Monday, March 25, 2013

Words for the week: preparing for Holy Week.


Preparing for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter, I am immersed in a series of worship services.  Each of them hits a different tone -celebration, outpouring of love, grief, joy.  In the office, we toggle between them as we get ready for the week ahead.  Choosing hymns, we go from humming through the mournful "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" to bouncing along with "Christ the Lord is Risen today."  Planning the words for worship I read a Good Friday lament: "O My people, my church, what more could I have done for you, Answer me!"  Then I turn to the next service and there it is: resurrection and the traditional, joyous words: "Christ is arisen - he is risen indeed!"
The back and forth lead up to Easter can be quite jarring and Palm Sunday kicks it off.  We go from raising palms in honor of Jesus (Hosanna!) to being a voice in the angry mob (Crucify him!).   During the week we will experience the grief of betrayal, the finality of death, and the joy of resurrection.  It becomes apparent that all these experiences - these emotions - are connected to one another.  They often don't move in as linear a fashion as we'd like.  Yet as we walk through them, something happens.  God's grace is woven through the fabric of time.  We find - much to our surprise - that by Easter morning there is less grief and more joy.  
I urge you to take part in the complete series of worship services for Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday and including Maundy (commandment) Thursday and Good Friday, both at 7:30.  We will move through all these experiences - the highs and lows, and arrive together at the most amazing place of all: the empty tomb.
Peace and Joy,
Pastor Sarah

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Words for the week: It's not about the money



Last week we heard the story of the prodigal (wasteful) son, the resentful older brother, and the loving father.  No matter your birth order, you can relate to some aspect of each of the sons.  Who among us hasn’t squandered some gift and felt ashamed?  Who among us hasn’t felt resentful for generosity shown to others?  The character I find difficult to relate to is the father.  He doesn’t worry about the potential for future disappointment from the younger son.  He doesn’t let an elevated sense of fairness from the older son keep him from sharing.  The father loves both sons extravagantly, wastefully even.  His love shows us a glimpse of how God loves: more joyfully, eagerly, patiently that we can ever understand. 


In this week’s gospel, Mary wipes Jesus’ feet with an extraordinary amount of perfume.  She is grateful that Jesus raised her brother from the dead and she prepares Jesus for his own imminent death.  Meanwhile, Judas argues that the money could have been used for the poor. 

Judas seems like the righteous one – worried about the poor.  But he really is worried about his own bank account. Mary seems like the wasteful one; how many people could have been fed by the money spent on that perfume?  Jesus surprises us by honoring Mary’s extravagant gift. I relate much more to Judas than Mary: anxious about money, looking for ways to justify my own priorities, critical of others, all the while driven by a sense of lack and fear.  Judas was focused on the money and his own needs, not the poor and not Jesus. Mary was focused on the relationship and let love of Christ be her first priority.