Jesus Christ remains our center
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace, mercy and peace to you in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This Sunday, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week and the start of the most significant season of year. This time each year we return to the center of our faith to hear, mark and meditate on the events through which God has rescued, saved and redeemed the world through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
At the same time we find ourselves in the middle of a public health emergency that has driven our world, our nation and our local communities into turmoil. Everyday we feel, not only the fear and anxiety that has gripped us and our neighbors, but also the deep grief and sadness that has wrapped the world in dark shroud.
This Holy Week is different from any other we have ever observed. At no other time in our lives have we heard the Gospel speak its message of salvation and new life in Christ so clearly. From the Hosannas! of Palm Sunday (Hosanna, by the way, means Lord, rescue us!) to Jesus’ command to love each other as he has loved us; from Jesus' fervent prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane to his own cry of despair and faith on the cross; from the Sabbath grief of disciples locked in the upper room to the shouts of joy that Christ is risen, indeed! this year we have been given a unique opportunity to hear God speak and invite us to reconnect with Jesus so that our faith in him is nourished, sustained and strengthened to face long road that still lies ahead with a confidence, conviction and purpose that flows from the Gospel of Jesus Christ himself.
This year, it is necessary that we must set aside a number of our beloved and cherished rituals and traditions. In losing these, though, Jesus appears in our midst all the more clearly. We discover what is most essential: Christ crucified, risen and glorified for us! And, we will be reminded again and again that it is Christ who will abide with us and see us through this present crisis, together. We may miss all the things we did together in and around worship that made this season so beautiful and festive — the children leading the Palm parade; the intimacy of hearing God’s word of forgiveness spoken directly to us on Maundy Thursday, the choir’s leadership through a moving Tenebrae service, the Easter Hunt, the candles and procession and joy of Easter vigil, the beautiful all out celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning with brass and choir and organ and everyone dressed in their best.
But we do not lose these things we cherish to this cruel virus, no, in love for God and our neighbor we are setting these things aside so that we can draw that much more closely to Jesus Christ, who remains at the very center of human existence. In him, we find salvation and the source of new and eternal life. In him, we find God for us and God with us. In him, we find the grace that sustains us in this age with his very own promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God in him. By the grace and mercy of almighty God, we are those who are coming through a great ordeal, cleansed and redeemed by the blood of the lamb who has risen from the dead, holds the keys to eternal life and now reigns, enthroned at God’s right hand.
We are settling in for what promises to be a long battle against the COVID-19 virus, but over the course of these next 50 days, as we continue to work hard to slow the spread, protect the vulnerable and sustain Christ’s mission, we also have a opportunity to lay a solid foundation of faith in and love for Jesus that is the essential center of the new life we share, together and deployed.
While the events of Jesus’ life that we call Holy Week stand at the center of our faith, Jesus’ story of resurrection and life unfold over the course of 50 days and include Jesus’ ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. These stories witness to what God has done to save us from the power of sin and death and to establish God’s reign over all creation. From Palm Sunday through Pentecost, Jesus goes before us, revealing God’s heart, God’s will and God’s mission to bring healing, wholeness and life to the world. If the work of Lent was turning, letting go and trusting Jesus to triumph over the power of sin and death, then the work of Easter is to learn to live as God’s Spirit-filled people, sent as messengers entrusted with the good news of God’s kingdom.
This weekend marks the end of the old story and the beginning of God’s new story. Here’s how you and family can mark the season and focus on what’s essential: Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!
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