Dearest Members of Bethlehem,
“The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’” -John 18:17
If you participate in worship this coming weekend - in person or on line - you will experience a service with two distinct personalities. The first portion of our liturgy is marked by joy and celebration. We wave palms, march about singing, and it is glorious.
But then, following the children’s sermon and prayer of the day, there is a shift. The atmosphere becomes much more serious and somber. We exit worship in a spirit of quiet contemplation. The reason for this? This was the dramatic swing our Savior experienced after his “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem. One minute folks are shouting hosanna at the top of their voices, and just hours later they’re shouting, “crucify him?” Tragic, right? How could they?
Well, before we pass judgment… consider that participating in this complex worship experience might just draw us from quick judgments into a deeper humility. The passion narrative does so much more than convict everyone else, it forces us to consider the actions and decisions of Jesus’ inner circle.
Just think about Peter, one minute he’s proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah… and just hours later, when the pressure is on, Peter claims he has never met the man from Galilee in his life. Not once, but three times, Peter denies being a disciple of Christ.
These holy days are for us. The services that we will share on Palm/Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday will provide a few more opportunities for genuine repentance and serious self-examination.
What about our actions and our decisions, are they all reflective of our deep commitment to Christ? Have there been times when we have fallen short? Have there been moments when we were hesitant to share our faith? It is likely that you will answer yes to at least one of the questions that appear above. But there’s no need to get stuck there, instead stick with Christ through these days and you will discover the grace necessary to bring renewal and a fresh start to your life.
There is meaning in this journey… we have witnessed the people of God move from shouting praise to spewing condemnation and betrayal… we have a different path to take. We’ll walk with Christ from the Mount of Olives to Golgotha. And then, we’ll walk with Mary and some of the other disciples to the empty tomb. We are blessed, because our concluding shout of acclamation will be the one we’ve been waiting more than 40 days to say, Alle——, nah… not quite yet!
Question for reflection: What portion of the passion narrative do you find most striking?
Yours in Christ,
Lord, keep us mindful of your love; your grace, goodness, and generosity are not only a blessing, they are the inspiration for our lives of faith.Guide us through these days with your wisdom, light, and peace.We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.