Sermon for April 5, 2020

On Monday, our governor declared that everyone should stay home to protect ourselves during this pandemic.  I agreed with his decision. Still,  Tuesday was a difficult day for me.  I am thankful that so many have volunteered to help this church stay together in spite of the isolation we are experiencing.  Some are calling church members and if you haven’t received a call, let me know.   We started recording the services and putting them on Youtube for everyone to see.  We started to have Zoom services for morning prayer and compline.  But the announcement from the governor changed things again.  I was in a sad mood.  How should our church respond to this latest decision and how will we continue to offer services and stay together?

Then as I prepared for this sermon, I was reminded that I am not in charge.  God is in charge. In my reading I came across this observation, “Our very human instinct is to take over when we think God cannot adequately meet our expectations or when we assume that the protocols we have put in place are the only ways through which God can work.”  So, I am doing my best to go with the flow and let God handle this because God will. In spite of all of my worries and all of my actions. Holy Week is not my responsibility.  Holy Week will happen regardless of what I do.  God will make sure of that.

And in this time of sickness and death, in this time of worry, I remembered all the wonderful things people are doing for others.  Some in our church have responded to the need by giving more money to our Million Meals program and we are trying to find the appropriate places to share this gift.  Other good things have happened. In times of great difficulty we get opportunities to learn.  This week, I have gotten better at using Zoom.  I have learned how to record a Zoom session and I have learned how to upload that recording to our Youtube channel.  It is fun in some ways.  Perhaps you have had some new experiences as well.  Or maybe you have found the time to do a project that has been put off. 

I share this to describe the ups and downs I have encountered, in a very short time span.  On Thursday, I struggled with how we would do this service and then on Thursday evening, I spent time praying with about 15 people on Zoom and some people joined us for the first time on Zoom. It was good to see everyone’s faces.  I was lifted up.

This next week will be unusual as well.  I am so used to sharing the Holy Week services with others.  Those services give us the chance to walk with Jesus together.  We will not be doing that this year.  I will have a Good Friday service available on Facebook and Youtube as well as our Easter Sunday service.  That is all.  So, I will join you and participate in a service online.  Every year since I came to Arizona, I have renewed my priestly vows in a service at the Cathedral.   This year, I will be renewing my priestly vows through a Zoom meeting.  I will miss gathering with my clergy friends.  I will miss being there personally.  

The ups and downs of life are reflected in our two gospel readings for today.  We first celebrate the procession which Jesus took through the streets of Jerusalem and we imagined the loud shouts of the people saying, “Hosanna in the Highest”. 

For me, this celebration goes by too quickly. I want to be one of the people on the roadside, saying hosanna to our king.  I wish that I could stay in the place and not have to go through the rest of the week.  Ask yourself, “How would I have reacted to all of the things that happened that week”?  We wish we could be certain that we would have stuck with Jesus for the entire ride.  But none of us can be sure.  We must remain humble and accept the uncertainty.  All of us have had times when we were unfaithful to Jesus in our lives and we wish that we would not have been the ones later in the week to shout, “Crucify him!”

Just a little while later we listened to the entire story of the passion of Jesus and one again heard about Jesus death on the cross.  We heard the story of Jesus giving up his life for us. 

Today’s readings and the progression of things in Holy Week have so many ups and downs. It feels so much like my life these days. I would suggest that you choose this week to follow the path of Jesus.  There is so much to learn and so many emotions that flow over us. Many people have chosen some way to remember the path of Jesus this week at their dinner table.  For Jan and I, we have placed seven candles on the table in remembrance of the seven days of this Holy Week. We lit them this morning at breakfast and will do so at our meals. It is the best we can do in this difficult time.  

One other suggestion I have is that you read the gospel of Mark this week.  It is relatively short and you can read a portion each day.  I would encourage you to start on the 11th chapter of Mark and read Mark’s description of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 

  1. On Sunday, I suggest you read Mark 11:1-11. It is the story of the triumphal procession of Jesus into Jerusalem. 
  2. On Monday, I suggest you read Mark 11:12-18. It is the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple, sending the money changers on their way. 
  3. On Tuesday, please read Mark 11:20- 12:12. In this passage, Jesus debates his authority with the Pharisees and he tells a parable of the wicked tenant.  I hope that you can feel the tension in the air as people in positions of authority test Jesus and try to trick him so that they can punish him.
  4. On Wednesday, I suggest you read Mark 12:18-44. In this passage you will find some of the most important teaching that we receive for Jesus.  He answered difficult questions about how we live in society and live in God at the same time.  We hear once more the greatest commandment and we hear the story about how one widow gave so much as she worshipped God. 
  5. On Thursday read Mark 14:1-42. Imagine yourself joining the apostles for the Last Supper.  It must have been a wonderful gathering amongst people who were so close.  Yet, this meal also had tension in the air as Judas plans to betray Jesus and Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Jesus three times.  The passage ends with Jesus praying in Gethsemane.  Let us pray with Jesus as he prepares himself for the trial that is to come. 
  6. Then, on Friday, You might watch the Good Friday service on our Youtube channel. If you prefer to just sit quietly, you may want to read a portion of the passion story.  On Good Friday, we usually read the gospel of John 18:1-19:42. 
  7. On Saturday, you could contemplate the fear and uncertainty facing the apostles. 

I hope that by taking this path, walking this journey with Jesus, you will have a chance to experience the ups and downs that he and his followers experienced, that you will get a sense of the intense pressure and questioning that he was placed under and have a sense of how calmly he responded to the pressure. 

As we go through this week we can ponder the wonderful gift that Jesus gave us.  He gave everything he had to help us find our way, to feel connected to God in every step that we take and to know the forgiveness that Jesus has provided to us. 

So much happened in this one week.  We experience exuberant joy, sacred gifts, in fighting among the followers, rejection, denial, desperate prayer and deep sorrow.   So much real life in just one week.  I invite you this day and this week to consider how Jesus changed your life, not just by using your mind, the words you say or the things you hear.  Let’s feel the things that Jesus and his disciples did.  And I invite you to open your hearts to the emotions of this week.  Allow sorrow and joy to enter you.  We know Jesus experienced much and had many feelings that week.  It gives me encouragement because I know that Jesus experienced many emotions during his life that I experience now.  Let us be thankful for all that Jesus did for us and for his ever-present love.  Amen.

 

Last modified on Saturday, 04 April 2020 22:19

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