Here are my thoughts for Palm Sunday, 17 April 2011. I have been rather occupied with the feeding ministry that we do on Saturdays and Sundays and with everything else going on lately, I have found it difficult to post my Sunday posts on Sunday.
I really don’t have any particular scriptures in mind except, perhaps, for the story of Jesus walking on the water (as I will explain in a few paragraphs). One thing that I have struggled with over the years is whether or not I should be using the Palm Sunday lectionary readings or the Passion Sunday readings. There is also the issue of how we should understand the role of Palm Sunday in the scheme of things.
Besides not being able to post my thoughts on Sunday like I would prefer to be doing, I have found myself not attending either of the two morning services that we hold at church. But on Sunday mornings, after feeding some 30 or 40 people, it is necessary to clean up. I have come to believe that the Gospel writers left a few lines out when they wrote about the feeding of the multitudes. Depending on which of the Gospels you read, Philip is identified as the disciple who wonders where they will get the food to feed the people. But it doesn’t say who cleaned up after the people were done eating. And I can imagine Bartholomew asking Jesus, “Who is going to clean up this mess?” So while everyone is going to one of the services, I find myself cleaning up the community room and kitchen. But I don’t mind, if for no other reason that I am reminded that the ministry is never done until all the work is completed.
As it happened, someone wondered how it was that I could “survive” without going to Sunday worship? I thought that was an interesting comment in that it suggested that one must attend a regular service on Sunday morning in order to be a “complete Christian.” I know quite a few people who would say that is what one must do but worship can take any form and occur at any time. And I am not completely without worship.
First, I do review the lectionary readings for each Sunday so that when I get the time, I can write down my thoughts. And second, during the past six weeks, I have coordinated the Lenten School. And at the beginning of the school, we have had a 20 minute worship service, with music and thoughts. Two of the six weeks, the worship service was conducted by one of the advanced classes in preaching as they (the six students and their instructor) explored different ways of presenting the message. Now, as the coordinator, I have the opportunity to prepare the opening worship service at the beginning of the school (see "This Journey Into Lent" for the thoughts I expressed).
And as the coordinator I also had to prepare the closing worship which involved the commissioning of the new local lay speakers (we sent some 17 individuals out into the mission world this year). I invited the District Superintendent to join us and, using the passage where Jesus walked on the water and Peter tried and failed to do the same, she spoke about the challenges that lie before us as lay speakers. Her message focused on one of the questions that was put to her when she was seeking ordination, “Can you walk on water?”
It is also a tradition that we close the Lenten School with communion and I was allowed to write part of that liturgy.
Two thousand years ago, Christ’s disciples, along with all people celebrated the coming of the New Messiah into Jerusalem.
Two thousand years ago, Christ’s disciples were simply students, learning as they went.
They gathered together with their friends and family to celebrate the Passover meal. Little did they know what lie before them as Christ’s disciples.
Today, the students of the Lenten School gather in celebration of the completion of a journey of learning and exploration.
Today, we gather as those first students, those first disciples did in celebration of that first Lord’s Supper. We know what lies before us in the coming days and we have accepted the call to walk that path.
Though we may go our separate ways after today, we are bound together by the same spirit, the same friendship, and the same love that each of the disciples had for Christ.
And we are bound together by the love that Christ has shown for each of us.
Thus prepared to walk with Christ and present Christ to the world, renewed by your Word and Sacraments and fervent in prayer and works of justice and mercy, we come to the fullness of grace that You have prepared for those who love You.
Now, I knew when I wrote those words that two of the classes that met for the six weeks were exploring ways to continue the learning process after the completion of the Lenten School. And that to me is why Palm Sunday is an important part of the Lenten Journey.
We have to see that while Lent leads up to Palm Sunday, the journey does not stop there but continues through this week to Good Friday and onto Easter. And then it continues beyond Easter.
We are in the midst of an uncompleted journey, one that begins in celebration but is tempered by sorrow and heartbreak. Some would have the journey end on Palm Sunday so that all we have is the celebration. But if we do not have the somber nature of Thursday and the sorrow and heartbreak of Good Friday, we cannot have the even greater celebration of Easter. Ours is an uncompleted journey to the cross and beyond. I hope that this week, you will begin that journey. And if you have begun that journey, I hope that you will bring some friends along to see what lies before you.
This Saturday, I will be at Drew United Methodist Church (Carmel,NY); their Saturday services are at 7 and you are welcome to come and attend. The message that I will be presenting, “The Missing Day”, will be about the time between the crucifixion and the Resurrection as told by Nathaniel Bartholomew.