Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Preparing for Palm Sunday

This week we will look at two passages. The first is Mark’s description of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:1-11

And the second is part of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples on the night before he went to the cross:

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. John 17:1-11

For the disciples, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem must have been a dream come true! Three years of traveling, teaching, feeding, healing, and argument after argument over Jesus’ identity and authority culminated in this one great moment when it felt like everyone recognized Jesus as the Messiah! Jesus had tried to prepare them for what was to come, but they really didn’t understand and so they watched in horror and amazement as the week progressed from the beautiful moment of triumph to increasing opposition to Jesus’ strange words about bread broken and wine poured to Judas’ betrayal. Moreover, it was about to get worse as they too abandoned Jesus in his hour of need.

On Palm Sunday, the crowds and disciples cheered and on Good Friday they either cried for Jesus’ death or (perhaps worse yet) they were frighteningly silent.
• Why do we who celebrate God in the good times abandon God in the bad times? Are we that fickle? What kind of faith and trust must we have in God to follow him in the good times and the bad? What kind of faith must we have to follow him to the cross?

On the night of Jesus’ last supper with the disciples, he tried to prepare them for what was to come. As part of that preparation, he prayed passionately for them. This scripture only gives us part of the prayer and ends with Jesus’ request that the Father protect Jesus’ followers “so that they may be one, as we are one.”
• What does it mean for Jesus’ followers to be one with each other?
• History shows Jesus’ followers have done a poor job of staying unified with each other. People often look to Jesus’ words and bemoan the proliferation of denominations and other Christian sects. However, I believe that the focus on the bigger picture of the church distracts us from the harder question. What does it mean for a congregation to be one with each other? Does it mean that we all think alike and act alike? What unifies us? What should unify us? And what would that look like?

This Sunday, we will celebrate Holy Communion. We will encircle the Sanctuary and sing of being tied and bound together as usual. We will also remember our unity as a congregation as we serve one another communion in which we pray, “By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” May that unity strengthen us as we seek to follow Jesus to the cross!

See you Sunday!

No comments: