Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Easter Vigil. Whatever other worship services and events are typical for your congregation. It’s all come down to this, folks! It’s the final countdown, the sprint to the finish, the last hurrah. It’s time to get serious. Jesus has joyfully entered Jerusalem. The final meal, betrayal, arrest, and execution are at hand.

Passion scenesWhat speaks to you in the Holy Week stories this year? What will resonate with your people? In my congregation, we often add two words to the Words of Institution at Communion – in the night in which Jesus was betrayed and arrested. That last word reminds us of Jesus’ connection with the people in our society who have been arrested – some of them unjustly – and who are incarcerated or are trying to make a new life after having been incarcerated.

For Maundy Thursday, adding footwashing to worship can be deeply meaningful. Or it can feel like an uncomfortable or inappropriate boundary crossing. What are you doing with your folks this year? Will you focus more on the service and footwashing, or on the sharing of the meal?

For Good Friday, often there isn’t a traditional sermon, but a brief reflection on each of the Seven Last Words, or a musical message by the choir, or a dramatic reading of the Passion according to several chapters of John or one of the other Gospels. Some of us are still left with a sermon for Good Friday… so if you find yourself in that number, what’s your plan for this year’s message?

If you’re doing the Easter Vigil, I’m afraid I have no wisdom for you. The only vigils I’ve attended have been at Orthodox churches, which include buckets of incense and marching around the church (my favorite part!) but very few words in languages that I understand, and no sermons as far as I can tell. I’ve been to adapted vigils in other denominations, but don’t know how the traditional one goes. What are you doing for your vigils this year? If you could teach me one thing about doing an Easter Vigil in your church, what would it be?

The Revised Common Lectionary texts can be found here, and Narrative Lectionary is here, along with commentary. You might also check out ideas on TextWeek… or share your favorite preaching resource below! Blessings to you in this holiest and busiest of weeks in the church.

Katya Ouchakof is an ELCA pastor in Madison, WI, occasional blogger at Provocative Proclamations, and a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She can’t wait to get the canoe back out on the water, sometime after Easter.

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7 thoughts on “RCL-Narrative Lectionary: Holy Week Extravaganza Bonus Edition!

  1. My sermon is coming together with a focus on towels. I’m starting with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then moving on to the symbol of service. Still lots of work to do, but it helps to have a beginning!


  2. Maundy Thursday is readings and communion, and Friday morning, readings interspersed with singing. and a reflection from Stages on the way: Voices from the Crowd.
    Friday evening is our weekly family service, last Friday we looked at Palm Sunday and the last supper; this week will be the cross and resurrection [without the long word]
    and i have either a sinus problem or the start of a cold 😦


    1. Oh no – bacteria and viruses are not allowed to visit church leaders this time of the year! Hoping that you feel better soon.

      Do you have a Friday evening worship every week? How is it set up? Do you get folks coming to that and also Sunday morning, or just one or the other? Sounds like a great idea. Hoping that the service goes well, and that you’re healthy to lead it 🙂


  3. Without a focus on first Communion thus year, and a distaste for footwashing by the worship folks, I wasn’t sure where to focus. But in 2012, Richard Lischer write in Christian Centurt about being stripped bare, talking about Jesus and the stripping for the altar, which is the final part of our worship Thursday night. I reread some of Caputo regadding the weakness of God and that’s where I am going. I have the bones and that’s pretty good two days out.


    1. Heck, Elijah was able to bring life to bones in just a few moments with the help of the Spirit – hopefully a preacher can do the same! Glad you’ve got an outline already.

      The phrase “stripping of the altar” (or variations thereof) usually makes me giggle. I somehow imagine someone dancing on top of the altar, scantily clad! But your theme of being stripped bare seems to be a faithful and meaningful interpretation, that will hopefully elicit minimal giggles 🙂


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