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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Church news, 4/1: "Passion Week"

On Palm Sunday, March 28, along with the Blessing of the Palms, we reviewed the events of Passion Week beginning with the first Palm Sunday. Fr. David first pointed out that Jewish timekeeping differs from ours and relates to Genesis 1: "the evening and the morning were the first day." For Jewish people, the new day begins when the old one ends, at sunset, and we have to remember this difference when looking at the events of Passion Week.

He also mentioned that all the significant events of the week happened either in Jerusalem, in Bethany (home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, two miles away), or on the way from one town to the other. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead quite recently and people were curious to see him for themselves. The Gospel of John states:

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out Jesus was there (in Bethany) and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him, many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (John 12:9-11)

"As we look at the events of the week, notice how sacred the Scriptures are to Jesus -- how he carefully and knowingly honors all the Scriptures as he instructs the disciples to prepare for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Sunday, just for one example," Fr. David pointed out. He added that the Palm Sunday procession was at once an instance of charismatic worship, with cries of "Hosanna" ("Save us, Lord"), but at the same time, "while the people were celebrating, Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem and the Temple, knowing as he did what was to happen later in time."

Two events are recorded for Monday of Passion Week: the cursing of the fig tree for its lack of fruit, representing Israel, and the cleansing of the temple. "This was the second cleansing of the temple, in which Jesus drove out people making money from worship by selling animals for sacrifice. Jesus reminded them that God desired the Temple to be a 'house of prayer' (Isaiah 56:7) and already told them their sacrifices were meaningless without repentance (Isaiah 1).

"Our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit, and should be a house of prayer," continued Fr. David. "How are you prepared?"

On Tuesday of Passion Week, the Pharisees challenged the authority of Jesus. He responded by teaching on many subjects and by indicting the Jewish leaders on 12 counts. Twelve wasn't an accidental choice, relating to the 12 tribes of Israel (and the 12 apostles of Jesus). In mathematics, 12 is called the "sublime number", making this list of indictments a strong one indeed. He also taught about the end times that were to begin at his ascension.

Wednesday was the day that Judas Iscariot devised his plot to turn Jesus over to the authorities.

On the first Maundy Thursday, in Bethany, Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with the disciples. He settles once and for all their constant contention over which of them was greatest by washing their feet, showing that the one who would be greatest must have a servant's humility. Peter proclaims his fidelity and Jesus warns him that Satan will sift him like wheat and that Peter, instead of being faithful, will be ashamed to admit his discipleship. "How often do we think we're better than we are?" asked Fr. David. "Peter's failure reminds us of the futility of trusting on our own strength."

After Jesus comforts the disciples and offers the High Priestly Prayer, they sing psalms together before going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The disciples are worn out and sleepy, but we see Jesus as "God and man joined in a moment of decision and truth," Fr. David explained. "Jesus prays to the Father that he would that the cup of death be removed from him, being genuinely human before expressing his faith-filled spiritual nature by praying, 'not my will but Thine be done.' Then the soldiers come, the arrest is made, and the stage is set for the crucifixion and resurrection.

"May we grow in renewed faith and love as we walk through this Passion Week with our Lord Jesus Christ."

NOTES: Walk with Jesus through Holy Week services -- Tonight, Maundy Thursday, 7 p.m. in the chapel of Reformation Lutheran Church, 111 N. Chestnut St., we will celebrate a special Eucharist, "Re-living the Last Supper"; Good Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Holy Cross Anglican Church, 615 Bay Road, Webster, we will join for the Tenebrae Service; Easter Day we will celebrate Festal Eucharist at 10 a.m. in the chapel at Reformation Lutheran with a special message, "Knowing Jesus and the Power of the Resurrection". The second Sunday of Easter, April 11, we will again worship with our brothers and sisters at Holy Cross in Webster, resuming worship at Reformation April 18, 10 a.m.

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