Humble Power
2010-03-26 by Stephen Schuette

At our Lenten Bible study around significant themes of the Pentateuch we were looking at that ancient text of Deut 26:1-11, and the “power” word popped out.  I wonder if in the Hebrew mind when they read about the events of Palm Sunday in Luke they had a familiar rendering of the Hebrew story playing on the tape inside their heads…  “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place….”  The whole movement, however, began as a “minority report” of a Wandering Aramean who lived in Egypt as an alien, few in number.    Putting together and keeping together the creative tension of “humble” and “power” is what I see as my task this week. 

Tim's Question
2010-03-25 by Rina Terry

Hi Tim,

Most of the folks who asked questions (see Pastor Talk To Me About) seemed to answer themselves but I think you left the question open about the dry and green wood.

It may help you to take a look at Hosea 10:8 and Proverbs 11:31.  Lk 23:30 has a direct quote from Hosea.  In both Luke and Rev. 6:16 the phrase is used as an example of divine judgment.

It may be saying that if one as blameless as Jesus is treated as he is, what will happen to Jerusalem who  will be guilty.  Or, if such things occur while Jesus is alive and with them, what will occur once he no longer is physically among them.  Look at 1 Peter 4:17-18.

I hope this helps!

Bring in the Trappings
2010-03-25 by Rina Terry

Today, just before I left the church, one of the parishioners brought in four large palm tree plants.  He told me he and his wife were not ready to put them on their porch yet as they haven't cleaned it up so the church could use them until they were ready to put them on their porch.  "We wanted to get them while they were on sale," he said.

Church as storage bin is a large problem at my present appointment.  Now, we will enjoy the palm plants and they will add to the festivity of remembering the procession.  Yet, for whose benefit do we do what we do in worship, in the church building, in our service.

Clearly, Jesus was doing all that he did as an act of obedience and as a reflection of God's Kingdom which he proclaimed.   What will we proclaim on "Palm" Sunday?  What's in my spiritual Palm Sunday storage pod?  Beyond our scholarly holding forth, beyond our exegetical prowess, beyond our familiarity with the narrative...  Will we take home our piece of palm and put it in a vase, in our car, on a shelf or dresser?  Use our little woven palm cross for a book mark? 

Mark:  Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord?  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Matthew:  Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Luke:  Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!

Me: ??             You:  ??

2010-03-24 by Stephen Schuette

Go to any of the capitols of Europe or many of our own parks and you’ll find towering bronze figures imposingly mounted on a bronze stallion.  Transportation has always been a way of sorting:  first class from other class, private or mass transit, the “ride” or just “wheels.”

The story goes into great detail about the borrowing of the colt.  In the Jesus movement this was evidently not provided as part of the budget, or “royal treasury.”  The image is certainly kingly drawn from Zechariah 14:4-9, but the circumstances are decidedly untypical of a ruler, whether then or now.

As one of my teachers would say this is clearly a “minority report.”  But, he would add, “Pay attention to the minority report!”  This is a different “way” beautifully expressed by Paul in Philippians, although not to be sentimentalized.  Nor should the entry story be sentimentalized.  This king, as the hymn suggests, “…rides on to die."

Still, Luke indicates this has to do with power (vs. 37).  This power, like the God who wields it, moves in an odd way.  In a sense it’s the fulfillment of some of the very first teachings (Lk 6:20ff), a kind of display of what “power” in this new realm looks like.  It looks like Jesus riding on a borrowed colt with palm branches.  There are other powers at work that function counter to this.  And the ongoing question that’s raised for everyone who would be a follower of Jesus is which power we trust.

Lord, I believe.  Help thou my unbelief.

Palms vs. Passion
2010-03-23 by Rina Terry

Let me say that I am a pacifist.  My children were not permitted war toys or weapon toys.  My eldest son was so brain-washed concerning violence that he allowed himself to be physically bullied for months until I found out and explained the difference between self-defense and pre-emptive aggression.  I felt such shame that my turn-the-other cheek insistence had caused my son to suffer.

So, why would such a woman choose the Passion over the Palms for this week's sermon?  During Lent, my spiritual discipline is at its best.  I spend the time, each morning, that I should spend every morning of the year reading, praying, meditating.  Like it or not, the Passion is gross torture culminating in barbarous execution.  It was something with which I allowed myself, this year, to face.  Then, I began to look at paintings of Christ on trial, before Pilate, and on the cross.

It was Matthias' Grunewald's Christ on the Cross, Detail from the Central Crucifixion Panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece that convinced me to preach on the Passion.  Gradually, I realized how we have prettied up the crucifixion.  Tamed it and put it on a leash.  Taught it to sit up, roll over, beg for a treat.  Jesus on the cross has become our pet.  We've even personalized it in our jewelry.  Jesus dangling from the cross while dangling around our necks. 

Grunewald's painting has forced me to stand at the foot of the cross and acknowledge the horror.  We now know that the average cross was not as tall as those depicted in most paintings and that Jesus was probably no more than two feet off the ground.  We know, as well, that he was likely naked, that his legs straddled the vertical portion of the cross and were nailed on either side through the ankle.  The small ledge was not for the feet but so that the one being crucified would want to sit, thus tearing the flesh that was nailed at the wrists.  It was gruesome, humiliating, torturous execution. 

The gospels tell us Jesus knew what was coming when he entered the city.  He knew.  What do I know about him when I force myself to stand close to the cross, see his suffering, perhaps feel drops of blood fall into my hair when I am brought to my knees and bow my head because I cannot bear to look?


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