- STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH March 29 – April 3, 2021
Rev. Sabrina Ingram Holy Week
SPIRITUAL EXERCISES FOR HOLY WEEK
Holy week marks the last days of Jesus’ life. It is traditionally a time to remember Jesus and the events of these days. Such remembrance causes us to examine ourselves and confess our sin. We reflect on what Jesus is calling us to do, what repentance looks like and how we will actively make changes in our lives. These exercises are designed for those would like to participate in a time of reflection and prayer. You may choose to do one or all of the following over the next few days. In your times of prayer, it is important to speak to Jesus and to listen to his Holy Spirit to hear what God is saying to you. Writing down your thoughts, memories and prayers, as well as what you believe the Spirit is saying may help you to dig a little deeper than your initial response.
Time spent with Jesus is always a gift. Give him your full attention. There is no need to rush.
Read John 13: 1 – 17
Have you ever had someone wash your feet? How did or might you respond? Imagine you are in the room when Jesus gets up, takes off his robe, ties a towel around his waist, and pours water into a basin. Envision the whole scene. What do you imagine is going to happen? Now, Jesus kneels and starts to wash the disciples’ feet. How do people respond? Soon, it will by your turn. How do you feel about Jesus washing your feet? What do you say to Jesus and what does he say to you? Later Jesus tells you to do what he has done. How do you feel about washing someone’s dirty feet? What would be the attitude in your heart if you were to do this? Jesus wants us to be “servants”. How do you feel about being a servant rather than a master or leader? How do you react when someone treats you like a servant? What are you willing to do or not do in service to others? What are your underlying motivations when you do serve? Spend some time telling Jesus what you think about his commandment. What do you need from him?
John 15: 12 – 17
Jesus commands his followers to “love one another”. What things do you do to show your love for others? What kind of Christians do you find hard to love? Is there someone in your congregation that you have trouble loving? Confess your struggle to Christ and ask him to show you how to love this person. Notice your feelings as you do so. You may want to write your thoughts in a letter format to Jesus. Ask Jesus to change your heart. (As an exercise, you may want to address this letter to the person; this is for your growth and is not meant to be sent to the other person). Is the Spirit calling you to make amends? What might that look like? Jesus defines love as the willingness to lay down our life for another. What does it mean to you to sacrifice yourself for someone else? Now, or in the past, for whom would you be willing to die? What other kinds of sacrifices are you willing to make for someone else?
Jesus now refers to his disciples, not as servants, but as friends. We often celebrate “what a friend we have in Jesus”. In what way is Jesus a friend to you? (You will naturally think of the hymn lyrics by Joseph Scriven. You may relate to them, but also consider if you were to write a hymn about Jesus’ friendship what would you include?) How do you feel about being a friend to Jesus? What does that look like? Pause to ask Jesus what he needs from you as his friend. How can you be a faithful friend to Jesus?
Read Luke 22: 14 – 23
When we take communion, it is often a quick experience with a tiny square of bread and a little cup. For some it is more like a “tea party” than a channel of grace. Imagine you are at the table with the disciples. What is the atmosphere? What do you see and smell? What are you chatting about or enjoying? See Jesus rise and lift the bread. What is the atmosphere in the room? He tells you it is his body and gives it to you to eat. What is your reaction? What does this mean to you? How does it affect you? He lifts the cup and prays, then tells you it is his blood and gives it to you to drink. What is your reaction? What does this mean to you? How does it affect you? How do you feel towards Jesus? How do you feel towards the people gathered with you? Jesus says he wants you to do this in order to remember him. What are your memories of Jesus? What does “communion” mean to you at this time in your life? How has it changed? Paul reminds us, “Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe” (1 Corinthians 11: 27 & 28). Sit for a while and ask the Holy Spirit to help you “test your heart” and “examine your motives”. What rises to the surface? What do you want to say to Jesus?
Imagine you are sitting at the table with Jesus when he announces, “one of you will betray me”? Might he be speaking to you? In what way specifically have you been “the one” to betray Jesus? What were the circumstances? How did you justify this? How did you feel about it at the time? How do you feel about it now? Spend time in prayer. What do you need to tell Jesus about this? What does Jesus say to you?
Read Luke 22: 39 – 54
You have eaten a heavy meal and perhaps drank a little too much wine. It’s been a long night and Jesus has said and done some peculiar and upsetting things. Now you walk with him a distance beyond the city walls, through the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. (You may want to look up some pictures of the Kidron Valley and the Garden of Gethsemane on the internet to help you envision it – think about the temperature, the smells, the time of night, etc.) You have been to the Garden on other occasions. What is different this time? Jesus wants to pray by himself, and he asks you to stay awake and keep vigil with him. He tells you to pray, “So that you won’t give in to temptation” (vs. 40 & 46). What do you think he means by this? What tempts you? He returns to find you asleep. Reflecting on this: In what ways do you relate to the disciples sorrow? In what ways are you spiritually asleep? In what ways do you fail Jesus? What is Jesus asking of you? Spend time talking with Jesus about this.
May God bless you as you reflect on these moments of Jesus’ life and on your spirit.