Christ became obedient unto death: O come, let us worship.
Our At-Home service for Good Friday, Bulletin, and Songs can be found here:
In addition, here is a link to our Stations of the Cross video, featuring the paintings of Fr. Sieger Köder:
Scripture Readings: Exodus 12:1–14 | Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19 | 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 | John 13:1–17, 31b–35
Tonight is a holy night: Maundy Thursday, where we gather to retell the story of Christ’s last moments with His disciples before His betrayal, arrest, condemnation, and crucifixion. On this night, our Lord Jesus shared the sacred Passover meal with His disciples… reliving the great story of God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt, centuries earlier… yet pointing ahead to a new and ultimate act of salvation: His own body to be broken. His own blood to be shed for all.
On this night, our Lord Jesus stooped down to serve His students… taking hold of their soiled feet, and washing their filth away. Taking on Himself the lowest status in ways that even Peter found hard to handle… and offering a new vision of it means to be great in God’s eyes.
And on this night, our Lord Jesus gave His followers a new command: that we love one another. “Just as I have loved you,” He says “you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). On this night we have been given the heart of the Christian life: an essential characteristic of a Christian, our Lord tells us, is love for other Christians.
This isn’t an ideal to affirm, but not to really put into practice. Or an optional add-on, for those who want to go above and beyond. This is a commandment. A requirement from our Lord of all who would follow Him. Our “marching order”, so to speak, is to love one another.
This makes no sense at all if what we mean by love is our spontaneous and natural inclinations… our feelings of affection or attraction to others. That’s what much of our culture considers love: our desires for friendship, companionship, and a sense of belonging. But on this night Jesus our Lord gives us a clear definition of what He means by love: that is, commitment… compassion… care… and at the cross: the laying down of one’s life to lift up the life of another.
To live like this… to love like this will certainly shift and shape our desires, but at the heart of things this kind of love is not a feeling to follow… it’s a choice to make. It’s an act of will, and for us, an act of obedience to the one that we call Lord. To the one who laid His own life down for us.
The author and United Methodist Bishop, Will Willimon, recalls what’s going on in wedding vows: “Note that, in the Service of Marriage, the pastor doesn’t ask, ‘John, do you feel like you love Susan?’ The question is, ‘John will you love Susan?’ Love is here defined as an act of the will, something we decide to do, a gift that we promise to give” This night, the new commandment we’re given is to decide to love one another… to choose to commit ourselves to our brothers and sisters in Christ. To give ourselves to one another. Not in the abstract, but in our every day relationships. With the brothers and sisters in Christ we know… those who share these pews… and those who join with us at Christ’s table.
Take a moment to look around the room. Think of those who are not with us this evening, but who have been a part of our Parish family. Think about those we know in other Parishes… those in other denominations. These are the actual people that Christ has commanded us to love “as He has loved us”.
And not only to them, of course… for the Good News of God’s kingdom is meant for all. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
But as the saying goes: “A glass can only spill what it contains.” We can only share with others what we have ourselves first received. We can only invite our neighbours into the new life of Christ’s kingdom, the new life of God’s family, when we are living it out ourselves… when we are practicing patience… forgiveness… humility… hospitality… mercy… faithfulness… not perfectly, of course… but choosing to practice this new life together all the same.
For it is precisely because God’s saving, self-giving love in Jesus Christ is meant to be shared with all the world that we are called to share it with one another. For if we who have received the love of God decide not to love one another… we are turning our back on the Good News that we Christians claims to believe. And how will the world believe us about God’s self-giving love offered to all in Jesus Christ if we chose not to practice it ourselves?
On this night, our Lord says to us: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).
This love is God’s gift to the world in Jesus Christ, meant to be made known through the life of the Church… through Christians like us who are committed to putting it into practice. This love is what we’re created for, it is God’s life at work in us.
Again, Bishop Willimon has wisdom for us: “Lest you despair at his sweeping command to love, remember that it is within this setting that Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit who gives us what we need to be obedient to Jesus’ command. He does not expect us to love on our own.”
This is what this night is all about: in Jesus Christ our Lord, the Living God offers Himself to us in love… and through His Holy Spirit, is working in us to draw us all together in Him. His new commandment is simply to share with one another the gift He offers to us all… God’s new life, the new creation Jesus has won for us at the cross.
So this night, as we draw near to Christ’s table together, and as we follow Him tomorrow to the cross… let us receive from Him God’s gift of love, and with the Holy Spirit's help, let us give it to one another. Amen.
 William H. Willimon, Thank God It’s Thursday: Encountering Jesus At The Lord’s Table As If For The Last Time (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013), 58.
 William H. Willimon, Thank God It’s Thursday: Encountering Jesus At The Lord’s Table As If For The Last Time (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013), 42.
This is the night that Jesus our Lord washed His disciples feet, shared with them the Last Supper, and gave to us a new commandment: “Just as I have loved you,” He says “you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin mandatum, which means “commandment”, referring to this sacred commission Christ gave to all His followers.
A few weeks back we shared a short video from the Bible Project exploring the Scripture's understanding of love. In case you missed it, here it is again:
Our At-Home service of Evening Prayer, Bulletin, & Sermon for Maundy Thursday can be found here:
And our Songs can be found here:
Today marks the beginning of Holy Week: the start of Christ's journey from the expectant praise of the crowds on Palm Sunday, through the humble, self-giving love shared on Maundy Thursday, to the horrible suffering and shame endured on the cross on Good Friday, and finally to the world-changing hope of His resurrection at Easter.
During the season of Lent we have been on a journey preparing for Holy Week through prayer, repentance, fasting, reflection, and generosity, intentionally returning to the basics of our faith: our calling to lives of holy love, our deep need for forgiveness and grace, and above all the gift of God's salvation in Jesus Christ the Lord.
Here is the sixth and final video in a series from the Bible Project exploring the Shema, a passage of Scripture at the heart of both the Jewish and Christian faith: "Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NASB)
Instead of a Sermon this Sunday, we are invited to spend some more time reflecting on the Gospel readings, both of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, but also of His faithful sacrifice on the cross. In our Morning Prayer service the Gospel reading has several invitations to pause and prayerfully reflect on the unfolding story.
Please do not rush through this time, but invite the Holy Spirit of God to make known the significance of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done. It may be beneficial to slowly read the Gospel aloud, and to make a note of any parts of the reading that especially stand out. Throughout the coming week, bring all these things to God of prayer.
Our service of Morning Prayer, and Bulletin this week can be found here:
And our Songs this week can be found here:
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 25:6–9 | Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24 | Acts 10:34–43 | John 20:1–18
“I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18)
These words from Mary Magdalene, spoken around two thousand years ago, announce again to us today the Good News beyond all hope! The news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified, died, and was buried… has been raised and lives again: the firstborn of the resurrection! Two days ago, with Mary, we looked and saw Him on the cross, bearing our sin and shame… suffering for the sake of the world… and pouring out God’s holy, reconciling love for us all. Two days ago, we saw Him buried, but today we see and empty tomb. Today we know our Saviour lives, and will forevermore.
Today is the fulfillment of all that has come before it: the promises of God to renew and rescue His broken world; the mission of His Son to draw all people back to Himself; the suffering of the cross, to bring forgiveness and salvation. All the works of God come to a head today… to make all things new. Today, Jesus Christ has been resurrected, from the dead. And with His rising, the Living God has begun Life anew.
It’s impossible to capture all that Easter morning means in one sermon. A lifetime isn’t long enough to completely understand, never mind actually speak about, what the resurrection of Jesus entails. But when Mary first said those joyful words “I have seen the Lord”, God’s light has begun to open our eyes to the truth of this Good News, helping us to begin to grasp what the Risen Lord has done… what He’s been up to all along, and which He will one day bring to completion.
We heard more than hints of this work in our reading today from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, who wrote these words at a time when Israel was heading towards disaster: towards losing everything, and being led into exile. And yet, God gave Isaiah even then these words of hope:
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:7-8)
Tied up with God’s promise to redeem and rescue His covenant people, Israel, is the promise to destroy that “shroud that is cast over all peoples… he will swallow up death forever.” The destruction of death. How can that be? How can we even imagine it? The end of that thing which comes to us all… which causes so much grief and fear. For that to happen, the world as we know it would have to be remade… yet this is exactly the hope that the Living God gives to His people, and which the Risen Christ brings to life in His own resurrected body: nothing less than New Creation breaking into the midst of our Old one… revealing God’s plan and power to raise up His people along with Him. To not abandon this world He loves to darkness and destruction, but in Christ to raise it up again to share in His own New Life.
This isn’t all a simple way of saying that we will go to heaven… escaping this physical place, in order to go somewhere else entirely. The picture the Bible paints for us, especially at Easter, is the hope that death itself has actually been overcome. That what happened to Jesus at the resurrection will one day happen for us. That we will be given new bodies, like His, that can never die again… ones perfectly fitted for life within God’s re-Created world. Today we echo Isaiah’s words that the Living God has swallowed up death forever in Jesus Christ, who is the Risen Lord of Life. Today, though we face death, we need not fear it as those who have no hope. Christ has conquered the grave for us and we will share in His victory.
If our passage from Isaiah points us to this New Creation, one set free from the fear of death in the hope of resurrection, our reading from Acts holds out the hope of a New Humanity… a new way to be God’s family, again through the Risen Lord.
In Acts Chapter 10, we heard St. Peter speaking about Jesus… about what He did in His life, His death, and that He was raised again from the dead. But if we know a bit more about who it is that St. Peter is speaking to we may come to see just how world-changing this message really is. St. Peter, like all the Apostles and early members of the Church, was Jewish… a descendant of Israel, God’s chosen covenant community. As a people set apart from all the other nations of the world, Israel had often assumed that God was mostly concerned about them… rescuing them, restoring them, bringing God’s kingdom to them.
But ever since Jesus, whom St. Peter knew to be Israel’s Messiah, was raised from the dead, God had been pushing His people further out into the world. At the time of our passage today, the Holy Spirit of God had led St. Peter to do something he had never done before: visit the house of a Gentile, someone who was not Jewish. And not only that, the man, Cornelius, was a Roman Army Officer. This was someone who represented the forces ruling over St. Peter’s people, even though Cornelius himself feared God, and was kind to his Jewish neighbours. Under normal circumstances, this Roman soldier was untouchable… there were too many barriers between him and the first disciples. And yet in this moment, with the Spirit’s help, Peter begins to understand… to see that Christ is not just Israel’s Messiah… but the hope of every nation… that the Risen Jesus is truly the Lord of all.
This was the watershed moment when the Holy Spirit of God began to break down the walls of hostility between Jews and non-Jews, drawing people from all cultures and races of the earth into God’s New Family, united together by faith in the Risen Lord of all. Through the work and witness of people like Peter, God’s Spirit continues to spread the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection throughout the whole world, so that people from every nation might look to Him as Saviour and Lord. We are here today (in body, or the Spirit) because that message has been passed down to us, and today we are just one part of the worldwide Christian Church. Today, we see everyone’s invited into God’s New Family.
Which brings us to our passage from the Gospel of John, to that first Easter morning when the resurrection of Jesus was first brought to light. For the turning point of all history… it’s a bit of a messy story: people running all over the place… confused, afraid, weeping… an empty grave, a pair of angels… and what seems to be a gardener. Yet in the midst of all the chaos, the Risen Lord is there, and He makes Himself known not by some grand spectacle… but by saying the name of one who felt lost, and who suddenly was found. The Risen Lord spoke to Mary, and the world was never the same.
Mary Magdalene is rightly known as the very first apostle… the very first eyewitness to the Risen Lord, and the first person sent by Him to share the Good News with others. In that moment, she went from a grieving, distraught disciple to someone with a mission: a new purpose, a new reality, a new identity. She had encountered the Risen Lord… God’s re-Creation in the flesh… and now she had a part to play in helping others encounter Him too. Today we see that the Risen Lord is drawing not just nations but people… people like you and I to be a part of His New Creation. That in the midst of the messiness of life, the Risen Lord still speaks to us, making His presence known, and empowering us to tell the world that Jesus Christ not only suffered and died; He rose again. To show that He is alive, by living as those, who through the Holy Spirit, are already being shaped by God’s New Creation today.
Today, like Mary, we’re given a New Identity: we’re a Resurrection People. Those who exist in the world as witnesses that Jesus lives… and who are beginning to put into practice God’s New Life even now. Through the eyes of faith: we see the Risen Lord of life, and the fear of death that grips our world begins to lose it’s hold over us. We see the Risen Lord of all, and the prejudices and self-interest that threaten to shatter our world begin to crumble and give way, to God’s reconciling, self-giving love. We see the Risen Lord, who calls each one of us by name, and all the confusion, isolation, grief, and sense of purposelessness begins to be transformed, by His compassion and grace, into our new and blessed life as God’s beloved children, and into our new calling to share this Good News with our world.
Today, in faith, the world-changing words of Mary are entrusted to us. We are called to proclaim through our actions and words that we too “have seen the Lord.” That we have believed the Good News that Christ is risen from the dead, and that God has begun His New Creation in our lives. So today, and always, let us be those who will say: The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen!
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 52:13–53:12 | Psalm 22 | Hebrews 4:14–16, 5:7–9 | John 18:1–19:42
Don’t look away!
Today we stand confronted with two hard realities which have the tendency to trouble and disturb us, tempting us to avert our eyes and do our best to ignore them: I’m referring to the words suffering… and sin. They both have many names, like anguish and rebellion… grief and wickedness… but whatever it is we call them, today they’re simply unavoidable. They are of course present in our daily lives, in all sorts of guises, but today they stand out in the open. Today the Scriptures lead us with Jesus to the very foot of the cross, where these two seemingly unescapable forces are exposed in all their ugliness. A good and innocent man suffers and dies before our eyes, and all the world turns on Him… or simply turns away.
He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we… held him of no account. (Isaiah 53:3)
Don’t look away. As hard as it is… to see His awful pain, and remember our own.
As hard as it is… to see the guilt of those who killed Him, and remember our failures.
Don’t look away. Today, we are called to share in this sacred moment.
As hard as it is, we are invited to bear witness. To see.
To see that at the cross the Living God Himself does not look away. That the LORD does not ignore our suffering, standing by, unmoved. That the Holy One does not leave our injustices unanswered. That rather than leave us to fend for ourselves, Jesus, the Son of God, chose to bear the cross for us all because God refuses to look away from us… even when we could not, and cannot bear to look at Him.
For he did not despise or abhor / the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me, / but heard when I cried to him. (Psalm 22:24)
In Jesus Christ God endures all of our sin and suffering… and at the cross He draws infinitely close to us. Today we see there’s more going on than an innocent man suffering. This is more than simply a cruel tragedy… it’s the costly cure for all our transgressions. At the cross there are no cliché words of comfort… but rather we see Jesus embrace all our pain completely. At the cross there’s no brushing aside or excusing all our wickedness… but rather we see Jesus offer us all complete forgiveness.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Don’t look away from Christ at the cross, because that is where God’s love is found! God’s love which bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things… endures all things. God’s love which refused to look away… to let all our suffering and sin continue to separate us from Him any longer. God’s love poured out for us even while we were still his enemies… when our voices joined in with the crowd calling out “Crucify Him!”
Don’t look away because at the cross, as hard as it is to endure, Christ shows us the shocking depths of God’s love… just how far He has gone to redeem and rescue His sinful and suffering world. In Christ’s suffering and death at the cross God becomes Godforsaken for us… in order to rescue Godforsaken us. There’s nowhere we could go that His redeeming love can’t reach. There’s no darkness that the light of Christ at the cross cannot break through.
The Good News of Easter will remind us soon that the story, our story doesn’t end here. That the darkness of this day gives way to a glorious new dawn. But today… the Good News of the cross of Christ is that the Son of God has come to us suffering sinners… and has died to set us free. To take our place. To bear our shame. To give up His life to save ours. Precisely at the point where we deserved it the least… precisely at the point when we needed it the most.
It is precisely at the cross Christ shares God’s love with us, and it is also precisely where we see God’s love for our neighbours as well. For if God has loved us so completely, what’s stopping us from loving each other?
We cannot look away from the cross because that is where God helps us to see the suffering and sins, of ourselves… and also our neighbours… but instead of looking away from them in despair or disgust, we are empowered to see them with the eyes of God’s holy love. We cannot look away from the cross, because that is where God reminds us that the way forward for all of us comes only through forgiveness. We cannot look away from Jesus Christ on the cross, because that is where God opens our eyes to His longsuffering, reconciling love… and that is where Christ opens up the way for us all to find New Life in Him.
So today, let us look in faith to Jesus at the cross. And find in Him forgiveness, life, and God's longsuffering love. Amen.
Alleluia! The Lord is risen indeed: O come, let us worship!
Today we celebrate the joyous news that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.
That though He suffered and died on the cross, death did not have the final say, but was itself overcome by the power and love of the Living God, and now Christ lives as the firstborn of God's New Creation.
This is the cornerstone of our faith, and a world-changing mystery.
In the light of Easter, let us turn to LORD in worship, prayer, and praise.
Lord of life and power,
through the mighty resurrection of your Son, you have overcome the old order of sin and death and have made all things new in him. May we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, reign with him in glory, who with you and the Holy Spirit is alive, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Happy Easter everyone. Alleluia!
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, and Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Alleluia! The Lord is risen indeed: O come, let us worship!
To mark the beginning of Easter on this the holy night when Jesus was raised from the dead, here is an At-Home Easter Vigil service prepared for households to celebrate together by the Diocese of Brandon.
It is the same resource that we used as a Parish last year, intended to be used around the evening mealtime, as Easter officially begins this evening.
The Gospel reading (found on page 6) is the only piece of the service which is out of order. Instead of Matthew 28:1-10, the Gospel reading for this year is Mark 16:1-8, which has been included below.
May the Risen Lord Jesus Christ bless you, and be with you always. Amen.
"When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." (Mark 16:1–8).
Christ became obedient unto death: O come, let us worship.
Here are our At-Home Worship resources for Good Friday:
Here are our Songs for this service:
And here is a link to our Stations of the Cross video, featuring the paintings of Fr. Sieger Köder:
Maundy Thursday is upon us:
The night in which our Lord Jesus Christ instituted Holy Communion
through sharing this sacred meal with His disciples.
The night He washed their feet, and taught them to love one another.
The night He was betrayed, and allowed Himself to be arrested.
The night He was abandoned, and yet remained faithful to the end.
Though we are not gathering together at St. Luke's Gondola Point this evening to celebrate this sacred night,
we can still remember and mark this moment through worship and prayer.
Please find below our At-Home Worship resources for Maundy Thursday:
Here are our Songs for this service:
Traditionally, after a Maundy Thursday service and in preparation for Good Friday, the vessels, hangings, and other items in the Church would be removed. While this significant act is difficult to replicate for those using At-Home resources, here is a video recording of Rev. Rob clearing the Altar at St. Luke's Church.
(It may be worthwhile playing some contemplative / prayerful music if you wish to watch the video, as it is performed in relative silence).
Scripture Readings: Psalm 118:1–2, 19–29 | Mark 11:1–11
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
It’s hard to believe that Palm Sunday is upon us once again. Through the last forty days of Lent, we’ve been on this journey together, preparing our hearts for the message of Holy Week, which we celebrate each year. This is my second Palm Sunday hear at St. Luke’s… and it’s also the second beginning of Holy Week that we’ve marked since the start of this pandemic. And while I hope to celebrate many more Palm Sunday’s together with you, I think we are all hoping that this is our last one with COVID-19 in the mix.
How many times over this past year have we said or thought: “I can’t wait ‘til this is over!”? I’m willing to guess, more than a few… hundred, that is. Despite all of the good things that we have to be thankful for, there’s a real longing for what we have lost: the sense of stability, security… what seems like at times our whole way of life. And so we look ahead for signs of hope: available vaccines, decreasing active case numbers, old routines resuming, stirring up anticipation that some change is on the way. And while there are lots of different ideas about how we should all be move forward … whether we want to get ‘Back to Normal’, or to ‘Build Back even Better’... one thing most of us agree on is that we don’t want this to go on much longer. We’d all like this pandemic to come to an end… and better yet, to end NOW!
This is all completely natural. A very normal response to some incredibly challenging times for our entire planet. But what if, in the midst of our anticipation, we’re also missing something important? What if our minds are so fixated on a certain kind of hope that we’re unable to notice an even greater reason to be excited?
Today, as I mentioned before, Christians around the world mark the beginning of Holy Week: the time when the most significant part of the Gospel story takes shape. It begins today, Palm Sunday, where we join along with the crowds mentioned in our Gospel passage this morning, praising God and cheering as Jesus of Nazareth arrives, riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. It is a day full of celebration, anticipation, and excitement… where hopes are raised that finally things are all about to change. Finally, life will be sorted out… it’ll all be set to rights. Finally, God’s kingdom is coming, on earth as in heaven.
Of course, the crowds in Jerusalem that day, were not dealing with a pandemic… (not much social distancing being practiced, by the sounds of it), but they were dealing with many challenges most of us have never had to face: the pains oppression, living under the rule of violent Empires. Though they had once had their own nations, Israel and Judah had lost it all… and now those who remained were living under the cruel kingdoms of the world.
In a lot of ways, that sentence describes much of the history of God’s people. Early on in their story, the Living God had rescued them from Egypt, where they had been living for centuries as the slaves of Pharaoh. Set free to be God’s people, to share in God’s reign of goodness and love, Israel was led to a land of their own, a land full of blessings. But far from ideal, their time in the land was filled with many ups and downs… of moments when they were in sync with God, but more often when they were not. Eventually, their own kingdom is divided into two, and both fall into wickedness, corruption, and unfaithfulness. Though the LORD had warned His people that this path would lead to dark consequences, both kingdoms would find themselves overthrown, and carried away into Exile. Only the Southern Kingdom, the people of Judah, would one day return to their land, yet even then, they were still being ruled by oppressive, powerful nations: Babylon, the Medes and the Persians, the Greeks, and finally, the Romans. Yet through all this time, they were offered the hope that God faithfulness would endure… that He would not abandon them forever, but would one day rescue them again, just as He did when they were powerless slaves in Egypt, long ago. God’s promise of a Messiah, a chosen descendant of King David who would bring God’s good Kingdom at last was something that gave them courage and strength… as they learned to live as God’s people after their whole way of life had been lost… after their sense of security, and stability had been all but destroyed by centuries of living under the threat of various vicious kingdoms.
At the time of our Gospel reading today, in the first century AD, there was a whole range of different ideas about how to best prepare for the arrival of God’s kingdom. Some focussed on a renewed obedience to the Laws of the Covenant. If the Exile and subsequent sufferings were the result of their own unfaithfulness, then some, like the Pharisees, figured the best way to bring about God’s kingdom was to double down on strict adherence to their religious duties. On the other side of the spectrum, were those who embraced the new situation… who endeared themselves to those in power, and sought to gain their favour. Awaiting God’s kingdom for them looked more like pragmatic survival: compromising with the existing kingdoms of the world, and settling for whatever positions and status their masters were willing to offer. The Herodians, and even some of the Temple leaders had taken this route, finding security, and stability from the hands of their overlords.
A third approach was that of pursuing radical revolution: rising up fight against their powerful oppressors! Many would-be Messiah’s had tried this tact… but most ended up in bloodshed. Yet even so, some still thought that the best way forward was through the sword.
And finally, there were also a whole lot of people who were just hungry for change. They had no obvious politics, no agenda or plan to follow. They were just bearing the weight of oppression, and wanting that burden to end. Like their ancestors in Egypt, all those long centuries ago, many in Jesus’s day were simply crying out to God for deliverance, longing for an end to their sufferings, and for a whole new life to begin. And just like He heard His people’s cries for deliverance all those years before, the Living God had come to set them free in ways they could never imagine.
And so we heard today that Jesus entered Jerusalem, the capital city of God’s people, at the time when the week-long celebration of Passover was about to begin. He came along with pilgrims from all over the Near East were arriving to remember together the LORD’s great act of salvation in their past: His rescuing them from oppression in Egypt, and especially the final, terrible plague where all of the firstborn of Egypt died… while a lamb was slain so that Israelite families would be passed-over, and find a whole New Life with God. Jesus had come to what was left of Israel in those days, the survivors of the kingdom of Judah, after years of exile and suffering… the descendants of the people God had saved from slavery in Egypt, and He had shared with them the Good News of God’s Kingdom coming again, but in ways they had not anticipated, and which didn’t fit into their plans.
Jesus came among them as One who was able to bring God’s healing into their lives: miraculously restoring life and wholeness to all those who were suffering, but also pushing the boundaries, and the nerves, of those with influence. Jesus came among them teaching about what it looks like to live in God’s Kingdom here and now, but in ways which all too often exposed hypocritical hearts. Jesus came among them, offering them a whole new way of life, but instead of stability and security, he spoke about loving even our enemies, finding greatness through humility, seeking forgiveness instead of retaliation… picking up crosses and following Him.
The Kingdom Christ is concerned with, the Kingdom of God… one meant to be lived out here on earth, as it is in Heaven, was simply not what they, or even we, would have imagined, but it is God’s response to all our cries of longing, and pain, and hope. “Hosanna!” ‘God Save Now!’ the crowds had called out as Jesus arrived among them. And often our own aching hearts could echo that very same cry today.
But the question is: how will we receive God’s response to our cries through Jesus, His Son? Even if it is not at all what we had anticipated, will we trust that the LORD knows what we need most, beyond what we could ask or imagine?
The rest of Holy Week reveals God’s Kingdom coming about at last: Christ’s humble service and communion shared at the table on Maundy Thursday; prayer in the midst of temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane; faithfulness even while being betrayed, with Judas’ kiss, and Peter’s denial; courage and integrity when falsely accused and unjustly condemned by the Jewish Council and the Gentile Courts; the ultimate act of self-giving love as Christ was raised up on the cruel cross; and God’s ultimate act of New Life breaking through death when He rose again from the grave.
It’s natural to get excited about the ups and downs of our lives. It’s good not to be too detached from the struggles and joys we all face. But let us not forget where our hope as God’s people truly rests: in what Jesus Christ has done for us and for the all the world, bringing God’s Kingdom to life, both forever, and now!
Let us not lose sight of the New Way of Life Christ has opened up for us at the cross: saving us, and setting us free to be His people right here and now. To be shaped by His forgiveness; to be guided by His grace; to be caught up in His mission to share God’s rescuing love with everyone. The end of this pandemic is something that we can all look forward to, but even this pales in comparison to the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. So today, may we lift up our hearts, and rejoice in what Jesus has done for us, and through His Spirit at work in us, may we join in His Kingdom work right now! Amen.
Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, commemorating Christ's momentous arrival to Jerusalem, as well as the beginning of Holy Week.
With the season of Lent drawing to a close, and Eastertide nearly upon us, we have been reflecting upon various biblical themes that help us understand the significance of what Christ accomplished for the world at the cross.
Here is a short video from the Bible Project that can help us explore the Gospel of Mark, and see how this Gospel depicts the life and death of Jesus as the surprising Good News that it is.
We will be making At-Home Worship resources available later this week for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday.
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, and Sermon for Palm Sunday can be found here:
Our All-Ages Song for Lent can be found here:
And our other Songs this week can be found here:
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
As we worship and pray on this most holy of days, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the beginning of God's New Creation, may we be filled with the joy that comes from knowing that God's love has conquered sin and death, and set us free for newness of life.
Our order of service for Morning Prayer can be found here.
Instead of a sermon again this week, I wanted to share with you all a poem I wrote a while ago, which you can find at the bottom of this post.
In terms of teaching this week, I commend to you this free EBook by N.T. Wright: Resurrection and the Renewal of Creation (only 15 pages in length).
"In this free Ebook, Professor Wright demonstrates how the common understanding of Jesus, his death, and the afterlife, is the product of a different philosophy than what the biblical writers present. He then unpacks a number of key passages from the New Testament to recast our understanding of resurrection firmly into the overarching narrative of the Bible."
You can find this EBook here.
This week's bulletin (for news and prayer list) can be found here.
And finally, we have music to go along with our service this week!
You can find audio tracks for our three hymns below.
Other online Holy Week resources are available through the Diocesan Website, and can be found here.
Many blessings this Easter Day, in the name of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ!
In darkness there we stood alone
Against the breaking of the dawn
We dared not hope the day would come
Contented in the shadow’s gloom
Our eyes were dim, our hearing gone
No arms embraced, we stood alone
In darkness there, our prison strong
Without a hope, we stood alone
Alone we stood, without recourse
Singled out before Your throne
No excuses, no remorse
No way to hide, we stood alone
But lo, what mystery? What grace?
The Judge of all judged in our place!?
You bore our burden, took our shame
Endured alone our stain and blame
You stood alone and offered up
Like broken bread and poured out cup
Your life upon the altar laid
A priest and sacrifice in one
You stood alone, but with Your blood
You cleansed our crimson covered hands
And brought us near, and raised us up
Now peace we owe to You alone
You stood alone while others fled
Before the foe that held us tight
No others dared to take Your side
No others joined You in the fight
From cradle to that cruel tree
You harried hard the enemy
And died with sinners at Your side
Before our eyes You hung alone
In darkness there You were alone
Swallowed by the shadow’s gloom
And with our futile, fleeting hope
We buried You beneath the stone
In bitterness, in sorrow we
At last could but concede defeat
And tremble weakly in the night
The day had failed. We stood alone.
But in that darkest, blackest day
That moment of our world’s despair
The morning dawned! The shadows fled!
Destruction fell on Hades’ head!
The love that bound Father to Son
Could not at last be overcome
And we, the captives freed from hell
Forevermore with You may dwell
Never again to stand alone
For in You now we are at one
With Father, Holy Ghost, and Son
Forever more we are at one
One of the resources that our Diocese has made available for use this Holy Week is a special "At Home" order of service for an Easter Vigil, prepared by the Diocese of Brandon. The order itself recommends its use "after dinner, but before dessert", once Easter has officially begun.
I commend this service to you, and hope that it may help us as a Parish celebrate the victory of God over sin and death, and welcome the joy of Christ's resurrection.
This video walks us through the 14 Stations of the Cross paintings by Fr. Sieger Köder, which depict various scenes from the story of Christ's Crucifixion. It is meant to help us prepare for a prayerful experience of Christ's Passion, with periods of both music and silence along the way. The video is about 25 minutes in length.
Good Friday Gospel Passage: John 18:1-19:42.