First Lutheran Church and School

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The Word This Weekend – April 9, 2017

The Word This Weekend – April 9, 2017
“Of Palms and Passion” 

The Rev. Dr. William L. Hurst
FLCS Senior Pastor 

[As Jesus entered Jerusalem,] 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)Just believe
Is that all?
So simple when you're strapping
Virile
When the vistas ahead seem achievable
And the obstacles surmountable

Just believe --
Not so small,
So daunting when you're flagging
Crumpled
When the prospects ahead seem impossible
And the finality unavoidable

Just believe --
Heirs like the sands
Posterity like a starscape
As the capacity grows ever weaker
The promise widens
Exponentially
Unbelievably
As my faith falters
The Maker's spreads lights across the sky
And spills hope from the hourglass
To the sandy path ahead

Like a cross against a blackened Noonday
Like weakness that conquers strength
Or hate
A death that spells triumph
Exponentially
Unbelievably
And births a posterity
Beyond all knowing
Beyond all stopping
Seed of Abram
of Abraham
Kin, all kin, of the exponential, unbelieveable
Belief

Just believe --
Believe and be just
Just
Believe

Just believe
Is that all?
So simple when you're strapping
Virile
When the vistas ahead seem achievable
And the obstacles surmountable

Just believe --
Not so small,
So daunting when you're flagging
Crumpled
When the prospects ahead seem impossible
And the finality unavoidable

Just believe --
Heirs like the sands
Posterity like a starscape
As the capacity grows ever weaker
The promise widens
Exponentially
Unbelievably
As my faith falters
The Maker's spreads lights across the sky
And spills hope from the hourglass
To the sandy path ahead

Like a cross against a blackened Noonday
Like weakness that conquers strength
Or hate
A death that spells triumph
Exponentially
Unbelievably
And births a posterity
Beyond all knowing
Beyond all stopping
Seed of Abram
of Abraham
Kin, all kin, of the exponential, unbelieveable
Belief

Just believe --
Believe and be just
Just
Believe

Dear Companions in the Way,

Lent draws ever nearer to the event of the Cross. This baptismal pilgrimage of repentance and discipline is about to make its turn into what the Church calls “Holy Week.” This eight day observance, following the four gospels, literally slows to a crawl, devoting intense attention to the days leading to what the Church calls Maundy (“Mandate”) Thursday, Good Friday, and the dawning of the Resurrection of the Lord. Matthew, our primary evangelist for this year’s paschal pilgrimage, devotes a third of his gospel account to these eight days. As the apostolic accounts slow to a painful and laser-like focus on these days of challenge, failure, ignomy and triumph, so the Church fixes it eyes and attention on the holy walk of Christ to the Cross and empty Tomb.

When I was a kid, Palm Sunday and Easter stood as fundamental poles for this journey, but, owing to the Protestant emphases and habits of my childhood congregation, we spent little time on the period between those signal events of the Triumphal Entrance to Jerusalem and the proclamation of “He is risen indeed!” So easy it was for us to pole vault from “Hosanna!” to “Hallelujah!”, with barely a mention of the crucial events in between. It’s a casualty of our penchant for Sunday observances, and the preference of most of us to skip what happens from Monday through Saturday.

Friends, don’t let this happen to you this year. So say I, and so says Matthew. For this week is a time for palms and for passion. Not one without the other, but both in holy chorus and in serious complementarity.

Look at the account of Christ’s entry to the holy city. I’ve been on that steep and winding descent from the Mount of Olives to the gate of Jerusalem, and you can feel the anticipation in the terrain all around you. All the players are there – the band of disciples, eager for their King to claim his crown and wrest the city and the nation from its corrupt and godless leaders. Jesus will reign, so they reason, with cabinet positions and power brokerage for themselves. And the crowd joins in, singing and waving and welcoming the new Davidad who will wipe the slate clean, and pose a nationalist counter to the Roman occupation and the worthless shills who conspire to keep the people under their collective thumb.

And the opponents are there as well. Pharisees, who see the dangers of insurrection and official backlash in the wind, make plain their fear that the response of Rome and her clients will be bloody and quick to squelch this Galilean political rebellion. This only intensifies as the Nazarene enters the temple courts, ejecting the merchants and declaring a return of the temple courts to proper and God pleasing prayer. And as he sits in the role of Teacher and Prophet each day, their anxiety gathers steam, and the spring that winds ever tighter and more deadly gains in force and danger.

And that is what we follow this Holy Week – the concourse of praise and fear, adulation and opposition, the prospect of a kingly crown that will be worn not on a bejeweled crown, but on the cross of pain and loss.

So, from Palms to Passion, it all counts. It all matters, every painful step. So I invite you – and more: I summon you – to join us Monday through Wednesday for evening prayer, to the hearing of the gospel accounts, and to bend our heads and our wills to confession and repentance. Join us on Maundy Thursday, as we celebrate an Agape Meal at 5:30, and then assemble in the sanctuary at 7pm, to wash hands and feet, to strip the chancel of its appointments, and to hear the great 22nd Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Wake with us on Friday, for a three hour reflection on his crucifixion from Noon till Three, and then again at Seven for a solemn adoration of the Holy Cross. Be with us at sundown on Saturday, as we welcome Easter with a great Vigil Mass. Walk with us through it all, that our gleeful cries of “Hosanna!” may turn to a truly informed and deepened cry of “Hallelujah!”, having witnessed and prayed every step in between. 

I look forward to joining with you at worship throughout these sacred days, as we follow the Christ, and especially as we follow along the oh-so-shrouded events of the Passion. May the grace of the Son of God, inscribed in cruciform on our heads and our hearts, inspire and lead us to draw strength for the work of the kingdom in our own day, resting in the gifts of Water, Word and Table. May the Paschal walk be productive in our lives and our witness, that we might come to resolutely trust in his saving hope, and learn to obey God’s vision for sacred community in his service to this impetuous and fallen world.

With You in God’s Good Work,
Bill Hurst