Spirit Alive: One Week Can Make a Lasting Difference

Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and beyond.
April 11, 2017

With Heart, Soul, and Mind:

What Would Holy Week Look Like in a Tweeting, Hashtag World?

"Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, 'Truly this man was God's Son!'"

Matthew 27: 54

Since we celebrate Holy Week and Easter every year and know the end of the story, it is easy to lose track of just how much deep meaning and mystery fills this single week . What appears to be over is just  beginning. And in the course of events, we are reminded that hope and joy can and often do bloom in the midst of suffering, sacrifice, and pain. During the days we call Holy Week, Easter steps out of the shadows of Good Friday's darkness and despair and comes fully alive, promising a new way forward that involves a deeper connection with God, grounded in sacrificial love.

This year, for the 8th time, I will have the privilege of participating in the Pan Methodist "Seven Last
Words" Good Friday Worship Service, with our brothers and sisters in the AME, AME-Zion, and CME churches. The Good Friday service within the African-American church is always a powerful experience, filled with gospel music, extensive preaching, and roughly three hours of worship, mixed with appropriate smatterings of "amens" throughout the evening. It is a truly blessed time of profound worship and spiritual meaning. I always feel inspired and moved by the experience.

Yet for all the words that are spoken, all we are doing during our time together is remembering seven, short phrases from the Good Friday canon. "Father, forgive them," "Today you will be with me in paradise," "Woman behold your son! Behold your mother," "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?," "I thirst," "It is finished," and "Father into Thy hands I commit my spirit."
But you know, if these expressions didn't come from Holy Scripture, I'd say that we were looking at what appears to be a form of modern, but extraordinary, tweets. Short and to the point. In fact, thinking about it through this modern lens raises an important question: What would Holy Week have looked like through the lens of our tweeting, hashtag world?

Can you see Pilate tweeting: "Not my fault. Go with the crowd. Don't mess with power. This chaos is done, over. Long live Caesar Augustus. @Romerules."
Perhaps Caesar would tweet in response: "Lesson learned: Don't fight the system. Wealth and power beat love and compassion every time. @I'myour#one."
And what of the Centurian: "Nothing like a crucifixion to restore order. Except this man was God's Son! @troubledsoldier"
I don't happen to use Twitter, but as we look at the highs and lows that make Holy Week such a dramatic unfolding of events, it is clear that Jesus' words could easily make their way into our tweeting world as powerful, short bursts of spiritual insight and energy, leaving us with the profound message about the nature of God's love.

These messages could easily start with.... "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" or "Into Thy hands I commit my spirit." But the week would not be over until we also heard: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"; "He is not here, but has risen"; "Do not be afraid"; "Do not doubt, but believe"; and "Feed my sheep."

We are more familiar with the Jesus who fed the hungry, healed the sick, and told amazing parables, but he also spoke in short, clear ways that are very understandable in our tweet-filled world. In fact, there is no question that Holy Week set the world atwitter two thousand years ago...long before tweets ever existed.
During Holy Week, God communicated the nature of his love in clear, unmistakable ways. Perhaps our tweeting world has something to learn from it all: at times, God may not use many words, but what is said not only takes our breath away, but also points us toward faith, hope, and love. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with it all, but the message of God's love is easily contained within 140 characters. In fact, when the week finally ends, it doesn't take 140 characters to communicate the Christian message: He is risen! Risen, indeed!
Let us walk in the light of God's love,


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.