How We Can Welcome Others Now

Hi Friends!

I am back after ten weeks on maternity leave.  Here is my sermon from this morning.  No podcast this week, I forgot to hit record on my audio!  I’ll get back in the swing of things.  But I did include the audio.

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
June 28, 2020

Matthew 10:40-42

How We Can Welcome Others Now

Okay!

So.

When we – meaning you all and me – last met, it was Easter Sunday, we were quarantined, so we gathered in our virtual worship space, and we were proclaiming this really hard, yet powerful truth that we are resurrection people and that even when all seems hopeless, God is not finished.

And so here we are, ten weeks later – and we are still somewhat quarantined, gathering in our virtual worship space.

And we are still proclaiming this really hard, yet powerful truth that, despite this virus that has completely turned our world upside down, we are resurrection people.

And that, even when all seems hopeless, God is not finished.

God is not finished.

Amen?

Amen.

It is strange to come back from maternity leave under “normal” circumstances.  I remember coming back after Harrison was born and feeling like everything had changed.  I felt as though you all had experienced different things over the time that I was gone and certainly I had completely changed as I entered motherhood.  I was not sure how we were going to come back together in our journey of faith and shared ministry.

It feels even stranger to come back this time, because we are all sort of in this holding pattern of life during covid.  I am “back” to work, but still mostly working from home, while taking care of my children.  Sunday worship, for the time being, remains what Harrison so sweetly refers to as, “Home Church” – meeting in this virtual space.  In some ways, other than taking over the kitchen counter with my laptop and books during the day, it feels like not much has changed now that I am “back” to work.

And yet, a lot has.

First of all, when we last gathered together, we were barely into what turned out to be a cold and snowy spring.  Now it is summer – the days are long, the sun is hot and our gardens and our yards are full of beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables.

Second of all, our state is slowly re-opening, so we are moving around a little bit more than we were at the end of March and beginning of April, albeit in masks and maintaining appropriate distance from other people.

Our country has been through a lot; certainly the murder of George Floyd served as a catalyst for new support of and education surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, which gives me a lot of hope for the future of racial reconciliation in our country, however we still have a long way to go.

And finally, as much as I hate to say this, we are thinking longer term about what church is going to look like until there is either a vaccine or a more effective treatment option for covid19.  I think when I stepped away back in April we all (either naively or optimistically) assumed I would be returning to the sanctuary, not to Facebook Live.

And yet, here I am.

Unfortunately church gatherings are ranked in the very high risk category when it comes to spreading the virus and, as Christians, we are called to care for one another, particularly the most vulnerable among us.  One of the ways we can do that is by not re-entering the sanctuary too soon.  When everything shut down in March, we quickly moved what we could online and kind of paused everything else at the church.  Currently we are discerning how to safely resume some of the ministries and business we paused and also how to more efficiently reach people online.

So – it has only been ten weeks and yet a lot has changed, both in our reality of the day to day and also in our perspectives, as well.  It is strange to think about what else might change between now and when we are finally able to gather again in person and resume some semblance of normalcy within our community.  Certainly, for better or worse, we will not be the same people that left worship on March 8th.

But here’s the thing:  We go through a lot of different seasons in our lives and we do change along the way.  Like I said, when I came back from maternity leave after Harrison was born, I was worried we had all changed and I was not sure how to bring us back together.  I know that, right now, we are all changing in different ways, as well.

That being said, what has not changed in all of this is this call – this call to proclaim the Gospel, to hold onto the hope that God is not finished yet and to believe that the way we live our lives still matters, despite the fact that we are living them a little bit closer to home these days.

So let’s look at how this morning’s scripture reading is telling us to live our lives.

We are in the Gospel of Matthew, which is the first book in the New Testament.  Jesus is speaking to the disciples here.  Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had gathered the twelve disciples and given them the authority to cast out unclean spirits and to cure all diseases and sickness (which I think hits a little bit closer to home these days).  Jesus is essentially sending out the disciples to do the work that he has started, just as we are called to do today.  Jesus is telling the disciples not only to proclaim a message of love, hope and healing, but to live it out in real and tangible ways.

And like I said, this call remains the same today.  While we are living in a different world today than the one Jesus commissioned the disciples in – and, quite frankly, a different world than the one we were living in six months ago – this call remains the same.

Jesus warns, however, that this will not be easy.  Our passage picks up at verse 40 this morning, but earlier in the chapter, in verse 16, immediately after Jesus gives the disciples this authority and commissions them outward, Jesus said, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.”

In other words, Jesus is warning the disciples that the journey will not be an easy one.  Jesus is asking them to do a hard thing – he is commissioning them to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of hard and challenging circumstances.

The same is true – very true – today.  Jesus is asking us to do a hard thing – to proclaim the Gospel, this Good News, in the midst of hard and challenging circumstances.  I would argue that Jesus is asking us to do a hard thing and, quite frankly, we have never really been asked to do a hard thing like this before.  Certainly we have all experienced our own personal trials and tribulations, but as a country – as a world – in our lifetime, we have never been asked to do a hard thing like this before.  We have never been asked to proclaim the Gospel amidst this kind of global uncertainty and instability.

And yet Jesus knew.

Jesus knew that it was not going to be easy.

Jesus knew that the world was going to be turned upside down over and over throughout the generations.  Jesus knew that there would be global uncertainty and instability.  Jesus knew that there would be pandemics.  Jesus knew that there would be a need for radical racial reconciliation.  Jesus knew that he was asking his followers to sometimes defy the odds stacked tall against them and not only believe, but also proclaim to others that love is real and that hope is still worth holding onto.

Guys, this is when we have to lean into our faith.

And it is hard.  It is really, really hard.

But we have spent our time as Christians studying scripture and worshiping God and praying together not just so we can be faithful when things are easy, but also when things are hard.

This brings me to the heart of what Jesus is asking us to do in this morning’s passage.  Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”  In other words, the Christian faith is not just about a personal journey, but one that needs to be shared in community.  We need to welcome others – we need to extend a hand of hospitality to them, sharing our faith, encouraging them in their own faith and helping them in their times of need.

And this is not an easy thing to do right now, because we cannot gather as a community – we cannot physically welcome people into our building and we cannot serve them the way that we are used to.

But there are other ways to welcome others – to welcome them in Jesus’ name.

Like I said earlier, we are thinking longer term about what church is going to look like in this time of covid, certainly throughout the summer.  I do think that, to some extent, we moved what we could online back in March and put everything else on hold “until quarantine was over” thinking that, in a few weeks, we could get back to normal.

Well, we know now that it is just not that simple.  So now that I am back from maternity leave, I want to not only discern but also live out how we can still be church during this time of social distancing.  I want to welcome others in Jesus’ name.  I want to share this Gospel – this faith – that gives my life and our community so much meaning and purpose.  I want to meet the needs of others, however we safely can.  I want to show people that this story is still very much still worth telling, even now.

Especially now.

Friends, Jesus is asking us to welcome others in his name and right now that is not an easy thing for us to do.  But we are people of the resurrection who know that that God is not finished yet.

And I believe that despite these impossible circumstances we can continue to write a meaningful chapter in the narrative of our faith that can and will change the world for the better.

There are so many ways that we can continue to do church during this time of social distancing.  We can love one another and check in with one another.  I know you all are doing such a wonderful job of that already within our community.  While the weather is nice, we can even try to plan outdoor visits so we can see one another.  We can worship and pray together, continuing to gather in this virtual space and also nightly in our Facebook group for prayers.  We can serve the community.  We can seek justice, showing love and support for our black brothers and sisters by persisting in the work of the Black Lives Matter movement.  We can take care for the most vulnerable among us, particularly those within our community who are particularly susceptible to complications from covid.  We can use this time to learn and grow in our faith, to educate and challenge ourselves, to hear other voices and to understand other perspectives.

Jesus says, when we welcome others into our lives, we are welcoming Jesus and the God who sent Jesus into this world.

And we all need to welcome God into our lives, now more than ever.

As we prepare to leave this virtual space today, I pose to you this question – how will you welcome others as Jesus welcomed you in your own life?

Friends, it is wonderful to be back with you all.  There is still so much work that we need to do – and that we can do – together.

Even though it is hard right now, God is not finished yet.

And neither are we.

Members and friends of the Rehoboth Congregational Church – our work continues.  The world needs Church and the church needs you.  Let us continue together on our journey of faith and shared ministry.

Onward.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Weeping At The Tomb

Happy Easter, friends! I hope wherever you are you are home, safe and proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. It was bittersweet to not be able to worship in person this morning, but I really do believe that now is the time to lean into our faith as we heed the recommendations to stay home so we can flatten the curve.

I love you all.  Despite the challenging times we are living through right now, I still believe in the hope of the Easter promise that Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed.

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 12, 2020

John 20:1-18

Weeping At The Tomb

This past Friday – Good Friday – marked the nine-year anniversary of my ordination, which means I have been in vocational ministry for nearly a decade.

Now, if you had asked me six weeks ago if I felt like a decade was a long time to be in ministry and if I had experienced a lot of stuff in that time, I probably would have told you that, in many ways, I was still very new to all of this and that I had not necessarily weathered any really big ministerial storms like my colleagues who have more years under their vestments.

Of course, I am not sure I would say the same today.

That being said, one of the things I think I have actually honed over the past nine years is the Easter sermon.  I realize that, like Christmas, it is one of those, “many eyes on you” kind of moments, but it honestly was never something that I really stressed about.  My philosophy has always been that the Easter story kind of speaks for itself.

Resurrection!

Light!

Love!

Grace!

A God that is more powerful than our human brokenness, more powerful than death, itself.

And when you take that story and add brass, confetti, a children’s sermon that may or may not go awry, a full church of people who are very ready to get to their family dinners and a bunch of children who are used to going to Church School and not sitting through a sermon, you have seven – maybe eight, TOPS – minutes to preach said sermon.

I have often said that no one has ever complained about an Easter sermon that was too short.

And yet, this year there is nothing for me to do BUT preach.  I do not have all of the bells and whistles that I always felt made our Easter celebration extra special.

When we moved our worship into this virtual space five weeks ago, I was really committed to 1) heeding the call to social distance in a responsible way, which means not bringing our staff together into the sanctuary to stream worship and 2) keeping it simple, which means using a platform like Facebook live where you just get to see my smiling face talking to you instead of a platform where we can integrate more worship leaders from wherever they are.

With regards to the second point, I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of worship streaming options.  Truth be told, one of the reasons we took the simpler option is because my due date is rapidly approaching and I knew it would make for a smoother transition when it was time for me to go on maternity leave.

That being said, I think right now we do have an opportunity, as Christians, who are often distracted by busy schedules and technology and traditions, to really get back to the core of what it means to be a Christian and to be part of a Church that God is calling to being.

The earliest Christians did not have full sanctuaries with brass, confetti and special children’s sermons.  They had a story – a story about resurrection and about a hope that is not lost.  They worshiped in their homes and broke bread with their families.

And that is what we have today.

I know many of us are mourning the loss of our Easter traditions right now.  It seems like one more thing that this virus has taken from us.

But it has not taken away this story – this story about resurrection and about a hope that is not lost.

So – for better or worse, you get me this morning.  You get a raw, unedited version of me, unable to distract you with confetti and other forms of blessed chaos.  You get a pastor who is mourning the loss of her Easter traditions, right alongside of you.

But you also get a story.  A story that proclaims the hard to imagine truth right now that God is not finished yet.  You get a story that proves the impossible is possible.  You get a story that does not let the hard stuff win.  You get a story that will change your life.

I went back and forth as to whether I should preach the Easter story out of Matthew – which is the Gospel we are in for the lectionary this year – or John this Easter.  Ultimately, however, I chose John, because, in so many ways, I feel like I am resonating with Mary right now.

Because she stands outside the tomb and weeps.

Mary goes to the tomb, but Jesus’ body is not there.  She assumes someone has taken him somewhere and now she does not know where to go to find him – so she begins to weep.

So much has already been taken from Mary – this empty tomb feels like one more thing.

And so she stands outside the tomb and weeps.

Friends, it is okay if we weep on this Easter morning, as well.

I shared with my congregation when we first made the decision to suspend our in-person worship more than a month ago that the realization of the decision I was about to make caused me to weep at my desk in my office.  Since then, however, I think I have been running on adrenaline and fascination with the challenge of what it means to create virtual worship.  It has felt comforting and meaningful and, in so many ways, holy that I did not weep again, but I rejoiced in God’s ability to still draw me close to my church family during this time of distancing.

And then on Thursday night, I set up communion for myself and for my family as I prepared for our Virtual Service of Holy Communion.  And for some reason, I broke down as I carefully put out those simple elements of bread and juice.  I held my chalice and paten in my hand, thinking about the moment I grabbed them from my office a few weeks ago “just in case” I eventually needed them at home, but not actually believing that I would.  I thought about the fact that I would be looking into the screen of my phone as I spoke those beautiful words of institution and not into the eyes of the people that I love so much.

Like Mary at the tomb, it felt like so much had already been taken from me – from us!  And this was just one more thing.

And so I sat at my desk – at home this time – and wept.

It is okay to weep right now, to say, like Mary, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

It is okay to weep right now, to say on this Easter morning, “This virus has taken away so much from me already and I do not know what to do next.”

It is okay to weep right now, to miss the sounds of our church bells ringing, the smell of our sanctuary filled with lilies and tulips and the sight of our flower-filled cross in front of our church building, bolding proclaiming the truth of resurrection.

Friends, we are a resurrection people, but to get to resurrection, we have to first experience the pain and sadness and trauma of death and that is just where we are right now.  And it is okay to weep.  It is okay to weep while we are in the middle of something that is really hard, while still knowing and believing that resurrection is coming.

The beautiful thing that Mary does in this story is that, despite the pain and the sadness and the trauma she is feeling, she shows up anyway.  She shows up at the tomb.  She does not leave with the disciples, who return to their homes after seeing for themselves that the tomb is empty.  She shows up.  She sits with the sorrow of not knowing where Jesus is, of the sadness of feeling like she has lost one more thing, but is also not ready to give up yet.

She is not ready to give up yet.

As a pastor, pressing on and planning for Easter in the middle of what they think is the apex of this pandemic, in our part of the country, at least, feels a little bit like being the violinist on the Titanic who just kept playing while the ship was going down.  Because, even though I knew I could not have the confetti and the brass and a children’s sermon that made a mess, I was still going to show up a proclaim the Good News of Christ’s resurrection.  In the middle of utter chaos and mayhem, I was going to hold onto our battle cry that Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.

Because even though I am weeping, I am not ready to give up yet.

I am not ready to give up on this story.  I am not ready to give up on our world.  And I am certainly not ready to give up on the hope of resurrection, even if we are not necessarily experiencing the type of resurrection we want to this morning.

Friends, remember that, on that first Easter, it felt like all hope was lost, but God was not finished yet.  God was doing a new thing.  God was working on something that could not necessarily be seen, but that was real and powerful and lifechanging.

And so we have to believe that the same is true today.

We have to believe that, even though there are moments in all of this where it feels like all hope is lost, that God is not finished yet.  We have to believe God is doing a new thing.  We have to believe that God is working on something that perhaps we cannot see right now, but that is also real and powerful and lifechanging.

This is what it means to be a resurrection people.  To weep, but to show up anyway.  To weep, but to not give up.  To weep, but to still believe that this is not how the story ends.

I said last week that, in so many ways, we were experiencing our own kind of Holy Week this year.

And, unfortunately, we still are – even as we celebrate Easter.

I think, in some ways, we all were hoping and praying for that Easter miracle, where – against all odds and scientific predictions – we flattened the curve and everything went back to normal in the same three days that it took to travel from the cross to the empty tomb.  But we are not quite there yet.

And that is okay.

I mean – it is not okay.  None of this is okay.

But I still believe that resurrection is coming.  We just have to wait a little bit longer.  God has proven before that death does not win and it will not win today.  God has proven before that the God can do the impossible and God will again today.  God has proven before that our world is worth saving and it still is today.

Just like on that first Easter morning, God is doing a new thing, despite the brokenness we feel right now.

And resurrection will happen.

We will be redeemed.  Light will shine.  Like Mary, we, too, will bear witness to the Risen Christ in our midst and stand in awe at the work that God is able to do.  We, too, will run from the tomb and announce to the world, “I have seen the Lord!”

Friends, if we refuse to let death have the final word, I assure you that, at the end of all of this, we will not only be able to proclaim, but also really see and believe that Christ IS risen, he is risen, indeed!

And in the meantime, we display the same faithfulness of Mary and show up at the tomb.  We weep and acknowledge our brokenness, naming what has been taken from us and allowing ourselves to grieve what we have lost and fear the unknown.

But we refuse to give up.  We believe that this is not how the story is going to end.

Friends, we are a resurrection people, even though we are walking through the darkness of a terrifying moment in history.  And so, as a resurrection people we will proclaim, louder than ever this year, that Christ IS risen.

He is risen, indeed!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork

Laying Down Our Palms For Christ

Hi friends!

It’s so crazy to think that, back when all this started, our plan was to be back in church by this Sunday!  My office admin actually called me not long after we moved to virtual worship and asked if she should cancel the palms and I said no, that I didn’t think we would actually be back together by then, but that we would find a way to distribute them anyway.  Well – we opted not to distribute them.  Currently we are entering the worst of things in the northeast and the Deacons and I decided that it was more responsible for us to remind people to stay home than to give anyone another excuse to leave the house.  So we adorned our front doors with greens and had our kiddos cut palms out of construction paper and just worked with what we had this year!  If you get a chance, I would encourage you to at least watch the gathering music portion of the video – I included hosanna photos and videos people sent me with the music.

Here is my sermon, as well as audio and visual.  Stay safe.  Stay healthy.  Stay home.

Love you all.

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 5, 2020

Matthew 21:1-11

Laying Down Our Palms For Christ

Palm Sunday has always been a little bit perplexing to me, as a preacher.  On the one hand (and under “normal” circumstances), it is a big celebration.  We hand out palms and parade through the sanctuary shouting, “Hosanna!”  We adorn the altar with palms and create the most beautiful representation of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  We sing hymns that only get dusted off once a year and wave those palms high in the air as we sing.

And yet, as people living on this side of the resurrection, we know that is not how the story ends.  We know that those shouts of “Hosanna!” turn into cries to “Crucify him!”  We know that Jesus does not ride off into a sunset but to Gethsemane, where he was arrested and later sentenced to death.  We know the eventually the palms that are laid down ahead of Jesus on the road to Jerusalem are eventually abandoned and replaced with a crown of thorns on his head while he is crucified.

Palm Sunday has always seemed like a little bit of a paradox to me.  Because even though it is, for all intents and purposes, a celebration – we know that things are about to get really hard.  When I preached on Palm Sunday the year after the Boston Marathon bombing (Bruce and I had been in Boston cheering on a friend running the race that day, she crossed the finish line right before the bombs went off), I compared my struggle over preaching the triumphal nature of Palm Sunday with the fact that I still, almost a year later, had a hard time looking at my happy and cheerful photos from early in the day of the race.

Because I knew things had gotten really hard after I took those photos – just like things are about to get really hard for Jesus.

In many ways, it feels like an even bigger paradox to preach on Palm Sunday this year because we are already in the middle of something really hard.  It feels weird to celebrate something when we are feeling the weight of something that is really heavy and when our entire world feels more broken than it ever has in our entire lifetime.

And so, first of all, I want you to know that it is okay to come into this space a little bit confused this morning.  It is okay to wrestle with the fact that we are celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem while also deeply grieving what is happening in our world today.

But I also think it is important to point out that Jesus knows what is going to happen when he parades into Jerusalem.  At this point, he has foretold his death and resurrection and, while his disciples do not understand, he certainly does – he knows things are about to get really hard.

And yet, he still lets this moment happen.  In fact, he creates this moment.

As Jesus and his disciples approach Jerusalem, he sends two of them ahead to go into the village and bring him back a donkey and her colt, telling anyone who asks, “The Lord needs them.”  The disciples do this and then spread their cloaks on the animals and Jesus sits on them and begins to ride into Jerusalem.  As he does this, a “very large crowd” gathers (which, let’s be honest, a “very large crowd” seems really strange to think about right now); some of them spread their own cloaks on the road and others cut branches from nearby trees and spread those on the road.  People go ahead of him and some follow him and they shout, “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Jesus knows what is about to happen – he knows things are about to get really hard.  And yet, it is still important to him that he gathers the Body of Christ; that he pauses for a moment, in anticipation of what is to come, and praises God.  The word, “Hosanna,” is an expression of adoration, praise or joy.  This is a moment for Jesus, even in anticipation of what is going to come, to joyfully praise the God who will not abandon him, to gather the Body of Christ in a moment in time when the world so desperately needs it.

And so this morning, our own 2020 stay-at-home version of a very large crowd has gathered to do just that.  To joyfully praise the God who we know has not and will not abandon us.  To wave palms, even though they may look more like pine branches or construction paper than the palms we are used to receiving on this Sunday.  To show up in God’s name and proclaim God’s goodness and grace, even though things are really hard right now.  To be the Body of Christ – the Church – in a moment in time when the Church is so desperately needed.

This past week, I agonized over whether or not we would be able to safely distribute palms this year.  Ultimately, however, the Deacons and I decided that, right now, as we are entering what appears to be the most critical stage of this virus in our country, particularly here in the northeast, it was more important for us to encourage people to stay home than to try to find a social distancing loophole just for the sake of tradition.

It felt like an easy decision, but also a really hard conclusion.  I talked last week about the waves of secondary grief that we continue to feel throughout this time and this was certainly one of those moments where I felt it.

But it also got me thinking – what do our palms represent?

We distribute palms on Palm Sunday because that is our tradition, because it is Palm Sunday, but are there other ways that we can honor this day?

I have two thoughts.

The first comes from what I have already had the honor of witnessing over these past three weeks – the ways in which people have continued to do the work of Christ in some of the most life-giving kind of ways.

The crowd that gathers with Jesus is laying down palms and cloaks as a sign of adoration and praise and honor – as a way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.  And so, while we cannot do this literally with palm branches this year, I have to admit, I am not really sure that we really need to.  Because over the past three weeks, I have seen a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and of a commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time someone drops off a donation of canned goods to the food pantry or makes a monetary donation to an organization working to ensure the most vulnerable have the essentials they need, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time an essential worker leaves for work – whether they are a healthcare worker, a first responder or an essential retail employee – they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time someone drops off a meal or runs an errand for someone who is high risk and really needs to stay home right now, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time someone makes a mask, whether it is for members of their family, someone in the community who needs one or for a local hospital or nursing home, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time someone calls their neighbor or sends someone a card, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time one of our Deacons logs onto our Facebook group to lead nightly prayers or someone from the church sends me a video for our story time or someone just thinks of – and starts to implement – a creative way to “do church” from afar, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

We are giving glory and honor to God right now, not by waving palms that we ordered weeks ago from a Christian supplier, but by living out the Gospel in real and tangible and hard, but also lifechanging ways.

By making sure the most vulnerable are cared for.

By holding one another in prayer.

By shining light into the darkness of this moment.

By proclaiming the bold and, admittedly, very hard right now truth that this virus is not stronger than God’s love and that it will not defeat us and that God’s love will win.

My second (and brief, I promise!) thought on what our palms represent and what Palm Sunday means to us, particularly this year, has to do with the fact that we are entering Holy Week and that the word, “Hosanna!” is used in other parts of the bible, in particularly the Old Testament, to mean, “Save us!”

Psalm 118 – which you all know very well, it is where the verse, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” comes from – is a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from enemies.  Verse 25 of this psalm says:

Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

“Save us” comes from the Hebrew expression, “Hosanna!”

And so, as the very large crowds gather and shout “Hosanna!” and lead Jesus into Jerusalem shouting, “Hosanna!” they are doing so as a way of offering adoration and praise, but also as a way of pleading for their own salvation.

And I think a lot of us are feeling that right now.

Hosanna.  Save us.

We are entering Holy Week in the Christian Church, a time when we remember the hard and toilsome journey Jesus took as he was arrested and then sentenced to death by crucifixion.  Holy Week is really where we put our own faith to the test – where we are reminded of the really hard parts of the story and are forced to wait for resurrection.  We cannot rush the story and we have to sit with the discomfort and the challenge of that.

In so many ways, it feels like we are experiencing our own kind of Holy Week right now.  We are traveling a hard and toilsome journey.  Our faith is being put to the test.  We are being reminded of the hard parts of being human, of the true depths of our brokenness.

And we, too, have to wait for resurrection.

But here’s the thing:  As difficult as this is, I truly do believe that, when we finally do experience resurrection, it is going to be so powerful and life-changing and overwhelming.

Hosanna!  Save us!

Friends, be assured that our cries are heard.  God has not abandoned us.  Resurrection is coming.

I am wishing you all many blessings as we head into Holy Week.  I have always said that the Easter Triduum – the three days between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday is a special time in the Christian year because it is the only time that we get to live out the story in real time.

But in so many ways, this year it feels like we are living out this story in real experience, as well.

And so now we wait.  We lean into our faith.  We trust that God has not abandoned us.  We cry out to God to save us, knowing that God hears those cries.

And, in the meantime (in ways, of course, that are safe and appropriate), we lay down our palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and our commitment to follow Jesus.

Because we know that resurrection is coming.

So have patience, strength and perseverance for the journey.  Give grace to those around you and make sure you give it to yourself, as well.  And await, with great anticipation and expectation, the resurrection that is coming.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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