A HOLY WEEK MESSAGE FROM
President Panzer, LCMS Kansas District
“The Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation” (Is. 12:2). In the midst of everything we are going through together, it is such a delight to see how so many of our churches are taking advantage of technology to continue to share God’s Word (Rom. 10:17). As of this writing, I have listened to 44 sermons from different pastors across the Kansas District. If you are watching your church’s livestream or a recording, I encourage you to get out of bed and get dressed—it will put you in the right mindset for worship. I encourage you to go through your normal Sunday routine—minus the “hurry up, we’re late” part. I encourage you to gather together as a family—no multitasking. I encourage you to stream on your largest screen, if possible—this will help you feel like you’re really there. Finally, I encourage you to speak and sing as if you’re in church—“Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there I am with you,” Christ says in Matthew 18:20.
We can work our way through this together, with patience and love, and with the confidence of our Lord Jesus Christ and the encouragement of His Holy Spirit. I want to say “thank you” for the charity and love that you are showing to one another and to your neighbor. I have heard some fantastic stories of congregations finding new ways to reach out to their elderly, youth, inactives, single mothers, and others. Keep doing it. We are living and working in a time that is unprecedented. (Most of us weren’t even born when the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 hit the United States.) We have all learned some new terms. “Stay at home.” “Shelter in place.” “Social distancing.” Together, we pray that God would heal all those who are sick, comfort all those who mourn, and stop the spread of the pandemic.
Even though many of us are separated from our churches and even from gathering together with one another in groups larger than ten, the message of Christ still goes on, and Holy Week has arrived! We proclaim the changeless Christ in an ever-changing world. Hear again these joyous words of a familiar Palm Sunday hymn: “Ride on, ride on in majesty! / Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry. / O Savior meek, pursue Thy road, / With palms and scattered garments strowed” (LSB 441, St. 1). Your Savior comes to you; “righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). Christ comes for you to be your Savior (Rom.5:8).
On Maundy Thursday, the Church remembers that Jesus comes to give a foretaste of the feast to come in the eating and drinking of His true body and blood in the unleavened bread and wine of Holy Communion (Ex. 12:1-28; Matt. 26:17-29). This is no memorial meal. The bread is Christ’s body and the wine is Christ’s blood, given and shed for us to eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins. Many of us will continue to have a Lenten fast from the Lord’s Supper during this time. How we will long and yearn even more to partake soon! “I come, O Savior, to Thy table, / For weak and weary is my soul; / Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able, / To satisfy and make me whole: / Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood, / Be for my soul the highest good!” (LSB 618, St. 1).
On Good Friday, Jesus comes to exchange His sinless life for your sinful one (2 Cor. 5:21). “Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, / See Him dying on the tree! / ‘Tis the Christ, by man rejected; / Yes, my soul, ‘tis He, ‘tis He! / ‘Tis the long expected Prophet, / David’s Son, yet David’s Lord; / Proofs I see sufficient of it: / ‘Tis the true and faithful Word” (LSB 451, St. 1).
Christ is bodily risen from the dead! “I know that my Redeemer lives; / What comfort this sweet sentence gives! / He lives, He lives, who once was dead; / He lives, my everliving head” (LSB 461, St. 1). He comes to be your justifier (Rom. 4:25) so that you are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). He comes, so that through the work of the Holy Spirit, we might be joined to His death and resurrection through the waters of our Baptism (Rom. 6:3-5). Forgiven of our sins, we are truly the heirs of eternal life (Titus 3:5) who now can’t help but to proclaim His saving deeds through our own words and actions to those around us (1 Peter 2:9).
It may not “feel” like Holy Week this year. That’s okay, because “feelings never save.” The concrete and objective love of Christ crucified and risen always saves and is always good for you. His death and resurrection for your forgiveness, life and salvation cannot be taken from you. You can’t be “unbaptized.” Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. That’s still our proclamation, and it will always be our confession of faith!
With prayers for a blessed Holy Week,
President, LCMS Kansas District