Pastor’s Comments (03.26.21)

One of the hymns often featured during Holy Week is “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley.” It is usually notated as an African American Spiritual, but no one knows the exact origin of the words. When you read them carefully, you can understand why they express an appropriate emotion for the week when Jesus sacrificed himself to demonstrate God’s love for all humanity:

Jesus walked this lonesome valley;
He had to walk it by himself.
Oh, nobody else could walk it for him;
He had to walk it by himself.

Jesus, the full revelation of God, chose to face what no one else could share. As another hymn of the season expresses it, “He could have called ten thousand angels, but he died alone for you and me.” The practical application of this truth is that, as the followers of Christ, instructed to take up our own crosses, we have to walk alone as well. Though Christ has paid the ultimate price for us, no other human being and no institution, not even the Church, can accept the commitment to follow on our behalf. As the second verse of the spiritual says,

We must walk this lonesome valley;
We have to walk it by ourselves.
Oh, nobody else can walk it for us;We have to walk it by ourselves.

While keeping in mind that the Holy Spirit of God always walks with us and that our fellow members of the body of Christ encourage and sustain us, this Holy Week may be a good time for us to “walk that lonesome valley,” meditating on what that has meant through the last year and what it means for our future.

To that end, I commend a couple of virtual resources to you. This weekend in worship we will focus on Palm Sunday, the events beginning with Jesus’ “triumphant entry” into Jerusalem that set in motion his death. However, in The Beginning we will emphasize the Liturgy of the Passion, the subsequent events that include the agony of the cross. I find myself every year at this time saying, one cannot fully appreciate the resurrection of Jesus without first contemplating his death.  The Beginning material includes the events of the Passion as recorded in the Gospel of Mark. It’s two full chapters, but I urge you to read them in the context of the other readings and music in the virtual material.

The day most fitting for a contemplation of the sacrifice of Christ is, of course, Good Friday. This is the day in the chronology of Holy Week that commemorates when Jesus actually died. This year we will not be having an in-person Good Friday Service. However, that week you will receive an email with material for individual worship on that important day. Perhaps this will be a good year for you to spend that time alone, rather than in congregational worship. You will have no concern other than your own communion with God.

It is becoming trite to emphasize the unique nature of this past year. (At least, we hope it is unique.) Nevertheless, coming out of this unique year may be a good time for you to reflect on what you have experienced and how, under God’s leadership, you will face your future. I’ll have more to say about that next week, but for now, simply ask God to prepare your heart for the worship of Holy Week and for whatever commitments you are led by God to make.