Magazine leader - March 2013

From the Vicar

For the first Christians their faith was predominantly Jewish, but with the added twist that they believed that, in Jesus, the longed for Messiah had come. Those early Christians continued to worship in the Jewish synagogues. Long before they were known as Christians they were called followers of The Way. Sunday became more important than the Jewish Sabbath, which of course is on the Saturday. Sunday was the day of the resurrection and the resurrection changed everything. It took decades for the newly emerging Church to split from Judaism. The pages of the New Testament reflect the live issues of the day. Do you need to be circumcised to be a Christian? Do you need to become Jewish to be a Christian, or is The Way open to all people, Jew and Gentile alike? Paul wrestles with these issues in his letters, which became part of our New Testament.

It is clear that the Christian story was passed on orally, long before anything was written down. It is also clear that a major part of the telling of that story was done liturgically. That is to say that it was through worship that the story of Jesus was told and retold. Those early followers of The Way, who remained grounded in Jewish worship, now had the added practice of sharing in the Lord's Supper, at which Jesus was remembered and his story passed on. It is likely that the original focus of worship was the keeping of Holy Week. After all, it was the death of Jesus and his rising from the dead which was the distinctive belief of the Christian Faith. The keeping of Holy Week and the annual retelling of the story helped to shape the minds of the Gospel writers. The Gospel is rooted in worship.
For us, Holy Week is the central and most important time of the whole year. By living out the story afresh, through our worship, we bring alive the memory of that last week of Our Lord’s life in a way which makes connections in our own lives and helps us to be touched and moved by these events. The four main services are, firstly, Palm Sunday, when we re-enact Our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Secondly, we have the Maundy Thursday liturgy (8.00pm) in which we focus on the events of the Last Supper, including the washing of feet and keeping watch with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. After the liturgy, there will be a one-hour watch for all those who would like to stay. Thirdly, on Good Friday we keep watch at the foot of the cross for the Three Hour Liturgy. The first two hours will take the form of hymns, prayers, silence and some short addresses on the theme of the Seven Last Words of Christ from the cross. Jane and I will share the preaching for these two hours. I will preside over the last hour, which is the Good Friday Liturgy, including the Veneration of the Cross. Fourthly, on Easter Eve (8.00pm) we have the lighting of the New Fire, the first Mass of Easter and the renewal of our Baptismal Vows. In this dramatic liturgy, we bless and light the new Paschal Candle, as we joyfully proclaim Christ as risen from the dead.

There are plenty of other services during the week and details of these can be found elsewhere in this magazine. I draw your attention to the Mass of the Chrism in Salisbury Cathedral at 11am on Maundy Thursday. On Good Friday there will be a service of The Stations of the Cross at 9.00am and then an ecumenical service at 10.00am. On the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be Compline in church at 8.00pm.

I invite you to join with me in the keeping of Holy Week. Although faith is a personal thing, involving for each of us our individual response to the God, who reaches out to us and gives his life for us, it is as we share the reliving of the Jesus Story together that we are bound together as fellow travellers of The Way. It is important that we share this week together.

Nigel LLoyd

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