:1-3: An admonition to throw off the sin that entangles us so easily and remain focused on Jesus, "who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame..."
  • John 13:21-32: Jesus predicts his betrayal and tells Judas, "What you are about to do, do quickly."

Holy (Maundy) Thursday

  • Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14: God's instructions to Moses on how the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover, which is what Jesus and his disciples were doing on this evening.
  • Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19: A psalm thanking God for deliverance from death. "How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord."
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: Paul recounts what he received from the Lord regarding the Lord's Supper.
  • John 13:1-17, 31b-35: Jesus washes the disciples' feet and gives them his new command: "As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

Good Friday

  • Isaiah 52:13-53:12: Isaiah's fourth, final, and climactic Servant Song. This passage is quoted more frequently in the New Testament than any other Old Testament passage. "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
  • Psalm 22: The psalm quoted by Jesus from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
  • Hebrews 10:16-25: Because of Jesus' faithfulness and sacrifice, God's law can be written in our hearts and minds and our sins remembered no more. Now a new way has been opened for us to draw near to God.
  • John 18:1-19:42: John's full account of Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion and death and Peter's denial.

Option 2: Listen and Pray Through the Week

A friend recently introduced me to a podcast I've been enjoying greatly, which is based on the Christian year and features prayer, music, a Scripture passage and reflection for each day. It's produced by a group of British Jesuits, which provides a couple of benefits: it's very helpful in leading us to engage the day's passage of Scripture rather than just hear it and move on, and second, the British accents make the narrators sound much more intelligent and spiritual than I would in my Texas drawl.

The podcast and website are called Pray as You Go, and you can get the recordings through their website or their iTunes feed.

Option 3: Pray With a Worldwide Community on Good Friday

My friends at The Transforming Center, led by Ruth Haley Barton, are offering everyone a resource to guide your time of prayer wherever you are on the afternoon of Good Friday. I know their resources well enough to know that this will be well done, and it will provide us a way to pray together as a community regardless of where we are. Click here to read their blog post and receive their prayer guide.

Option 4: (Please do this one!) Worship and Pray with a Church in Your Community

It's always wonderful to see how many people are in worship on Easter Sunday morning, and our community celebrations of Easter will certainly be richer if we have also joined together to worship and pray on Maundy Thursday and/or Good Friday. Hopefully your church has an option on one or both of these days for you to participate in. If not, feel free to participate as a guest in a church that does. If you are in the Midland/Odessa area, join our church as we gather for a Maundy Thursday and Tenebrae service at 6:30 Thursday evening at First United Methodist Church of Midland. (Feel free to leave what your church is doing as a comment below to let others in your area know.)