e-letter 3/23/18

I’m so looking forward to Palm Sunday (this Sunday)! At Suntree UMC, we have traditionally kicked off Holy Week with great musical presentations, both in the Traditional Worship Services and in the Gathering Contemporary Worship Service. In the Traditional Worship Services (9:30 & 11), we will hear our chancel choir perform a traditional cantata called, “Requiem” by Gabriel Faure. In the Gathering Contemporary Worship Service (9:30), we will hear our Children’s Ministry perform “Hosanna Rocks.” I am so excited to hear both of these great presentations this Sunday.

That also means Pastor Annette and I will not be preaching on Palm Sunday. (Which is a welcomed break with Easter, the Super Bowl of Sundays, coming up!) Here’s what I could’ve focused on if we were preaching…

If we look at the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday in the scriptures, we have an interesting scene in front of us. Actually, we can imagine two scenes going on together. These two scenes create a bit of tension as we visualize them in our minds.

Scene A: Jesus riding on a colt. In Mark 11:1-11, we see Jesus ordering two of his disciples to go into a village, find a colt, and bring it to him to ride on. (It’s in Matthew’s gospel that we see Jesus riding on a colt AND a donkey, which is kind of humorous to imagine.) Jesus rides the colt down the Mount of Olives, and is cheered on by his followers. “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Jesus. A nobody from nowhere Nazareth proclaiming a message about the kingdom of God. Jesus’ followers were also nobodies who came along for the ride.

Scene B: On the other side of the city, Pontius Pilate entered Jerusalem with cavalry and soldiers. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea and Samaria. This was a march of Roman imperial power and military strength.

Pontius Pilate. The powerful Roman governor. The symbol of strength and authority accompanied by his troops.

Can you imagine these two entrances? Pomp and circumstance on one side, a peasant on the other. Power, might, and strength on one side. Weakness, lack of power, lack of strength on the other. Can you hear Pontius Pilate’s side? Marching of feet, movement of leather, clinking of swords, swirling of dust. Can you hear Jesus’ side? Singing of “Hosanna”, movement of colt (or donkey!), and coats be laid down with the leafy branches.

I wonder if Jesus’ march was one of demonstration. It was a demonstration of what true authority, power, and might looks like. It was what Zechariah was referring to when he said, “He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations.” (9:10) This kind of a king, Jesus, will banish war from the land- no more chariots, war-horses, or bows. This kind of king will command peace to the nations, he will be a king of peace.

“Jesus’s procession deliberately countered what was happening to the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus’s procession embodied an alternative vision, the Kingdom of God.” (Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’s Final Week in Jerusalem.)

What style of march will you make this week? What path will you choose to take? Who will choose the kingdom of God or and who will choose the kingdom of this world? That’s what Holy Week is all about.

For a practical, modern example: We are participating in a Good Friday Prayer Walk. It will be a 2 hour, 1.5 miles total, walk where we will visit 7 stations. There will be singing of songs, reading of scriptures, and prayers lifted up. Suntree UMC will be participating alongside Our Lady of Lourdes, HIS Place Ministries, Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, and others. At a school we will pray for children; at a veterans facility, for those who bear the scars of war; at a feeding program, for those who are hungry; at a night shelter, for those without a home; at railroad tracks, for international refugees; at City Hall, for civic leaders to pursue justice. Our church will be responsible for leading the music, prayer, and scripture readings at City Hall. The walk will begin at 9am at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, and we will return to where we started by 11am.

This Sunday we will also be bringing forward items for our partner Harbor City Elementary School: 1.5′-2′ white binders (with plastic covering and pockets inside), Clorox wipes, square Kleenex boxes, and plastic zippered pencil holders (not boxes please).

I’m praying for you to have a blessed Holy Week. To experience Jesus in new ways. To love our neighbors in extraordinary ways. I can’t wait to see you on Sunday to start that journey!

grace + peace,
Rob