Wednesday of Holy Week

At camp we called it “hump day.” Most of the camps, when I was a staff member, began on Sunday afternoon and concluded on Saturday morning. For counselors, especially those who had little camp experience, Wednesday was a day when their fatigue began to show. Camp stretched their days a little bit. They needed to be up at the first bell and they had to stay up until all of the campers were tucked in their beds. Their days were full of constant activity and camp doesn’t really offer many breaks for personal time.

The thing that we on the camp staff knew, but some of the counselors didn’t know, was that the campers were also getting tired. They showed it in different ways than the counselors, bu they, too, were experiencing some of the stresses of living in close community.

The result was the it wasn’t uncommon for tempers to flare on Wednesdays, or campers to misbehave, or a few tears to fall. If we were going to get complaints about the food, they usually came on Wednesday, and it was also the day for complaints about beds and mattresses and the work chores that were assigned to campers.

It became our mantra to simple get through Wednesday. If you get through Wednesday, you’ll make it through the week.

There was a bit of truth to that. After that much camp, people began to readjust their internal clocks and rising in the morning became easier. After an experience of intense emotions, people became more honest with their feelings and more able to work through problems and difficulties. The community became more evident and more important as the week continued towards its conclusion. It was an almost certain ending. The camper who begged to go home on Wednesday, was begging to be allowed to remain on Saturday. The kids who were driving a counselor up the wall on Wednesday were hugging that same counselor with genuine affection on Saturday. The counselor who was wondering why he or she had agreed to serve on Wednesday was ready to sign up for next year on Saturday.

So, when it comes to Holy Week, which really isn’t the same as camp, today is Hump Day. We’ve had a few of our special services. We’ve stayed up a bit later than usual and rushed off to the office a bit earlier than usual for a couple of days. We’ve passed one day that usually a day off and worked straight through it. We’ve moved enough furniture to have remembered how to be more efficient about that task. But we are also aware that there is much to come.

In a way we prepared for the whole week on Monday with the liturgy of the Passion. We read the whole story. We know how it concludes. We’ve practiced, so to speak, for Good Friday. We’ve counted the rehearsals and preparations and worship services and know how many are left. Personally, yesterday was my long day, with a presentation to colleagues at 8:30, a sermon at a community service at noon and a concert to host in the evening. Most of the days of Holy Week have a single or perhaps two events that are out of the ordinary.

Still, I can feel that today will be a challenge. I’m a bit slower getting going. I lingered a bit over the news before starting to write my blog, usually a sign that I’ll be walking out the door for the office a bit later than other days. I can feel a bit of weariness creeping into my life. So, in a sense, it’s hump day for me.

But I’ve learned something from the years at camp and the years of serving as a pastor. The events of this week, while demanding, are also energy-giving. Unlike some things that I do as a pastor, leading worship is a source of strength and energy. A week in which I worship more than usual is a week for which I have more energy than usual. I’m not superhuman. I need sleep just the same as others, but I have a sense of endurance that comes from knowing which things in life renew and refresh.

Music is a source of strength and Holy Week is, for us, filled with music. It isn’t always the most upbeat and joy-filled music, but while we are going through the services of the week, we are also rehearsing for easter with fast tempos and dramatic dynamics. In the midst of the other activities of the day, I’ll be putting the final touches on my input for the Easter Morning worship bulletin. I’ll catch myself humming Easter tunes even as I prepare for the more somber services of the end of this week.

Our lives continue to seek balance. Sometimes we need to find new balance points and we need to practice new moves. We don’t always get the balance right, especially the first time we encounter a new set of experiences. It takes practice.

And practice is one of the gifts of Holy Week. Last night I counted and realized that it was our sixth blues concert. What seems like a new practice, has been going on for more than half a decade now. I’ve learned to anticipate this week and to plan for it. Much of the planning and paper work for this week was done last week. We had all of the Holy Week worship bulletins except for Easter Morning printed by the end of the work day last Thursday. I’ve learned to delegate more responsibilities. I’m spending less time in the kitchen and more time with people than I was a few years ago. Practice allows us to make changes.

As we used to sing in camp, “You must walk this lonesome valley. You have to walk it by yourself. For nobody else can walk it for you . . .” Each of us will face our own time of dying. Walking with Jesus through the events of his week of dying is one way to prepare for our own journeys.

Indeed the week is holy.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!