Again this week, I’ve got some reflections from David Lose to share with you. Pastor Lose is from the Twin Cities, and is a former professor of Homiletics (fancy word for preaching). He’s got good stuff to share, so…why reinvent the wheel? I’ll share his stuff in a moment, but I want to give him the credit he deserves!
I also want to share two things with you. First, by request…a “breath prayer.” Breath prayers are short pieces of scripture, designed to be committed to short term memory, and used as a quick prayer. Memorize the “one-liner,” and as you go about your day, when you have a moment, speak (out loud or silently) the prayer. We put these in the bulletin each week, but now that we are “safer-at-home,” they have been missed. So…here’s the prayer for this week…
Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116:7
There you go – a simple “breath prayer” for this week.
This week…that’s Holy Week! As promised, a reminder of our worship opportunities:
Wednesday, 7 PM – a short time of prayer, scripture, and conversation. We’re doing this one every week – find is at https://zoom.us/j/520801254. You’ll need a camera and microphone on your computer – or you can call in like a conference call. Contact me for the info on that.
Thursday, 7 PM – Maundy Thursday worship, “zoom” style. We’ll be more conversational, and I invite you to have some “comfort food” available. We’ll dine together (like Jesus and the disciples did), we’ll hear God’s word, chat, and pray. And then, at the end, we will strip the altar. Join us at https://zoom.us/j/664776970. I’ll record the session and post it as a YouTube later that evening.
Good Friday, late afternoon – we will have a video of the Tenebrae Service posted by late afternoon. As your schedule allows, join us as we go from light to dark, hearing the story of the crucifixion, with commentary from a variety of Old Testament texts. Go to our video web page (www.oursaviorswestsalem.org/videos) to watch.
Easter – the Resurrection of Our Lord! Early Sunday morning check out the video for Easter, also on our web site video page. No packed house, with brass, organ or choir. No sanctuary decked out with flowers. No energy and excitement. Just the risen Jesus! And these days, isn’t that what we really need? Join us as we “party hard” in the gift of life through Jesus!
Oh, and then we have a Bible study on Easter – 10:30 AM – on zoom at https://zoom.us/j/570417034. Let’s talk turkey about the Easter story!
So that’s our schedule – hope you will join us on one or more of these times of worship, reflection, and renewal.
That’s all I have for you now, except to say that Pastor Jean and I pray for you, and yearn to see you again. Please continue to be safe, know that you are in God’s embrace, and keep your eyes on the cross and the empty tomb that lies just beyond!
David Lose is next…
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” –John 12:12-13.
Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover, and it was about noon. Pilate said to the crowd of Jews gathered there, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him.” –John 19:14-15a.
Crowds figure quite significantly in the story of Holy Week. The week starts out with Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. All four Gospels describe crowds of people thronging to see Jesus as he enters the city and receives the adulation of those who long for a Messiah. By the time we reach Good Friday, however, the Gospels are again united in their depiction of other crowds, likely made up of many of the same people, now calling for Jesus’ death.
There is a tremendous and poignant irony in reading about crowds while we are social distancing (a phrase which, just months ago, was unknown to us but now is part and parcel of our daily lives). The story of these crowds that unfolds this week reminds me of two important truths.
First, we are made for each other. From the first chapters of Genesis and God’s observation and edict that “it is not good for the human to be alone” (2:18) to St. Paul’s emphasis on the church as “the body of Christ” made up of a magnificently diverse set of members (1 Cor. 12:12ff.), Scripture testifies to the corporate, social nature of our lives. While we as a culture tend to idealize self-reliance and individualism, the stories of faith remind us that we find our identity, meaning, and purpose less through individual accomplishment and far more in and through our relationships with others.
That is part of our cultural story as well. It is, after all, “We the people,” not “I by myself” who “form a more perfect union.” Yet the coronavirus and our need to keep distance from each other has reminded us powerfully of how vitally interconnected we are. Similarly, while we have learned to continue connecting with each other as a congregation via the internet, social media, and digital worship, we still long for the day when we can actually see each other at church, hear our voices raised together in praise and thanksgiving, and gather together as the body of Christ in this place.
But the virus hasn’t simply taught us the importance of gathering together, it has also reminded us that we are united as much by our vulnerability as by our strength. This virus knows no bounds and strikes irrespective of age, race, economic status, faith, or nationality. While it may take an unfair toll on particular demographics, its specter looms over all of us, and if we are to flourish amid, and not merely survive, this pandemic, it will take a concerted and unified effort. For this reason, we keep apart for a time that we may gather again sooner. And it’s why I believe it’s not enough to affirm that “we will get through this,” but also and always add, “and we will get through it together.”
The second truth Holy Week calls to mind is the simultaneously glorious and tragic character of our life together. Crowds receive Jesus’ as God’s anointed Savior, and crowds call for his death when the salvation he offers isn’t what they imagined. In the story of Holy Week and its alternately faithful and fickle crowds, we find a picture of our own lives, at times marked by courage, fidelity, triumph and at others marred by betrayal, faithlessness, and disappointment.
Yet amid this hauntingly realistic portrayal of humanity, we find reason for hope. Because Jesus came for all – faithful and faithless, courageous and fearful, steadfast and fickle, admirable and disappointing. Jesus came for all. All of us. Every part of us. Each and every one of us. There are days when we might see ourselves among those who recognize and celebrate God’s Messiah and others when we identify with those who abandon him to an unjust fate. Yet wherever we are among the crowds, Jesus came for us.
I am not, as I’ve confessed before, one who believes God causes evil and suffering “for some greater good,” far less “to teach us a lesson.” But I do believe that the cross testifies powerfully that God is constantly at work, even amid calamity, heartache, and loss, for the good of those God loves (Rom. 8:28). And perhaps one of the painful “goods” that will emerge from this pandemic is the powerful and poignant reminder that we are interconnected and interdependent, that we were made for each other, that we cannot thrive by ourselves, that we each have a role to play in helping build the kind of community God desires, and that God in Jesus came for all of us because God in Jesus loves all of us.
May you be reminded, this Holy Week and always, that God has fashioned us for life together, equipped us with gifts to share that we might thrive together, and has promised to be with us and for us, now and always, together. Blessings to you, dear members of the Body of Christ, for we will get through this, and we will get through it together!