Tag Archives: Holy Week

  Fools Rush In – Sermon on Mark 11:11-33, 14:1-11

Entrance to Holy Week
March 25, 2018
Watch a video of this sermon here. 

The line “For fools rush in where angels fear to tread” first appeared in Alexander Pope’s poem An Essay on Criticism, in 1711. The phrase usually refers to inexperienced people diving into things that people with more experience would probably avoid. A few other lines from this poem are also well known – such as “to err is human, to forgive divine;” and
“a little learning is a dangerous thing.”[1] But Pope’s “fools rush in” has become an idiom in its own right.

Throughout Mark’s story of this final week, fools are rushing in everywhere: Continue reading

Opening the Door to Holy Week

When I arrived at First Church, I noticed a sign on the inside of the “front” door – the original main entrance to the church, before the parking lot was added, and people started using the “back” entrance as the main door of the church. The sign said, “Do Not Open This Door.” Not even “please leave this door closed.” Do. Not. Open. This. Door.

I preached about it. I asked the congregation to consider the implications of that sign. What did it say, not only to the community on the other side of the door, but to us on the inside? I mentioned it in Trustee meetings and Council meetings. It’s been a year and a half, and last Sunday, I asked if we could open the door for Palm Sunday and Easter, as a sign of radical hospitality to the many people who drive past our church on Sunday mornings. Continue reading

Whatever you have to do…

Meditation for Holy Wednesday on John 13:21-32

Get on with it.

Get a move on.

Hurry up!

We’re burnin’ daylight, people!

What are you waiting for?

Hustle!

Jesus said, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

Get on with it. If you’ve decided to betray the Savior of the World, there is no time to waste.

Get a move on. This betrayal sets everything in motion. There are lots of players involved. They are waiting for their cue from you.

Hurry up! The time has come. Get going. There is no reason to wait any longer.

What are you waiting for? It’s too late to change your mind. What’s done is done.

We’re burnin’ daylight, people! Did you hear “Walk while you have the light” only yesterday?

Hustle! Time is of the essence. Go. Now.

Do quickly what you are going to do. Get it over with, for your own sake. Don’t draw out the agony of knowing you have caused an irreversible sequence of events to unfold, events that will lead to the death of the One you call Lord, Master, Teacher.

Oh, I’m sorry, Jesus. Were you talking to Judas?

I thought you meant me.

 

 

We Would See Jesus

Meditation for Holy Tuesday – John 12:20-36

I’ve always wondered what happened to those Greeks who approached Philip. Did they stand aside, waiting for a private audience, while Philip found his brother to go with him to Jesus on their behalf? Did they tag along behind the brothers, hoping for a word with the Word made flesh? Or did they merge into the crowd as Jesus began to teach about his own death?

We never learn the answer. By the end of this passage, Jesus has slipped away to hide from the crowd. Interesting … Many times, Jesus has escaped the pressure of the crowd around him, leaving them to pray, to be alone with his inner circle of disciples, or to rest. But I don’t recall anywhere before this that Jesus has left the crowd specifically to hide.

It is doubly ironic that, just before Jesus hid from the crowd, he told them to “walk in the light.” Just before sneaking off into the shadows, Jesus says, “If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.” Yet Jesus knew exactly where he was going. The Light of the World was about to enter his darkest days on earth. 

Lord, help me to follow you through the shadows of my own fear, my own blindness, into the light of your glorious resurrection. Keep me focused on you, sweet Lord Jesus. Amen.

Palm Sunday … Passion Sunday

This is a day to let the scriptures speak for themselves. We marched in triumphantly (we had to sing through the processional hymn twice – Hosanna, Loud Hosanna!) and sang our responses to each reading, but here’s the gist of it. Grab a palm branch and read along, as we enter into Holy Week together. I’ll be posting a reflection on the daily readings throughout the week. Come, let us worship at the foot of the cross.

CALL TO WORSHIP from Psalm 18

Leader:       O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the people say,

People:       “His steadfast love endures forever!”
Leader:       This is the gate of the Lord;
People:       The righteous shall enter through it.
Leader:       The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
People:        This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Leader:       This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!
People:       Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
                   We bless you from the house of the Lord.
Leader:       Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
People:       O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
                   for his steadfast love endures forever.

UNISON PRAYER

We praise you, O God, for your redemption of the world through Jesus Christ. He entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph and was proclaimed Messiah and King by those who spread garments and branches along his way. Just as we carry these branches, may we follow Christ in the way of the cross, that, dying and rising with him, we may enter into your kingdom, through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 21:1-11      

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – Isaiah 50:4-9a

NEW TESTAMENT LESSON – Philippians 2:5-11

THE STORY OF THE PASSION

GOSPEL LESSONMatthew 26:14-35 

RESPONSIVE READING            Matthew 27:1-52, 54

One: Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him,
Many: ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’
One: Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them,
Men:

 

 ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, JesusBarabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’
One: For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him,
Women: ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’
One: Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said,
Many: ‘Barabbas.’
One: Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said,
Many: ‘Let him be crucified!’
One: Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more,
Many: ‘Let him be crucified!’
One:  So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ Then the people as a whole answered,
Women: ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’
One: So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying,
Many: ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’
One: They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read,

‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’

Men:  Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying,
Women: ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’
One: In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,
Men: ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’
One: The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

From noon on, darkness came over the whole until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said,

Women: ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’
One: At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said,
Men: ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.
One: Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said,
ALL: ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

 

 

 

The Scent of Myrrh

This afternoon, I sat with a woman who has decided it is time to die. She told me stories of her childhood, of her parents and her grandparents. She told me stories about her husband and their life together. It was a good life. She has no regrets. There are many things she doesn’t understand, but she’s done with asking questions. She’s done, period. This is a woman who has always done exactly what she set her mind to do. She has set her mind now to die.

I didn’t want to tell her that deciding it is time to die and actually doing the business of dying are two different things. From what I’ve seen, dying is hard work. I remember another woman, who lay on her deathbed for weeks. When she awoke one morning, she exclaimed, “Oh no, I’m still here!” When I asked how I could pray for her, she answered, “Just ask Jesus to bring me home.” She was ready for death, but death was not quite ready for her.

This afternoon, I anointed a woman’s forehead and hands with oil, scented with myrrh.  We prayed together for God to give her peace. In less than a week, I will anoint congregants’ hands with that same oil as part of Good Friday worship. Myrrh was one of the spices brought to Jesus when he was a baby. It was probably one of the spices brought by Joseph of Arimathea to prepare his body for burial. The beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, wrapped in the same perfume.

We enter into Holy Week waving palm branches. It doesn’t take long for the joyous shouts of “Hosanna!” to change into “Crucify him!” The hard work of Christ’s death is described in vivd detail as the week progresses. Each year,  we enter into the mystery of death that becomes life, the finite becoming infinite, as we move toward Easter. But before we can fully experience the joy of resurrection, we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And it is hard work.

Rotten Snow

The Brothers Frantzich have a great little song , “When Winter Lets Go of Minnesota,” that has been rolling around in my head this past week, as I watched the snow melt.  I wait impatiently for the thermometer to let me join in on the line, “It may only be fifty degrees, but we’re doin’ yard work in the raw,” but so far, we’re just glad the temperature lingers above freezing several hours a day.  We may still have remnants of ice dams on one part of our roof, and the deck is still a foot deep in rotten snow, yet I remain confident that we will see Spring sometime before June 1st. After all, there are bare spots in the yard, and I saw ducks on the creek yesterday. There is hope.

I really don’t like this season between seasons, this not-winter-anymore-but-definitely-not-Spring thing. The snow is ugly, and the melting reveals all sorts of nasty trash that I could easily ignore when it was covered in a pristine white blanket. It’s still too cold for anything to grow, and the dull browns and grays emerging from the slush give no promise of green, no sign of life. As the snow and ice melt, they form some new substance that only time and sunshine can dissolve. This substance, mostly water in some semi-frozen form, contains all the dirt, all the dead vegetation, all the junk that has been lying in suspended animation since Thanksgiving. It isn’t pretty.

Maybe the thing I like least about the melting mess is that it reminds me of my interior self, and that isn’t pretty, either. All the junk, all the dirt, all the dead stuff I have left in suspended animation for far too long pops up into my consciousness, and I am forced to take stock of the rotten snow in my soul.  Good Friday nearly does me in every year. The darkening shadows of Tenebrae cannot hide the pock marks that pride, selfishness, and laziness have left on my spirit. I want to jump ahead to Easter Sunday, to eat chocolate and dance with the little girls in their pretty dresses as we sing, “Alleluia! Alleluia!” together. I do not want to shovel rancid snow off my frozen heart.

Then Jesus says, “Do you love me?”
And, like Peter, I answer, “Of course!”
But Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.”

And I want to make excuses, remind Jesus of the rotten snow that hasn’t completely melted in my soul….

“Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”
“Tend my sheep.”