Today's scripture passage is a traditional one for Palm Sunday. It is from Psalm 118: "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord....You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever."
I needed to read those words this morning, and also the words of the
reflection in our devotional booklet written by Neema Cyrus-Franklin, who
"When I was a child, the elders in my home congregation would recite
Psalm 118 seemingly every Sunday. As a 'preacher's kid,' I often overheard
the hardships faced by those in our church as my parents prayed on their
behalf. There were countless struggles and challenges: untreated mental
illnesses, homelessness after losing a job, discrimination at school and the
workplace, wrongful incarcerations and years of legal bills, to name a few. I
knew those in the congregation were living through a nightmare and I
couldn't understand why or how they could extol the words of the psalmist
amid such seemingly insurmountable odds. Years later, I understood this
lesson from my youth. At times, our world seems to spin out of our control;
out of our ability to will a favorable outcome. When I found myself in difficult
circumstances as an adult, I reflected on the lessons from my childhood. I
remembered that during these moments, I didn't have to suffer in silence.
During the prayers of the people, I gave my worries and my situation over
to God. We stood together, cried together and praised together the God
who created us to be more than conquerors. Life's difficult circumstances
provided for me and my congregation an invitation to meet with God front
and center--together. It was an invitation not to journey alone, an invitation
to an ongoing, dynamic experience of humanity connecting with God, an
invitation to the beloved community."
Wow. Hear those words from Rev. Cyrus-Franklin again. An invitation to
meet with God front and center--together. An invitation not to journey alone.
An invitation to an ongoing, dynamic experience of humanity connecting
with God. An invitation to the beloved community. Even when the world
seems to spin out of our control.
Dearest SPC friends, I am so very grateful for all of you, and the way you
all are an ongoing, dynamic experience of invitation to connect with God--
especially in this time.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. It has always been my favorite Sunday in the
church year. Theologically, of course, Easter and Good Friday and
Christmas and Pentecost are at the center of everything I believe. But I
love the way Palm Sunday is both joyful and defiant. I love the way it
announces who Jesus is with the waving of palms and children processing
and shouts of Hosanna--and also how it's a reminder that our Savior is one
who embodies truth and justice against power and empire, and who speaks
for the poor and forgotten. I love how Palm Sunday invites us into the
journey of Holy Week--that it requires us to encounter the whole story, with
all the pain and sorrow and confession--and yet still insists that we are an
Easter people who live in the "already" of that good news. I love that Palm
Sunday demands us to confront the hard truth of who we would have been
in the story--and still says that even we, just as we are, can prepare the
way of the Lord.
Friends, tomorrow, as we worship, I will be filled with gratitude knowing that
we are, indeed, together--building the beloved community joyfully and
defiantly. That none of us journeys alone. And that we meet with God front
and center through it all.
O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good, for God's steadfast love
endures forever. Hosanna!
Let us pray, using Rev. Cyrus-Franklin's prayer for us on this Fifth Saturday
"Dear Lord, there are times when I feel so alone and troubled. Light my
path and guide my feet, so that I may come to know and experience your
loving grace through your beloved community. Amen."