The Lord has Risen! He has risen indeed! Amen! Alleluia!
One of the biggest blessings and challenges of living in a foreign country is learning a new language, but I also find it interesting because it puts words and phrases into new contexts and gives deeper meaning to my own language. The words used for Holy Week in Norwegian are very different from English and for that, I am deeply grateful. It makes me think about our theological Lent and Easter terms in new ways and spiritually moves me, as this time of the year is my favorite of all the church seasons.
Holy Week in Norwegian is called Stille Uke, directly translated into “still” or “quiet” week. A friend recently wished me a good “still week” and it made me stop, think, and really reflect about how I wanted to “be” in the holy days ahead. For pastors and their families, Holy Week is often not a still week, but a very busy one with preparation for many worship services and writing sermons, on top of dealing with several other issues. I hope and pray you have found a few moments for stillness or quiet this past week.
After church on Palm Sunday afternoon our family headed outside because it was sunny and spring was in the air. Joel and I, along with our 11 and 14 year-old boys, who claim we dragged them out of the apartment (we are such awful parents), went to a beautiful snow-filled park which had botanical gardens within. Unbeknownst to us, we found out there was free entry into the gardens on Sundays and soon discovered a building called Palmhuset (translated as “The Palm House”). We slowly opened the door and were met by a blast of warm air and very large looming palm trees. The smells of damp earth greeted us as we saw palm fronds reaching out into the walkways around the greenhouse. It was an oasis in the thawing spring of Oslo. At the moment, this northern land we live in is more of an ice desert, which is slowly receding. Stopping to smell the palm fronds and feeling the ridges reminded me that these leaves were laid down for Jesus, triumphantly entering Jerusalem, but by the end of the week brutally exited the world.
Walking back out the door of The Palm House, we experienced the reverse, as cold air greeted us and we could see our breath. We plodded on…..
The “still” week continued to unfold before us as Norway slowly closed down and the streets of Oslo emptied out. Peering out our kitchen window, I watched people fill their car trunks with food and more importantly, skis. Most people we know are going to their cabin; that is what Easter holiday has become all about here. Little has much to do with Stille Uke, other than they are still going to the cabin, as they have done year after year.
Maundy Thursday suddenly appeared as the days of Easter break flew by. In Norwegian, it is actually called “skjaeretorsdag”, which from the Old Norwegian translates to cleansing or cleaning Thursday. A foot washing, prayer around the cross, and communion were all an important part of our congregation’s evening worship together. A bare altar was all that remained as we went forward into the night.
The translated version of Good Friday in Norwegian is called Langfredag or Long Friday, which is exactly what it is. It is in a sense, the longest day of our church year and the day that moves me the most. It’s the whole reason for Jesus coming to be with us. The humanness of Jesus couldn’t get any closer than in his death on the cross. Grief is something that stays with and shapes us, the death of Jesus changes the course of history, forever. The moment Jesus dies, the world is still. We hardly have words, so we sit and wait in the quiet. We yearn to see what will happen.
Påskedag or Easter Day is what I look forward to the most and always have.
There is just something about the newness of this day that is unlike any other. Even after every single passing year of my life, I love it even more. As a child, I looked forward to going to church on Easter morning, for I knew all my senses would come alive when I walked in the doors of the sanctuary. The lilies, daffodils, egg bake, cinnamon rolls, coffee, and old lady perfume would somehow find their way into my nose (sometimes all at once). The food would find its way into my stomach and fill me with all good things. The worship service and God’s love story of resurrection would find its way into my ears and heart and give me new inspiration. The fellowship amongst God’s people would touch me as I would get hugs and kisses from the community of faith and my family. The white dresses and Easter hats of young and old would make me laugh as I saw the spring colors of yellows, pinks, and white. Resurrection and newness of life abounded and still does. Wherever I am in the world, I know that my Redeemer lives and THAT is Good News.
Easter is energizing, awesome, and exhausting all at the same time, especially for those of us who are busy working throughout the days, but the promise is still fulfilled. The promise of new life comes at us fiercely and with more love than we could ever imagine. That love doesn’t stand still……because, in Norwegian, the word for resurrection takes on a different image; Jesus stå opp.
Jesus stands up.
He stood up for all of us and life is no longer still. Jesus sends us into the world and we are on the move to share His love, grace, and forgiveness which wraps itself around us forever.
My dear AICEME, on this Easter Monday, I pray blessings upon you as you preach and share the Gospel to a world that so much needs it. I thank you for the ministry you do and am grateful to serve as a partner in ministry with you. I look forward to our Pastor and Spouses Conference in Greece in just a few short weeks and hope that it will be a time to be Refreshed in Spirit and Enriched in Learning.
Peace, love, and grace to all of you on this day and celebration of resurrection.
Standing in the Love and Resurrection of Jesus,
Reverend Emily Rova-Hegener