Modern Worship Resources: Holy Week

Holy-Week-2Even though the church I’m at now doesn’t strictly follow the Church Calendar, preaching on the specific readings prescribed for each Sunday, there’s one aspect of the Church Calendar that I really appreciate. It begins with Advent, moving swiftly from prophecy, to announcement, to the birth of Christ on Christmas. Then from Christmas through the season of Epiphany in a few weeks as we begin Lent. From Christmas to Lent, we cover a time span of over 30 years. But then at the end of Lent comes Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Easter, and things slow down. I’ve always appreciated that the events of Holy Week happen in nearly real time. It all the more makes the point that this is the central event that the church revolves around – Christ’s death and resurrection.

Palm Sunday Resources

Songs:
One traditional aspect that is often observed in churches throughout the season of Lent and Holy Week is the omission of “Alleluia/Hallelujah” in the service, as a way to underscore the solemness of the season. If you plan to do that, it would be wise to use it as a brief teaching moment as many may not even notice if you avoid it without explanation.

Modern Songs

There haven’t been many modern worship songs written specifically for Palm Sunday, but songs around the theme of Praise, Adoration, and Glory, or that highlight the Kingship of Jesus are especially appropriate.

  • Hosanna by Hillsong (or covered by Starfield)
  • Hosanna (Praise is Rising) by Paul Baloche
  • Awesome is the Lord by Chris Tomlin
  • Open Up the Gates by Planetshakers
  • All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises by Paul Baloche
  • Raise Up the Crown by Chris Tomlin
  • How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin
  • Mighty to Save by Hillsong

Classic Songs

  • All Glory, Laud and Honor
  • Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
  • All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Maundy Thursday Resources

The church I’m at now doesn’t have worship on Maundy Thursday, because we rent space and it presents a challenge having worship two days in a row. However, I grew up with worship on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

It’s traditional to do Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as one worship service, with the invocation on Thursday and benediction on Friday. It can help people to see them as a larger event.

Typical themes for Maundy Thursday are (1) the institution of the Lord’s Supper, (2) the “New Command” (“…love one another”), from where we get the name Maundy – from Mandate, or (3) the washing of the disciple’s feet.

Also common on Maundy Thursday is the stripping of the altar, when all the cloths, candles and other adornments are removed to symbolize the humiliation of Christ. Oftentimes this is done while someone reads a Psalm such as 22, 51 or 88 quietly.

Songs:

While there aren’t many songs written specifically for Maundy Thursday, songs centering on servant-hood or communion are appropriate.

  • Jesus Messiah by Chris Tomlin
  • Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord
  • Here I Am to Worship by Tim Hughes
  • Go to Dark Gethsemane

Good Friday Resources

Good Friday is a favorite of mine, especially in a modern church setting because it’s so different from what we’re used to. Good Friday is very somber in tone, usually incorporates lots of scripture and ritual and is much darker than our typical worship services.

There are many different ways to approach Good Friday: There’s the classic 7 Words, looking at the seven things Jesus said on Good Friday; you can focus on the various elements like the cross, the crown of thorns, the whip, the nails, etc.; or the traditional Tenebrae service of darkness.

Confession of Sins:
It’s very appropriate on Good Friday to recognize the reason for the day in the first place – our own sinfulness. Speaking a confession of sins together helps to impress on each one of us our sinfulness and need for a savior.

While there are many different Confession of Sins that could be used, reading together a Psalm like Psalm 51 can add new meaning to those familiar words.

Songs: 

Modern Songs:

  • At the Cross (Love Ran Red) by Chris Tomlin
  • Beautiful the Blood by Steve Fee
  • Bless the Lord by Jeff Deyo
  • How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Stuart Townsend
  • Jesus Paid it All by Kristian Stanfill
  • Lead Me to the Cross by Hillsong
  • Majesty (Here I Am) by Delirious
  • The Stand by Hillsong
  • The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin
  • You Are My King by Brian Doerksen

Classic Songs:

  • O Sacred Head Now Wounded
  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
  • In the Cross of Christ I Glory
  • What Wondrous Love is This
  • Were You There?
  • Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted
  • Chief of Sinners Though I Be

What do you use?

What resources do you use? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About Matthew Starner

Matthew Starner is pastor of Journey of Faith Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they help people take their next step on their journey with Jesus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *