Monday, March 17, 2008

Holy Week: Palm Sunday, March 16th "Crossing Over"

Scripture Reading: Luke 19:1-44, Matthew 21:1-9 Mark 11:1-10, John 11:1-12:50

During Holy Week, I am going to be posting one devotional a day leading up to Easter. I am going to do my best to stay in chronological order from Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his ressurection on the following Sunday. For today's devotional, I am going to let you read some of Dwight Kilbourne's words, which were preached at First-Centenary on Palm Sunday because we celebrated the opening of our new worship center.

Luke, as well as the other Gospel writers, understood the significance of that parade. They included clues in the story that linked the past to the future that would become a reality through Jesus Christ. The event and the clues found in the gospels make it clear that the new reality is firmly built on the Old Testament spiritual heritage.

This is a wonderful part of our faith and a significant part of its strength. Jesus is not a religious transformer or creator who just appears on the scene and starts something new. Rather Jesus is one who is deeply tied to the past and to the covenants God has made with people and then moves to the new covenant. Faith enters a new dimension. Had it not been for the new reality built of the foundation of the past, we would not be here in this context today. The new dimension transformed history.

The richness of the connections of events to the religious history for the Jews and their expectations is missed by most of us who read this lesson. But for many in Jesus’ day, they picked up on the clues. Let’s quickly look at several of these.

· Luke makes note of the place where this story begins – “The Mount of Olives.” Zechariah had prophesied of day when a new day would dawn and the Lord would be king over all the earth. In that prophesy, Zechariah speaks of Lord’s feet standing on the Mount of Olives (14:1-9)

· Riding a donkey was significant. When Jacob blessed his sons prior to his death, he foretold that Judah’s descendants would have a special role in the future of the people. He said the “scepter,” the royal symbol would not depart from Judah. Then he goes on to speak of the king binding his foal to a choice vine.

· The donkey connection with a king reappears again in the prophesy of Zechariah. He wrote: Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (9:9).

· The words Luke records regarding what the people were shouting come from Psalm 118:26a: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. This psalm is part of the Hallel or Praise songs that begin in Psalm 113. Psalms 115-118 were sung following the fourth cup of the Passover meal. Jesus and his disciples probably sang this verse following their last meal.

Today as we gather here in this place we not only celebrate our rich heritage of Palm Sunday, we also celebrate a historic moment in the life of our church. This service and this day is a bridge that links important aspects of our church life.

Getting to this point of being able to cross the bridge and to enter the new building is part of a long journey. I have only been part of it for nine months, yet it seems longer to me. This has been a dream for some for many years and has been engaged the building committee for more than three years. During this time there has been a variety of opinions about this project in terms of what should be done and its scope. The diversity of thought is OK and it is good we have had the dialogue and discussion. On one level it could and can divide but if we keep our faith centered on Christ and his mission and continue to respect and to love one another, our diversity will make us stronger. Today, the building project is a reality with all the opportunities and challenges it brings.

As we begin our holy week journey, I also hope it will bring opportunities for us to grow and challenges for us to change our lives to better follow Jesus.

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