Monthly Archives: March 2015

Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday — Dr. Joel Marcus

“Ride On, Ride On, In Majesty”

Mark 11:1-11

We have just heard the whole passion narrative read, in Mark’s rendition. And, as this week progresses, we will move step by step through that narrative. But for now I want to backtrack to the Gospel lesson we heard read outside the church today, which forms the necessary background for Holy Week. This is the Gospel lesson that is rightly called the story of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

For this is the story of a triumph—a word whose first definition my New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Thumb Index Edition) gives as “the processional entrance of a victorious commander with his army and spoils into Rome.” These spoils usually included not only the treasures of the defeated kingdom—for example, the solid gold menorah and showbread table of the Temple in Jerusalem, which can still be seen depicted on Hadrian’s Arch in Rome—but also the soldiers from the defeated army, who were led through the streets of Rome in chains, and the leaders of whom were then publicly executed, while the rest of the soldiers and other captives were sold into slavery.

Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem, of course, is not exactly that sort of triumph. We don’t hear of any conquered soldiers being dragged through the city in chains, or killed, or sold into slavery—but there is still something triumphalist about the scene, like a military victory parade or, to get closer to our time and place, the exultation of sports-maddened basketball fans when their team wins. The scene of the finding of the colt recalls a famous messianic text from the Old Testament, Zechariah 9, in which Jerusalem’s king comes to her humble and riding on a donkey’s colt—the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, calls this “a new colt.” To this corresponds Mark’s detail that the colt Jesus rides on has never been ridden before—it is “new” because it has never been ridden. Although this king in Zechariah is described as humble, and the passage goes on to speak rapturously about the peace he will bring, it is the sort of peace that is achieved by a decisive victory in war. We haven’t had many victories of that sort lately—all of our victories seem to turn to ashes in our mouth–but they do sometimes happen. Think V-E Day and V-J Day at the end of World War II, and those classic pictures of total strangers kissing each other in exultation and relief.

Jesus, then, is being portrayed as a victor, and one whose victory is being acknowledged by a grateful people who expect him to save them from oppression and establish his kingdom from sea to shining sea. At the same time, however, this scene is also full of pathos. Because the reader knows, the hearer knows, we know that this acknowledgement of Jesus will be short-lived, and that the same Jerusalem crowds that are now rapturously feting him will, within a few short days, turn against him and scream for his execution. Continue reading

Thanks for your help!

Thanks to the 20 people who came to help at our “work party” to help clean the church, rake the garden, spread mulch, pick up trash, plant flowers, organize donated clothes, polish brass, and make palm crosses (and probably a few other things)! The church and grounds look ready for Easter, and spring!

Second Sunday of Lent — Tyler Hambley

“The Way of the Cross”

OT: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm: 22:23-31
Epistle: Romans 4:13-25
Gospel: Mark 8:31-38

“Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Well… so much for positive, encouraging radio from the Son of God this morning. Poor old Peter! Sometimes, it seems like just when he might have things all figured out, he gets harshly reminded of how far he has yet to go. And, if you’re anything like me this morning, then you probably feel like Peter is not alone in his struggle to understand and follow this Jesus character. As we enter this second full week of Lent, our Holy efforts to give up certain foods, pray a little more, or reboot a new year’s resolution are starting to drag a little thin. Ash Wednesday was neat, albeit a little morbid, but now we’re starting to scratch our heads a little. What is this Lent thing for again? How long does it last? How far do we take this self-denial stuff? Anyway, these are just a few of the thoughts I have, at least. Overall, I like Jesus, and I like thinking Jesus likes me. But besides some nifty spiritual exercises, and trying to be a generally nice person, I’m often confused as to what being a follower of Christ means exactly? Put another way, what difference does Christ make for our lives? I know I’m supposed to say it makes all the difference, but what does that entail? What does that look like? Continue reading