February 25, 2018
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, and it sets the tone as one of ultimate victory and joy. The service begins with celebration as we re-live the entrance of Jesus as a King into the city of Jerusalem, the historical capital of the kingdom of Israel.
This kind of entry into the city was well-known in the ancient world. Historically, the “Roman triumph” was awarded by the Roman Senate to generals and their armies who were returning from a decisive military victory. Roman emperors would stride into the city on horseback with a giant parade, dragging along the spoils of war. As the victory party rode into the city, the crowd would join the procession behind them on the way to the temple.
Jesus made an important statement to the people when he rode into the ancient city on a donkey colt, a symbolic animal of peace. Like an emperor returning victoriously from war, he was greeted by the crowds with shouts of triumph and joy and waving palm branches, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). Jesus’ triumphal entry declares to everyone that he is King and Lord and that he will be victorious in his mission to defeat sin and death once and for all.
Like the crowds in the Gospel accounts (Matt. 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-40), during the processional we are invited to worship Jesus in all his glory. We see Jesus for who he truly is: our King. As we wave our palm branches and walk with Jesus towards Jerusalem, we experience Jesus’ eternal victory.
The procession on this day holds special significance because it is the beginning of one liturgical movement that arcs through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. Historically, the procession begins outside the church. The palms—an ancient symbol of triumph and victory—are blessed and then waved by the crowd as the cross and Gospel book pass by. The whole congregation joins the procession and enters the sanctuary together. (These palm branches are saved and later burned to be used as ashes on Ash Wednesday of the following year.)
When we arrive with Jesus in Jerusalem there is a dramatic shift. In the service, we hear the Passion reading—the account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The same crowd that was worshiping Jesus now turns against him, calling for his death. Again, we see ourselves in the crowd, realizing our own sin of rejecting Jesus. In the grittiness and length of the Passion reading, we realize the depth of suffering that Jesus endured for us.
The prayers of Palm Sunday focus on Jesus’ suffering. We are called to imitate Jesus in his humility and to walk with him through his suffering and death. We do this so that we might also share in his resurrection and victory—a victory that we have had a glimpse of in this service. This invitation is not to be taken lightly. If, by faith, we embrace the call to share in Jesus’ suffering and allow the Lord to meet us, we will be changed. Whether this is your first or fiftieth journey through Holy Week, the Lord Jesus is calling you to walk this difficult and holy road with him.
Join us on Sunday, 3/25 at 8:30am or 10:30am for our celebration of Palm Sunday. Click here for full service details.
This post is Part 1 of our Peek into Holy Week blog series. Check out the full series to help you prepare to hear from God during Holy Week. Click here to read the next post about Maundy Thursday.
April 26, 2017
Did you know that in our church calendar, Easter actually lasts fifty days, from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday? These "Eastertide" weeks are celebrated as a single joyful feast. This year, it's April 16–June 4.
N.T. Wright, an Anglican theologian, once wrote this about Eastertide:
"We are Easter people! We stand on resurrection ground. Easter is not only our greatest party (much greater by the way than Christmas, whatever you do on Christmas you ought to do ten times as much at Easter); Easter is the only reason we are here at all!
We should meet regularly for Easter parties. We should drink champagne at breakfast. We should renew baptismal vows with splashing water all over the place. And we should sing and dance and blow trumpets and put out banners in the streets. And we should invite the homeless people to parties and we should go around town doing random acts of generosity and celebration. We should be doing things which would make our sober and serious neighbors say, 'What is the meaning of this outrageous party?'"
Photo: Dancing breaks out at our 6am Easter service.
Every Sunday in Eastertide, we hear the celebrant say, "Alleluia. Christ is risen!" and we reply, "The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!" The full fifty days of Easter give us time to fully experience the joy and meaning of Christ's resurrection—the only reason we're here, in the words of Wright. Below are some suggestions on how to receive the gifts of this season.
Yes, really. Take time off of work, school, or your regular responsibilities at home, and set aside a "Prayer Day" to meet with Lord and enjoy the life he has given you. (Read this awesome Prayer Day Guide, lest you think that a Prayer Day only involves staring at a Bible in silence for 12 hours.) Since this is Easter, consider how you might creatively take a whole day to celebrate with God. Need ideas? During your Prayer Day, you might do any of the following...
Spend time reading and contemplating the accounts of Jesus' return: Luke 24:1-12, 13-35, and John 20:1-18 are great places to start. For a fresh take how to pray imaginatively with these accounts, check out this sample week of prayer from our Transformation Intensive class. It will jumpstart your imagination. (Applications for Transformation Intensive are open now.)
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." After a long winter (especially here in Chicago!), there are few things more enlivening than taking a long walk in the flowering woods. As you marvel over impossibly pink crabapple trees or the sudden green bursting forth beneath your feet, receive the Lord's gifts of hope and joy through the tangibility of creation.
Photo: Easter flowers.
Easter is a season for feasting! Perhaps you can throw a delicious Eastertide dinner for a few of your friends, bake a cake to share with co-workers, or reach out and provide food for those who are struggling. Even if you aren't much of a cook, you can find small ways to delight (ice cream, anyone?).
During Holy Week and Easter, did you see anything beautiful? Did you realize something new or receive healing? Or do you still feel stuck, or sad? Wherever you are, step outside of your comfort zone, and share with someone. When we share our experiences of meeting the Lord, we encourage one another's faith, and when we share vulnerably about our struggles, we build trust and friendship with those who can love and help us.
At Rez, we love stories, and we love walking with people through their stories, no matter where they are on their journey. If you would like to share a celebration story with us, click here. If you would like to talk more with a pastor, you can request a meeting here. If sharing your story feels too scary right now, you can try writing your thoughts to God in your journal, or simply listen to others share their stories on Sunday mornings or at our Celebration Night (see #6!).
We have a special tradition in Eastertide called "Holy Week Celebration Night." On Wednesday, May 3, at 6:30pm we'll enjoy music, coffee, dessert, and most importantly, spend time listening to and telling stories about how we met the Lord and are being changed by him. Bring your story, a dessert to share, or just yourself—you will leave with joy.
Photo: Easter joy!
Sometimes our Holy Week experiences can leave us wondering: what's next? The Lord always has more for us. Sometimes, that next step can be as simple as committing to attend church on Sundays. At Resurrection, we're in the midst of an Easter sermon series with two parts: Why Jesus? and Why Church? We have services at 9am and 11am.
For those interested in going deeper, we also have several opportunities for growth beginning in the fall:
May Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path, and the blessings of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. (Book of Common Prayer)