Waiting Expectantly

So here we are.  Today, Holy Saturday.  The excitement and buzz around yesterday’s execution has subsided and the celebration of tomorrow’s fulfilled promise is yet to take place.  Today it is dark and it is quiet.

Falling between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday is the time in Holy Week where believers are called to pause and reflect on the burial of Jesus.  Like many of the events surrounding the final days of the incarnate Nazarene, the gospels do not agree on all of the details pertaining to the burial of the Son of God.   However, similarities do exist that provide still further insight into the character of Christ.

In all four gospels, the reader is introduced to a (surprisingly) rich disciple known simply as Joseph of Arimathea.  We are told that he was a “respected member of the council,” (Mark 15:43 NRSV) but not told which one.  It is clear that he had some influence for he convinces Pontius Pilate to turn over the dead body of Christ.  Upon reception, the burial proceeds in a rather traditional manner.  Jesus is wrapped in linen, anointed with fragrance, and placed in a previously unused tomb.  There are woman mourners present and the entire ceremony occurs in such a manner that the body can be buried before sundown in accordance with tradition.  With the exception of the reality of the person being buried, there is nothing particularly astounding about the process.  The story’s undertaker, Joseph of Arimathea, does however raise further curiosity.

Such a traditional ceremony is surprising from someone who may not have been a Jew.  Arimathea was an Israelite town and the council mentioned in Mark may have been one composed of Hebrews, however John explains Joseph’s previously anonymity by writing that his discipleship occurred in secret due to his, “fear of the Jews” (19:38 NRSV).  This fear may have been that of a cautious outsider or of a nervous inside betrayer of the faith.  Despite his ethnicity, one thing is made very clear, this man from Arimathea had money; enough money to afford a brand new tomb; enough money, and therefore means, to meet and make requests of the Governor of Rome. Here we find not the command to the rich young ruler to sell all of your possessions to have treasure in Heaven, nor do we hear anything about a camel or an eye of the needle.  Joseph does not resemble one of the nomadic twelve who gave up material wealth to follow Jesus of Nazareth, but that does not mean that he did not suffer.

The gospels also tell us that Joseph of Arimathea was expectantly awaiting the Kingdom of God. While other disciples we confused with issues of status in the afterlife and proper conduct in the present one, Joseph concerned himself with that which Jesus spoke of the most; the Kingdom.  A Kingdom in which the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  An odd thing to expectantly await from a powerful and wealthy individual.  But, just because Joseph’s suffering is not easily visibly identified, does not mean it doesn’t exist.

In the midst of doing ministry, it is easy to be consumed by visible need.  Jesus spoke frequently about caring for the hungry, poor, and outcast; the least of these.  However, Jesus also commanded us to love your neighbor as yourself.  Not just the beggar on the street corner, but also the CEO on Wall Street.  Grammy award winning Gungor express this sentiment in song, “Atheists and charlatans/and communists and lesbians/and even ‘ol Pat Robertson/Oh God, He loves us all/Catholic or Protestant/terrorist or president/everybody, everybody loved.”

We know not the specifics of Joseph’s affliction, but for someone who expectantly awaited the radical change of current circumstance, we can be certain that it existed.  There are no stories of the sacrifices of this man in response to his faith.  Rather we meet him just as he is.  While others are still reverberating from the aftershock of the crucifixion, this man takes it upon himself to care for the body.  We find him, on Holy Saturday, ready to receive the salvation of the cross, expectantly awaiting the Kingdom.

This inspirational word was brought to you by Ben Wright of Grace & Main Fellowship.

Palm Sunday Liturgy

The following is a liturgy/guide that was written for the service of worship and prayers held at Grace and Main Fellowship on April 1, 2012.

Worship on the Sixth Sunday in Lent – Palm/Passion Sunday – April 1, 2012

On this sixth and final Sunday in Lent, let us remember that the word the crowds yelled as Jesus and his disciples entered the city of Jerusalem was “Hosanna.” This word means “save us” and could be the word that we use roughly 2,000 years later to call upon this same Jesus to be Lord of our lives. But, we cannot and should not forget that it was only five days later, on the day we call “Good Friday,” that Jesus  was crucified and killed. Oh, how quickly “save us” can turn to “leave us alone.” This has been the story of the scripture from creation until this pivotal week that we have entered again today.

Today, we begin the Christian celebration of Holy Week on the day we call Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday—for there is so little separation in our hearts between devotion and treason. As we light this candle to symbolize Jesus’ presence here with us in worship, let’s take a moment to say “hosanna” in our hearts and humbly to welcome Jesus into the place to teach and guide us.

Lighting of the Christ Candle

The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Even as we journey to the cross : let us raise our voices in song.

Song: Baruch Haba B’shem Adonai

Lyrics:
Baruch Haba B’shem Adonai
Blessed is he who comes
Baruch Haba B’shem Adonai
Who comes in the name of the Lord

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

Psalm 118:5-7, 17-26
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
Zechariah 9:9-13

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
John 12:12-16
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

Group Reflection on the Scripture

Saint Andrew of Crete, the 8th Century bishop and Church Father, once wrote, “ So let us spread before [Jesus’] feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere braches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming braches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel.”

Prayers for Others

The Lord’s Prayer

Song: Great is Thy Faithfulness

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

Amen.