Our Church Clerk, Sister Sandy Baez, wrote an inspirational letter that I was moved to post. I am sure that it will bless you as it did me. -Pastor Norwood
Thoughts on Holy Week by Sister Sandy Baez
To my Church family I write this letter to you with love! My desire to worship with you compelled me to write this simply to wish you peace and thanksgiving and to let you know that I miss you all sincerely.
As you know, due to the Coronavirus, our Pastor and First Lady have worked diligently to continue to minister the Word and keep our congregation together. Our Worship and Study services are temporarily being held online and by teleconference. The sermons and Bible study recordings are posted on the Ujima website. Additionally, a secure donation application with instructions on how the congregation can continue to worship through giving of tithes and offerings has been posted on the Ujima website. Praise be to God for the Blessing that is Our Pastor John Norwood and First Lady Deacon Tanya Norwood.
During our prayer services, we continue to uplift the first responders, doctors, nurses, city, state, and federal leaders, our children and families, and all of those infected or affected by this horrific pandemic. We give praise and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ for keeping us safe; for enabling the doctors, nurses, and scientists to not only provide immediate medical assistance, but for working together to develop therapies and medications to combat and maintain this virus known as COVID-19.
We thank God for uniting our world and praise Him for allowing nations to come together and share supplies, best practices, and data analysis so that leaders worldwide can strategically manage and combat this invisible enemy. At Ujima we mourn our separation and our inability to gather together in person as one body in Christ to worship and glorify our Lord and Savior. We pray that the Lord bring an end to this pandemic so that we can be reunited!
Not being able to gather together for communion is heartfelt by our congregation. And now, as we prepare for Holy Week our hearts are heavy and saddened because we will not be able to gather as one. Despite these challenging times, as Christians and true believers, I’d like to remind the congregation of the significance of our commitment to remain focused on the Lord and our obligations to reading His Word, staying in communion and prayer, and worshipping our Lord through giving.
With that said, I’d like to remind you that Holy Week is the most sacred time of the year for us and fellow Christians worldwide. As a saint of Christ I felt obligated to provide our congregation, and all believers who read this, points of meditation that we can focus on during our physical separation and our inability to commune and break bread. During Holy Week, Christians must recall the events leading up to Jesus' death by crucifixion, and his resurrection.
Holy Week reminds Christians of God's sacrifice of his son, and also God's love for his people. Christians learn much about Jesus through the last week of his life. For example, you may have noticed that during Lent until Good Friday, Ujima’s color is purple which is symbolic of penance prior to Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus was forced to wear a crown of thorns and a purple cloak as the people mocked Him. Purple is the color of royalty to welcome the coming of a King and yet it also symbolizes Christ’s pain and suffering. Although we are prohibited from receiving palms and communion on Palm Sunday remember the significance of this day commemorating Jesus' entry into Jerusalem to observe Passover.
Scripture reminds us that Holy Monday is the day on which Jesus cleansed the temple. Matthew tells us, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ He said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:12-13).
Holy Tuesday is when Jesus underwent various challenges by the Pharisees and Sadducees over subjects such as paying taxes to Caesar and questioning Jesus on the source of His authority. This day Jesus spoke against the Pharisees - 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13).
Holy Wednesday was the day on which Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin. Luke wrote “3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.” (Luke 22:3-6).
Maundy Thursday is a big celebration at our Church, as Pastor commemorates the first Eucharist, the Washing of the Feet and the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. During the Last Supper, Jesus identified that Judas would betray him, and that Peter would deny him.
Good Friday may seem an ironic title for the day of Christ’s death for it is a sorrowful, awful day for the followers of Jesus. But it is also a day of celebration for the Lord completed his work as the living son of God on Earth, atoning for our sins so that we might be forgiven and receive salvation. We must not only remember his agony and torture, we must glorify Him for his sacrifice and salvation.
Brothers and Sisters we may not be able to be together physically during Holy Week, but in prayer, meditation, and study we must honor and remember the last week of Jesus’ life on this earth. The most important of day of all is Resurrection Sunday. The greatest focus of the week is the suffering, death, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the events that led up to it. During these days, we suffer with Christ out of gratitude for our salvation so that we might identify with him, and serve and honor him.
Under normal circumstances Holy Week is a time that we clear our schedules of unnecessary activities. Yet because of our world’s current war against COVID-19 we are given an opportunity to truly clear our minds and hearts and be fixed on Jesus. Focus on what He has done for us.
As the Bible and our Pastor have taught us, remember that the most important event in history is Jesus’ resurrection. It is the central principle of Christian theology. Not only does the resurrection witness to the power of Jesus Christ, the resurrection also proves to us that Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). Without Christ there would be no resurrection unto eternal life with God in heaven. The astounding thing about the power of Jesus is that He does more than give life, He is life, and that’s why death has no dominion over Him. In resurrecting from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.
Our God is a God of order, intention, and purpose. The world is going through a horrible pandemic but God is in control! We are not to be fearful or anxious. We are to stay grounded and focused on Him. Many are on the front lines of this war, many are working from home, many have reduced work schedules, and many may have lost their employment. But not one of us has lost Christ Jesus who “will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
Join me in staying focused, diligent in worship through prayer, worship, and thanksgiving! Remember and Celebrate Holy Week! Commune with Christ Jesus! Witness to others! Love each other!
Until we meet again!
Yours in Christ!
Sister Sandy Baez