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Sunday, March 25, 2007
As we entered the Season of Lent, we considered God’s abundant love and steadfast promise and how these shape our lives. As we enter this Holy Week and encounter again the events of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and final days on earth, we call out for God’s abundant mercy and give thanks for God’s faithfulness in our lives. Luke 19:28–40 (and Luke 22:14—23:56)“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” The psalmist’s words in Psalm 118:26, part of the Liturgy of the Palms, set the scene for our entrance into the events of Holy Week. Today on Palm Sunday we, too, shout our praises. Later, Jesus will move beyond the jubilant crowds toward the true revelation of his identity and purpose on the cross. And we will follow, quieting our voices as we enter into the passion of our God. The writer of Luke tells us that the throngs of disciples are shouting triumphantly because of the deeds of power they have witnessed. Jesus has told them, however, that the ultimate revelation of his identity will be through betrayal, death, and resurrection (9:22). This shift begins with Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey, recalling the messianic promise: “Your king comes to you...humble and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Kings in Jesus’ day served by ruling, but Jesus is one who rules by serving, even to the point of suffering and death. During the Last Supper, Jesus reminds the disciples that “the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves” (Luke 22:26). The writer of Luke intends readers to understand that the events of this week are part of God’s plan and that Jesus understands how he is to be engaged in the fulfillment of that plan (Luke 18:31, 22:37). This plan will not be thwarted. If the disciples stop their proclamation, then even the stones will cry out (Luke 19:40). God’s plan does not end with Jesus’ resurrection. As we will see through the readings for the Easter season, the book of Acts – the second volume of the two-volume work that is Luke-Acts – takes up God’s plan in the life of the church. Throughout Holy Week are warnings and hints about the struggle that there will be in the lives of the faithful (Luke 22:28–33, 23:28–31). Jesus’ conduct while under trial becomes a model for all faithful followers in their trials. The promise of Jesus’ resurrection becomes a promise for the church. We learn more about life as a servant in Isaiah 50:4–9a. The servant figure in this passage may be an unknown individual or a personification of the whole nation. Though treated harshly and unfairly, the servant trusts in God’s vindication. Christian tradition has found a resonance between the servant’s experience and Jesus’ suffering as he faced the cross. The verses of Psalm 31:9–16 are the lament of a faithful servant. This heartfelt cry to God is painful and vivid. Yet, the psalmist trusts God. At times, the only prayer humanly possible is “You are my God.” Jesus’ death is not a loss of hope. Philippians 2:5–11 declares, in the words of an early Christian hymn, that “God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.” By quoting this hymn, Paul connects us to the way that the faithful followers in the early church understood the events of Holy Week. Paul urges the Philippians to imitate Jesus. Though “equal with God,” Jesus “emptied himself” by taking the form of a servant. There are cries of anguish, trust, thanks, and hope as we follow Jesus into Jerusalem. God hears them all! Faithful servants today experience Holy Week though many traditions and rituals. Which Holy Week traditions are most meaningful to you? If you could begin a new tradition for Holy Week, what would it be?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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