Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014

Title:Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday , April 13, 2014  (full size gallery)


The weather was warm (70’s) and glorious with abundant sunshine. We had 51, including the Andersons who returned from Texas. We had a few guests also. All the children were present for Godly Play.

While the magnolia blooms have faded, there was abundant new leaf growth in our trees, including the dogwoods. It’s that light shade of green that is a part of this new growth. The garden in the driveway is in full bloom as well as flowers in the graveyard.  Many small flowers – and yes – some bees were out.

Lent wrapped up this week.  It was the Liturgy of the Palms before the service at 10:45am and then the Liturgy of the Passion which is the extended Holy Week reading, this year from the Gospel of  Matthew.  We had less than 20 for the Litany of the Palms last year when it was colder in March, 2013. We had 30-40 this year with the excellent weather. 

The music distinguised itself in the service. Brad and the choir did a fine job. An enthusiastic "All Glory Laud and Honor" started the service after the Litany of the Palms procession. It was written in exile by Theodulf of Orléans in 820.   The choir  provided "Let this same mind be in you" by VTS professor Bill Roberts. It is the text for Philippians 2:5-11 and has a deeply haunting melody. (Roberts was one of Catherine’s professors at the seminary). They also sang "O Sorrow Deep" after the Passion Narrative. "O sorrow deep! Who would not weepwith heartfelt pain and sighing! God the Father’s only Son in the tomb is lying." 

The passion narrative was the focus of this service with the scripture taken from Matthew this year. The readings were read by members of the congregations.  Certainly one of the best Christ readings was done by Mike especially. "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" was extremely moving.  Helmut played Judas. Imagine going from Saint Nicholas in December to Judas in April!

The altar was stripped for the passion narrative. One by one Eunice brought objects to the altar which were symbolic of the event and also provide a lesson for us.  It included the bread and wine, a sword, a bowl of water and towel, fair linen, a rock, 30 pieces of silver, a crown of thorns and scarlett robe. After the passion narrative Catherine explained the symbolism which is here as a sermon

The pictures above show the setting. Only the power of the cross can overcome the deficiencies represented by the objects- violence, the tendency to accept injustices, the tendency to mock others, the hiding away of issue in our lives, greed.

The bulletin is here .  The readings are here.   The passion narrative with the parts is here

We have three services this week – Wed (Tenebrae), Thurs (Maunday Thursday), and Friday (Good Friday) all at 7pm as well as Easter Sunday at 11am. A description of each service is here.

It is called "Holy Week" for a reason. It is the holiest week of the year, the yearly remembrance of the death and resurrection of Christ and probing for its meaning

Melinda Quivik, liturgical and homiletical scholar, provides this analysis of Palm Sunday:

"This day is an image of ourselves and of the God who comes as a power so great that resurrection defeats even cruel execution.

"The church is called to reckon with paradox on this day: triumph and rejection, death and rebirth. This day is the entrance into the most holy time of year when all the most profound truths of human life are exposed.

"Liturgically, this day confuses some pastors and congregations. Every year someone raises the question why we are celebrating both Jesus’ praise-filled entrance into Jerusalem on that donkey with all those palm fronds and then quickly turning to his murder. The answer is the most central truth about our faith: both winning and losing happen all the time together and in that complex journey is where we find Jesus … owning all of it with us while defeating it. Today gives us the image of cheering crowds, glad to have their “savior” entering into the city, and the image of the cruel machinations of the powerful who know their stranglehold on the rabble must be locked in by the exercise of strong and uncompromising contempt.

"This story is not a documentary; it is also not a fiction. Instead, it is a proclamation of faith. From it, we receive the face of God in the midst of desolation. It is a face of resignation and deep comprehension. The failings of the people who create this abomination — and that of all victimization in human history — is known intimately by God. Even more vividly, God knows the pain of victims. Those who suffer without rescuers, those who are tormented and never defended, those who are counted as nothing, those who are mocked and tortured — all these are the ones whose lives Jesus takes on himself in this great story.

"When we look at the human actions in the longer Gospel reading for today, we see many depictions of normal life, including among others: betrayal, meal preparation, distress over the presence of evil even at a table of friends, deception revealed, boasting, failure to help someone in need, using a kiss to signal its opposite meaning, physical hurt, desertion, an arrest, deviousness, abuse of a beloved teacher, denial of friendship, bitter self-contempt, repentance, suicide, confusion on the part of a political leader, receipt of a prophetic dream, mocking a vulnerable and abused person, murder, and attempting to keep a lid on the zeal of Jesus’ followers. Whew. That’s a lot of treachery for one Sunday.

"And it calls for a litany of what God is doing because that is the other side of the coin. The humans are full of plotting, neglect, and finally killing what is good. Unless you look carefully, God, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be doing much. The humans are going about their business without divine power swooshing in to rescue or transform anyone — sort of what people ask about life today. Where is God when things are not going well? Have we been abandoned?

"When we ponder this story, however, we find God’s power deeply at work in Jesus. Look at how Jesus is depicted, how the power of the holy one is portrayed. Jesus is either speaking of himself as Son of Man (a title scholars are still working out) or mostly silent. At the meal, Jesus “took his place with the twelve.” He knows, according to Matthew, what is going to happen. He knows his betrayer. His major speech — the one we remember every week — occurs at the table. He tells them the bread they are about to dine on is his body; the wine, his blood. His friends should remember him when they eat together.

"This does not sound like the sort of thing a really grand and triumphant god would say. It sounds rather ordinary: the sort of thing we say in our families and friendship circles. Don’t forget me. At the end, he cries out his sorrow. Divine action here is made of the ordinary stuff of life — food and eating together. It points to a power that has taken up residence in the most basic needs of life. Even the most mundane of earthly acts — taking nourishment — is infused with the presence of the holy one. The bread of life is the holy one.

"The particular context of power is most evident in the shorter version of the Passion story because it crystallizes the negativity by its bookending: 1) The opening zeroes in on Pilate’s questioning while 2) ending with the centurion’s amazed realization that the dead man was not your average rabble-rouser.

"By starting with the government representative’s lording-it over Jesus and closing with the high-ranking Roman soldier having seen beyond the cultural dictates, the shorter reading gives the preacher an opportunity to bring in the political role of those who maintain power by drowning out threats to their self-serving status. The fact that Jesus so upset his detractors is a way for the preacher to explore with the assembly what his life, death, and resurrection mean in our own politicized and dangerously unjust time.

"Who, for instance, is most threatened today by Jesus’ call to care for children and the poor? Whose politics today support or deny the command to be our sisters’ and brothers’ keeper? Jesus’ teaching about generosity is frightening to some people. It is easier to ignore inconvenient problems or silence the advocates of justice than to create a just society. This dangerous truth is ripe for Palm/ Passion Sunday.

"Above all, this is a day for laying out the crucifixion. This is not yet the resurrection story. Tempting as it is to introduce a triumph at the end, it isn’t there in the reading. It isn’t for today. Don’t rush it."

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