Tag Archive | Palm Sunday

Celebration and a Sense of Doom

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:8-11)

We celebrate Palm Sunday today – the day that Jesus made a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. . . and the beginning of a week that brought denial, betrayal, a trial, crucifixion and finally, resurrection.

This coming “holy week” is the culmination of Jesus’ life – the reason He came as God’s son. We experience a wide range of emotions as we move through the week.

It is the time of the Jewish Passover – a time when people came home to celebrate with their families. It was a holiday then, and still is today, a time to be with family and celebrate with the Passover meal.

If you use your imagination for just a moment, you can feel the press of the people as they gather along the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. You can smell the dust, and the donkeys, you can hear the crowd. You can see the brightly colored holiday clothes of festive pilgrims gathering in Jerusalem.

You can feel the excitement in the air; you may find yourself climbing a tree to break down a palm branch, and then straining to see through all the other waving branches. Off in the distance, a muffled roar, indistinguishable words, then a cheer, and then a chant: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” You may even find yourself shouting

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

Soon the road was jammed with pilgrims and locals alike. They joined the disciples in laying their cloaks across the path to show Jesus honor. They broke branches from the palm trees and waved them in the air, and spread them on the road. While the cloaks and the palm branches make this a procession fit for a king, the cheers of the people were even more significant.

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

It was a great celebration!! People were happy and joyful, celebrating life.

But it was also the last week of Jesus’ life.

In the jubilation of Palm Sunday, we forget that in a few short days Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, tried, abandoned, whipped, spit upon, slapped, scourged, tortured with a crown of thorns, mocked, ridiculed, and ultimately nailed on a cross. And the same crowds that had sung “Hosannas” at his arrival, would shout “Crucify Him!” – and ask Pilate to release Barabbas and put Jesus to death.

Their love for the Lord was shallow and based entirely on their hope of what exciting things he could do for them. In their confusion, and anger, and fear, those who on Sunday had welcomed Jesus as their new messiah, by Friday had turned on him, disappointed in Jesus and their continued lives under the Roman rule. So tired of all they could not control, they cried out for vengeance they could control. If Jesus would not be their king and free them, then they might as well get rid of Him.

Jesus knew that the end of his earthly ministry was near. It was time to do what he had come to do. It was now or never; he was ready to be obedient to God, and to accomplish the purpose set out for him. The road on Palm Sunday was not a road to freedom. It was the road to sacrifice. It was not the road to power, it was the road to humility and humiliation. It was not the road to fame, it was the road to death. It was not the road the crowd thought; it was the road God had planned.

None of us knows just how long each of our lives will be, how much time we have left. Every time we learn of someone who dies young, we are reminded of that.

None of us can know all that the future holds. We don’t know how long we will be on this earth. But we can know that God has a purpose for us. He calls us to love him and love others with the kind of love that He showed us when he sacrificed His only Son. He calls us to speak out the truth, to reach out our hands, to hold out our hearts.

And he calls us to do that now. When we think we are not ready to make a commitment, that is the best time to do it. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He just wants us to try. . . try a little each and every day.

And that day is now.

We don’t know how many more days there will be. We cannot afford to miss even one.

It is time to try to live our lives in the way Jesus taught. We are to

“Love one another as we love ourselves” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus gave his life for us; we can do no less to honor Him.

Let us pray:

Creator who loves us dearly, thank you for sending Jesus to be our redeemer. No matter how, or where or when we worship you, we want to do it to honor you and not ourselves. May we reflect Jesus’ passion and share in your grace. In the name of the Son of David we pray. Amen.

 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 9 April 2017

Jesus Wept

(Luke 19:28-44)

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of the commemoration of the last days of Jesus’ life, culminating in His resurrection after his trial and crucifixion by the Roman government.

Jesus was headed to Jerusalem; there was nothing that would get in His way. Even though He has stopped and ministered to people, he has never lost sight of His final goal. As he completed the final days of His life, He had been healing the sick, feeding the hungry, returning sight to the blind, raising the dead and teaching the people about the love of God.

And now, as he approached Jerusalem, he was met by crowds who saw him as the savior that would stop the oppression of the Roman. He was greeted in a ‘triumphal entry’; people were lining the road, cheering for Him. They waved palm branches crying

    “Hosanna”, (Matthew 21:9)

laid their cloaks on the road and shouted:

    “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (John 19:38)

There was intense anticipation that He was going to do a wonderful thing – they were going to be free of the Roman officials. They had been promised by God that someone would come to save them. Everyone in Israel had been taught that the Messiah would be enthroned as King in Jerusalem. The Old Testament make it very clear that the coming King would come to Jerusalem to establish His kingdom. Since the Garden of Eden, all of heaven and earth have been waiting for that moment when the Messiah would enter Jerusalem for the last time, establishing the Kingdom of God.

But, Jesus knew that the kingdom He was to establish was not of this earth, and the people did not understand.

That Palm Sunday Jesus began his final walk to Jerusalem. He stopped on the hill overlooking Jerusalem called the Mount of Olives where he had previously preached the Sermon on the Mount, looked over Jerusalem and

    he wept over it. (Luke 19:41)

Some of the people in the crowd on that first Palm Sunday thought that they were witnessing a revolution. They were certain that they would be saved from the Roman government. They were cheering for the promised Messiah.

But those cheers turned to jeers by the end of the week; Jesus was turned over to the Romans for trial, found guilty of trying to overthrow the government and rejected by the people for the life of Barabbas.

If someone did that to us, we would be angry and not care what happened to those people. But Jesus was the perfect man, forgiving each of them as a loving parent would forgive a naughty child. He was disappointed, sorrowful and moved to tears.

Do you know, there are only three instances in the Bible where Jesus is said to have wept?

  1. The first time is when he travels to the house of Mary and Martha after Lazarus has died and been buried for four days. He was so touched by their sorrow that He raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:38-45)
  2. We just heard that Jesus wept before He entered Jerusalem for the last time in Luke 19:41. He wept then because He knew that the people did not understand about the Kingdom of God, and men, women and children were going to continue to suffer. He knew that, ultimately, on Maundy Thursday the people would turn him over to the Roman government to be crucified.
  3. The last time He wept was when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal. He praying that He would be strong enough to undertake the challenge He had in front of Him (Hebrews 5:7).

There is a common theme through these three instances when Jesus wept – His love of the people and sorrow that they did not understand about the Kingdom of God. They did not understand that the eternal life one finds through the resurrection of Jesus is the peace of the Kingdom of God.

The people of Israel rejected Him. We reject Him when we don’t follow His teachings. Yet, Jesus wept

    for us

    for you and me,

    each one of us.

In spite of our rejection of Him, Jesus still cares for all of us.

The events of Holy Week tell us that we are still saved by his crucifixion and resurrection.

That He had promised us

    “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

So as we move through this week of celebration, betrayal, death and resurrection, let us remember this assurance from God:

    Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will hold you in my right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

Let us pray:

God of unfailing love, we come before you on this day with thankful and joyous hearts because your love knows no bounds. No boundaries, limits, or obstacles—including those of our own making—can thwart your loving kindness from following us all the days of our lives. Yet during this week, your story of passion mirrors to us how we have tested your love and spurned your compassion. As we enter into Holy Week fill us with strength and gratitude and with the assurance that you are with us, from now through eternity.
Amen
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 20 March 2016

Save Me From This

    Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die (John 12:28-33)

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for most of the Christian world. It is a time that we remember the suffering and death of Jesus that leads to his resurrection on Easter morning.

I would like to tell you a story.(1)

    The time was the roaring twenties. The place was Oklahoma. John Griffith was in his early twenties – newly married, and full of optimism. Along with his lovely wife, he had been blessed with a beautiful blue eyed baby.

    John wanted to be a traveler; he wanted to visit faraway places with strange sounding names. He would read about them and research them. But then came 1929 and the great stock market crash, and with it all his dreams. Brokenhearted, he, like so many others, packed up his few possessions and with his wife and little son, Greg, headed east in an old Model-A Ford. They made their way toward Missouri, to the edge of the Mississippi River, and there John found a job operating one of the great railroad bridges that spanned the massive river.

    Day after day John would sit in a control room and operate the enormous gears of that immense bridge over the river as bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge. Then, he would lower the massive structure so great trains could roar by. Each day he looked on sadly as they carried with them his shattered dreams and his visions of far-off places and exotic destinations.

    In 1937, His young son was now eight years old, and John had begun to dream that Greg would someday work with him and share his dreams. Excitedly father and son packed their lunches and, arm in arm, headed off toward the immense bridge.

    Greg looked on with wide-eyed amazement as his dad pressed down the huge lever that raised and lowered the vast bridge. He thought his father must surely be the greatest man alive. He marveled that his father could single-handedly control the movements of such a giant structure.

    When noontime had arrived, John elevated the bridge and, taking his son by the hand, they headed off for lunch. They inched their way down a narrow catwalk and out onto an observation deck about 50 feet over the water. As they ate, John told his son, stories about passing ships.

    Suddenly John and his son were startled back to reality by the shrieking whistle of a distant train. Looking at his watch in disbelief, John saw that the bridge was still raised and that the Memphis Express would be by in just minutes.

    Not wanting to alarm his son, he instructed his son to stay put. Leaping to his feet he jumped onto the catwalk and ran to the control house. Once in, he searched the river to make sure that no ships were in sight and then looked straight down to make certain nothing was below. But, below him in the massive gearbox was his beloved son.

    Greg had tried to follow his Dad but had fallen off the catwalk and was wedged between the teeth of the gears. His son’s leg had already begun to bleed. Immediately, John knew that lowering the bridge meant killing the apple of his eye.

    Panicked, he frantically searched for solutions. Suddenly a plan emerged. In his mind’s eye he saw himself grabbing a coiled rope, climbing down the ladder, running down the catwalk, securing the rope, sliding down toward his son and pulling him back up to safety. Then in an instant he would move back to the control room and grab the control lever and thrust it down just in time for the oncoming train.

    As soon as these thoughts appeared, he realized there just wouldn’t be enough time. He vainly searched for another solution. What would he do? What could he do?

    His agonized mind considered the 400 or so people in the train moving closer toward the bridge. Soon the train would come roaring out of the trees with tremendous speed. But this – this was his son – his only child – his pride – his joy.

    His mother – he could see her tear stained face now. This was their child, their beloved son.

    He knew in a moment there was only one thing he could do. He knew he would have to do it. And so, burying his face under his left arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were quickly drowned out by the relentless sound of the bridge as it ground into position. With only seconds to spare, the Memphis Express – with its 400 passengers – roared out of the trees and across the mighty bridge.

    John Griffith lifted his tear stained face and looked into the windows of the passing train. A businessman was reading the morning paper. A uniformed conductor was glancing nonchalantly at his large vest pocket watch. Ladies were already sipping their afternoon tea in the dining car. A small boy, looking strangely like his own son, pushed a long thin spoon into a dish of ice-cream. Many of the passengers seemed to be engaged in either idle conversation or careless laughter.

    But no one looked his way. No one even cast a glance at the giant gearbox that housed the mangled remains of his hopes and dreams.

    In anguish he pounded the glass in the control room and cried out, “What’s the matter with you people? Don’t you care? Don’t you know I’ve sacrificed my son for you? Want’s wrong with you?”

    No one answered; no one heard. No one even looked. Not one of them seemed to care. And then, as suddenly as it had happened, it was over. The train disappeared, moving rapidly across the bridge and out over the horizon.

This story is but a faint glimpse of what God the Father did for us – of what Jesus did for us in offering for us his own life for us.

Unlike the Memphis Express, that caught John Griffith by surprise, God – in his great love for us – determined to sacrifice His Son so that we might live.

It is difficult to comprehend the will of God, difficult to grasp just what He has done.

But we know this

    and we are called to accept this
    and to embrace this
    that it was done for us
    so that we might live.

Let us pray:

Dear God and Loving Father who gave his only Son that we might live, please accept our humble prayers of thanksgiving for the ultimate sacrifice you made. Let us remember that love and try to live in this world as an example of your love to our world.

Amen
 
 
(1) Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis
 
Prepared for In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH

The Seven Days That Changed the World

(Luke 19:28-44)

Today we begin the final week of Lent. In Jesus; at one time these seven days were called Passover, as it is still called today by the Jewish people. Christians around the world know these seven days as Holy Week, the Passion of the Christ. It is a week that starts with triumph and celebration, goes to betrayal, condemnation, and death; then climaxes on Easter Sunday with in the resurrection of Jesus – His triumph over death, and the saving of all mankind.

It is seven days that changed the world.

These seven days have been the topic of a thousands of sermons, countless debates, and numerous books and films. These seven days have inspired the greatest painters, the most skilled architects, and the most gifted musicians. To try and calculate the cultural and historical impact of these seven days is impossible. But harder still would be an attempt to account for the lives of men and women who have been transformed by the life of Jesus and the events of Holy Week. And yet these seven days, as they played out at the time in Jerusalem, were of little significance to anyone but a few people involved.

What happened on those seven days?

Let’s look at these seven days to see how they changed the world:

  1.  This Sunday, commonly known as ‘Palm Sunday, is the first of the seven days of Holy Week. As related to us in the Holy Gospels, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of ‘Hosanna’, fulfilling an old prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
  2. Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey.

    People were excited – the man they knew as Jesus was arriving in Jerusalem. . . coming to celebrate Passover and save them from the persecution and tyranny of the Roman rule. In The Gospel of Luke we learn they shouted:

    Blessed is he who comes, the king in God’s name! All’s well in heaven! Glory in the high places! (Luke 19:38)

    Or at least that what they hoped for and dreamed of and thought. People lined the streets and waved palm branches as He rode in on a donkey. People spread out their cloaks on the road to soften His path. It was a time of great celebration and anticipation. But little did they know what they waited for was not what they were going to get.

  1. On Monday Jesus walked into the Jerusalem Temple and found money changers and stalls of animals. This was the great temple of Jerusalem – the place of the Ark of the Covenant, the house of God. The Temple authorities had been using the Second Commandment about no graven images to cheat the people by requiring them to exchange their Roman money for Jewish shekels, thus making the Temple a place of profit rather than of prayer. In a great rage, Jesus overturned the tables and ran all the animal sellers out of the temple.
  1.  On Tuesday Jesus taught in parables, warning the people against the religious authorities who cheated the people. As we hear in the Gospel of John, Jesus also predicted the destruction of the great temple of Jerusalem, saying:
  2. Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. (John 2:19)

    This enraged the Jewish religious authorities and they started to plan for the crucifixion of this troublemaker, Jesus. They asked him all kinds of questions, trying to trick him into saying things that would indicate He was a rebel and was aiming to overthrow the Romans. But Jesus stayed quiet and gave them no justification for arrest.

  1. Wednesday, the fourth day, is also known as ‘Spy Wednesday’. This is the day that Judas, who was going to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver met with the religious leaders and made the deal to identify Jesus the following night with a kiss. The thirty pieces of silver was the going price for the purchase of a slave in that time.
  1. On Thursday, in an upper room, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. But he gave it a new meaning. No longer would his followers remember the Exodus from Egypt in the breaking of bread. They would remember his broken body and shed blood in a meal that became known as ‘The Last Supper’ or ‘Communion’ or ‘Eucharist’.
  2. Knowing what was going to transpire, Jesus agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane at what lay ahead for him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    It was during His praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Jewish officials and Roman soldiers would come to the garden. Judas led the Jewish priests to the Garden of Gethsemane and identified Jesus by kissing him and addressing him as “Master.”
     
    Jesus foretold that he would not only be betrayed but denied as well by his closest friends. Peter, on whom He would found his church, indeed denied knowing Jesus three times before the cock crowed, just as Jesus had foretold. The priests and Roman soldiers took Jesus away and imprisoned Him.
     
    Thursday of Holy Week is also called ‘Maundy Thursday’. In the evening many Christians strip their altars of everything and cover all icons and statues and crosses with black cloth to symbolize the mourning of the betrayal and upcoming crucifixion of Jesus. The stripping of the altar also signifies the seizing of Jesus’ clothes and the humiliation he suffered.
     
    Trinity has a Maundy Thursday service which is very moving, held at 7 pm in the church. I would invite every to come attend the service and participate in the solemn remembrance of the imprisonment, death and resurrection of Jesus.

  1. Friday, the fifth day known as ‘Good Friday’, isn’t named ‘good’ meaning pleasant or fun but holy or pious. Jesus was abandoned by his disciples, suffered through a false trial in front of Pontius Pilate, and was condemned to death by the Jewish officials. The Bible tells ys that Pilate had been warned by a dream of his wife that Jesus was innocent of the charges made by the Jewish officials. But the crowd wanted blood and so he washed his hands, symbolically removing from him any responsibility for what was about to occur.
  2. It was the custom during Passover for the Roman officials to free one criminal. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd, riled up by the religious officials. wanted blood. So Jesus was sentenced to death on a cross, a sentence which was only given to the lowest and vilest of criminals. He was even made to carry his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha (“The Place of the Skull”), where he was crucified with two common thieves.

    He suffered for about three hours and then died. Since Jewish custom required burial within 24 hours, His body was removed from the cross and placed in an unused tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathaea.

    Many Christians honor these three hours with prayers and music and meditation, but there are no formal services with Communion.

    At Trinity, we observe Jesus’ walk to Golgotha and a walk around Capitol Square, with a life-size cross. This begins at 11 am from the front steps. When we complete the walk, we come into the church and meditate for three hours on the death of Jesus. You are welcome and come and go as you wish, respecting the solemnity and quiet of the vigil.

  1. On Saturday, the observance of Lent ends. Jesus lay dead in the tomb and women came and anointed his body with oils and spices, as was the Jewish custom. The disciples locked themselves in a room, afraid to come out for fear of being imprisoned or killed. No one remembers of understands that Jesus will rise from the dead the next morning. No one understood that when he said
  2. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”(John 2:19)

    He was talking about Himself and His resurrection.

    Today’s Christians often hold an Easter Vigil at the onset of Saturday evening, as a time of waiting in prayer for the resurrection of Christ. Often baptisms are conducted so that these new Christians may rise with Jesus on Sunday. The practice of communion begins again in celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

  1. On Sunday, Jesus’ ordeal was over, the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was alive. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the 11 disciples gathered in a locked room. His resurrection was proclaimed and our salvation ensured.
     
    Easter Sunday is a day of great celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation guaranteed by His death and resurrection.

Trinity holds a festival Eucharist at 9 am on Easter Sunday, with music and choir and trumpets to celebrate the wondrous resurrection of Christ. Following that service is brunch to celebrate. Please consider coming to enjoy the pageantry and celebrate in the resurrection.
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 24 March 2013

Hosanna In The Highest

Matthew 21:1-11

If you use your imagination for just a moment, you can feel the press of the people as they gather along the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. You can smell the dust, and the donkeys, you can hear the crowd. You can see the brightly colored holiday clothes of festive pilgrims gathering in Jerusalem.

You can feel the excitement in the air; you may find yourself climbing a tree to break down a palm branch, and then straining to see through all the other waving branches. Off in the distance, a muffled roar, indistinguishable words, then a cheer, and then a chant: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” You may even find yourself shouting

    “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

Soon the road was jammed with pilgrims and locals alike. They joined the disciples in laying their cloaks across the path to show Jesus honor. They broke branches from the palm trees and waved them in the air, and spread them on the road. While the cloaks and the palm branches make this a royal procession, the cheers of the people are even more significant.

    Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! (Matthew 21:9)

It was a great celebration!! But it was also the last week of Jesus’ life.

In our celebration of Palm Sunday, we forget that in a few short days Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, tried, abandoned, whipped, spit upon, slapped, scourged, tortured with a crown of thorns, mocked, ridiculed, and ultimately nailed on a cross. And the same crowds that had sung “Hosannas”: at his arrival, would shout ” “Crucify Him!” – and ask Pilate to release Barabbas and put Jesus to death.

Their love for the Lord was shallow and based entirely on their hope of what exciting things he could do for them. In their confusion, and anger, and fear, those who on Sunday had welcomed Jesus as their new messiah-to-be, by Friday had turned on him, disappointed in Jesus and their continued lives under the Roman rule. So tired of all they could not control, they cried out for vengeance they could control. If Jesus would not be their king and free them, then they might as well get rid of Him.

Jesus knew that the end of his earthly ministry was near. It was time to do what he had come to do. It was now or never; he was ready to be obedient to God, and to accomplish the purpose set out for him. The road on Palm Sunday was not a road to freedom. It was the road to sacrifice. It was not the road to power, it was the road to humility. It was not the road to fame, it was the road to death. It was not the road the crowd thought; it was the road God had planned.

None of us knows just how long each of our lives will be, just how much time we have left. Every time we learn of someone who dies young, we are reminded of that.

None of us can know all that the future holds. We don’t know how long we will be on this earth. But we can know that God has a purpose for us. He calls us to love him and love others with the kind of love that He showed us when he sacrificed His only Son. He calls us to speak out the truth, to reach out our hands, to hold out our hearts.

And he calls us to do that now. When we think we are not ready to make a commitment, that is the best time to do it. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He just wants us to try. . . try a little each and every day.

And that day is now.

We don’t know how many more days there will be.

Let us pray:

Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our redeemer. No how, or where or when I worship you, I want to do it to honor you and not myself. May we reflect his passion and share his grace. In the name of the Son of David I pray. Amen.

 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH, 17 April 2011

What Are WE Going To Do?

Mark 11:1-11

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the observation of Holy Week. During Holy Week every year, we are reminded of the last week of Jesus’ life, as He arrived in Jerusalem for Passover amidst celebration and joy, and was hailed crowds of His followers as their Savior, the new Messiah, the Son of God

During Holy Week, Jesus was adored, abandoned by His friends, arrested, envied by authorities who were playing political games, tortured by police who thought nothing of cruelty and committing murder, tried in a rigged and bogus trial, and put to death in the most cruel, humiliating and painful way possible on a cross.

During Holy Week, also, Jesus died, was buried by his grief-stricken friends and followers and was seen again by those same people, as He overcame death to live again forever.

All this in one week – we know it happened, not only from the Bible accounts, but from historical secular writings of the day.

So Holy Week is a time when we celebrate our love for Jesus, then mourn His suffering, then rejoice again on Easter Day – rejoice for His resurrection . . . and OUR own!

So today on Palm Sunday, as we symbolically have our palms, as people over 2000 years ago did in Jerusalem, let’s imagine what that day was like:

It is Palm Sunday and there’s a crowd of people out there lining the street to welcome; Jesus comes riding in on some young donkey like the old kings of Israel centuries before had done as they entered the Holy City. Jesus is coming down the road to Jerusalem; the king is coming.

The upcoming Holy Week can be said, really, to center around a series of parades. . .

Everyone loves a parade. Parades and processions draw crowds; people want to know what is going on. They tag along to be part of the festivities, even if they don’t know what is going on.

On Palm Sunday, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem the crowds grew large. People were waving palm branches and shouting

    Hosanna!! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9)

as Jesus rode along the street until Jerusalem. You might think that ‘hosanna’ means ‘hurrah’, but it actually means ‘O, save me’. People were excited and hopeful that Jesus was going to save them from Roman occupation, poverty, humiliation – from unjust laws and treatment.

Palm Sunday is also a reminder that Jesus confronted the people of Jerusalem and Israel with a decision – were they going to believe in Him or not. And today, Palm Sunday Jesus confronts us with that same decision today. Almost every person in this country believes in God, at least say he or she believes in God – everyone in this room would say that.

But how many people understand what that can mean. On Palm Sunday Jesus confronts us with a choice – are we going to live as Jesus taught us, and believe His message or not?

Within the crowd along the road, there were a number of people with different views and reactions as to what was taking place. Just as there are in any crowd today:

There were those in the crowd those who were merely casual observers. They were in Jerusalem for Passover. They may not even have ever heard of Jesus. They had no idea what was going on; they didn’t care about all the fuss. They were content to stand along the curb and watch the procession go by. They did not want to get involved.

And there were the plotting authorities, watching everywhere Jesus went, everything He did, there to demean and degrade Him. The Pharisees and other temple authorities were afraid of Him and the power He seemed to have. He was upsetting the norm of obedience to the Jewish faith and therefore subverting Roman governance. Here was a man who didn’t subscribe to the Jewish law – he even said that we were to love everyone.

Some of these temple authorities had been plotting about how to stop Jesus from gathering followers. They had been working with the Roman authorities to try and stop Him.

Some people in the crowd praised Jesus thinking He would save them from the Roman oppression. They were sure that He would bring an army and overthrow the Roman Empire. But that was not what Jesus seemed to be doing. . . and they were disappointed and discouraged. They soon lost their belief in who and what Jesus was. Later , some of these ‘believers’ were members of the crowd who cried

    “Crucify Him.” (Luke 23:21)

But many people following Jesus believed in Him and knew that they were not following his teachings. They had heard or seen some of the miracles He had performed; they knew He was a holy man. They had searched the Scriptures and believed that He was Who He said He was and committed themselves wholly to Him. These true believers recognized Jesus as “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords.” A few would follow Christ regardless how dark the path became.

Then, also, by the time Good Friday came in Holy Week, there was a new group of people watching the parade – those who were not followers of Jesus. Some of these were planted by the temple authorities, some were faithful Jews who thought Jesus taught heresy, and some were there just because of blood lust. There was going to be trouble and they wanted to be a part of it, in fact, they wanted to stir it up. Those were the people who, on Good Friday, stood in the crowd shouting

    “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21)

Jesus offered Jerusalem a choice on that first palm waving day. And we have the choice today. We can be curious, but not committed – we can use Jesus’ name but not following his teachings, or we can choose to be dedicated disciples who devote ourselves to Christ and work for the Heavenly Kingdom or we can stay in the middle-of-the road, watching everything that is going on, but never getting involved. Or we can be the troublemakers.

Which are you?

    Are you a casual observer?

    Do you just like trouble?

    Aare you merely curious?

    OR

    Do you believe that Jesus really did bring a new world into being? A new way of thinking and living?

Are you dedicated to the teachings of Jesus and trying to live your life as a true believer?

During Holy Week, we are given a chance to look at our lives and our relationship with God. We are given time to decide to change and become disciples of Jesus.

Now, as we start Holy Week, it is time to decide if we are once again going to love God with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves!

Let us pray:

O God, our Father, on this Palm Sunday, enable each of us to open our hearts and lives that the king of glory may come in and may we say from the depths of our being,

    “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Mark 11:9)

During this week help us to remember all he went through; call us to watch and pray with him.

We thank thee, Father, for all the ways You hast blessed us, bringing about good for us, bringing hope out of struggle, peace out of suffering, strength in the midst of our struggles and the light of thy love shining as we have traveled.

Give us patience with those who try ours. Help us to forgive those who speak evil against us. And help us love even those who are difficult to love, because they are loved by Thee. Bless our sick. Give us peace in the world and help us to be peacemakers. Amen.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH, 29 March 2015

What Is Lent?

Last Wednesday we celebrated Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. While I was eating my share of pancakes at a Shrove Tuesday dinner, someone asked me just exactly what is Lent, which started me thinking. For those of us raised in the church (particularly the Roman Catholic Church), we never really talked about what Lent is. We just knew we had to be on our best behavior and give up something (the most common being chocolate).

The name word is a German word for Spring (lencten) and the Anglo-Saxon name for March – lenct –because Lent usually occurs in March. This is another example of Christianity borrowing from other traditions through the ages to help make worship more familiar to the people.

SHROVE TUESDAY
In many places around the world, the last day before Lent (known variously as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnivale) is celebrated as a last fling before the solemn days of Lent. Carnival is the common name for the celebration of Shrove Tuesday because people were expected to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent and the term carnivale is Latin for “farewell to meat.”

ASH WEDNESDAY
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, the day when the ashes from the burned palms from last Palm Sunday are used to place a mark of the cross on our foreheads. As it says in the Bible,

from dust we came and to dust we shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

Lent is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is preparation through prayer, repentance, charity and self-denial for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the suffering and death of Jesus, ending with Easter Sunday and the celebration of the His resurrection.

LENT
Traditionally, Lent is forty days long, starting with Ash Wednesday and ending with the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as preparation for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.

It doesn’t take too much reading of the Bible to see that ‘forty’ is a magic number, not only for Christians but also for a lot of other faiths:

    Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai when God gave him the Ten Commandments

    The great flood lasted forty days
    Moses and the Hebrew people wandered for forty years in the desert after leaving Egypt.

    Jesus lay in the tomb for forty hours before His resurrection

The forty days of Lent also represent the time that Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry. During those forty days he faced temptation and doubt, purified Himself for His upcoming ministry.

It is a tradition that the season of Lent be celebrated by fasting, (both from food and parties), prayer, and also a time for reflecting on our lives in preparation for the resurrection of Jesus.

In earlier times, days of fasting were established, when only one meal a day could be eaten with no meat or dairy. And Fridays were specified as non-meat (I can remember as a child that Friday was fish and macaroni and cheese day). These dietary restrictions have been, for the most part lifted. In place of these are suggested donations to charity and doing social justice work.

There are many churches who do not recognize the Lenten Season, primarily because it is seen as a distinctly Roman Catholic commemoration. Over time quite of few churches have adopted the Lenten observances.

PALM SUNDAY
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. People stood along the road and waved palms as he passed by. Many church hand out palms to its congregants in remembrance.

MAUNDY THURSDAY
Maundy Thursday is often celebrating by eating a communal supper or celebrating Communion, much like Jesus ate with his disciples before he was turned over to the Roman officials. Often there is communal feet washing, just as Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.

After the Last Supper, Jesus went to the Garden Of Gethsemane to pray for strength to endure his upcoming suffering and crucifixion.

GOOD FRIDAY
Christian tradition says that Jesus was hung on the cross at noon on Good Friday and died at 3 pm, as the world turned black. Churches often hold a vigil during this three-hour period.

EASTER VIGIL/SUNRISE SERVICE
The Christian faith says that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. Some churches hold a vigil on Holy Saturday awaiting Jesus’ resurrection. Others wait until Sunday morning to hold an outside sunrise service to celebrate His Resurrection.

As we mark the last days of Jesus’ journey, let us use this Lenten Season to look at our own lives and move forward in new life to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Amen
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, OH, 13 March 2011