Preacher Pals, we’re almost there! Ash Wednesday seems like eons ago. But, between us and the Resurrection is a long and winding road strewn with processions, palms, donkeys, bunnies, you name it – we will probably encounter it in this crammed, emotionally charged week. So where are you in your Palm Sunday prep? And how does that affect the rest of your week.
There are some helpful discussions on both the RCL and the NL in our Tuesday Blog Post – check those out!
And, just for a moment, pause in your crashing about to let us pour you a drink of your choice, maybe even wash your feet if you’d like that – and tell us where you are as we enter this Holy Week.
The part may be subdued because of the austerity of the season, but you are welcome and, together, I’m sure we can help each other towards that wonderful promise of Resurrection.
This Friday Five comes a little late, but it’s a pretty universal one.
What are you reading these days? Any genre, give us novels, magazines, websites, newsletters….
you need not limit it to five if you don’t want to!!!!!
Bonus for links to where the items can be found!!!!
Hi, I’m Sharon Temple, and I blog at Tidings of Comfort and Joy. Martha Spong has passed me the baton — and the necessary hints and info — so that I can host this feature. Thank you, Martha!
I am looking forward to convening our wonderful RevGal matriarchs every other week as they offer advice and wisdom from their pastoral experience.
This week’s question is from a RevGal whose church’s United Methodist Women group has a really wonderful tradition:
Each February our UMW group draws names for Secret Pals. I drew the pastor. I’d like to give her a small gift each month. She is finishing the requirements for ordination, the mother of two teenagers, married to a UM pastor. Oh, and it’s a two-point charge. She’s busy. :) Is there something in particular that you, as pastors, would like to receive from a secret pal? (My usual secret pal gifts are flower bulbs for forcing, coffee/tea/chocolate, clever Post-Its/memo pads.) I can’t do anything quilty until the reveal because she would guess.
Thanks in advance!
Dear Secret Pal,
What fun to have Secret Pals! My thought is that you treat your Secret Pastor Pal just like you would any other Secret Pal. Have you gifted your SP in the past once a month? It sounds like what you have done in the past would be perfect–the little gifts and notes. Stay away from anything over the top. Have fun, and enjoy!
RevKarla at Amazing Bongos
Dear Secret Pal,
What a wonderful thing to do with the women in your church. It is hard to narrow down what I would like because there are so many great gifts.
Since it is a monthly gift maybe you could think of a simple gift that fits the theme of each month?
Flower bulbs in May, Suntan lotion in June, something patriotic in July, etc.
A favorite book a month would be nice also. Or even a thoughtful card and poem of the month.
Good luck with your surprises!
Dear Secret Pal,
How lovely to be so excited about caring for your pastor friend. I am a big fan of gift cards. My parishioners used to give me $5 and $10 Starbucks cards, knowing that I’d use them both for myself and for pastoral coffee meetings. Pens are always needed. Note cards are handy, especially if they are simple and blank. And for a special gift: a spa gift card.
Jan Edmiston at A Church for Starving Artists
Dear Secret Pal,
What a fun thing! I’m pretty inclined to respond to this as a person who is also a pastor. Your ideas ( bulbs, caffeine, Post-its) are just great.
I would be delighted to receive a bookmark, a thoughtful magnet, small note cards for sending, hand cream, healthy granola bars, a pretty pen, anything crafty, anything fun for my desk (colorful paperclips, markers—you could have a field day scouring a stationary/office supply store), a fun paperback novel, a teacup or coffee mug, fresh flowers, a gift card for a manicure…
This was fun. Thanks for asking!
Jennifer at An Orientation of Heart
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Our matriarchs had some fun with this one!
Who else wants to play? Add your suggestions for Secret Pal in the comments.
If you have a burning question about pastoral ministry or a situation that could use a couple of good ideas, please send your questions to askthematriarch at gmail dot com.
While Francis did write in poetic style, it’s not proven that he wrote the beautiful verses known as the “Prayer of St. Francis.” He did, however, write this prayer of faithful hope:
Almighty, eternal, and merciful God,
grant us in our misery the grace
to do for You alone
what we know You want us to do,
to desire what pleases You.
Set down your sackcloth and ashes for a moment. Pause from the frantic preparations of Holy Week bulletins and palm-frond-finding and Easter-egg-dying. Come and savor some ordinary joys from the blogging network:
…from the rocks which are
exactly what [we] need”…
…to the delight of a newly-baptized baby:
“When she looked them in the eyes,
and they looked into hers,
she calmed down and forgot her anxiety”…
(Faith in Community)
…to an afternoon walk in the snowy mountains…
(writing as jo[e])
…to the springtime return of birds:
“I wondered what makes [the birds] so much fun
to watch? I think part of it is the fact that
they always look so enthusiastic!”…
(Life, Gratitude, Faith, & Passion)
As Don’t Eat Alone reminds us: “The dailiness of our lives is distinguished by how well we pay attention to the details, how well we turn habits into rituals, how deeply we sink our roots into the commonplace. We live ordinary lives shot through with love and grace and mercy.”
Be blessed on this ordinary day, friends.
I will begin with a confession. This is my fifth time through the Revised Common Lectionary as a preacher, but the first time I will be preaching on Palm Sunday in Year B. In past years, I have used a Passiontide drama I wrote in 2003 based on the readings from Mark’s gospel. This year it will be used on Maundy Thursday, so I am staring down eleven verses that end in a peculiarly non-triumphant fashion. Perhaps you are, too.
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. (Mark 11:11, NRSV)
It was already late.
That phrase captivates me, and I think it may be the hook for my sermon, in which I hope to bring the listeners into the moment with Jesus and the disciples, to feel the tension and the danger of being in Jerusalem and under threat from the religious leaders.
From the Passion readings, I plan to draw on Philippians, which emphasized the dual nature of Jesus Christ, reminding us that he came among us “in human likeness” and “in human form.” At the beginning of Holy Week, it feels important to be aware that the one who would be lifted up lived in a human body.
What are your thoughts for Palm/Passion Sunday? Will it be straight up Palms? A look into the Passion? Or some combination? Share your plans in the comments!
The first decision about this Sunday is whether it’s Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. Is this a celebration of Jesus as a new kind of ruler, as the fulfillment of God’s reign? Are we celebrating his moment of triumph as he enters the ancient city of Jerusalem as a new kind of messiah? (Read the text here. Read what Working Preacher has to share with us here.)
Or is it Passion Sunday, the opening to a week of suffering and sorrow?
Many churches choose Palm Sunday. After a long season of Lent, of penitence and somber reflection, our spirits turn toward celebration. Kids, palm branches and trumpets all evoke the kind of rejoicing that’s rare in our faith.
Others choose Passion Sunday. It’s hard to celebrate when we know what the week ahead holds. A farewell dinner, lonely prayers, betrayal, public mocking, physical suffering and then death loom ahead. With that in mind, some find celebration hollow. If most people in a congregation miss services of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Passion Sunday allows for a taste of the somber before Easter’s joy.
In reality, nothing divides up so neatly. As Matthew tells the story, elements of both are present. He is careful to show Jesus fulfilling the prophecies of the Hebrew scriptures, riding the animals described in Zechariah 9:9. The crowd hails him with a formula familiar to pilgrims to the city, taken from the Psalms.
In an echo of the magi’s long-ago visit, seeking the child born king of the Jews, the city is again in turmoil. Some ask who Jesus is, and others answer “the prophet from Nazareth.” The Narrative Lectionary includes verses 12-17, which take Jesus through the day after his entrance into the city. Jesus adds to the city’s turmoil for a second day, upending commerce in the temple courts. Writing for Working Preacher, Stanley Saunders says that Jesus’ entrance into the city is one theatrical event, and then, “Once inside Jerusalem, Jesus engages in a second spectacle, a “prophetic sign-act” in which he sweeps the temple mount clean of those whose financial interests impeded access for all to the temple. The “cleansing” rivets attention on his words, which signal both judgment and hope for deliverance.”
While at the temple, Jesus also heals sick people who are brought to him, and hears the praise of children and the condemnation of temple authorities. That one day is a micro-view of his whole ministry – healing, praise, and upset, all packed into a day. Then he goes out to spend the night in Bethany again.
What do the “extra” verses add to our understanding of Palm / Passion Sunday? Is the real meaning of Jesus’ ministry found here, more than in the triumphant parade? Should we worry more about Monday than Sunday? Have we connected them deeply enough?
John Petty observes that Jesus comes into Jerusalem from the east, which has eschatological significance, but also mirrors and provides a contrast to the procession of the Roman army, coming into the city from the west. “The counter-demonstration of Jesus came from the east, the opposite direction. Jesus comes to the city not in a powerful way, but in a ludicrously humble way, inciting not fear, as in the Roman procession, but cheering crowds who clear his way and hail his presence. Sarcasm and irony are often the only mechanisms available for the oppressed to express themselves. The procession of Jesus creatively mocks the Roman procession.” Do you find an element of street theater in Jesus’ procession? How do we act in the world as we honor him with our lives? Are there places where we should be standing up to the reigning powers this Lent and Holy Week?
If we choose Palm Sunday, we look back to Jesus, and we also look forward. Like people on the streets of Jerusalem, we look ahead to the rule of the prince of peace. Sarah Dylan Breuer writes that “Jesus didn’t come to take over Pilate’s system; he came to replace it. When we confess that Jesus is Lord and Christ, the anointed king, we are leaving no room for the Pilates of this world.” If Jesus is Lord, and the Pilates of the world have already been replaced (although they don’t know it yet,) what will disappear from our world? What rulers, powers and principalities have to vanish when the realm of Jesus comes to life?
Jesus offers both judgment and deliverance, and the return of Palm / Passion Sunday prompts the question of which we need more. As a religious professional, mindful of the need for money to keep our church roof repaired and our staff paid, am I closer to the temple economy than I like to think? Is there a place where Jesus should be coming to judge me, and the “professional church,” as he comes again? Or, are we all to be delivered from all the things that claim our time, attention and money in place of God?
Where are your thoughts taking you this year? Palm Sunday? Passion Sunday? What speaks to you in a fresh way on this familiar Sunday? Let us know in the comments below.
I have the privilege to serve as the co-moderator of the Board of the Covenant Network, which is a group of Presbyterians who have been seeking unity, inclusion, and equality in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for almost 20 years. This past week, the PCUSA achieved marriage equality when a majority of our presbyteries voted to ratify what had been approved at our General Assembly this past summer.
Many news outlets ran the story, and I realized I was surprised the world was interested in the actions of the church. I spend so much of my ministry feeling counter-cultural and removed from the dominant narrative of society, certainly removed from the dominant message of exclusionary Christianity that makes the news.
So, when news outlets started contacting the Covenant Network for interviews, I was asked if I wanted to be interviewed by Cosmo. That’s right. Cosmopolitan Magazine wanted to interview a female minister about same gender marriage in the church.
I confess my ambivalence. My friend Brian got to talk to the New York Times and I got Cosmo? Didn’t seem fair.
I went ahead and took the interview and I’m actually quite proud of what they published. You can read it here. The article was listed below “18 Things You Should Know Before Dating a Cat Lady” and right above “Does Seafood Make Guys Horny“, which I confess raised all of my snobby, literary hackles.
It was what happened next that has me pondering the way I normally proclaim the gospel. Because the post went viral. It was shared over 1,000 times on Facebook alone. And people who would never have gone to Revgals or another Christian platform were willing to read my story on Cosmo.com. God’s mercy reached a different audience this week because I took the Cosmo interview.
There is a lesson for the church in all of this, of course. If we save our message only for the people who walk through our doors, who will miss the message? How often does our distrust of other mediums keep us from using them to share the news of God’s love and mercy?
Are our congregations getting out into the community? Not only to invite people into church buildings, although invitations to worship are well and good. Especially this one.
The Cosmo incident has me convicted that we need to be out in the community, being present with the people who will never walk through our doors to come to worship. Our congregation has tried to de-couple “evangelism” from “church growth”. In other words, we try to be where God is calling us to go–the Boise PRIDE Festival, for example–not because we expect the people we meet there will some day join our church but because God has called us to stand in solidarity with them and be friends and neighbors.
It is why we volunteer at the elementary school that is next door to the church.
It is why we advocate at the state house for human rights protections for all.
Yet even those activities are somewhat comfortable and ‘mainstream’ for us now. Those activities are more Time Magazine or Entertainment Weekly for a congregation who has been working at this for a while. What is our neighborhood equivalent of Cosmo Magazine? Where might God be calling us that will put us next to headlines and articles with which we’re not as comfortable?
As we approach Palm Sunday this week, I am reminded of Luke’s account of the ‘triumphal entry’ into Jerusalem. At the end of the story, when the crowd is praising God too joyfully, “some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’” (Luke 19:39-40)
The Good News of God’s mercy and grace is compelling. It calls us toward places we would not venture on our own. I’m grateful for the reminder this week not to be silent and not to place limits on where God’s grace should be shared.