Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Grotesque Cross ~ Palm Sunday Service

Pastor Shannon’s introductory remarks went longer than usual and carried a degree of passion in his heart that is difficult to convey here as we begin Holy Week. He spoke about the great disconnect between the celebratory mood as Jesus entered the Holy City amidst waving palms and adulation on Palm Sunday, and the event just a handful of days later when He was crucified on a lonely hill. Pastor Shannon invited us to enter into the events of this week.

He then shared a story by Flannery O’Connor, a significant literary figure of the last century. O’Connor said that all too often Christians tend to minimize the grotesque and power of evil, which then diminishes the force of grace, which is so great.

Why did God choose something so grotesque as a cross? In part, because that cross reveals His pain. In some way, He took upon Himself what we have deserved. And He also has identified with our pain.

Equally important, this cross is the path to our salvation, as He shed His blood to atone for our sins.

And finally, it is a model for us… to take up our own cross, the true path of personal growth.

Darlene brought us into worship with her meaningful rendition of The Holy City. Pastor Shannon followed with a Palm Sunday children’s message about the waving of the palms.

After a time of Scripture reading, choruses and prayers, Pastor took the pulpit to present God’s word.

“Before we can say ‘He did it’, we have to say ‘I did it.’ His death on a cross was required because of my sin.”

The passage today’s sermon was drawn from is found in Luke 19:28-44.

2000 years ago, this Holy Week began in a remarkable way, with great anticipation. Who knew then that it would end in a tomb?

It is believed that 2.5 million people gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover. On this particular week, an “old story” was swallowed up in a “new story.” At the Last Supper, Jesus essentially laid it out. “Accept it now that I am the Passover Lamb of old. I am the New Story.”

The passage begins with Jesus riding into Jersualem on a donkey as the crowds went berserk, waving palms and shouting, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The reality behind the scenes is that the disciples, despite spending three years with the Lord, were still failing to understand the significance of what was about to happen. Mark 14:12 shows that His closest followers were still self-absorbed.

These were the key leaders whom He had trained, having told them all they needed to know, upon whose shoulders the future of the church would rest, and they still didn’t understand.

Jesus knew what awaited Him, an excruciating experience, beyond torture, for He would be bearing away all the sins of the world. He knew, too, that for a time, in death, He would be separated from the Father.

But Jesus did not lecture them or get upset with the pettiness, their failure to understand the significance of the events unfolding all around them. He humbly gave instructions.

All too often, we are also like those disciples, moving too fast and missing what is important. This week, as we get caught up in Easter, we need to take time and make time for our Lord. Easter is more than chocolate bunnies and Easter baskets, or springtime and new life.

During this first Holy Week, the disciples were distracted, too. Jesus invited them to be with Him. Even though we have other things on our minds, He has us on His mind.

Today…. prepare. This week, do not let unimportant things distract you from the important things. Each day, find a quiet place and time. Read passages from the last chapters of Luke. He has gone to the cross for us, and has risen for us… for our salvation.

God is inviting distracted people to meet Him.

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