During Holy Week I’m sharing a short video devotional every morning at 6:59am CST on Facebook Live, April 10-15. Join us in real time or watch the replay on my Facebook profile. #HolyWeekExperience
Years ago I discovered the riches available when we practice “worship as a lifestyle” by allowing the Christian calendar to shape our spirituality. During Holy Week you can embark on a personal worship experience of “spiritual immersion”.
This article explains why and how. Be forewarned though, the way I do it is a little extreme, and probably not for everybody.
In a season of life when we desperately needed to hear from God, I sought to press in and get “a word from the Lord” no matter what.
I was studying at the Institute for Worship Studies with Robert Webber. In his book, “Ancient Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year”, I came upon an idea that would profoundly shape the rest of my spiritual life.
Robert Webber on Holy Week Spirituality
Webber began discussing Palm Sunday on page 116:
“We should not look on Palm Sunday simply as a day to recall the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is that, but it is more. It is our own entry into the most solemn yet glorious experience of spirituality. For Jesus, Palm Sunday was his gateway to the culminating events of his earthly life. As we enter that gate with him, our spiritual lives are being ordered into the most sacred moments of the history of the world and of our own experience with the meaning of human experience.”
Through out the Palm Sunday service he had attended, Webber continued on page 117:
“The heart and mind flashed forward to the events of the week ahead, allowing me to momentarily sense the spiritual pilgrimage I was about to take, into the heart of the most important events of human history.”
Then on to page 118:
“The words “walking in the way of the cross” were ringing in my heart over and over again as I contemplated the spiritual journey of holy week, a journey I had begun on Ash Wednesday. I knew that I had come to the most intense part of that pilgrimage – one I could not ignore or take lightly. I realized the events of this week were to order my spiritual experience into a re-living of the spiritual journey experienced by thousands in Jerusalem in the first century. I knew this was not a week for shopping, vacations, parties, or hilarity. I sensed this was the week that above all was to be set aside for the journey into death. I knew the worship of the church would take me by the hand and lead me step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth God intended it to be for me, a week of intense spiritual struggle – and reward!”
These words of Webber’s, and this idea of “re-living the spiritual journey” so captured my imagination, I set out on a process of doing something like this for myself. Total, all-in, spiritual immersion.
I determined to read and meditate on all the events in scripture “in real time”, on the days they happened. Then I would record what I noticed and whatever revelation came from Holy Spirit. I was also intentional to attend related church services like Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and an Easter Vigil ( Holy Saturday) service.
The events of Holy Week, or the Passion, comprise a huge portion of the four gospels. In fact, about 40% of the gospels focus on the last week of Jesus life.
That’s a lot of reading. Here’s how I approached the task.
How To Practice Holy Week Immersion Spirituality
1. Set aside extra time for study and meditation. Plan for about an hour per day to study the scriptures of Holy Week storyline. I often like to walk and read from the Kindle version on my phone.
2. Read the narrative from The Daily Bible: In Chronological Order compiled by F. Legard Smith. It combines all four gospels into one reading so it is very efficient and you capture every nuance of detail from each author’s perspective. Love it!
The scriptures are arranged chronologically as daily readings. The Holy week experience comprises the readings from November 10 through November 19. Smith’s commentaries “paint the scene with historical and spiritual insights”. It’s pretty awesome.
3. Journal and write down what you notice. Imagine yourself in the story. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?
4. You may also be able to find an appropriate church service of some sort for every day of Holy week. Done well, “the worship of the church would take me [you] by the hand and lead me [you] step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth”.
5. Some Christians will fast during Holy Week, ramping it up for the Three Most Holy Days (Great Triduum) by fasting with only water.
Well just keeping it real, I feel it’s been worth it. Hebrews 11:6 says the Lord rewards those who draw near to Him. So I think you can expect some level of personal spiritual breakthrough when bringing this level of intense desire and hunger.
In another such immersion experiment, I wrote what became the book Resurrection Power: 50 Days That Rocked The World.
It takes a big commitment of time and energy to go this deep.
It’s interruptive and not convenient. You have to decide if it’s worth the effort.
Jesus on the other hand, was tortured and shamed and crucified during this week.
So investing a little extra time to be with Him for Holy Week may not be too big of an ask.
Anyway, I hope that is helpful to you. Take some time to relive the story your own way.
The Lord be with you! Have an anointed Holy Week.
A reminder, during Holy Week 2017 I’m sharing a video devotional every morning at 6:59am CST on Facebook Live, April 10-15. Join us in real time or watch the replay on Facebook.