Woman In The Night: Weeping Daughters

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 23:26-31

 The role of the crowds in the gospel narratives is always in flux. They are people – like you and me. They are women and men. They are witnesses of our Jesus – of his ministry, his miracles, and his majesty. They are potential disciples. They become his supporters and fellow travellers. They waver through his arrest and trial. They join the opposition and shout for his crucifixion.*

And in this scene, they walk behind him on the way to Golgotha – the Place of the Skull – where Jesus will be crucified.

In the past when I have read this text I conceived that the crowd followed Jesus for one of two reasons. One – they wanted to have “the last laugh” when Jesus was, in fact, not able to save himself and get down off that cross. Two – they were curious and, not having missed any of the spectacle to this point, thought they would see it to the end.

Recently I received a different point of view from an excerpt by pastor and theologian Fred Craddock, whose words continue to be so life-giving for me. Craddock acknowledges that a mighty throng follow Jesus as he stumbles – bruised and broken – towards the cross. The people that follow him do so beating their breasts and wailing for him. Craddock connects this activity to the traditional gesture of lament enacted by prophets like Zechariah:

 And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one[a]whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn (Zech 12:10).

Craddock notes that Luke takes care to connect this behavior – wailing and beating one’s breast – to the act of repentance. In Luke 18 Jesus tells the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee praises God in prayer that “he is not like other people…even this tax collector” whereas the Tax Collector rends his heart, “standing far off, [not even looking] up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk 18:12-13). Jesus said, I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted (Lk 18:14).

I was wrong. The people did not want to have the last laugh. Neither are they curious. They are repentant. And they are committed. Their allegiance to Jesus returns.

And so they walk to the cross. To the grave. And – thanks be to God – from the empty tomb.

I look forward to the opportunities to walk with the people of TUMC this Holy Week. We walk as the foremothers and forefathers in our faith – repentant and committed. To the cross. To the grave.

And – thanks be to God – from the empty tomb.

Holy Week at Tuskawilla UMC

 

Saturday, April 13 – Easter Egg Hunt

9:30am – Gather in Fellowship Hall

Sunday, April 14 – Palm Sunday Worship

8:30am – Morningsong in the Sanctuary

11am – Here Is Love Cantata in the Sanctuary

Monday, April 15 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary

Tuesday, April 16 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary

Wednesday, April 17 – Prayer Stations

11:30-12:45pm and 5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary

Thursday, April 18 – Maundy Thursday Drama

Daughters of Jerusalem concluding with Holy Communion

7:00pm in the Sanctuary

Friday, April 19 – Good Friday Service of Tenebrae

7pm in the Sanctuary

Sunday, April 21 – Easter Sunday

Bring flowers for our Courtyard Easter Cross

7am Sunrise Morningsong Service with Holy Communion in the Courtyard

9:30am Easter Breakfast in the Fellowship Hall

11am Worship in the Sanctuary

Monday, April 22 – TUMC Offices Closed

Prayer: “The people of the Hebrews with psalms before thee went; our prayer and praise and anthems before thee we present. To thee, before thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise; to thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise. Thou didst accept their praises; accept the prayers we bring, who in all good delightest, thou good and gracious King. All glory, laud, and honor, to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.”** Amen.

*The People’s New Testament Commentary 275-276.

** “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” The United Methodist Hymnal 280.

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Once Upon A Cross

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 21:1-11.

TUMC celebrates Holy Communion weekly at our Morningsong Service and at each service I ask different worshippers to help serve Communion.

(This may cause anxiety in some folks…I hope not!)

One Sunday I invited John Rothrock and his daughter, McKenna, to serve communion. McKenna is in first grade and full of life. She skipped up to the table with the world’s biggest smile on her face. I served her communion, telling her that as she ate the bread and tasted the juice that Jesus loves her so much. I then carefully handed her the ceramic chalice. She looked at me with eyes half full of wonder and half full of uncertainty. I knelt down again, “As people come to you, tell them what I told you, ‘Jesus loves you so much.’”

Our worshippers came forward for Holy Communion and had to bend down a little bit more than usual to dip their bread into the cup. They all returned to their seats with the glory of God upon their faces. Seeing McKenna serve Holy Communion with her father is a memory I will cherish forever.

At the conclusion of the service I met McKenna in our church’s Family Room, knelt down, and thanked her for serving with her father and me in worship. I opened my arms to her and she ran for me with such joy in her hug that she knocked me to the floor! It suddenly became one of those moments where everything went silent in the Family Room until our shared giggles filled the room to a roar.

“Jesus loves you so much, McKenna.” “I know…because you tell me.”

It is so important to proclaim God’s good news to one another. Proclaiming God’s good news is a sign of our maturing discipleship, our growing in faith and in love of God. It is equally important for us to hear God’s good news proclaimed. When we feel alone or afraid, when we feel lost or ashamed, recalling God’s good news proclaimed can comfort and reassure us. We do not have to be a certain age or have certain skills in order to proclaim God’s good news. God invites all of us to share, to tell, to proclaim.

In the week ahead we will celebrate with Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, weep with Jesus in the garden and at the cross, and hope for our own resurrection as we witness Jesus’ empty tomb. On some of the days of Holy Week it is easy to proclaim God’s good news while on others it is more challenging. Be encouraged to speak God’s good news even when it is difficult. They are words that definitely need to be said. They are words that we definitely need to hear. Through proclaiming God’s good news others will know…because we tell them.

Morningsong will gather this week and hear a sermon entitled, “A Little More Than HeeHaw” and celebrate Holy Communion. Our 11:00 service will worship alongside the leadership of our Sanctuary Choir as they offer their cantata Once Upon A Cross. We welcome you as we begin our Holy Week journey together.

Prayer: Holy God, who gives good news, help us to proclaim your good news so that all may know your love and establish their hope in you. In the power of your name, we pray. Amen.

Holy Week at Tuskawilla UMC

Saturday, April 8 – Easter Egg Hunt

9:00am in Fellowship Hall

Sunday, April 9 – Palm Sunday Worship

8:30am – Morningsong in the Sanctuary

11am – Once Upon the Cross Cantata in the Sanctuary

Monday, April 10 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Fellowship Hall

Tuesday, April 11 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Fellowship Hall

Wednesday, April 12 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Fellowship Hall

Thursday, April 13 – Maundy Thursday Experience

A Taste of Seder concluding with Holy Communion and Prayers for Anointing

6:30pm in the Fellowship Hall

Friday, April 14 – Good Friday Service of Light

7pm in the Sanctuary

Sunday, April 16 – Easter Sunday

7am Sunrise Morningsong Service with Holy Communion in the Courtyard

10am Breakfast in the Fellowship Hall

11am Worship in the Sanctuary

Monday, April 17 – TUMC Offices Closed

Seven Questions of Faith: Is There Hope?

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 24:1-12

I spent time with my niece last week. Addison helped me prepare a side dish that our family would share at dinner – sliced squash and zucchini on the grill. She was in charge of seasoning; in complete honesty it was her idea to add the red pepper flakes, Anna and Gramps (Mom and Dad)!

(Okay, maybe not complete honesty…Addison had an accomplice!)

After dinner Addison wanted to show me her latest achievement. At the age of almost nine months, Addison is starting to walk. She has a variety of “push toys” that she can position herself behind and then totter all over the house. She pulls herself up and stands next to furniture. She will take steps while holding onto the hands of loved ones. And she loves to dance to the hot dog song, a popular tune on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

At times Addison takes steps without fear. At other times she is a bit more timid. What does not change is that she steps. Addison moves forward.

Mixed with fear and timidity, Mary Magdalena and the other women approached the garden tomb. The shadows that lingered since the Sabbath began are finally starting to fade.

Deep blue becomes gray. Gray becomes pale blue. Pale blue gives way to light.

And the women step forward.

They come to the tomb; yet, their intent on being there is not looking ahead but behind. They come to finish preparing Jesus’ body for burial and to their astonishment, Jesus is not there! He suffered and died and left his grave clothes behind.

He is risen, just as he said!

Confident of their next steps, the women leave the garden and hurry to the disciples. They witness to what they have seen, and yet many of the disciples, who had physically moved forward but were still looking behind, did not believe.

Peter is the first to wonder…

He left the safety of the disciples’ hiding place to venture to the tomb. He stepped forward, clinging to his faith.

Could it be?

It is.

We that journey with Jesus this week will take many steps – to the upper room, to the garden, to the governor’s house, to the cross, to the tomb. As we journey may we look forward rather than behind. Looking forward will draw our attention to the present moment.

Gone are the shouts of praises and waving of palm branches.

Prepare for the Last Supper.

Then prepare for death.

And once that death has occurred, my friends, do not look back at it.

Honor the steps that you take, be they fearful or timid or heavy or tearful or have some other character. Whatever their character, take steps. Be present.

And prepare for resurrection.

Prayer: *Merciful and everliving God, Creator of heaven and earth, the crucified body of our Son was laid in the tomb and rested. Grant that we may await with him the dawning of the third day and rise in newness of life, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.”*

*”Holy Saturday,” The United Methodist Book of Worship 367.

 

Atonement: Crucified God

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 21:1-11 and Mark 15:25-39

As Marcy said so eloquently to Peppermint Patty in a beloved Peanuts movie, “Duck, sir; Easter is coming.”  It is the week before Holy Week…otherwise known as the week to work and write and prepare and pray before we join our Christ (and pastors join their congregations) in the walk through Jerusalem that began with a block party and ended with a stone blocking the grave.

This year – for the second Lenten season in a row – Reeves will offer prayer stations on Monday through Wednesday evenings of Holy Week.  Each station – of which there are 14 – is an opportunity to read, reflect, and respond.

  • Read a passage of Scripture – this year based on places visited in the passion narrative
  • Reflect on a brief interpretation of the Scripture passage
  • Respond to the Scripture passage by prayerfully engaging an short activity

Today I gathered rocks, burlap, posterboard, markers, nails, candles, scarlet and violet fabrics, and lettuce.  I held the signs of Holy Week in my hands.

Intentionally selected.  Purposefully placed.  Spiritually directed.

These every day symbols take on a new meaning as they are manipulated.  The symbols of this experience combine to make lasting memories and bring a fresh perspective to the journey of Holy Week.

In the prayer stations participants will journey from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to Jesus’ anointing and Bethany, to and through the events of Jesus’ passion.  As I collected each manipulative and readied each station I have had to walk through each “place” – each “moment” of Holy Week – to make sure I have not overlooked something…like the need of a table or pen.  In the course of this day I have walked from branches waving and fabric flying to sealed grave and women crying…and Holy Week is not even here yet!

I need to back track.  This journey still awaits me.  It is not quite Easter…and as much as I want to I will not race to get there.

This process of preparation has heightened my awareness to all the small moments that create big moments as we move through Christ’s passion.  This heightened awareness, then, makes me ache for persons that will share in a Palm Sunday party one weekend and then join in an Easter celebration the next.  What about all the little moments in between?  What about all the big moments in between?  If we were meant to go straight from Palm Sunday to Easter, I am quite confident that God could have worked that out.

There is a reason that we have all the moments in between.  I believe they are intentionally selected, purposefully placed, and spiritually directed.

The moments that Jesus experienced in Holy Week – they are to give us confidence, strength in endurance, and hope when we find ourselves in similar circumstances.  Jesus held people accountable, Jesus was afraid, Jesus received praise, Jesus was judged, Jesus was defended, Jesus died.  Jesus faced all this and more.

Some may say, “Yes.  He faced it and it killed him.”

And I say, “Yes.  And then he conquered death.  So shall we.”

I aspire to walk and journey mindfully through the Infinal days of Lent.  I do not want to be in a rush to get anywhere or cross any tasks off my list.  I want to be my Jesus’ companion.  I accept the invitation – the challenge – to keep watch with him and pray.  And I know as I do he will reveal something spectacular.

Prayer: “O God our deliverer, you led your people of old through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.  Guide now the people of your church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.  Amen.”*

*”Lent,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 268.

Embracing Resurrection – Be The Change

Sunday’s Scripture Readings ~ Luke 24:1-12 and John 20:1-31

It’s Tuesday of Holy Week.  I am “in the weeds” of worship planning and studying and sermonizing for Easter Sunday.  Usually in The Sunday Stiletto I offer marinatings from the sermon to be shared on Sunday…

But this week…

I’m not doing that.

Why you may ask?  Because I don’t want us to race towards Easter.  In the liturgical calendar of the church we celebrate Palm Sunday and then the next week we celebrate Easter.  That makes sense because Jesus entered Jerusalem and then a week later he was resurrected.

But when these are the only two moments in the Passion narrative that we visit…well then we miss a whole lot.  Some of us celebrate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and that’s great.  I would encourage you, though, to back up a little more and marinate on the teachings Jesus offers us on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday.

There is some good, strong, firm, heavy, important, life-giving, life-saving stuff in there.  And the only way we know that it is in there…is if we take the time to read it for ourselves.

Remember Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey; therefore, he couldn’t hurry down mainstreet Jerusalem because the word hurry isn’t in a donkey’s vocabulary.  Donkeys don’t gallop or dash like horses.  Each step of a donkey is calculated and measured and intentional.  Their steps and movement are their own decision not the decision of the rider.  I believe Jesus’ four-legged companion and transportation device moved at a sacred pace, which is the pace that Jesus used throughout his ministry, making calculated, measured, and intentional steps.

Jesus continues this sacred pace in his final days.  For the remainder of this Holy Week I encourage you to take a page from the donkey’s book and join Jesus in their sacred pace towards Calvary, the tomb, and then finally a stone rolled away.

And do a little reading while you’re at it.

Prayer: Gracious God, as we enter this Holy Week, strengthen us to move beyond the festive parade of palms and to follow Jesus into the way of the cross, that united with him and all the faithful, we may one day enter through the gates of righteousness into the eternal city, the New Jerusalem, where we may praise you with Christ and the Holy Spirit forever.  Amen.*

* Prayer from Feasting on the Word: Liturgies for Year C, Volume 1, 131.