Archive for the ‘Passion Sunday’ Tag

Judgment and Mercy, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:   Triumphal Entry

Image in the Public Domain

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For Palm Sunday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everliving God, who gave thy Son to be a leader and servant of men:

grant that as he entered Jerusalem to suffer and die for us,

we may enter his world, follow his example, and, by his power,

live in obedience to thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Isaiah 59:14-21

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Mark 11:1-11

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In Christian tradition there are two ways of handling the Sunday prior to Easter.  One is to make it, for lack of a better term, the Reader’s Digest condensed book version of Holy Week through Good Friday.  In this practice the Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion.  The old Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970 follows the other option–Palm Sunday.

The imagery of God, victorious and just, in Isaiah 59, is powerful.  The passage, set amid disappointment after exiles have returned to their ancestral homeland and not found the promised paradise, follows condemnation of faithlessness and injustice earlier in the chapter.  To quote a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014),

God brings justice, which is good news for the faithful and dreadful news for everyone else.

–884

Jews living in their Roman-occupied homeland must have felt as if they were in a sort of exile.  This must have been especially true at Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, and the commemoration of their independence.  Jesus looked like the victorious messianic monarch of Zechariah 9:9-17 to many people as he entered Jerusalem as part of a counter-parade–not the Roman military parade into the city.

He was not that kind of king, though, as he said.

God brings justice for the faithful.  Sometimes this entails extravagant mercy, even for the purpose of repentance  At the same time this constitutes catastrophe for others.  Why God throws the book, so to speak, at some enemies and converts others may prove to be confusing.  Yet divine judgment is superior to human judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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A Faithful Response, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Triumphal Entry

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Liturgy of the Palms:

Matthew 21:1-11

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Eucharistic Liturgy:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:1-13

Matthew 27:1-66

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Rejoice, heart and soul, daughter of Zion!

Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem!

See now, your king comes to you;

he is victorious, he is triumphant,

humble and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He will banish chariots from Ephraim

and horses from Jerusalem;

the bow of war will be banished.

He will proclaim peace for the nations.

His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,

from the River to the ends of the earth.

–Zechariah 9:9–10, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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The author of the Gospel of Matthew invoked that image of the triumphant Messiah on the Day of the Lord when crafting the account of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  The procession was just one parade into the city that day; there was also a Roman military parade.  The separation of religion, state, and oppression did not exist, especially in Jerusalem during the time of Passover, the annual celebration of God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  At the first Passover animal blood prompted the angel of death to pass over the Hebrew homes and delivered Hebrews from the consequences of sins of Egyptians.

Two of the assigned readings seem ironic on Palm/Passion Sunday.  Isaiah 50:4-11, set in the context of the latter days of the Babylonian Exile, teaches that (1) the Hebrew nation’s suffering was just, and (2) righteous exiles accepted that.  Yet we Christians hold that Jesus was blameless, without sin.  The suffering author of Psalm 31 ultimately affirms trust in God.  Yet we read in Matthew 27 that Jesus perceived that God had forsaken him.  My analysis is twofold:  (1) Many passages of scripture prove to be appropriate for a variety of circumstances, and (2) much of the Biblical narrative is paradoxical.

Philippians 2 and Matthew 27, taken together, affirm the humility and obedience of Jesus.  We should follow Christ’s example, we read in Philippians 2.  That is a high calling, and perhaps a fatal one.

The vision of Zechariah 9:9-10 has yet to become reality.  Until then we must trust in God, despite how foolish doing so might seem, and persevere in humility and obedience to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/devotion-for-the-sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-a-humes/

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Scapegoating, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR PASSION SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, who by the passion of your blessed Son has made

the instrument of shameful death to be to us the means of life and peace:

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss;

for the sake of the same your Son our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 98

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Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13

Psalm 6

Hebrews 9:11-14

John 11:47-53

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The old Methodist lectionary from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965) has two sets of readings for the same Sunday–Palm/Passion Sunday.  The older tradition is to treat the Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week as a synopsis of that week.  That is what we have here.  Tailoring the observance of this Sunday is to be Palm Sunday–simply starting Holy Week–is what we will have in the next post.

We have sad and blood-soaked readings, as we should for Passion Sunday.  Genesis 22 offers the horrible story of Abraham nearly killing Isaac, his son.  We read previously in Genesis of Abraham negotiating with God for the lives of strangers (18:22-33), but we do not read of him doing the same for the life of his son.  The author of Psalm 6 is a severely ill person pleading for continued life.  Hebrews 9:11-14 reminds us of the power of the blood of Christ.  We read of the plot to scapegoat Jesus in John 11:47-53.  This is consistent with Luke  23, which emphasizes the innocence of Jesus and therefore the injustice of his crucifixion.

A scapegoat saves Isaac in Genesis 22 yet another scapegoat dies at Calvary.  I recall reading about the ultimate failure of the plot of Caiaphas to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple, for I remember reading about the First Jewish War a few decades later.  Scapegoating is a generally nasty practice, one that usually seeks to pervert justice.  One lesson of the scapegoating and crucifixion of Jesus is that we ought to abandon the practice of seeking scapegoats.

Another lesson is that God can work through human perfidy to fulfill divine purposes.  In the Gospel of John the crucifixion of Jesus is his glorification.  The insidious plot of Caiaphas, therefore, works for a higher purpose, despite the intentions of the high priest.  That is a fine example of the sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part I: Misunderstanding Events   1 comment

christ-pantocrator-02

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 8:1-32

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Hebrews 1:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

Hebrews 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/proper-22-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-monday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Exodus 7:26-8:28 in Jewish and Roman Catholic Bibles equals Exodus 8:1-32 in Protestant ones.  So the Exodus citation in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary refers to the Protestant versification.

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With this post I turn to that part of the LCMS daily lectionary (2006 version) which pairs the Book of Exodus and the Letter to the Hebrews.  The epistle belongs to the Pauline tradition without St. Paul being its author.  Origen, my favorite excommunicated theologian, wrote in the 200s,

As to who wrote the epistle, only God knows.

The epistle opens by explaining the superiority of Jesus:

He is the reflection of God’s glory and bears the impress of God’s own being, sustaining all things by his powerful command; and now that he has purged sins away, he has taken his seat at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high.

–1:3, The New Jerusalem Bible

Meanwhile, in the Book of Exodus, the plagues continue.  Frogs, lice or gnats (depending on the translation one consults), and flies overrun Egypt.  But the Pharaoh is stubborn.  He is the same uncaring character who, in 7:23-24, went home as common Egyptians, desperate for drinking water, dug wells.

How is one supposed to tie these two readings together?  Psalm 32:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) reads

Countless troubles are in store for the wicked,

but one who trusts in Yahweh is enfolded in his faithful love.

Were the ordinary Egyptians wicked?  No, course not!  They were no more or less sinful than anyone else.  So I have difficulty reconciling the God concept in Exodus 8 with the one in Hebrews 1.  Is the God who inflicts plagues on innocent  civilians the same one whose impress Jesus bears?

I think that a series of natural disasters befell Egypt in rapid succession and that the Hebrews escaped in the process.  I think that authors of now-canonical texts interpreted these disasters as acts of God.  But I do not think that God victimized innocent civilians.  No, that is not the God whose glory I see in Jesus of Nazareth, who sacrificed himself out of love rather than betray it.  We have begun Holy Week.  May we not proceed through it with a concept of God who attacks innocent populations.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Reasons to Apologize to God and to Repent   1 comment

triumphal-entry1

Above:  The Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem

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THE ASSIGNED READINGS FOR THIS SUNDAY

At the Liturgy of the Palms:

Luke 19:28-30

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

At the Liturgy of the Word:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49

The Collect:

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Sunday of the Passion:  Palm Sunday, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-a/

Sunday of the Passion:  Palm Sunday, Year B:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-passion-sundaypalm-sunday/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-of-confession-for-passion-sundaypalm-sunday/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-of-dedication-for-passion-sundaypalm-sunday/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-passion-sundaypalm-sunday/

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Passover was the Hebrew national holiday, the commemoration of the birth of the Hebrew nation via the passage on dry land through the Sea of Reeds.  Thus it was political, especially when Judea was part of the Roman Empire and a Roman fortress towered over the Temple complex in Jerusalem.  Vast throngs of pilgrims came to the city for that week, and more Roman soldiers than usual watched them.  The empire was relatively tolerant of religions–especially old ones–but only to a point.  And it did not tolerate insurrections.  If an insurrection were to erupt in the Jewish homeland, it might do so at Passover.

Temple authorities cooperated with the occupying Romans.  So even the side of the Passover ceremonies was tainted.  Thus Jesus, by confronting the Temple system, made his execution inevitable.  There was no separation of religion and state at that time and place.

That was the background of the Triumphal entry and of the rest of Holy Week.  It is easy to condemn long-dead people.  Indeed, many long-dead people deserve historical condemnation.  But may we not stop there.  Are we complicit in an exploitative system?  If so, would we be willing to kill to defend it?  Perhaps the answer to the first question is negative, so the second question is irrelevant.  In that case, how prone are we to bow to peer pressure?  Mobs cried,

Crucify him!

History and sociology confirm what experience teaches:  Many of we humans will do in groups what we will never do alone.  So, one way or another or both, we have reasons to apologize to God and repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-c/

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Expectations   1 comment

Above:  Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem

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THE ASSIGNED READINGS FOR THIS SUNDAY

At the Liturgy of the Palms:

Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

At the Liturgy of the Word:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:5-11

Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39, (40-47)

The Collect:

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

Sunday of the Passion:  Palm Sunday, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-a/

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Palm Sunday is liturgically unusual.  It sits at the beginning of Holy Week yet summarizes said week.  During the rest of the week one reads of various events ranging from the cleansing of the Temple to the Last Supper to the crucifixion to the interment in the tomb.  So there is much redundancy in the full observance of Holy Week.  The designers of the Revised Common Lectionary seem to have arranged the readings for Palm Sunday so that one can skip the intervening days and proceed directly to Easter Sunday.

Historical scholarship reveals the presence of a variety of expectations as to what a Messiah would do and how he would do it at the time of Jesus.  Some Jews did not even expect a Messiah.  But many Jews looked for a national liberator, for they lived under occupation.  Passover, the annual celebration of the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt brought many pilgrims to Jerusalem, raised the political stakes, and made Rome nervous.  If someone were to begin a revolution, he might do it at Passover.

What did the cheering crowds expect of Jesus?  What did the Roman guards think as they watched the Triumphal Entry?  For that matter, what do we ant Jesus to be and fear that he might be?  If Jesus does not match our expectations, the problem lies within us, not him.  If there is a misunderstanding, we are confused party.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

 JULY 28, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIEST, 1974 AND 1975

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO VIVALDI, COMPOSER

THE FEAST JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-b/

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Holy Week Begins   1 comment

Above:  Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

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THE ASSIGNED READINGS FOR THIS SUNDAY

At the Liturgy of the Palms:

Matthew 2:1-11

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

At the Liturgy of the Word:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:5-11

Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

The Collect:

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Passover commemorated the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  For the annual celebration of this momentous event many people entered Jerusalem, swelling the urban population for a few days.  Imagine the politics of this religious festival under Roman occupation.  This would be the optimal time for someone to proclaim himself the great liberator of the Jews from foreign rule in their homeland.

The Roman Empire had a relatively tolerant policy toward religions, permitting the Jews special privileges.  Yet this tolerance had definite limits, including rebellion or the appearance thereof.

Now that I have set the historical stage the events of the following days through Good Friday, which this Sunday sums up, make great sense.  The political waters were turbulent, and the best way for Jesus to have survived that week was to keep a low profile.  He did no such thing.

Many of those who hailed Jesus as a conquering hero on one day yelled “Crucify him!” later in the week.  He came, sending overt symbols contrary to the Messiah-as-Conquering Hero role, but that did not matter to many during the Triumphal Entry.  During the next few days Jesus acted against the interests of religious leaders cheating the devout and collaborating with the Roman occupiers.  He was going to die, for that at least.  It was a great injustice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SADHU SUNDAR SINGH, TEACHER AND EVANGELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-a/

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