Easter Sunrise Service on the Mt. of Olives
About 200 people gathered on Easter morning at the back of Augusta Victoria complex on the Mt. of Olives while still dark for the Easter sunrise service. Although the earliest Easter for a long time, it was also the warmest, and though many came prepared with blankets and hats, this year they didn’t need them. Pastor Mark Holman was sick, but Pastor Dale Finch from Canada preached his sermon and presided over the sacrament, while Pastor Karl Reko of Chicago assisted. Music of trumpet, keyboard, viola and guitars added to the service.
Good Friday in Jerusalem is teeming with Christian pilgrims. Thousands from all over the world come into the narrow streets of Jerusalem to sing, pray and walk the Via Dolorosa, the 14 Stations of the Cross, Jesus journey to crucifixion and death. The Lutheran/Anglican time slot is at 6:30 a.m. every year, and this year was led by Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Jerusalem Diocese and Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopalian Church Katharine Jefferts Schori.
For Lutherans in Jerusalem, Maundy Thursday celebration begins with a late afternoon joint Holy Communion Service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer between the Arabic, English and German-speaking congregations. The congregations proceed from there – in different language groups singing Lenten songs – through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Via Dolorosa, out St. Stephen’s Gate, up to the Gethsemane grounds of the Russian Orthodox Church church. There, on the steps of St. Mary Magdelene Church, the service concludes with more scripture and song overlooking the lights of old Jerusalem.
Palm Sunday begins for Lutherans at Palm Sunday services at the Arabic, English-speaking and German-speaking congregations in the morning. Today, there was procession that began at Lazarus’ Tomb in Bethany, where Jesus’ Holy Week journey began with the death and resurrection of Lazarus. Now, the Separation Wall cuts off the traditional Jericho to Jerusalem road that Jesus would have used. So Christians in Bethany and just on the other side of the Mt. of Olives can’t celebrate the traditional Palm Sunday procession with the rest of the Christian community in Jerusalem. The journey begins at the Bethphage Church, with a portrait of Jesus on the donkey and the stepping stone, and continues up and over the Mt. of Olives, past Dominus Flevit church, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, past Gethsemane, where he prayed on that Thursday evening, and up into the Old City. Thousands come from all over the world to celebrate, sing and process in this historic tradition.