Into the midst of angst and struggle, Jesus comes to the disciples with a word of greeting, “Peace be with you.” How often are we, just like those early disciples, a mix of joy and disbelief and wonder?
Despite anything and everything that has come before, despite hardship and struggle, despite pain and suffering, despite plagues and pandemics, despite any and all circumstances that have felt as if they were too much to bear, morning comes…day breaks…Easter arrives.
If we check in only on Palm Sunday and Easter, we go straight from “Hosanna” to “Hallelujah” and miss so much of the critical journey in between. For that reason, our service will be slightly different today as we celebrate Palm/Passion Sunday. We’ll begin with a Palm Sunday text and conclude with the reading of the Passion or the crucifixion.
Our lectionary readings today bring us two fairly complex and curious passages with which to wrestle. The first testament reading from Numbers may be totally unfamiliar. If you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), you might find it especially disturbing! Our Gospel reading, on the other hand, is likely to be familiar to all. It contains perhaps the best known and often repeated line of Christian scripture that’s out there…“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” What is the connection between these passages?
The account of Jesus “cleansing the temple” is told in all four Gospels but with several significant differences. Matthew, Mark and Luke place this account toward the end of Jesus’ life, while John places it much closer to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus enters the temple during Passover – a very active, busy time – and turns everything, literally and figuratively, upside down
Our scripture reading from Genesis this week focuses on Abraham and Sarah, who started their journey as Abram and Sarai. But in their relationship with God and as a part of the covenant between them and God, they received new names. We’ll spend some time today thinking about what that meant for them and what our names and labels mean for us, as people of faith, today.
What is your “wilderness”? Today we spend time with Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism and his subsequent 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. It is also the first Sunday of Lent, a season in the church marked by themes of light and shadow, confession and repentance, and frailty and humility.