This was one of those sermons where I had outlined something completely different, but when I sat down to write it, I just went in a completely different direction – but then everyone walked out of church and said to me, “You have no idea how badly I needed to hear that sermon today!”
Such a God thing.
Anyway, here is my sermon from yesterday. I am wishing you many many blessings on your Holy Week! We have worship service on Thursday evening and a potluck and round table discussion on Friday evening. Our Easter Egg Hunt is on Saturday morning and then on Easter Sunday we have two services – a sunrise service at 6AM at the Anawan Club (13 Gorham Street, Rehoboth) and our intergenerational service at 10AM at RCC. If you are in the area, please join us! We would love to experience the resurrection with you.
Blessings, friends … <3
Rehoboth Congregational Church
March 25, 2018
Be Present In The Moment
So let me ask you this: In the midst of all this pomp and circumstance, do you think there was a part of Jesus that was rolling his eyes on his way into Jerusalem because his disciples just were not getting it?
Today is Palm Sunday, a day when we remember the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey; where we, like those who gathered along the road Jesus was traveling on that day, wave palm branches and shout, Hosanna! Today we welcome Christ into our own midst, into our own lives as we prepare to, once again, to hear the story of his death and resurrection.
The Palm Sunday narrative happened towards the end of Jesus’ life and ministry. At this point he had foretold his death and resurrection, not one, not two, but three times.
And yet, the disciples just did not get it. They did not understand what was about to happen. They were not prepared for it.
I don’t know why the disciples did not take Jesus more seriously. If someone says something is going to happen, it usually does, right? That would be like if an entire state prepared for a giant nor’easter the weathermen said was coming and then they only got a dusting.
Oh wait. That did happen this week.
Here’s the thing, though: Jesus was a little bit more accurate than the weathermen were this week. As people living on this side of the resurrection, we know how this story ends; we know what is about to happen. On Thursday night, we will hear the Passion Narrative read. Jesus will die on the cross.
And then we will wait.
We will wait for Easter morning.
Holy Week has always felt a little bit like an emotional rollercoaster for me. You go from the high of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem down to the low of the crucifixion and then back up to the high of the empty tomb.
And then, in the midst of what is going on in church and within the church year, life happens. Sometimes we are surrounded by great joy in the middle of the Easter Triduum, which is that three-day period between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday. So we have to balance that joy with the grief of what we are experiencing in our faith as we await Christ’s resurrection. And sometimes, in a more heartbreaking turn of events, we experience pain and sadness in our own lives during the Easter celebration and we have to balance that sorrow with the hope of resurrection.
A very good friend of my family has been valiantly fighting cancer for the past two years and she got some bad news this week. Tuesday afternoon she went in for surgery and while she was in surgery, I went to pick up Harrison from daycare. He fell asleep on the way home and took his car seat out of the car, I noticed he was clutching his Peter bunny blanket that she gave him, which is very similar to the blue bunny blanket she gave me when I was a baby that I carried around for most of my childhood.
And in that moment, I was really struck by how hard it is to sometimes to experience the paradoxes of life. Because I looked at my sweet baby boy and I felt such joy and gratitude, but saw that bunny and was reminded of that sadness that is also very much present in a different part of my life right now.
I know I am not the only one that feels that juxtaposition. Those highs are high and, for that, I am always so grateful, but sometimes those lows just feel so low. In life and in faith, these paradoxes are hard to reconcile. This week, as we go from the high of Palm Sunday to the low of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday once again to the high of Easter Sunday, we will have to reconcile that paradox.
As your pastor, I’m sure I am supposed to have some great wisdom about how to do this, but the truth is, I am still trying to figure it out myself.
But here is the conclusion I came to this week: We have to live in each moment. When we are experiencing joy and triumph and resurrection, we need to allow ourselves to feel that joy, feel that triumph and feel that resurrection. And when we are experiencing grief and pain and sadness, it is just as okay to feel that grief, feel that pain and feel that sadness.
This is something that Jesus, himself, demonstrated. To the very end, he was fully present in each and every moment. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fully present in that moment; seeing those palm branches waving, hearing those shouts of, Hosanna! He did not pause and tell people, again, what was going to happen to him or beg them to follow him and somehow put a stop to it. He experienced the triumph of that moment.
Later this week, we will remember the Feast of the Passover. And in this moment, Jesus gathered with his disciples, men he knew were going to deny him, betray him and abandon him. But he did not cast them out, he did not punish them; he sat around a table and shared a meal with them. Fully present in that moment, he broke bread, he poured wine and he told they could always remember him when they did the same. He experienced the friendship of that moment.
When Jesus was eventually put to death on the cross, even though he knew that death would not have the final word, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and experienced the pain of that crucifixion.
I have always been struck by Jesus’ obedience throughout this narrative, but I realized this week, as I was thinking about the emotional rollercoaster Jesus must have experienced in his final moments, how remarkable it was that Jesus remained present in each moment as it was happening.
This is a really powerful lesson for all of us to hold onto as we struggle in our own lives to find a way to balance the highs and lows. As we experience the triumph of this Palm Sunday, but then the sorrow of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday later this week, but then also the joy of Easter Sunday next weekend, we will be reminded that God is present in all of those moments; that through Christ’s active presence in each moment, God was faithful and through our own active presence in each of the moments of our lives, God will be faithful to us, as well.
If you are experiencing pain or sorrow in your life right now, if you are anxious about something, if you are grieving or if you are feeling fear, first of all, know that – here, at this church – you are loved, you are being prayed for and you are not alone. But I also hope that, with God’s help, you will be able to experience the triumph of Palm Sunday this morning and the victory of Easter next weekend. Because this is the Good News that brings us new life; these are the moments that remind us, that even in the darkest of places, light will always shine.
And I hope you consider joining us this week, on Thursday evening for our Maundy Thursday Worship & Service of Tenebrae where we will share communion and then remember the last moments of Jesus’ life as the Passion Narrative is read and then Friday evening for our Good Friday Potluck Dinner and Round Table Discussion, where we will remember Christ as we break bread together and discuss his life, death and resurrection.
I know that sometimes this story can be a hard one to hear.
But it is also such an important story; not only to tell, but also to experience.
Together, we will journey through the emotional rollercoaster that is Holy Week. And as we journey through Holy Week together, we will be reminded that we are the Body of Christ, that we enact our faith through this church and that as we experience the highs and lows of life, we are not alone.
We are never alone.
So do not be afraid to be present in every moment in your life. Feel gratitude in the highs, cling tightly to your faith in the lows and know that as you hold those paradoxes in balance, God is faithful.
Thanks be to God!