March 22, 2018
Dear Lenten Pilgrims,
That’s an odd twist on an old cliché, but it’s good advice for any of us who are too quick to jump to Easter without moving through the Holy Week. Our stores may be stocked with chocolate bunnies and shrink-wrapped baskets, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Maundy Thursday greeting card or a Good Friday gift basket.
Our tendency to skip past the pain and move to the reward is evident all around us. We want to get rich quick, lose weight fast and live our best life now. We want the praise without the pain and the celebrity without the sacrifice. We want to skip ahead, foregoing the disciplines of saving, exercising, grunting, and sweating.
We want the finish, without the start.
Maybe that’s why Palm Sunday is so important. It offers a formal invitation into a week of discipline and darkness that we would rather choose to ignore. But such avoidance turns the empty tomb into an empty victory. As my seminary theology professor frequently asked: “If Jesus is the answer, then what was the question?” If Easter is a day of victory, then what has been defeated?
The gospel’s answer to that question is embedded in its narrative. Following Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem:
- He cursed a fig tree for not being fruitful.
- He emptied the temple of self-serving moneychangers.
- He confronted religious leaders who questioned his authority.
- He challenged notions of financial stewardship by praising a poor widow.
- He warned his followers of imminent persecution and called them to vigilance.
And that’s before we even get to the upper room. If we have any inclination to jump ahead to Easter morning, the Bible proclaims, “Not so fast. You’re not ready. There is much you need to hear.”
It’s captured in the words of Medieval mystic Thomas à Kempis:
“There will always be many who love Christ’s heavenly Kingdom, but few who will bear his cross. Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity. He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting. Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him. Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion. Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross.”
If you want to experience a truly powerful, meaningful Easter finish, then start the journey this Sunday with humility, repentance, and a renewed sense of obedience. And join us for all of Holy Week, not just for Easter morning. Allow the services of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday to stir your conscience and call you to discipleship. (For our full listing of services next week, visit our website.)
Through scripture, sacrament and solemn ritual, let’s experience the drama, passion, and power of the week that changed the world.
See you at the starting line,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
This Sunday, we are offering three visioning chats for you to choose from if you have not yet participated in one. They are at 9:45 a.m. on the Hyde Park campus, as well as 4:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. at The Portico campus. These hour-long sessions will solicit your thoughts and opinions on key areas of the Vision Team’s work, as we seek to discern together God’s exciting future for this church. To let us know you are coming, register here.
A GREAT WORKSHOP ON WORRY
A few Sundays ago, I offered a sermon about dealing with worry and anxiety. Later that week, more than fifty people attended a helpful workshop called “Managing Worry Gracefully” led by Dr. Corinne Zimmer. For those of you who could not attend, and would like some practical steps on how to deal with worry and anxiety in your life, you can watch the entire workshop online on our website. We encourage you to watch it and forward it to someone you might know who would benefit from it.