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Posts Tagged ‘Palm Sunday’

Palm Sunday March 28, 2010

  • Season: Lent
  • Sermon: The Only Hope
  • Scripture: Matthew 26: 14- 27:66
  • Songs:

9:30AM Service

  1. First and The Last
  2. Hosanna
  3. Faith Finders (children’s choir); Hands and Feet & Firm Foundation
  4. offertory:  The Only Hope
  5. Communion: My Jesus I Love Thee
  6. Greatest Love: Solo Deb Felts
  7. There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood
  8. The Power of The Cross

I had great pleasure worshipping this past Sunday.  Several years ago, while I was in seminary, I helped lead worship at an anglican church.  On Palm Sunday of that year, we did not have a large Palm Sunday production but simply had people read the scripture that described Jesus’ last days.  There was something very powerful in listening to different people read the different dialogue in scripture and it made it abundantly clear that our Holy Word, is not simply a historical account of the past, but a living testimony to a living God.  When I have my choice, I generally prefer this kind of presentation for Palm Sunday.

The goal of any worship service is to draw people into the presence of God and to interact with God corporately.  This is one of the reason churches use liturgies with songs and responsive reading.  My hope this past Sunday was to create an environment in which we could participate together in our worship of God.  Now, I could share with you what I wanted to happen, but let me, rather, share with you what I experienced.

Before the service, life was chaotic for me.  I was out of breath and tired and anxious.  The band needed to run through the music and deal with slide and sound issues, the children needed to rehearse their music for the same reason, and I had yet to find time to meet with those who had so wonderfully volunteered to read, in order to let them know when and where they would be reading.  I was running short on time and I was really concerned to create a worship service that would enhance and not distract from worship.  The good news is that with God, showing up and letting go is sometimes the best thing we can do.  So that is what I decided to do.  This is all I have Lord, here you go.  The reality settles in.  This is worship and not a performance.  The difference, worship is not a production but comes from what we bring to the table.  If my best is horrible and I give it to God, he makes it wonderful.

Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  People threw their coats down and they cut down palms.  I am sure it was loud.  I am sure many were ecstatic.  I am sure many ignored it all together.  Ministry was offered to all, but only those paying attention, got it.  You see, God was there before we were on Sunday morning.  There was chaos around, sure, but God always speaks into the chaos and brings order.  We sang together.  We celebrated together.  We delighted in the talents of others.  We delighted in the presence of our neighbors.  Do you know why so many people were here Sunday morning?  Because you were here Sunday morning.  We paid attention to one another and to God.  I could hear the sound of ministry in the words of scripture, in the movement of feet as you shuffled forward to receive communion.  I certainly heard it when nails were being hammered into the cross.  One of the discussions we had in planning the service was if hammering would interfere with the delicate song we were singing called “there is a fountain”.  I hoped it would.  Christ’s forgiveness should never be ignored. The sacrifice is to loud to drown out, but if we listen closely enough the clanging hammer becomes the song of our soul. It is a song of freedom.  Tragic to be sure, but that is the glory of it all.  As tragic as the crucifixion was, its work was left void because of the resurrection.  We hear the hammers blow, but we also hear the stone roll.  Did you hear yourselves sing the “Power of The Cross”?  Well, you sang it like you believed it.  I hope you believe it. That is what I experienced on Sunday morning.  I hope you enter Easter knowing the stone has been rolled away.

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I have sent in the request, but I have my doubts that the Olympic committee will introduce diaper changing as a new sport.  I am constantly amazed at the advanced martial arts skill my 2-year-old has.  She doesn’t have the motor skills to draw a square, but can perry every move I make in an attempt to change a diaper.  Not strong enough to lift a toaster, but is able to keep me at bay with a little kick.  Sydney has 2 arms and legs just like most kids, yet somehow on that changing table, where it would appear I have the advantage, she grows extra appendages that move with speed that surpasses that of a teenage girl talking about who’s dating whom. Forget reasoning, she’s too young and what does she care if it takes a few minutes longer?  She’s been covered in “whatever” all night anyway and where does she have to go? So here I am, almost 40, and losing to a 2-year-old.  My intention is to clean her up and sometimes the only way that is going to happen is if I get a little dirty in the process.  Now, my precious heart is dressed and pristine as I move to the process of cleaning the wonderful aroma of A&D ointment and Poo off me and everything else, all the while Sydney grabs my hand and says, “Play?”

The beginning of the Gospel begins with the declaration to make our paths straight for the coming of our Lord and the beginning of Jesus’ last days give picture to many people preparing a path for Jesus as he enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  On Palm Sunday we remember the story of the Passion of Christ rehearsing the scene of welcoming Jesus by throwing down coats and palms.  But we also have the advantage of rehearsing the palm processional on this side of history.  What we know is that the preparation for those in Jerusalem was incomplete.  As soon as they welcomed Jesus, they then fought him every step of the way.

If I ask my 2-year-old if she wants to be changed, she says, “ok”, leads me to the changing table, and that is where the cooperation sometimes stops.  I wonder how many times in our life we know we want to change, we know it takes Jesus to create that transformation, and we even go so far as to make a path straight for him to enter our world; yet, that is where our cooperation ends.  We want to be “changed”, yet we fight and even resent the intrusiveness of what is involved in that process.  To allow God to renew our lives, it means allowing God to get personal with us.  Our religious practices help us prepare the way, but it is our relationship with God that actually creates the transformation.  How close do we let Jesus get to us?

The other thing I thought about was the length that God has gone so that we might be “cleaned”, so that we might be given life to live today.  The only way for our lives to be cleansed of sin is for Jesus to get a little dirty himself.  I don’t mean to say that Jesus sinned for us but that he took responsibility for our sin upon the cross.  This is the other image we find on Palm Sunday, the image of Christ being crucified for sins he did not commit.  This is a theme I plan to explore in more detail next week, but for this weekend, as you find yourself thinking about Palm Sunday, reflect on what you really expect from Jesus in your relationship with him and what you expect from yourself.  Maybe you have gone so far as to “prepare a way” or embraced the idea of Jesus in your life, but have you gone so far as to trust him in a relationship and to trust him with all of your relationships? The goal of Palm Sunday is not so that we feel guilty about our lives but to see the opportunity God has created for us.  God’s goal in his passion is not to lord what he has done over us, but so when we get down off the changing table we can look at our Heavenly Father and, as my little girl does, grab his hand and say, “Play?”

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