Holy Pauses for Holy Week

An Invitation for Intentional Reflection, Discussion, and Action during Holy Week

Dear IFFP Community,

Blessings to you this Holy Week! This year, I am happy to offer creative opportunities for all of us to engage in during this important time on the Christian calendar.  Below you will find a series of holy pauses that I encourage you and/or your families to complete on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. 

Holy Week centers around the final days of Jesus’s life, his death on a cross, and his resurrection story. There are many themes to reflect upon, no matter one’s religious tradition or belief system – themes of friendship, sacrifice, servanthood, unjust systems of power, everlasting love, and hope in the midst of despair. 

Please note: the scriptures that I have included below are typical excerpts from the Bible read during Holy Week. These texts are not meant to promote any one belief, but rather to be utilized by all of our IFFP members to reflect upon larger lessons that can be drawn from these sacred stories.

I hope that you or your family at large will consider carving out time for these holy pauses, and find them meaningful. I look forward to hearing about your experiences with this if you feel moved to share.

Wishing you a blessed Passover, Easter, and Spring.

With love,

Rev. Sam

Holy Pause 1: Maundy Thursday (April 14th)

“The Last Supper with Jesus and his Friends”

1. You may begin by reading this story from the Bible
John 13:1, 5-7, 12-16 [Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet] Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 5 Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 

12 After Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 

Mark 14:22-25 [The Last Supper] While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
2. Next, discuss or reflect upon some of these questions
What about this story especially speaks to you? Is there a central message? What can this story teach us about what it means to be a servant to others? What are ways in which you feel motivated to tend to the needs of others close to you and from around the world?
3. You are invited to engage in this action
Washing Hands or Feet: Take turns washing the hands or feet of a family member or friend. Then, have that person wash your hands or feet. Afterward, ask one another what it felt like to care for each other in this way and to receive the other person’s care.  If you are doing this practice alone, wash your hands or feet slowly and notice what the water feels like on your skin. Ask yourself: how can a simple act, like washing my hands and feet, be so healing?
4. End this practice with an interfaith prayer
Make Us Instruments of Peace

Kindle in our hearts, oh eternal and loving God, gratitude for the memory of those who have gone before.
Kindle in our hearts, eternal and loving God, courage to face the tragedies of life.
Kindle wisdom to learn from the pains and tribulations of the past, praying now so that we may learn from our errors.
Kindle strength in our hearts, so that we may be used to relieve oppression that too many endure.
Kindle in our hearts charity so that we may see unity in everyone, everyone across this grand and glorious world.
Make us instruments of your peace. Go now to become an instrument of peace and the proud bearer of God’s glory. Amen.

-Susan Suchocki Brown
turquoise painted cross

Holy Pause 2: Good Friday

(April 15th)

“When Jesus Died on a Cross”

1. You may begin by reading this story from the Bible
These are the different Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last words spoken before he died:

Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” 

Luke 23:43: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 

Luke 23:46: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

John 19:26-27: “Woman, here is your son . . . Here is your mother.” 

John 19:28: “I am thirsty.” 

John 19:30: “It is finished.”
2. Next, discuss or reflect upon some of these questions
Which of these final words resonates most with you? When looking at these words together, what do they teach us about Jesus and/or about suffering? Where do you see suffering in the world – and what particular words would you use to describe the sort of pain people are feeling?
3. You are invited to engage in this action
Artistic Expression: Choose one of Jesus’ final words and reflect upon it in an artistic way. Be inspired by these words to draw a picture, write a poem, or play original music. You may also want to meditate on the words as you walk in nature or even down a busy street. How are these words coming alive for you and what new lessons are you able to draw from them through further exploration?
4. End this practice with an interfaith prayer
A Prayer for Victims of Violence

In the midst of a noisy city, where violence is often too much with us, in a land teeming with rancor, we lift up our prayer of life to the Holy, by whatsoever name we may call it.
We pray for victims of violence, those whose loved ones have been taken from them, that they might be healed in their hurt and come to forgive. We pray, too, for the perpetrators of violence, that they might be redeemed and made whole, and learn to live in peace. And we pray for those who have been executed, that their families might be made whole. 
We pray for those of us who are torn and tormented by angry voices, vindictive voices, and for those who are tempted to join them. May we have the courage to reject vengeance, and to restore the wholeness of community, and bring reconciliation.
The road to peace is a hard way; the temptations to vengeance are many; may we encourage the better angels of our nature and become messengers of peace and goodwill. May we be the peacemakers of Beloved Community. In the name of the Most Holy we pray. Amen. 

– Richard Gilbert

Holy Pause 3: Holy Saturday

(April 16th)

“The Day Jesus was Laid in a Tomb”

1. You may begin by reading this story from the Bible
Matthew 27:57-61 [The Burial of Jesus] When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Matthew 27:57-62-66 [The Guard at the Tomb] The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[a] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
2. Next, discuss or reflect upon some of these questions
What about this story do you find particularly interesting? What do the different people in the story teach us about how human beings respond when we are feeling grief and/or fear? What are some of the different ways we practice mourning in our society today?  Are there ways that we could do this that would better serve those who grieve?
3. You are invited to engage in this action
Keeping Memories Alive: Open the newspaper to the obituary section (or search for this online) and read about someone who has recently passed away. Take time to read about their contributions and interests, including the names of those loved ones whom they have left behind. Even though you may not know them, allow yourself to feel connected to their memory. Say their name aloud and give thanks for their life. You may even share about them with a family member or friend, or you may choose to write about them in a diary or journal.
4. End this practice with an interfaith prayer

Prayer for Desert Times

The journeys of our lives are never fully charted. 
There come, sometimes, to each of us, deserts to cross, barren stretches
Where the green edge in the horizon may be our destination,
Or an oasis on our way,
Or a mirage that beckons and will leave us lost.
When fear grips the heart, or despair bows the head,
May we bend as heart and head lead us down to touch the ground beneath our feet,
And scoop some sand into our hands,
And receive what the sand would teach us:
It holds the warmth of the sun when the sun has left our sight,
As it holds the cool of the night when the stars have faded.
And hidden among its grains are tiny seeds, as rest and waiting.
Dormant, yet undefeated. Desert flowers.
They endure.
Moistened by our tears,
And by the rain that comes to end even the longest drought,
They send down roots, and they bloom.
Oh, may we believe in those seeds,
And the seeds within us.
May we remember in our dry seasons that we, too, are desert flowers.

-Margaret Keip

Holy Pause 4: Easter Sunday (April 17th)

“The Resurrection Story of Jesus”

1. You may begin by reading this story from the Bible
Luke 24:1-12 [The Empty Tomb] But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 

5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
2. Next, discuss or reflect upon some of these questions
What is exciting and/or challenging about this story? What larger lessons can we draw from such a miraculous tale? Where do we see signs of hope and new life around you – or even in yourself today?
3. You are invited to engage in this action
Noticing and Embodying Hope: Be on the lookout for unexpected beauty today: the shape of a crack in a wall, the sound of laughter, the warmth of springtime, the smell of food, something you appreciate about another. Let a smile wash over your face and be swept away in gratitude. Next, find a way to make someone’s day brighter. You can perform an unexpected kind gesture, share thoughtful words, donate to a charity, say a prayer for someone in need, lend a helping hand. Remember that we are all a part of bringing hope and healing into our world. 
4. End this practice with an interfaith prayer
We Pause to Give Thanks

We pause in the midst of our busy day,
Joining with others across our globe,
Who, like us, yearn for peace;
Who, like us, yearn for the day when all adults and children can live together in harmony and understanding.
We pause here, in this special place,
to remember noble words and courageous acts that have given us the peace we enjoy and have urged us forward in the quest for a more peaceful world.
We pause to celebrate the joy of people coming together,
serving one another with common goals and concerns,
helping the downtrodden,
sheltering the homeless,
feeding the hungry,
caring for the children.
We pause to ask God’s blessing that the work of our hands will be fruitful,
the meditations of our hearts will bring love,
and the words of our mouths will bear wisdom as we seek to walk in the paths of peace ourselves.
We give thanks for all that has sustained us in the past,
and look forward with hope to the day our world will be one. Amen.

-Laurel Hallman

Thank you for engaging in these holy pauses.

Happy Easter, IFFP Family!



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