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Holy Week Activity Guide

 

We invite you to revisit with Jesus the last week of his life… Contemplate his suffering and give thanks for his sacrifice.  To access this resource, click HERE.

 
To access the audio, click HERE.
 
Morning Gathering, Emmanuel Baptist Church
Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020
 
 
Reading One – Brandon
 
                   O God you are very great; you are clothed
                   with splendour and majesty. 
                   The heavens declare your glory, the skies
                   proclaim the work of your hands.
 
                   O Lord, our Lord,
                   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
                   You have set your glory above the heavens.
 
                   The Lord wraps himself in light as
                   with a garment;
                   he stretches out the heavens like a tent
                   and lays the beams of his upper chambers
                   on their waters.
                   He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on
                   the wings of the wind.
 
                   He set the earth on it foundations;
                   it can never be moved.
                   He makes springs pour water into the ravines,
                   they give water to all the beasts of the field.
           
                   How many are your works, Lord!
                   In wisdom you made them all;
                   the earth is full of your creatures.
 
                   The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
                   the world, and all who live in it;
                   for he founded it on the seas and established
                   it on the waters.
 
                                                  from Psalm 104 & Psalm 8

 
 
Song: Come With Me – Emmanuel Musicians
 
                   Lord, You are our light and our salvation
                   Why should we be afraid
                   Lord, You are our shelter, protector and defender
                   Why should we be afraid
                   Hear us O Lord, answer our prayers
                   Have mercy on us, Our hearts have heard You say
 
                   Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say
                   Lord we are coming, Lord, you say
                   Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say
                   Lord we are coming, O Lord
 
 
Welcome and Announcements – Brendon
 
Good morning Emmanuel, and a Blessed Palm Sunday to you. Welcome to our virtual gathering.  I trust you are well and coping with the challenges of physical distancing and concerns about health and economics and relationships.   
 
As I remind us every week, we gather to imagine what our lives could be like because Jesus is Lord and we believe he is at work in the world making all things new.  Amidst all the concerns and anxieties that clamour for our attention, we gather to be reminded of who Jesus is, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, of who we are as his beloved children, and who together we can be as a community seeking his kingdom and pursuing his righteousness and justice in the world.   Whatever space we find ourselves in, mentally, emotionally and physically, I pray that as we pause to attend to the presence of Jesus with us and among us, that he will graciously meet us there and breathe his peace upon us.
 
I am grateful that we gather again in this way this morning. In a moment, some of our musicians will lead us in songs that direct our attention to God, the source of our life; Elsie Nickorick will lead us in our Prayer of Confession and our Community Prayer, and then you’ll hear from me with today’s teaching. 
 
But before we go further, I want to remind us of a few things:
Today is the start of Holy Week, a time when we reflect on the last days of Jesus’ earthly life.  We have provided some resources on the website to help guide our experience through this week. Go to www.ebap.ca and click on the Holy Week banner. The Stations of the Cross can help us contemplate the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.  The Family Activity Guide offers a variety of ways to engage as a family over the course of the week. Thanks to Robin and Kari for creating these great resources.  We will also be providing text and audio versions of our services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  These will be available on the website and by email.  May we encounter Jesus in fresh ways this week as we linger over his story and open our hearts to his love.
 
Although we are unable to gather as a church family, I want to encourage us to take advantage of the technologies available to us to gather and connect, whether online or over the phone. While we are practicing physical distancing – and I trust we are doing so as an act of love for each other and our neighbours – we can still pursue spiritual connecting.   Some of our small groups and classes are meeting online; it would be great to see others doing so.  We are working as a staff to help facilitate some of these connections, and if we can help with that, or anything else, please reach out to us.  But you don’t need to wait on us either.  Please reach out to others and check in with them; create your own clusters of conversation; connect with a few others, by text or phone, or some other platform.  Share with each other how you are doing and ask how you can care for one another.  Remember what I said last Sunday – Let’s not waste this crisis.
 
Our Zoom prayer gatherings continue this week, Monday-Friday, 7:15, 12:15, 9:15, for half an hour each time.  Please consider joining us for one of those times online, or on your own in your home. For details, please check the weekly email that Jan sends out on Monday, or send me an email, bgibson@ebap.ca.
 
We’ve created a “Stories of Grace” page on our website.  Please use it to share a story to encourage us, a prayer request, or an answer to prayer.  And please check out the weekly bulletin at the website for prayer concerns and other information abut our church family.
 
And finally, thank you for continuing to support the work that God has called us to do as a church family.  As I have noted in recent emails, you can give online by going to our website or you can drop off your offering envelope in the church mailbox at the front entrance of our facility.  And if you’d rather not go out during this time and would like it to be picked up, please contact the office and we will make arrangements to have it picked up safely.
 
May God grant us much grace as we look to him through this current crisis. May he strengthen our hearts and encourage our spirits as we trust in him.  May he help us to practice faith and not fear, hope and not despair, love and not hate or indifference.
 
 
Community Prayer – Elsie
 
Good morning, I am Elsie Nickorick and it is my privilege to lead us in prayer.  J oin me as I lead the prayer of confession:
 
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)
 
Most holy and merciful Father,
We confess to you and to one another,
that we have sinned against you
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our
whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not fully loved our neighbours as ourselves.
We have not always had in us the mind of Christ.
 
You alone know how often we have grieved you
by wasting your gifts, by wandering from your ways.
Forgive us, we pray you, most merciful Father;
And free us from our sin.
Renew in us the grace and strength of your Holy Spirit,
for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Saviour. Amen.
 
Thank you for this special day in the life of the church – Palm Sunday.  This year – a different way – a virtual gathering to commemorate this day.
 
Thank you for modern technology and for our staff making this way of connecting possible.  We are “taken up” with the pandemic – the media – our isolation – the changes in our lifestyles – the physical separation from family and friends – changes – reality.
 
Lord, grant us the serenity to accept these changes and this reality.  And in the midst – help us to be thankful for health, for water, electricity, our many comforts we take for granted.  And may we all cooperate in the “rules” laid out by authorities.
 
We lift up our front-line workers in all the essential services – keep them healthy, protect them and their families. 
 
We pray for our leaders – political, civic, spiritual, business – give them wisdom and a dependency on you.
 
We lift up families – home schooling, working from home – an increased togetherness – may this be a time of strengthening and unifying the family.
 
We pray for those in our church family who are have undergone surgery, others who are chronically ill – physically, mentally – may they experience your abiding presence.
 
Palm Sunday – and the days following before the cross – the triumphal entry – the last supper – the walk and discussion on the way to the garden – the betrayal, denial arrest, unjust trials – Golgotha!
 
“He who knew no sin was made sin for us.”
           
Thank you, Father – for your immeasurable love, grace and mercy.
 
We praise your name! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
 
 
Reading Two – Erica & Beverly
 
Reader 1: 
                   The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has
                   anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  
                   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for
                   the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
                   to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the
                   Lord’s favour.
 
                   The Lord is God, and he has made his
                   light shine on us.
           
 
Reader 2:     
                   Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
                   “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it,
                   you will find a colt tied there which  no-one has ridden. 
                   Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are
                   you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 
 
                  Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as
                   Jesus had told them.  As they were untying the colt,
                   its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
 
                   They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 
 
                   The disciples brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on
                   the colt and put Jesus on it. 
 
                   As he went along, a large crowd spread their cloaks on
                   the road, while others cut branches from trees, and
                   spread them on the road. 
 
                   The crowds that went ahead of him and those that
                   followed shouted:
 
                   Hosanna in the highest!
                   Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the
                   Lord!
 
                                       from Isaiah 61, Luke 4, Psalm 119, Mark 11
 
 
Song: Holy Lord  – Emmanuel Musicians
 
                   Holy, holy, holy Lord
                   God of power and might
                   Heaven and earth of Your glory are full
                   Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest
 
                   Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
                   Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
 
 
Teaching – Brendon
 
Hello again, Emmanuel.  Please join me in prayer.
 
Lord Jesus, we give thanks for your life of humility and service and sacrifice.  Thanks for your great salvation, for the life that you have brought us into, the life you share with the Trinity.   Nourish and strengthen us in this life as we listen to your word and attend to your presence among us this morning. We ask in your holy name.  Amen.
 
To help us appreciate something of the backstory to Palm Sunday, I want to remind us of a bit of Israel’s history, including a sliver about kings and coronation donkeys. It all started with Solomon, though the idea was David’s.  David’s successor, Israel’s new king, would ride to his coronation on a mule (which is a hybred donkey).  First Kings Chapter One tells the story three times in quick succession.  David was an old man, confined to his bed, and his son Adonijah was looking to seize the throne. Having confirmed that Solomon would be his successor, David instructed Zadok, the priest, and Nathan, the prophet, to take Solomon down to Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley, just outside of Jerusalem, and to anoint him there as king.  As each of the three accounts make clear, Solomon was to ride on David’s mule. 
 
David’s instructions were obeyed and Solomon was anointed king, to shouts of joy from the people.  1 Kings chapter 1, verse forty, reads: “And all the people followed Solomon into Jerusalem, playing flutes and shouting for joy. The celebration was so joyous and noisy that the earth shook with the sound.”
 
As most of us may recall, however, shortly after Solomon’s reign, the kingdom split, and things went downhill for Israel for the next few centuries.  Most of the kings who followed Solomon were failures in God’s eyes.  Rather than representing God and reflecting his character, they led God’s people into idolatry and disregarded his call to act justly.  If any of them ever rode a mule to his coronation, we are not told.   But the humility that act that was supposed to symbolize was absent from most of them.
 
Two hundred years after Solomon, Israel, in the north, was defeated and displaced by the Assyrians.  A hundred and twenty-five years later, Judah, in the south, was overrun by the Babylonians, and their brightest and best taken into exile.   As they languished in exile, God’s people had ample time to ponder the words of the prophets who had warned them of God’s judgment, but who also promised that God would one day restore David’s kingdom. 
 
The prophet Isaiah spoke of one who would emerge as a branch from the stump of David. He would be God’s anointed, God’s messiah, the ruler who would deliver Israel (Isaiah 4, 9, 11).  Isaiah also spoke of God’s servant, one who would suffer as Israel’s representative (Isaiah 40-53).  And then, incredibly, Isaiah promised that Yahweh himself, Israel’s God, would come to put things right.  Since God could find no one to do the job of restoring righteousness and justice, he himself would come to do it (Isaiah 59, 63).  God himself would be Israel’s king.
 
God’s people eventually returned from exile and resettled the land, a chastened remnant.  And again, God’s word came to them through the prophets. God had not forgotten them. Though they were ruled by foreign overlords, one day their king would appear and restore David’s kingdom.  “Rejoice, O people of Zion” said the prophet Zechariah, “Shout in Triumph, O people of Jerusalem.  Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt” (Zechariah 9:9). 
 
Four hundred years later, a teacher and miracle worker named Jesus sat on a borrowed donkey and rode down the Kidron Valley into Jerusalem.   A thousand years after Solomon had ridden his father’s mule to his coronation, David’s greatest son retraced that journey into Jerusalem, to similar acclaim.   “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the crowds shouted.  “Be our king and save us” is what they meant.
 
And yet, while Solomon had gone directly and sat on David’s throne, Jesus did not claim any throne that day.  I suspect that those who accompanied him into Jerusalem were surprised, and maybe a little confused, when all he did was visit the temple and leave.  How anticlimactic!  The insurrection they were anticipating never happened.  The “call to arms” was never issued.  It may well have been that “failure to ignite” that prompted Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, to abandon his allegiance and betray Jesus.  The fervent expectations, the nationalistic hopes that were raised by Jesus in his piece of “street theatre”, as Tom Wright refers to Palm Sunday, would dissipate over the course of the week.  And when Jesus finally ascends his throne, five days later, those who cheered him into Jerusalem, those who hailed him as king and hoped in his kingdom, were filled with disappointment and confusion.  Their hopes were crushed!
 
Being God’s people has always come with that sort of baggage.  Following Jesus has always been a complicated affair – for the first disciples and no less so for those who came after.  It’s not always been easy to figure out what God is up to.  His actions can be confusing at times and hard to understand.  I suspect that many of us have been wondering and wrestling with what God is up to with this current crisis.   The short and simple answer is that none of us can say for certain. 
 
Some may tell you that it is a sign of the end times.  Well, maybe, but according to Peter, we have been in the last days since the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16), and every significant plague or natural disaster since then has been claimed by some to be a sign that the end is near. Maybe it is, or maybe the end may take a while yet – Jesus may just take his sweet time in coming back
 
What we can say with confidence is that God is continuing to work out his purposes and fulfill his promises to redeem and renew his creation.  Amidst all of the confusion and chaos of the current crisis, God is at work in ways we will never fully understand or appreciate.  His slow, steady work of bringing history to its final conclusion is ongoing. He is working to restore all things; he’s working to make all things new. 
 
Many of those who cheered Jesus into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday may have had some inkling, or at least some faint hope, that the ancient promises about the Promised King, about Messiah, were being fulfilled in their time, but none of them would have imagined how that fulfillment would come.  None of them would have concluded that Isaiah’s promises – about David’s branch and the suffering servant and God coming as king – would all find fulfillment in one person.  None of them could have imagined such a culmination to their story. 
 
But Jesus did! Jesus had pondered the ancient prophecies! Jesus had immersed himself in Israel’s story!  And with the help of the Spirit, who infused his every thought and action, Jesus had discerned that the triple strands of Isaiah’s prophecies would be woven into one strong cord that ended at him.  All of Isaiah’s prophetic streams would meet in him and flow through him, not just to Israel, but to all of the nations and to the entire creation. 
 
Jesus had discerned through the Spirit that he was Israel’s king – that his vocation as king was to suffer in Israel’s place, for her salvation, and that in doing so, he would bring salvation to the ends of the earth.  Jesus had determined, again through the Spirit, that he was the manifestation of Israel’s God – that in him, God had indeed come to deal with the problem of injustice, along with the problems of sin and death and the powers of darkness. 
 
So after three years of proclaiming and demonstrating God’s kingdom, Jesus set his course for Jerusalem, knowing that he would die there.  He chose Passover as the time to complete the work he had been sent to do. Passover, you will recall, celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, from Pharaoh’s tyranny.  Jesus was bringing about a new Exodus, with himself as the Passover lamb.  He assumes the role of the Passover sacrifice, the lamb slain so that everyone else would be spared, not just the firstborn of Israel.  He will do battle with the tyrants, Satan and sin and death, so that all creation, not just the Israelites, would be set free. 
 
Jesus’ actions on that first Palm Sunday are in every way a continuation of his life and ministry.  They reflect the heart of the kingdom of God that he announced and inaugurated with his teachings and healings.  A king and a kingdom characterized by humility, gentleness, justice, love and peace.  That was the trajectory of his life, from his birth in a barn, to his death on a cross.  He lived and taught and called his followers to a life of humble service, gentle, costly love, in the pursuit of justice and peace.
 
And as he rode into Jerusalem that day, on the back of that donkey, Zechariah’s prophecy was fulfilled, along with those of Isaiah’s and those of Jeremiah and Exekiel and Daniel and Micah and David and Moses and others.  Israel’s king had indeed come, though most did not recognize or acknowledge him.  But his kingship would be totally different.  As king, he would lay down his life for his people.  He would be the servant who suffers and dies.  He would be the God who gives life by dying, who wins by losing.
 
As confusing as it was for those who participated in his “coming out” parade, as confounding as the week ahead would be for his disciples and loved ones, it would become the ultimate comfort to all who would hear the good news of his resurrection and hail him as King of kings and Lord of lords. 
 
In one of my devotionals this past week, J.D. Walt, who writes for Discipleship Bands, made this observation: “We need the mind of Christ to think the thoughts of God…  Why?  Because the thoughts of God are confounding to the minds of people.”  I totally agree, and will continue to encourage us to cultivate the mind of Christ with the help of the Spirit – to saturate our minds and hearts with the written word that bears witness to the Living Word, to abide in him through prayerful conversation and loving action and allow him to draw us deeper into his life and love. 
 
But I also acknowledge that even those who have the mind of Christ can become confounded and confused and discouraged by their circumstances.  As Paul says, this side of eternity, “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV). Our knowledge is partial and incomplete.  All we can do in times of confusion and crisis is cling to what we do know.  As we walk in the darkness, we hold on to what we learned in the light:  
 
And what is that?  It is that our God is a good Father. That his love is the foundation of all things, that he is faithful to his promises, and that his purposes are unfolding according to his timetable. He is committed to the restoration of all things.  In his time, he will make all things new.  He has promised to be with us always, in every circumstance, and to redeem every experience, either in this life or in the life to come. And he is able to accomplish his purposes for good, even in the face of horrific evil. He may invite us to suffer with him and for him, even unto death, but he is the God of Easter; he’s the God of Resurrection.  Our lives are in his faithful, capable hands.
 
As we begin this journey through Holy Week, may we be graced with a deep awareness of his presence and his goodness, in the face of whatever confusion we may face today.  May the Spirit guide us into a greater appreciation of all that Jesus experienced and endured on our behalf.  May he nurture in us the hope of Easter, of Resurrection and New Creation, even as we suffer the ravages of sin and struggle with the fear of death.   And with his help, may we hurl a defiant Hosanna in the teeth of the tyrant Satan and all of his chaos.  Jesus is King.  Hosanna! Hallelujah! Amen.
 
Let’s pause now and ask Jesus to help us pay attention to whatever he has been saying to us this morning and to give us the grace to do something about it.
 
Please pray with me:
Lord Jesus, King of Kings, speak your life and hope and peace into our hearts as we lift them up to you.  Lord, may we be drawn into your story and be given glimpses of your glory, amidst all the horrors you will endure in the week ahead.  Renew us in faith and hope and love that we may cling to you in the midst of all the chaos of this crisis, that we may cast our cares and on you, that we may offer our fears to you, and discover that you are faithful and steadfast in all the storms of life.  May we find that you are sufficient for all we need.  Fill us afresh with your Spirit we pray and grant us all the grace we will need for today and the days ahead.  We ask in your Holy Name and we pray now as you taught us:
 
Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.
 
If you’d like prayer for any particular issue you are currently facing, please give me a call or send me a text or an email.  If you’d rather connect with one of the other staff, they would be happy to hear from you as well. We would be happy to pray with you and do what we can to support you during this time.  God Bless!
 
 
Reading Three – Robin & Alex
 
Reader 1:     
                   Give thanks to the Lord
                   For He is good!                               
                   His love endures forever.
 
Reader 2:     
                   Let all who fear the Lord repeat:
                   “His faithful love endures forever.”
 
Reader 1:     
                   It is better to take refuge in the
                   Lord than to trust in people.
                       
Reader 2:     
                   The Lord is our strength and our song.
 
 Reader 1:     
                   The stone that the builders rejected
                   has now become the cornerstone.
                   This is the Lord’s doing and it is
                   wonderful to see.  Bless the one who comes
                   in the name of the Lord.
 
Reader 2:     
                   Hosanna in the highest!
                   Blessed is the king who comes in the name
                   of the Lord!
                                                  from Psalm 118
 
Song: Holy, Holy – Emmanuel Musicians
 
                   Holy, holy.  Holy is the Lord God Almighty
                   Holy, holy.  Holy is the Lord God Almighty
                   Who was and is and is to come
                   Who was and is and is to come
 
                   Lift up His name with the sound of singing
                   Lift up His name in all the earth
                   Lift up Your voice and give Him glory
                   For He is worthy to be praised
                   For He is worthy to be praised
 
 
Benediction – Brendon
 
May we go now, dependent on God, rooted in Jesus, and led by the Spirit, to fully love God and all people, for God’s kingdom, pleasure and glory. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
 

 
 
Reading #1
O God you are very great; you are clothed

with splendour and majesty. 

The heavens declare your glory, the skies

proclaim the work of your hands.

 
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

 

The Lord wraps himself in light as
with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers
on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on
the wings of the wind.

 

He set the earth on it foundations;
it can never be moved.
He makes springs pour water into the ravines,
they give water to all the beasts of the field.

 

How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

 

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas and established
it on the waters.
                          (from Psalm 104 & Psalm 8)
 
 
God of Love,
Hallow the hyperspace between us.

 

You created us for community,
You created us to need one another’s
presence, but now our loving solidarity
requires our loving separation.
In what may become a long loneliness,
we lean fully on Your love,
from which no quarantine
can separate us.
 
We pray to you, O God,
Do not be distant. Be with us.
                                  (Beth Carlson-Malena)
 
 

Psalm 27  (click here for audio link)

Lord, You are our light and our salvation
Why should we be afraid
Lord, You are our shelter, protector and defender
Why should we be afraid
Hear us O Lord, answer our prayers
Have mercy on us, Our hearts have heard You say

 

Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say
Lord we are coming, Lord, you say
Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say
Lord we are coming,  O Lord
 
 
Reading #2:     
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

 

The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.

 

Reading #3:    
Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it,
you will find a colt tied there which  no-one has ridden. 
Untie it and bring it here. 
If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 

 

Those who were sent ahead went and found it
just as Jesus had told them. 
As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them,
“Why are you untying the colt?”
 
They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 
 
The disciples brought it to Jesus,
threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

 

As he went along,
a large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from trees, and spread them on the road. 

 

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted:
                        Hosanna in the highest!
                        Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
                                                                                   (from Isaiah 61, Luke 4, Psalm 119, Mark 11)
 

Holy Lord  (click here for audio link)

Holy, holy, holy Lord

God of power and might

Heaven and earth of Your glory are full

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest

 

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
 
 

Today is the beginning of what has been called Holy Week.  It is a time in which we are invited to journey with Jesus through the last week of his life.  Of course this framing of things is from the perspective of looking backwards in time.  Those around Jesus, even his disciples, wouldn’t have known the way the events of the week would unfold.  On several occasions, the Gospel writers point out that they didn’t fully understand what was happening right in front of them until much later.  I point this out because sometimes it’s easy to frame the week in a concrete fashion, scripting it in a way that misses the dynamic choices that shaped the trajectory of events.  If we open ourselves to the humanity found in these stories, we may gain a new appreciation for the man people called Jesus, while at the same time, being pulled deeper into the mystery of the Saviour called Jesus. So with that, let’s join in with Jesus and his disciples and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. 

 

Just a quick side note:  In rudimentary form, Passover commemorates the people of Israel being led from Egypt, out of slavery, to become a free people in their own land.  In the Exodus account, Moses asks the Egyptian Pharaoh to free God’s people from their slavery.  The Pharaoh refused over and over again to grant Moses’s request, which in turn, resulted in a series of plagues.  The final plague was described as the coming of the Angel of Death, whose visitation would result in the loss of life of every first-born son in the land.  Moses warned the people of Israel that they needed to be ready to leave on short notice. To save time, they were to bake bread without using yeast.  In addition, Moses instructed the people to kill a lamb and use the blood to paint their doorframes so that the Angel of Death would ‘pass by’ them. Hence the name ‘Passover.’  In the time of Jesus, the main focus of the Passover festival revolved around sacrificing a lamb at the Temple and eating a meal mirroring the last meal before leaving Egypt.  In these two actions there was a retelling of God’s faithfulness to God’s people and a reminder of God’s sovereign plan for them. 

 

Ok, back to Palm Sunday…

 

As Beverly read, Jesus’s arrival into Jerusalem caused quite a stir.  The story strikes me as being a little bit funny  – Jesus seems to have a bit of dramatic flair.  It’s on his instructions that the disciples find a donkey for him to ride into the city.  As is often the case with Jesus, he is understated in his words, while at the same time making a grand declaration with an action. I think this is going on here.   In this story there is very little spoken by Jesus but how he enters the city makes a huge statement about who he is.

 

If you look in the Gospels, the headings above the accounts describing Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem say things like, ‘The Triumphal Entry’ or ‘Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as a King.’  It’s easy to understand how it can be categorized that way.  In the stories, people were waving palm branches and shouting hosanna.  In the culture of the time, the palm branches were symbols of victory, triumph, and eternal peace.  The word ‘hosanna’ literally means ‘Please, save us!’ but through time, its transliteration came to mean ‘Salvation has come!’  In many ways the people around Jesus were declaring him to be their King, their Messiah.  It was good news for the people.

 

While all this is true, we should take a minute to consider that there may have been some disconnect between what the people were expecting Jesus to be and the true nature of Jesus.  I suspect at times there is disconnect even for us between what we want Jesus to be and who he reveals himself to be.

 

In itself, Palm Sunday seems to raise the issue of Kingship and Kings.  What is it that comes to mind when you think of kings?  If you could be king for a month, or a week, or even a day, what would you do?  What would it be like to hold all of that power?  To have the ability to make the rules and the control to enforce what you wanted.  As king, what would you want to be remembered for? 

 

Human history is littered with Kings of all kinds.  I looked some of them up.  You have names of kings that one may traditionally expect to find.  Kings such as:  William the Conqueror, Alexander the Great, Valdemar the Victorious, Pedro the Liberator, and Richard the Lionheart.  Some kings are in a category, shall we say, of unfortunate monikers.  Kings like: Charles the Bald (a little close to home), James the Vain, Enrique the Impotent, and Arnulf the Unlucky.   There are records of kings who seem to be remembered for doing good.  Kings like: Alfonso the Good, Demetrius the Saviour, Leopold the Saint, and Eric the Kindhearted.  However, the majority of kings seem to be associated with, in some fashion or another, the need to hold power at all cost.  Kings such as:  Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Cruel, Yazdegerd the Wicked, and Geoffrey the Hammer.

 

All of this seems to point to a need in all of us that wants to make kings – maybe not always in the traditional sense, but certainly metaphorically.  We look for Kings who will inspire us, will think for us, will take up our cause, who will make our lives better and more fulfilling.  Who will get us what we want.

 

The people of Israel struggled with this.  They begged Samuel to let them have a king.  You can read about it in 1 Samuel 8 & 9.  The people of Israel said, ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’  Samuel warned them that to have a king would cost them their freedom, and it did.  You can read the history of Israel and their kings in 2 Kings 15:32 – 2 Kings 20:21 & 2 Chronicles 27 – 2 Chronicles 32:33.

 

And that is the truth about kings.  No matter what we hope for, instead of giving life, kings take life away. They cost us our freedom, in small and big ways.  Kingship in this world has showed itself to be an order where the powerful rule the weak and where freedom is replaced with slavery.

 

So how is it that Jesus demonstrates kingship?  Is it that he is the most powerful, the smartest, or the biggest source of power?  As crazy as it is, Jesus is nothing like this.

 

Let’s go back to the account in the Gospel of Luke.  Subtle as it is, Jesus riding in on a donkey says everything about what his kingship is rooted in.  In the Ancient Middle Eastern world, kings rode horses when they were riding to war.  They rode donkeys if they were coming in peace.  Jesus asked his disciples to find a donkey for him to ride in order to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah.  The prophet wrote, ‘Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you: he is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble and riding on a donkey.

 

The people were looking for Jesus to overthrow the oppression of the Roman rule and lead them into complete religious, social, and political autonomy.  They looked to Jesus to begin a revolution.  But it was a revolution of a different kind.  Jesus did come to bring the people freedom from oppression and to restore what had been broken, it’s just his way of liberating was not what the people who watched him ride in were asking for. 

 

And at times it’s maybe not what we ask for.  His kingship seems to be upside down. 

Jesus gave up power and chose vulnerability because what he really wanted is relationship and love, not power.  Jesus doesn’t take power, he gives it away. We’re not in his hands, Jesus is in our hands.  He’s not over anything, he’s subjected himself to be under everyone.  He doesn’t lord over, he comes to serve. The whole way of traditionally defining kingship is shattered by his actions.

 

We talked about the nicknames of kings.  How about this:  Jesus – the King who gave up being king – for the sake of serving, for the sake of forgiving, for the sake of freedom, and for the sake of empowering.

 

This is our King.  This is our example to follow.
 
 

Reading #4:

Give thanks to the Lord
for He is good!
 

His love endures forever.

Let all the people say:

“His faithful love endures forever.”

It is better to take refuge in the
Lord than to trust in people.
 
The Lord is our strength and
our song; The strong right arm
of the Lord has done glorious things!
 
The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This Lord has done this and it is
wonderful to see. 
Bless the one who comes

in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
                             (from Psalm 118)
 
 

Holy Holy (click here for audio link)

Holy, holy.  Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Holy, holy.  Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
Who was and is and is to come

 

Lift up His name with the sound of singing
Lift up His name in all the earth
Lift up Your voice and give Him glory
For He is worthy to be praised
For He is worthy to be praised
 
 
Let’s pray our closing prayer: 
 
O Lord our God,
   as we have sinned,
      whether in word, or deed, or thought,
   forgive us all,
      for Thou art good and lovest humankind.

 

Grant us a peaceful and undisturbed sleep,
   and deliver us from all influence
      and temptation of the evil one.

 

Raise us up again in proper time,
   that we may glorify Thee
      as we learn to live alive in hope, victory,
   and power of the resurrection.

 

Thou art the eternal Father,
   the Only begotten Son,
      and the all holy, and good,
   and life-giving Spirit.
Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
   Amen

 
In the context of Holy Week, we refer to this day as Maundy Thursday. It derives
its name from a shortened form of the Latin word mandatum, meaning mandate or
command. It marks the occasion in which Jesus and his disciples shared their last
Passover meal together. Prior to eating, Jesus, in an act reserved for servants,
washed the feet of his disciples. After washing their feet, Jesus told them that
they should also serve one another in the same way and then he stated, ‘A new
command I give to you: Love one another as I have loved you.’
 
Maundy Thursday revisits the ‘new command’ given by Jesus, reminding us that
we are to serve others in love. But it is also a commemoration of the meal Jesus
shared with his disciples that evening. The retelling of the story brings to mind the
instructions Jesus gave to his disciples – that we are to remember him, and to be
joined with him, through the eating of bread and the drinking of wine (or juice).
 
During this liturgy, there will be opportunity to partake in communion. (In the flow
of the liturgy, the song Holy Communion is the cue for this.) If this is something
that you wish to participate in, feel free to pause the liturgy now and take a minute get
some bread and juice, or bread and wine.
 
       
 
As we begin, let’s pray:
 
Compassionate God
     we come to you in our need,
confessing to you
     what we often dare not admit to ourselves:
It is hard to celebrate life
     when faced with the mystery of death.
It is hard to look to the future
     when surrounded by
the uncertainty of the present;
Help us this day, and in the days to come,
     to receive comfort from your word
and light for our darkness.
 
       
 
 
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
     the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
     help of the helpless, abide with me
 
I need Thy presence every passing hour
     what but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be
     through cloud and sunshine, abide with me.
 
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
     the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
     help of the helpless, abide with me
 
 
The chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest,
whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.
“But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
 
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and
asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out
for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand
him over.
 
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to
leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he
loved them to the end.
 
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son
of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under
his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from
the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that,
he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the
towel that was wrapped around him.
 
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
 
Jesus replied, You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
 
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
 
Jesus answered, Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
 
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
 
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet;
their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
 
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.
 
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also should wash one another’s feet.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master,
nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
 
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.
And he said to them,I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
 
Then Jesus took a cup of wine,
and when he had given thanks for it, he said,
“Take this and share it among yourselves.
For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”
 
Then he took a loaf of bread;
and when he had thanked God for it,
he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying,
“This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
After supper he took another cup of wine and said,
“This cup is God’s new covenant to save you—an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for
you.”
 
Let us eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus.
 
 
Holy Communion   (Click here for audio link)
 
Gracious Father we give you praise
     and thanks for this holy communion
The body and blood of your beloved Son
 
The body is broken
     God’s love poured open to make us new
Lord make us new
 
Abba Father we bless your name
     and take part in this holy communion
Make us all one to love like your Son
 
 
Jesus said, “I am telling you now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am.
Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me;
and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
 
After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified,
“Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
 
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.
 
“But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend,
is the man who will betray me. For I, the Son of Man,
must die since it is part of God’s plan.
But how terrible it will be for my betrayer!”
 
Then the disciples began to question among themselves which of them it might be who
would do this. They began to say to Jesus, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
 
A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.
 
Jesus told them,
“In this world the kings and great men order their people around,
and yet they are called `friends of the people.’
But among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank,
and the leader should be like a servant.
 
Normally the master sits at the table and is served by his servants. But not here!
For I am your servant. You have remained true to me in my time of trial.
And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom,
I now grant you the right to eat and drink at my table in that Kingdom.”
 
“Dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you!
Then, though you search for me, you cannot come to me—
just as I told the Jewish leaders.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.
Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
 
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
 
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
 
Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
 
Then Jesus answered, Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you,
before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
 
All those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come to
them and live with them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not do what I say. And
remember, my words are not my own. This message is from the Father who sent me. I
am telling you these things now while I am still with you.
 
But when the Father sends the Counsellor as my representative–
and by the Counsellor I mean the Holy Spirit–
he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I
myself have told you.”
 
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.
And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives.
So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you:
I am going away, but I will come back to you again.
 
If you really love me, you will be very happy for me, because now I can go to the Father,
who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that you
will believe when they do happen.”
 
“I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the prince of this world
approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so
that the world will know that I love the Father.”
 
So now we have been given a new commandment:
Love one other.
Just as Christ has loved us, so we should love each other.
Our love for one another should prove to the
world that we are Christ’s disciples.
 

 
 
Sister let me be your servant
     brother be as Christ to you
I will share your joy and sorrow
     ‘till we’ve seen this journey through
 
I will hold the Christ light for you
     in the nighttime of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
     speak the peace you long to hear
 
Let us live as Christ commands us
     share his love so rich and free
Born of all we’ve known together
     of Christ’s love and agony
 
Sister let me be your servant
     brother be as Christ to you
I will share your joy and sorrow
     ‘till we’ve seen this journey through
 
 
When they had sung a hymn, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.
On the other side there was a garden with a grove of olive trees called Gethsemane.
Jesus and his disciples went into it.
 
Now Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials
from the chief priests and the Pharisees. Judas had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”
Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
 
Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”
 
Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus.
They bound him and led him away…
 
Readings from: John 13:1-17, Luke 22:15-29, John 13:33-35, John 14:23-31

 
 
As with our liturgy yesterday, there will be opportunity to partake in communion. (In the flow of the liturgy, the song Your Love Remains signals the opportunity for communion.)  If this is something that you wish to participate in, feel free to pause the liturgy and take a minute get some bread and wine or juice ready.
As we begin, let us pray together:
 
God all loving and all caring,
     we come before you with hesitant steps
   and uncertain motives.
 
We want to sweep out the corners
     where sin has accumulated
  and uncover the places 
      where we have strayed from truth.
 
We ask for courage to open our eyes
     and unstop our ears,
   that we may be aware
     of all that distracts us from
  whole hearted commitment to Christ.
 
We want to see ourselves as you do
   and live our lives as you intended.
 
Expose in us the empty and barren places
   where we have not allowed you to enter.
 
Reveal to us where we have been indifferent
   to the pain and suffering of others.
 
Create in us a clean heart, O God,
   and put a right spirit within us.
 
Nurture the faint stirrings of new life
     where your spirit has taken root
   and begun to grow.
 
We long for your healing light to transform us,
   for you alone can make us whole.

 

In your mercy shine upon us, O God,
   and make our path clear before us.
 

Amen

Come As You Are  (click here for audio link)
 
Come out of sadness
     from wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
     let rescue begin
There’s rest for the weary
     rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
     that Heaven can’t cure
 
So lay down your burdens
     lay down your shame
All who are broken
     lift up your face
O wanderer come home,
     you’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
     lay down your heart
Come as you are

Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

 

Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). The soldiers gave Jesus wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it.

 

After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”  Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
 
The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery.  “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”
 
The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.

 

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

 

Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink.  But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

 

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit.
 
                                                                         Matthew 27:27-50 New Living Translation
 

 “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  Of all the words Jesus that speaks from the cross, none are more heart-wrenching or perplexing than these, and yet, none reveal more clearly the gravity of sin and the depth of his love. 
 
Anyone who has experienced some form of abandonment by a loved one – a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend – such a person knows the devastation that such an act creates in one’s being. To be rejected and deserted  – abandoned – is to experience a desolation unlike any other.  It can rightly be called hell.  And that is what Jesus experienced and endured on the cross. 
 
Both Matthew and Mark record this cry of abandonment in their account of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is the only statement that each of them reports Jesus saying from the cross, and it is the only “word from the cross” that is recorded twice.  Luke reports three other statements, as does John, and in one way or another, most of those other statements temper the shock and horror of this one.  For Luke and John, it would appear that crucifixion was horrific enough an experience for Jesus without having to contend with his experience of abandonment by God.  
 
Given the intimacy that the Gospel writers portray between Jesus and God (in the Gospels, Jesus almost always refers to God as “Father”) – given the depth of love that is depicted between them – it is shocking to hear these words from the mouth of Jesus. And to go a little deeper into the mystery of this cry of desolation from Jesus, consider what it suggests about the relationship that Christians affirm to be at the heart of reality – the Trinity. To say that Jesus was abandoned by the Father is to suggest that there was a break, a breach, a rupture, within the Trinity – that the unity that has characterized the Triune God from eternity was disrupted and broken on the cross; that the communion in which the Father and the Son participated in and enjoyed for all eternity was curtailed – cut short – at the cross.  Here, we are already peering into things beyond our comprehension.
 
Some, for whom such a proposition (i.e. a rupture in the Trinity) is a bridge too far to cross, insist that the abandonment was not real – that Jesus only felt abandoned, that that was his perception, not the reality.  And I would acknowledge that there is some merit to that perspective.  But for most of us, to feel something is to experience it as reality; for most of us, perception is reality.  So even if Jesus merely “felt” abandoned, that was his experience, his reality, and what an awful reality to experience on top of the horror of crucifixion.  As Dale Bruner observes, “There is no doubt a difference between real abandonment and felt abandonment, but to the sufferer, at the moment, is this mental nicety much help?” (Frederick Dale Bruner, The Churchbook: Matthew 13-28, 748).
 
Others note that these words of Jesus is the first verse of Psalm 22, a psalm of lament, in which a righteous sufferer cries out to God from the depths of his suffering and despair.  His cries, however, seem to go unanswered and he feels God has abandoned him. Nevertheless, as the psalm proceeds, the psalmist turns from lament to praising God for not ignoring the cry of the needy or turning his back on them.  It is then suggested that, in quoting from Psalm 22, Jesus intended to call attention to the whole psalm, and to the confidence of the psalmist in God’s help and deliverance.  Since Psalm 22 ends in faith and not despair, then in quoting Psalm 22, Jesus intended to express his confidence in God’s care for him and in his ultimate deliverance from God. 
 
However, as more than one commentator point out, if Jesus had wanted to express trust in God, he could easily have quoted Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”, or any of the hundreds of verses in Psalms that express confidence in God. But he did not. He quoted Psalm 22:1, one of the most despairing statements in the Psalms.  And the most straightforward reading of his cry is that that was how he felt and thought at that moment – abandoned by God.
 
So why would God abandon Jesus at this moment?  Or, at least, why did Jesus feel abandoned by God at this moment?  Why, after all that Jesus has endured to this point, would God abandon him?  Think of all that Jesus has borne thus far: the betrayal of one of his disciples, the denial of another, the desertion of all of the rest, his unjust conviction by the religious leaders, his sentence to death by Pilate who did not believe he was guilty, the scornful mocking of soldiers and crowds, the cruel whipping and crown of thorns, being stripped naked and nailed to pieces of wood and suspended between heaven and earth to the jeers and ridicule of his own people, fighting for every breath as your body slowly goes into shock.  After all of that, why would God heap abandonment, or the feeling of abandonment, on top of all of that? 
 
Neither Matthew nor Mark offers any reasons. They give no indication that Jesus received any answer from God to his question, not do they offer any rationale for his cry.  They simply report the cry, along with the confusion of those who heard it. We must therefore tread carefully in attempting to offer any rationale as to why Jesus was abandoned.
 
Nevertheless, the apostle Paul, Christianity’s earliest theologian, offers a couple of hints that I think shed some light on the issue, and so, to make some sense of this cry, we turn to Paul.
 
There are two images, or metaphors, in Paul’s writings that offer some help in understanding why God may have abandoned Jesus, or why, at the very least, Jesus felt abandoned.
 
The first is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The “him” there is Jesus. Paul has been talking about the work of reconciliation that Jesus accomplished through his death – through the death of Jesus, we are reconciled to God. In verse 19, Paul says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  This was a collaborative work between Jesus and God. The cross was not something that God the Father imposed upon an unwilling Jesus. At Calvary, the Trinity was united in their work of reconciling and restoring all things.  And then, in verse 21, Paul gives this cryptic elaboration on how this reconciling work was accomplished: “God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.”
 
Paul does not tell us how Jesus was made sin for us and none of us can say for certain. Paul simply suggests that at the cross, there was an exchange – Jesus who never sinned, took on our sins, and more than that, became sin for us. 
 
There is an image from the Old Testament that I believe may be helpful here – it’s the image of the scapegoat. In the Leviticus 16, we’re told that the scapegoat was one of two goats chosen on the Day of Atonement. One was killed as a sin offering to atone for the sins of the people, and the other was led away into the wilderness, where it was left – abandoned. But before it was taken out, the priest laid his hands on its head and confessed the sins of the people, thus putting their collective sins on the scapegoat.  Leviticus 16:22 says, “The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.”
 
Here’s what I think Paul is saying here: At the cross, God laid the sins of the whole world on Jesus and Jesus willingly took our sins upon himself – to the point of becoming identified with our sin.  He became sin for us! 
 
Now, if, as the Bible tells us again and again, God hates sin and is opposed to sin, how might God respond to accumulated sum of the sins of all humanity being placed on Jesus? It may well have caused him to turn his face away, as the hymn writer says, or to withdraw his presence from Jesus. In some way, we could say that Jesus became an object of horror, worthy of rejection, when he was made sin for us – so that we could share his righteousness.  What a gracious and glorious exchange.
 
The second image is from Galatians 3:13, where Paul writes: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” There is much here that we don’t have time to get into this morning, but in talking about redemption, another aspect of salvation, like reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says that the law given through Moses had pronounced a curse on anyone who did not obey the law. And since we are all in that condition because of sin, since none of us can keep the law, we are all under a curse – subject to condemnation.  But Jesus became a curse for us by being hanged on a tree, and, in doing so, he redeemed us from the curse of the law. He set us free from the curse by becoming a curse. 
 
To be accursed was a horrific sentence, one that each of us deserved because of our sin. But Jesus took our place and assumed each of our curse – he took them all on himself – thereby becoming a curse for us.
 
As she explores all of this in her brilliant book, The Crucifixion, Fleming Ruthledge writes, “… Jesus exchanged God for Godlessness.  He was in the form of God; he took the form of a slave (Philippians 2:7). He emptied himself of every prerogative, including sinlessness … By making himself ‘to be sin,’ he allied himself with us in our farthest extremity…Thus he entered into our desperate condition… God, in the person of his Son, put himself voluntarily and deliberately into the place of greatest accursedness and Godlessness … for us” (102-3). 
 
These two images from Paul, Jesus becoming sin and Jesus becoming a curse – for us – offer us a hint as to why God abandoned Jesus at the cross, or at least why Jesus felt himself abandoned.  Such was the gravity of our sin, such was the magnitude of its power and the grimness of its consequences, that it required Jesus to “become sin” and “a curse” – for us.  And in becoming such an object of horror, something happened in his relationship with God – some sort of rupture – that could only be described as abandonment.  Jesus felt alone in a way he never had before.  He experienced the absence of God – an experience that was foreign to him until that moment.  Hence his cry! 
 
But such was the depth of his love for us that Jesus was willing to experience and endure all of that – for us.
 

When I Survey The Wondrous Cross (click here for audio link)

When I survey the wondrous cross
     on which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss,
     and pour contempt on all my pride
 
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
     save in the death of Christ my God
All the vain things that charm me most
     I sacrifice them to His blood.
 
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
     sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
     or thorns compose so rich a crown
 
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
     that were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine
     demands my soul, my life, my all

I’ve been thinking lately about how so much of our understanding of Jesus is shaped by or is encapsulated in paradox.  A paradox is a statement that seems to be impossible or difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics. Jesus used them often to paint pictures of the kingdom of heaven, or to describe what following after him entails. Statements such as the least are the greatest, the last are the first, weakness is strength, brokenness is wholeness, giving is receiving, and dying is living.  Maybe Jesus was drawn to using them because he is the ultimate paradox – fully human and fully God – both things, at the same time, physical and divine joined.  The poet John Keats coined the phrase negative capability, defining it as of having a certain willingness to let what is mysterious remain just that.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work at trying to understand God, but I do believe that any such pursuit requires embracing mystery.  Sitting in the tension, holding space for two seemingly contradictory notions or experiences, creates potential to find our way into deeper places with God.

 

You may be wondering how this fits with Good Friday.

 

Brendon pointed that as we work at trying to grasp Jesus’s experience of being forsaken by his Father there will be an element in which we will be peering into things beyond our comprehension.  (Brendon is bright, he is well-read, he knows his theology, so if he’s suggesting that we won’t ever be able to fully comprehend this, that’s saying something.)  But I appreciate the acknowledgement of the deeply divine mystery that shrouds the cross.  At cross where the mutual and profound love between the Father and Son created an arc by which Jesus, who had never sinned, somehow became the sin for all of us and thus led him to a place of abandonment and death. 

 

But what do we do with this tension?  Are love and abandonment mutually exclusive?  Does rejection and death seem like a fitting birthright for a perfect son?  What does this mean for us?

 

We just heard, perhaps even sang along, to the hymn whose opening line is ‘When I survey the wondrous cross…’  The words familiar in our mouths, sung from our hearts, acknowledge that our gain cost Jesus his life.   Every time we ask Jesus to forgive our sin, every time we come to the communion table to eat the bread and drink the wine, we actively involve ourselves in this story of love begetting abandonment.  We ask for it.  We benefit from it.

 

I understand how this tension has potential to fade into the background.  We use the cross as a symbol to remind ourselves of Jesus’s sacrifice and love.  But then, in our familiarity, there is an unintentional disconnect from these divine implications.  We become so accustomed to seeing crosses used as decorations, or for the purpose of religious identification, that we forget that they were once an Empire’s choice instrument of death. Often the story becomes abbreviated, maybe even inadvertently, as something that ‘had’ to happen – after all that’s why Jesus came to earth – to die.  We acknowledge that humanity gained from His death but at a personal level we don’t closely associate with any of the responsibility for it.  We forget about the agonizing choices that were made by Jesus and His Father and what it cost the Godhead – the Father, Son, and Spirit.

 

So for a minute let’s think about what it means to be abandoned.  Abandonment is to find yourself deserted, abandoned, renounced.  I think all of us can recall a time when we were abandoned or felt abandoned – a time when someone, or some group of people, or some organization quit on you.  You found yourself in a place of isolation and loneliness.  You were hurt by it, angered by it, have questions about it.  Maybe it was a moment when you felt like God quit on you.  Or quit on all of us.  You prayed and felt nothing.  You prayed and didn’t receive.  Trouble and turmoil became your story.  Perhaps you are in that place now.  You’re asking, ‘Why God?’  Why won’t you end this pandemic?  A lost job, financial loss, isolation and aloneness.

 

In all of the stories people have told to me – whether a story of being abandoned or feeling abandoned – no one has ever cited love as being the root cause their abandonment.  No one has ever said to me that a person loved me so deeply that they abandoned me.  Rather, what is most often articulated is that at the core of their story of abandonment lies some form of betrayal.  I get that.  It resonates with me.

 

So how then do we begin to make sense of the Father turning away from His Son, abandoning Him to die alone while at the same time acknowledge that the God the Father and His Son Jesus had a deep and mutual love?  Are the two mutually compatible?
 
I’m not sure I can answer that question.  But I think the place to start is by trying to hold space for both, in their tension and seeming contradiction.  To try and live into the mystery of what seems impossible that we might find a deeper place of relationship with our God.

 

Jesus emptied himself, taking on the nature of humanity, to break into our space in order to demonstrate the love of His Father.  He came to do the work of repairing the brokenness caused by sin, to set things right, to restore the relationship between Creator and creation.  The love Jesus had for His Father and the love He has for humanity is on par.  Jesus loves humanity with such depth and scope that He was willing to do whatever it took to make things right.  At the same time Jesus loves His Father with such depth and scope that He was willing to do whatever it took to make things right between His Father and humanity.  Love is what put Jesus on the cross.  He became sin, and ultimately died as of sin, but it was love for His Father and love for creation that moved Him to subject Himself the shame, rejection, pain, and abandonment.
 
In parallel, the Father had such a great love for humanity that He was also willing to do whatever it took so that the brokenness of relationship could be restored.  In mutual agreement, underpinned with love, the Father and Son put into a motion a plan whose trajectory required a willingness to sacrifice all for the sake restoration. 
 
Jesus, was fully God and fully human.  In His humanness, he knows and identifies with what we experience.  He knows firsthand the brokenness that sins results in.  He knows the feelings of being abandoned and struggling.  He knows what it means to truly love.  In whatever place we find ourselves in, Jesus offers His presence.  He is with us, always.  It’s not that He promises to remove hardship or pain or loss from our lives.  Rather it’s that in all situations He promises His unyielding love and fiercely devoted presence.  He was willing to give up His life so that we could find new life in and through him.  No matter where we find ourselves He will be there with us. 
 
Today as we take inventory of our hearts there is forgiveness found in the work of Jesus.
 
Today as we take inventory of our places of hardship and feelings of loss and isolation there is presence found the Spirit of Jesus.
 
Today as we find ourselves scattered and unable to gather in person there is togetherness found in common bond of the community of Jesus.
 
During the following song there is opportunity to take communion.  In the tangible action of eating and drinking we are embracing the mystery of meeting Jesus in the bread and wine.  In doing so we give space for His nature, forgiveness, and love to recreate us. Today, we are especially reminded of what it cost Jesus to make it possible for us to be reconnected with our Father.  Whether we participate in communion or not let’s take a moment of silence, In this time, let’s take inventory of our hearts – acknowledging sin, giving thanks for the sacrifice, and resting   in the love of Jesus, though it is too wide, and long, and high, and deep for us to ever fully comprehend.
 
Let us eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus.
 

Your Love Remains (click here for audio link)
 
Through the darkness, through the fire
     through my wicked heart’s desire
Your love remains, Your love remains
 
Though I stumble, though I falter
     through my weakness  You are strong
Your love remains, Your love remains

    

Oh my, my soul it cries
     oh my, my soul it cries out
Soul it cries out, soul it cries, it cries out

   

Through my failure, through my heartache
     through my healing, in my pain
Your love remains, Your love remains
 
Though I stumble, though I falter
     through my weakness  You are strong
Your love remains, Your love remains
 
Oh my, my soul it cries
     oh my, my soul it cries out
Soul it cries out, soul it cries, it cries out

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
 
Luke 23:44-46 

 
 
Good morning, Emmanuel.  Welcome to our Easter Sunday service.
 
Christ is Risen; He is Risen indeed!

For many of us, today may well be the most difficult days of this pandemic-induced isolation thus far. As I write this on Friday, there is a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes! Not being to gather on Easter Sunday as a church family, not being able to experience the transition from the darkness of Good Friday’s service to the brightness and beauty of Easter Sunday’s, not being able to witness whatever platform transformation Rob and Kari had conjured up to enhance our Easter celebration, not being able to join with the Worship Collective in exuberant, joyful, singing – all of that adds an additional layer of grief to this already difficult season. Each missed gathering this past week was a deep loss, and today’s is even more so.

And yet, in the midst of all of our sadness and grief, we rejoice, because Jesus is Risen; He is Risen indeed! And he is with us in all that we are experiencing at this time. He is our hope and our peace and our joy!  

As I remind us every week, we gather to imagine what our lives could be like because Jesus is Lord and we believe he is at work in the world making all things new.  Surrounded as we are with anxieties and concerns, we gather to be reminded of who Jesus is, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, of who we are as his beloved children, and who together we can be as a community seeking his kingdom and pursuing his righteousness and justice in the world.   Whatever space we find ourselves in, mentally, emotionally and physically, spiritually, I pray that as we pause to attend to the presence of Jesus with us and among us, as we celebrate his Resurrection in this way, that he will graciously meet us there and breathe his peace upon us and infuse us with his love and joy.

 

I am grateful for all of the ways I hear we are connecting, even as we practice physical distancing.   I want to encourage us to continue to do so, whether one-on-one, in small clusters, or larger groups.  May we take advantage of the technology we have to reach out to others and check in with them, to see how they are doing and share how we are doing.  Share what you are learning about God and yourself in this time; share what’s been giving you hope or bringing you joy in the midst of the challenges we are facing; pray with each other and for each other.  I pray that in this season of physical distancing we may experience a spiritual drawing together as a church family, that we will create space for others in our lives, and find creative ways to encourage each other in this life we share together in Jesus.

 

Our Zoom prayer gatherings continue this week, Monday-Friday, 7:15, 12:15, 9:15, for half an hour each time.  Please consider joining us for one of those times online, or on your own in your home. For details, please check the weekly email that Jan sends out on Monday, or send me an email, bgibson@ebap.ca.

 

For Sunday morning folks, we’ve created a “Stories of Grace” page on our website.  Please use it to share a story to encourage us, a prayer request, or an answer to prayer.  Currently there’s one lonely encouraging story.  Please check it our and alleviate its loneliness by adding to it.  And please remember to check out the weekly bulletin at the website for prayer concerns and other information abut our church family.

 

And finally, thank you for continuing to support the work that God has called us to do as a church family.  As I have noted in recent emails, you can give online by going to our website or you can drop off your offering envelope in the church mailbox at the front entrance of our facility.  If you’d rather not go out during this time and would like it to be picked up, please contact the office and we will make arrangements to have it picked up safely.

 

May God grant us much grace as we look to him through this current crisis. May he strengthen our hearts and encourage our spirits as we trust in him.  May he help us to practice faith and not fear; hope and not despair; love and not hate or indifference.

 

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!
Brendon Gibson
 

(click here for audio link)

 
Conceived through a lie, given birth from sin,
    the weight of Death is ever present.
Though we hide from it, run from it
    deny it, repress it,
Death is an unshakeable companion,
     an architect of entropy and collapse.
 
Though friendless by nature,
     Death keeps company with hopelessness and despair.
Its suffering seen in the eyes of orphans and widows,
     its misery found in fracture and decay.
Story told and fate penned, like a tattooed seal,
      this wretched mark so inked upon creations’ soul.
 
 
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
bringing life to the earth as it springs from the ground
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
Won’t you dry all your tears, lay your burden down
Won’t you dry all your tears lay your burden down
 
 
But then, in a divine flash, the status is upended. 

 

For on the third day, in the pale glow of dawn,
      a fatal wound fashions rebirth as Death itself dies.
In the dissipating vapor
     the closed system breaks open,
Life steps from grave,
     the rewrite is rewritten.

 

Christ is risen and Christ is alive,
     Now Death, even you must bow.
For though your work is destruction,
     you have lost your power.
Though your icy fingers clutch and grab,
    your grip has lost its strength.
Though you wish to rule
     your throne is no more.
Death you have been swallowed up in victory

 

Christ is risen and Christ is here.
Thanks be to God!

 

The sun will rise, the sun will rise
bringing life to the earth as it springs from the ground
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
Won’t you dry all your tears, lay your burden down
Won’t you dry all your tears lay your burden down
 
 
The day after the Sabbath day was the first day of the week. At dawn on the first day, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary went to look at the tomb.

 

At that time there was a strong earthquake. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, went to the tomb, and rolled the stone away from the entrance. Then he sat on the stone. He was shining as bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The soldiers guarding the tomb shook with fear because of the angel, and they became like dead men.

 

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

 

The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would. Come and see the place where his body was. And go quickly and tell his followers, ‘Jesus has risen from the dead. He is going into Galilee ahead of you, and you will see him there.’” Then the angel said, “Now I have told you.”
 
Praise be to our heavenly Father, for he has given us a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

 

The women left the tomb quickly. They were afraid, but they were also very happy. They ran to tell the disciples what had happened.  Suddenly, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings.” The women came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my followers to go on to Galilee, and they will see me there.”
 
In the half-light of dawn, in a graveyard, it might have been tempting to believe that their eyes were playing tricks.  But the body the women had come to anoint was indeed gone, and the proclamation rang out through the eeriness and emptiness of the place:  “He has risen.”

 

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary fled from the tomb with fear and great joy.  The women were bursting to tell the news, and yet they were afraid of what had been revealed first to them.

 

Before they ever reached the others, they encountered their risen Lord.  He greeted them and then offered the words of reassurance they most needed to hear:  “Do not be afraid.”

 

There is much around us that is heavy and awful.  We know too well of the brokenness and suffering that plagues our world.  Things that bring us fear, things that destroy our hope and things that seal off our joy.

 

But there is a risen Lord!

 

Mary Magdalene invites us to love Jesus and to believe in the power of his resurrection. 

 

With God’s help, may we too have the same spirit that dwelt within our sister, the first witness of the resurrection!
 
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
 
The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed!
 
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
bringing life to the earth as it springs from the ground
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
Won’t you dry all your tears, lay your burden down
Won’t you dry all your tears lay your burden down
 
Rob Priestley
John Arndt & David Gungor
Matthew 28:1-10, John 11:25, 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Corinthians 15:55
Joyce Hollyday
 

Let us pray together:
 
Living God,
     we worship you today with joy in our hearts
          and thanksgiving on our lips,
When the powers of evil had done their worst,
     crucifying your son, and burying him in death,
          you raised him to life again:
               an act of power giving hope to the world.
 
Lord Jesus,
     we rejoice that death could not keep you in its grip;
          that you were raised to life, alive forevermore.
You greeted your friends
          and now you stand amongst us in your risen power.

 

Spirit of God,
     you are always giving life to the people of God,
          giving birth to children of God.
Remodel us in the image of Jesus,
     fill us with his love
          and enable us with his risen power,
               that we might be faithful to his way,
                    used by you in the redeeming of your world.
Amen
Baptist Union of Great Britain
 

On the coldest, darkest night, when you have nearly given up and cannot believe you will make it until morning, the faintest light appears on the horizon. From the ash piles of the cold, dead flames, one tiny ember is taken by a breath of wind and blown into a spark. Deep within the still, frozen ground lies an unseen seed which begins to look not quite so dead as it once did. The woman crying out in agony after hour upon hour of painful labour heeds her midwife’s reminder that when you believe you cannot labour any longer, your body is signalling that your labours are nearly complete.

Since the very first dawning, winter has always, always been made alive by spring. There has never ever been a night so long that it was not awakened by the stirrings of morning. When we look honestly around ourselves, we find that in nature, the seeds of death lie inevitably within life – but just as certainly, life resides buried within the grip of death.

Death, with all its loss and grief, created the soil, the womb for life to seed, to take root, to thrive and flourish. Each day, my family and I live because something once alive transferred its energy into our own bodies. And someday, our own bodies will break back down into the dust, providing for whatever life comes after us. On this carefully, lovingly fashioned earth, death and life are not two separate beings but are instead two sides of the same coin.

These cycles of life and death, of day and night, are so true, so constant; they repeat themselves again and again, and they speak of the Creator who founded and sustains them.

But there is more.

This Creator came and joined in the dance of birth, life, pain, joy, and death. He came not into mythology but into a country, a culture, a family. He came to us in the same way we come to each other – born as a baby conceived in a woman’s womb, formed in her uterus, traveling through her birth canal. Thirty-some years later, the Creator left the same way we all leave – suffering, his body broken, death.

Then, mystery of mysteries, he carried this cycle one step further than we have yet traveled or seen on our own: from life to death to newly resurrected life. Death could not hold the Giver of Life: It burst open, defeated and destroyed. Jesus emerged the victor, the first fruits of a new creation – one that does not follow the pattern we have so carefully committed to memory. This new creation is entirely bewitching, disorientating, and we can hardly imagine it: an inheritance kept safe for us which cannot perish, spoil, or fade. Jesus is the first triumphant herald of eternal spring. He is the promise of shalom, of a world made new.

And so, we insist that death is not the finale: Life will have the final word. Today, sleep always follows waking, just as waking always follows sleep – but one day, we will wake eternally. Death and decay are one stop on the ever-circling wheel, but our Creator does not intend to keep repeating this cycle into eternity. Just as he is the Alpha, so is he the Omega. Having set the world in motion, he will bring it to an end, to its telos. To redemption. And like a seed split open in the ground, this end will not be termination, but an eruption of life, of beauty, of future.

Resurrection.

Catherine McNiel

 

 
Sweet Jesus Christ my sanity    
sweet Jesus Christ my clarity
Bread of heaven broken for me    
Cup of Salvation held out to drink
Jesus mystery

 

Christ has died and
     Christ is risen
Christ will come again

 

Celebrate His death and rising
     lift your eyes proclaim His coming
Celebrate His death and rising
     lift your eyes lift your eyes

 

Christ has died and
     Christ is risen
Christ will come again

Charlie Hall

Let us pray together:

 

God of life,
forgive our denial of life,
our destruction of its hopes,
our denial of its needs,
our distorting of its possibilities.

 

Fill us with your Spirit of life,
that we might be people of life,
servants of life,
     encouragers of life,
   signs of Christ, the life of the world;
in his name we pray.

Amen

Baptist Union of Great Britain
 

 

The Resurrection is the movement from death to life.  It is God’s future showing itself to us in the present.
 
Jesus is alive, his Spirit working as a transforming presence in our world.
 
But there are moments when our hearts go awry, our heads ache, and our spirits grieve. We fumble and struggle to believe; we are filled with disenchantment and frustration.  In silence we go through motions, afraid to say what we feel. 
 
But resurrection says speak out loud!
 
Resurrection is not threatened by our doubts or disappointment.  It gives us permission to voice our questions and disillusionment. It is not afraid to meet the brokenness of death. 
 
Resurrection says, ‘This is not the end.’  The rebirth of Jesus breathes new life into creation.

 

So whatever feels like it’s drowning you, whatever seems like a weight dragging you down, whatever is holding you back…these things do not have the last word. Resurrection brings the healing and restoration of wounded and broken relationships. 

 

Through Christ in us, there is an ongoing resurrection from violence to peace, from fear to faith, from hostility to love, and from consumption to stewardship and generosity. 
 
The Resurrection is not simply the resuscitation of Jesus; it is the beginning of the transformation of the world.

 

Rowan Williams
Brian Mclaren
Rob Priestley

 

 
In so many ways the tomb acts as the ultimate rut.  It defines impossibility, and so often we believe in its definition.  Death is the absolute absolute—we live subservient to its power.  We breathe death in and it clogs our lungs, we breathe death out and it pollutes the world with its corrosive power. 
 
Jesus died and was put in a tomb. The following morning the women went to the tomb to prepare his body with spices and ointments for burial. However when they arrived they found the stone rolled away.
 
The ultimate container of death was opened.  The woman went to the tomb thinking they knew what they are doing, thinking they knew what to expect, but they were met with a challenge from two men in gleaming apparel who asked, “Why do you look for the living among dead?’  It’s a big question. 
 
It’s a big question for us. Why do we look for the living, look for life, security, righteousness, happiness, cues for how to walk and  talk and act and be—why do we ever look for this among the dead?  Why do we try to get this from that which has no life?  Why do we look to form our identities by grasping at concepts and images and fixations that have no life?

 

When the stone was rolled away and the tomb was found empty, the apparently absolute, absolute is shown not to be the definitive power after all.  What seemed to be forever fixed is unfixed.  The captives are set free. 

 

What does it mean for the resurrection to be make us alive again?  It is to have our imaginations transformed, to slowly and surely realize that there is no limit, none at all, to the love of God.  Resurrection breaks in, opens us up, and frees us.  Resurrection reminds us that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God, not life, or death, or power, or principalities, not now or ever.  And that is genuinely good news!

Debbie Blue

 

Let us give abundant thanks and praise to God as we celebrate this day true light and life, wherein death was conquered and Christ arose from the dead.  Let us live alive in the hope, victory and power of the resurrection.  The Lord is risen!  He is risen indeed!
 

 

 
Let no one caught in sin remain    
     inside the lie of inward shame
But fix our eyes upon the cross
     and run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
     freely You bled for us

 

Christ is risen from the dead
     trampling over death by death
Come awake come awake
     come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
     we are one with Him again
Come awake come awake
     come and rise up from the grave

 

Beneath the weight of all our sin
     You bowed to none but heaven’s will
No scheme of hell no scoffer’s crown
     no burden great can hold You down
In strength You reign
     forever let Your church proclaim
 
Christ is risen from the dead
     trampling over death by death
Come awake come awake
     come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
     we are one with Him again
Come awake come awake
     come and rise up from the grave

 

O death where is your sting
     O hell where is your victory
O church come stand in the light
     the glory of God has defeated the night
Singing O death where is your sting
     O hell where is your victory
O church come stand in the light
     our God is not dead He’s alive He’s alive

 

Christ is risen from the dead
     trampling over death by death
Come awake come awake
     come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
     we are one with Him again
Come awake come awake
     come and rise up from the grave
Matt Maher
Mia Fieldes