Mircea Eliade was a Romanian historian of religion who taught for a number of years at the University of Chicago. Eliade’s most famous theological work, titled The Sacred and the Profane, is a treatment of that unique perspective enjoyed by people of faith, which enables them to tell the difference between ordinary experiences (profane) and supernatural ones (sacred). Sometimes in life, he contends, we believers simply find ourselves captivated by a “wholly other” phenomenon that represents an almost indescribable encounter with the divine.
I’ve been thinking about one of Eliade’s categories of division as we move toward that week we call “Holy,” a division he called “Sacred Time.” Simply put, sacred time refers to those ritualized moments when we “take the time” to reflect on the meaning of our everyday life and how it can be charged with a sense of the supernatural. Because we as Christians believe that God is without boundaries or borders, there is no place where God cannot show up and make that place “holy ground.” The Bible is filled with such references, from Jacob at Bethel (Gen. 28:16) to Moses and the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-6) to the Roman centurion at Calvary (Mt. 27:54; Mk. 15:39; Lk. 23:47). Because no one can predict where and when God might make His presence known, every time and every place holds the potential to become “sacred.”
However, we can be certain that the coming week holds more than just potential; it holds possibility, at least for those who are willing to dedicate themselves to embracing it. The concept of Holy Week goes back to the late 3rd century, when even prior to the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, Christians braved persecution on the days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday to gather for acts of public worship because they were convinced that the events that occurred at that particular time were foundational to their faith in Jesus. Though in the Gospels the crowds that acclaimed him on Sunday would turn on him by the following Friday, God would be at work in Jesus’ arrest, suffering, and crucifixion in a dramatic and decisive way to bring about His redemptive purposes. They saw in the sufferings of Jesus a model for how they were to undergo their own sufferings so that, in the words of the Apostle Paul, they might “share in his sufferings…and so…attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10-11). Ever since that time, Christians have dedicated the days in between Palm Sunday and Easter to become times of reflection, repentance, and recommitment on what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
I’m glad to be a part of a church like MBBC that recognizes the special character of Holy Week, so much so that we make time in the midst of our otherwise busy schedules to engage in worship activities that lift us above the ordinariness of everyday life to a more sublime appreciation of God’s abiding presence. Our speaker this year will be Dr. Nash Wills, son of Jo Wills and brother of Ed. Nash grew up in our church and is now serving as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Columbia, Alabama, down in Houston County. Nash and his wife Melissa will be with us Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for our noon services. On Thursday, we will have our Maundy Thursday service in the Sanctuary at 6:30 p.m. Then on Friday we’ll return to the Chapel for our Good Friday service.
You should also know that our Deacons, as in past years, will be conducting an Easter prayer vigil, beginning on Good Friday at 5 p.m. and ending on Easter Sunday at 7 a.m. We appreciate these leaders giving of their time to pray God’s resurrection power over our Easter worship.
I hope you’ll consider giving of your time during Holy Week to attend one, if not all, of these worship experiences. Doing so can well “redeem your time” (Eph. 5:16) and make each moment of each day a place where God shows up to change your profane existence into something much more special, and ultimately more sacred.
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).