Bright green leaves, and betrayal

*Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,*

"Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Mark 11

Dear friends-

Holy Week begins. Yet so much of what happens in this week is profoundly unholy. This uncomfortable story setting reminds me of Wendell Berry’s observation: “There are no unsacred places; only sacred places and desecrated places.”

I’ll be honest; many ministers struggle with what to do about Palm Sunday. We retell the story of Jesus’ triumphal, subversive entrance into Jerusalem, as the throngs gather there for the Festival of Passover. The beaten-down people who have witnessed Jesus’ great acts of healing, or heard his astonishing, hope-filled teachings, cry out in joy, welcoming him as their savior. It’s a goose-bump kind of day. “Finally, God has sent us someone who will free us from Roman – and all other manner of – oppression! Hosanna! Save us!” they sing.

It doesn’t take long during this Holy/Unholy Week for things to go sour. To his bewildered followers, it must have seemed as if Jesus was deliberately trying to enrage the authorities – both the Romans and their fearful agents in the local religious establishment. Soon, the exhilaration of the Messiah’s arrival turns dark, and the path to the cross becomes the only road to be taken.

Salvation, it turns out, is not accomplished by brandishing the mighty sword and humiliating the hated enemy – whoever that enemy might really be. It turns out that this path is fraught with humiliation itself; with fear run wild; with cowardice on display; with tragedy beyond imagining. Yet there is something rich and wondrous beyond all that… But there will be time for that later.

This week, we imagine our joy at a savior’s arrival; our disillusionment when that savior doesn’t tell us exactly what we want to hear; our fear and trembling when we confuse that which we love with that with which we are, in some unfulfilling way, comfortable; and that dreadful moment when we see what we have done and wish we could have the last few days back to re-live with new understanding.

We may or may not accept this story at face value, but in our own ways – small or large –we have all experienced the story’s arc. Now we experience it with the One who teaches us, finally, that there is something holy beyond all that horror and disappointment. It’s a story the world really needs to hear, to understand, and to enfold into its very way of being.

Gather with us for the story of the Palms and the Passion, remembering that “Passion” comes from an old Latin word meaning “to suffer, or to wait”. Sure; we can skip such a difficult story, but we’d miss a lot if we did. How easy – and unfulfilling – it is to cruise right along from the elation of the palm-carpeted Messiah welcome to the joy of Easter, forgetting all the soul-wrenching steps taken on the way.

We worship at 10 AM; something truly sacred always emerges from this time together. This is how we make unsacred places – and things – sacred again.

Lenten Sabbath blessings-

AFP

Holy Week begins. Yet so much of what happens in this week is profoundly unholy. This uncomfortable story setting reminds me of Wendell Berry’s observation: “There are no unsacred places; only sacred places and desecrated places.”

I’ll be honest; many ministers struggle with what to do about Palm Sunday. We retell the story of Jesus’ triumphal, subversive entrance into Jerusalem, as the throngs gather there for the Festival of Passover. The beaten-down people who have witnessed Jesus’ great acts of healing, or heard his astonishing, hope-filled teachings, cry out in joy, welcoming him as their savior. It’s a goose-bump kind of day. “Finally, God has sent us someone who will free us from Roman – and all other manner of – oppression! Hosanna! Save us!” they sing.

It doesn’t take long during this Holy/Unholy Week for things to go sour. To his bewildered followers, it must have seemed as if Jesus was deliberately trying to enrage the authorities – both the Romans and their fearful agents in the local religious establishment. Soon, the exhilaration of the Messiah’s arrival turns dark, and the path to the cross becomes the only road to be taken.

Salvation, it turns out, is not accomplished by brandishing the mighty sword and humiliating the hated enemy – whoever that enemy might really be. It turns out that this path is fraught with humiliation itself; with fear run wild; with cowardice on display; with tragedy beyond imagining. Yet there is something rich and wondrous beyond all that… But there will be time for that later.

This week, we imagine our joy at a savior’s arrival; our disillusionment when that savior doesn’t tell us exactly what we want to hear; our fear and trembling when we confuse that which we love with that with which we are, in some unfulfilling way, comfortable; and that dreadful moment when we see what we have done and wish we could have the last few days back to re-live with new understanding.

We may or may not accept this story at face value, but in our own ways – small or large –we have all experienced the story’s arc. Now we experience it with the One who teaches us, finally, that there is something holy beyond all that horror and disappointment. It’s a story the world really needs to hear, to understand, and to enfold into its very way of being.

Gather with us for the story of the Palms and the Passion, remembering that “Passion” comes from an old Latin word meaning “to suffer, or to wait”. Sure; we can skip such a difficult story, but we’d miss a lot if we did. How easy – and unfulfilling – it is to cruise right along from the elation of the palm-carpeted Messiah welcome to the joy of Easter, forgetting all the soul-wrenching steps taken on the way.

We worship at 10 AM; something truly sacred always emerges from this time together. This is how we make unsacred places – and things – sacred again.

Lenten Sabbath blessings-

AFP