Philippians 2:1-13 (John)
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Sovereign, to the glory of God the Creator. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Matthew 26 and 27 (selected verses)
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
Will you pray with and for me? Eternal One, pour out your grace on us. We so often hesitate, torn between wanting to follow you and our own human desires. Give us the courage to do what is right, not what is most comfortable. Teach us patience to wait through the between times, until you are made manifest once more. In all your many names, amen.
We are almost to the end. The last week of Lent, the lead-up to Good Friday and then Easter....but we aren't there yet. We are remembering the events of Good Friday today because some of us will not be able to attend Good Friday services, so we include that today--because without Good Friday, Easter is not so joyous.
Palm Sunday--such a joyful day! Jesus enters into Jerusalem, the crowds cheer him, there is celebration and hope, the people looking forward to Jesus taking over and making everything right. They weren't quite sure how, exactly, but wasn't he the child of David, a miracle worker and wise teacher--surely he was the one foretold, the Messiah!
And no one more certain than he disciples. They had journeyed with Jesus, seen him do so much and teach so wisely...some of them had even seen him transfigured on the mountain, talking with Moses and Elijah, symbols of the Law and the Prophets, greater than either, glorified by God's own voice. They knew, beyond doubt, that Jesus would take over and make everything right, just as the prophets had promised. And so they too, sang and rejoiced in the streets.
And then Jesus is arrested--and makes no move to resist or run away, makes no defense when he is accused, goes quietly to his torture and death.
The disciples, Jesus' friends and family, are confounded and confused. How can this be? He has the power--why does he not rise up, why not resist, why not smite his accusers down, begin the revolution against Rome, become the saviour of his people?
We stand on the other side of Easter--we know already that the tomb does not mean the end. We can't really separate ourselves from that knowledge. But we can try to put ourselves in the place of the disciples.
Can you remember a time when you were in a good place, work or school going well, relationship great, things just generally seeming to be on an upswing, and then suddenly all the wheels fell off? I remember a time like that for me--I was in what I thought was a wonderful new relationship, I had found part-time work to supplement my time at the church, so I had a decent income, I liked the house I was living in, I was busy and happy...and then, boom, it all fell apart with the news that I had cancer. I couldn't even grasp it at first, it just didn't fit--everything was going well, how could I have cancer?
I think the disciples felt much the same way. Jesus had been teaching all over, he had more and more followers, he had been performing miracles, and showing in so many ways that he was Messiah. Things were looking good--the crowds of Jerusalem were even behind him, welcoming him to the city with celebration and joy. And then... a crowd of soldiers rushing in, the arrest of their teacher--they ran in fear, and hid, because it got even worse... Far from being hailed as Messiah, Jesus was crucified, executed. Everything was going so well, how could he be dead?
I know now that everything was going to be OK--no, chemo was no fun, nor was radiation. But I made it through and am cancer-free for five years now, knock wood.
We know that Jesus did not stay in that tomb--that he rose again on Easter. But the disciples didn't know that, any more than I knew that I would be OK.
Remember that this week--we can look forward to the Easter joy, they had no idea what was in store. Try to remain in that place of doubt and dread, for even a little while...because that fear makes the place fo the Easter joy.
in all God's names, amen.