Lent Six: The Destination
Triumphant Entry and a Passionate Death
We’ve arrived at our destination. You may have thought the empty tomb was our destination, but here, at the end of our Lenten journey, we find ourselves outside of a sealed-up tomb as night falls. This is where we’ve been headed all along.
The nature of the Passion is such that we need to stop here; pause for a bit in wonder and awe; marvel at how this journey brought us to this point.
Sunday morning at our 10 AM worship, we began with a loud and palm-waving entrance. Our shouts of “Hosanna!” and our songs of praise led a parade of children and kids-at-heart right to the baptismal font, where we celebrated the baptism of baby Noelle. Everything was perfect — the baby didn’t flinch or grimace when I poured the water over her voluminous black hair, and she smiled and cooed at each of the congregants when I paraded her around the sanctuary for her blessings. My heart felt especially full as I watched the face of Noelle’s maternal grandparents and her eight-year-old cousin, all of whom spoke no English, hear the translation of the liturgy from our translator, Kathy Naples. Because they had traveled all the way from Paraguay for this momentous occasion, we indulged a little bit and had the liturgy in Spanish as well. The light in their eyes and the smiles of peace upon their faces told me we did it right.
And the smiles on the faces of the congregants, and the tears I saw in many people’s eyes, reminded me how precious our baptismal service has become. We certainly have a ritual that involves many people — from the children who bless the shells to the people who have brought in shells from so many different locations; from Jocille who ordered and picked up the cake to Betsy, who stitched together the keepsake quilt; from Sue coordinating fellowship to Patti and the choir planning out a special song for the parents I think there are over 40 people involved!
Our joy at the font turned quickly sober as we began the readings from Matthew’s passion. Throughout the readings Jesus was calm, driven, and did not deny nor admit to any guilt or innocence. Meanwhile, Judas betrayed his teacher, the other disciples fell asleep while Jesus was praying, Peter cut the ear off of a soldier who had come to arrest Jesus, and then all of them — all of them, all twelve of them deserted Jesus as the trial progressed. The only ones remaining at the cross as Jesus breathed his last were the women:
“Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Matthew 27:55-56).
And us. We’re here. We made it. Now we stop to ponder this wondrous love, as we gaze upon an empty chancel and the cross draped in black. Through this week we’ll continue to wonder, read through some of the other Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death, we’ll stop on Thursday at the table, be blessed in the washing of feet, and on Friday, gathered with believers from around Fraser Valley, we’ll venerate the cross one last time before we enter into the darkest days of our faith.
Thanks for coming with me on this journey. I feel we have so many reasons to be in wonder, and it is more satisfying to wonder alongside each of you.
May God bless this week for you in new and challenging ways, and may you grow in your own understanding of this holy mystery.
With Love and Devotion,
What Wondrous Love Is This
American Folk Hymn
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.
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Your Guide to Holy Week and the Holy Triduum
Monday — Saturday, continue your study of the GPS (included below or available at Welcome Center in our foyer) and the readings from the “Meeting Jesus” devotional.
Tuesday — Noon and 5:30 PM — Lenten Study. Lunch is served at the noon study, and the 5:30 study will be abbreviated this week due to another ministry at the church starting at 6.
The Holy Triduum
As Reformed Christians, we have an abbreviated version of the Paschal Triduum; we still celebrate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in full fashion, but our Easter Vigil is quite different.
Thursday — 7 PM at CEH Maundy Thursday Service. “Maundy” from the Latin “Mandatum Novum,” or the “New Mandate” that Jesus gives to his disciples at the feast of the Passover in the upper room to “Serve One Another in Love.” We observe this mandate by mirroring Jesus’ actions that night in a holy and sacred ritual of foot washing. This intimate, humbling ritual is one of the most moving of the year, and I encourage you to come forward in courage. This year you will be able to wash your own hands if you are uncomfortable with me washing your feet. We will break bread together in communion.
Friday — Good Friday, 7 PM at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Granby. We will use this time to hear the Passion again, this time from John. This very traditional service includes time to “venerate” the cross, which means to stop and adore it.
Saturday — The Great Easter Prayer Vigil. From the end of the Good Friday service to the break of dawn on Easter morning, CEH members will be engaging in our version of the “Great Easter Vigil” by filling that time with prayers. You can devote yourself to prayer any time that day, or you can add your name to our list of hours and pray during that set time. Call the church office to sign up for any available hours. I am preparing the Prayer Vigil guide, which can be emailed to you or you can stop and pick one up at the Thursday and Friday services, or in the office starting on Wednesday. You can also let yourself into the church to engage in the prayer stations any time on Saturday. If you take your time at each station, you can easily fill your hour time slot with prayer.
7:00 AM — Sunrise service of song, scripture, and communion.
8:00 AM — Potluck Easter Breakfast and Fellowship
9:00 AM — Service Station — our all ages mission opportunity. We’ll be packing hygiene kits for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
10:00 AM — Worship and Praise — quite a celebration! Meet in the Fellowship Hall and we’ll process into the Sanctuary together.
Following the 10 AM service — Fellowship and an Easter Egg hunt for the little ones.
Please join us for these last days of Lent and the beginning of an entirely new journey into celebration!
GPS Week 6: The Destination
The week starts off with a show of God’s strength and a display of God’s power in Palm Sunday. As the week unfolds, Jesus will experience betrayal and desertion from many in his inner circle. We have come so far with Jesus on this journey. Jesus asks us the same thing he asks his disciples this week. “Stay awake and pray.”
During this last week of Lent, we will be looking at scriptures that allow us to journey with Jesus during his time in Jerusalem on the last week of his earthly life. Use this devotional time to grow closer to the one who gave up everything for you and the rest of God’s children.
Monday – Matthew 21:1-11
This was no ordinary parade. This was Jesus engaged in street theater. Jesus is making a statement against the power, violence, and exploitation of Rome. While Roman officials would have ridden into Jerusalem on war horses, Jesus chose a symbolic animal of peace. God’s power is not measured by the world’s standards. God’s power is located in a peasant who peacefully rides into a city that will kill him in five days. What are some ways that we could participate in non-violent demonstrations that showcase God’s love for everyone?
Tuesday – Matthew 21:12-17
Jesus wastes no time in liberating God’s house for God’s people. It’s one thing to talk about justice. It’s quite another to participate in liberation. The money changers were making a huge profit by exploiting the poor. All throughout the Bible, God has been on the side of the oppressed and the marginalized. This is no exception! How can we work alongside God in proclaiming justice for all?
Wednesday – Matthew 23:37-39
This passage shows God’s full range of forgiveness and devotion to God’s people. Jesus is expressing remorse that Jerusalem won’t listen to him. Not because Jesus is mad at them, but because they are choosing to live outside of God’s desire for them. Even though this is the city that will kill Jesus, he still prays for them and wishes to gather them home. How does it feel to be connected to a God that loves you despite what you do? Our God is ALWAYS on our side and desperately wants the best for us.
Thursday – Matthew 26:26-29
Communion was central to the life of the early Christians. It was a meal where they talked about their day and shared their lives with each other. Jesus is taking this opportunity to break bread with his closest friends. It has since become a ritual in Christian worship, but the heart of communion is still sharing a meal with your church family and God. Jesus shared this table with the one who would deny him three times and with the one who would betray him. Jesus extends an invitation to this table to everyone who wants to partake.
Friday – Matthew 27:45-46
Matthew describes this event with rocks splitting and the earth shaking. The death of Jesus shook even the foundations of the world. It should shake our foundations as well. Do not fall into the temptation of reading this event as something that happened 2000 years ago. The injustice that Jesus stood against and eventually died for is still alive and well in our time. What are some ways that we can shed light on the problems of inequality, racism, and bigotry. If we are not willing to work for justice, then we might as well be the bystanders in this passage who witnessed the death of Jesus and did nothing to stop it.
Saturday – Sabbath Rest
The journey became even harder this week. In fact, the journey became impossible. Jesus was alone on the cross at the end. The disciples were scattered. Peter had denied him. Even the women watched the events unfold from a distance. There are many times we have disappointed God in our faith journey. But tomorrow, God beats death. And we aren’t just invited to watch from a distance. We are invited to take part…
Suggested Daily Prayer
_ God of commitment and righteousness, we long to follow you to the very end. We acknowledge that it is beyond difficult for us to walk the path that you would have us walk. Give us strength and courage to complete this journey and proclaim new life in you. When we stumble, lift us up. When we doubt ourselves, remind us that we were created by you. When we doubt you, remind us of your power and grace. And when all we see is death and destruction, remind us that with you is abundant life. In Jesus’ holy name we pray, Amen.