Why is Holy Week Important?

Last Sunday, we began worship waving palms as we remembered Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  We, like the crowds, were all for him.  He is our guy we proclaim!  He is the one who will bring the Romans down.  He will bring us freedom.  He would change the world.  The days of oppression will be behind us. How fickle the crowds can be.  Human behavior today isn’t any different.  Our support for a leader can falter depending how the wind blows.  We prefer to follow the crowd than to think for ourselves, and so the festivity of welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem leads to a different kind of kingship than the people envisioned.

dali st john crossThis Sunday, we will celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord.  Churches will be filled as we worship the risen Christ who overcomes death’s grip and gives us life.  On Sundays we celebrate.  Every Sunday is a little Easter.  But what happens during the rest of this holiest of weeks, from the waving of the palms until the singing of Alleluia’s, looks a bit different.  From Monday – Friday, Pastor Tim, Travis and I might be with people who experience hardship caused by lack of financial resources.  This week I spoke with a woman who is unable to pay her utility bill due to her husband’s health problems.  She cannot work as stress has stripped her of an appetite and she has lost 30 pounds causing her to be drastically underweight and aggravating her muscle disease.   Recent weeks paint a picture of our church building filled with grieving families as a loved one is laid to rest.   Other times we may be visiting people who are in the hospital, nursing facilities or people at home dealing with chronic illness or facing death.

Your own experiences may see a week that is filled with joys and sorrows.  Sometimes we wonder, “Where are you God?” in the midst of the chaos, stress, relationship issues.  It is then that we realize we can’t do life by ourselves.

Holy Week shows us another side of God.  On Maundy Thursday, Jesus, aware that his closest friends will abandon him in the coming hours, eats a Passover Dinner with them.  It is an intimate meal where he shares bread and a cup, filled with love for each person present.  He takes this opportunity to teach them since he knows his time is short.  Jesus takes a towel, ties it around his waist, and washes the feet of each disciple.  This is a job that is normally designated to the slave in the household; not a leader, not a teacher.  So, Jesus teaches them what love looks like, and how love acts.  Then, on Good Friday, Jesus shows that love on the cross.  The crowds and even his closest friends are gone.  Hanging on the cross Jesus suffers humiliation, pain, and isolation from God.  According to Matthew’s gospel, Jesus cries the words of Psalm 22, “My God, My God why have your forsaken me!”  Soon it is finished; breath is no longer needed.  Death has come and his body is prepared, wrapped and placed in a new tomb.  Saturday is a day of silence, rest.  We hear nothing from God.  But God is at work in God’s way.

I find solace in a Savior who knows and experiences life as I do. I trust a Savior who understands human emotions, who knows humiliation. I need a Savior who experiences pain and suffering; a Savior who understands isolation and rejection; a Savior who understands me with all my quirks; a Savior who even questions and doubts God the Father’s presence; a Savior who died in all his humanness, but also will rise because he is God.  I find consolation in knowing that as I experience the highs and lows of life, and all that comes with it, I am convinced that nothing can separate me from the love of God – not suffering, dying or death, because Jesus, God incarnate, has been there and has risen.  I am convinced that I have a Savior who loves me, more than I can ever love him back.  I need Jesus each day of the week, not just on Sunday, because Jesus is about life everyday. Jesus gets right down in the trenches of everyday life and lives it with me.  I meet Jesus much more in the suffering and challenges of life than I may even be aware.  Holy Week shows me a different kind of Jesus, that’s one reason Holy Week is important.

In Christ, Pastor Pam Schroeder

 

copyright © 2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

A Place Called Home

When I open the door from the garage into my home our dog, Theo, greets me with a wiggly welcome and wagging tail that tells me he is happy to see me. I am home. When I come home my wife greets me with a smile and a warm welcome (as soon as she can get around the dog). I am home. I smell the smells of home; see the light reflecting off the walls colored by the paint we chose. I am home. My books are on the shelves, the chairs are contoured to me. I am home. To become homeless, well, that would mean much more than losing the roof over our heads. It would mean losing the place where I most belong in this world.

homeless jesusThat I have this place in the world that is so much more than shelter; that I have a home where I am safe and where I belong is a matter for which endless gratitude should be given. Sometimes I do give thanks. Other times I take it for granted and think of it as something I own, something I earned and deserve. That, of course is a lie. To have a place in this world we call home is a huge blessing and God’s gracious gift.

The Holy Scriptures that form us as the people of God have a deep reverence for a place called home. They also have a special compassion for those who do not have such a place. After all, the people of the Exodus wandered for forty years in a wilderness, hoping for a home. The people of Israel and Judah lost their ancestral home and were dispersed and exiled. They longed for a place called home. Jesus himself was born in a stable, because there was no home to welcome him. He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Paul, followed Jesus right into the street: “To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless.” (I Cor. 4:11) In the end, none of us really are home yet. We are on our way home to what waits. Until then, some of us have some pretty nice rest stops along the way.

Family Promise of Greater Des Moines is our mission partner. Next week we will welcome up to three families who are not just without permanent shelter, but have no place to call home; no place where the dog welcomes and the furniture and decorations say, “you belong.” For a week we will provide shelter, food and at least the warm welcome that you might get when you get home. We will provide a rest stop on a wilderness journey that, by God’s grace, will lead them home, a place they belong. Remember, it is by God’s grace we all have a place called home.

Help us provide for those travelling home by answering God’s call to serve next week through Family Promise.

Pax Christi,

Pastor Tim Olson

 

Are You Saved?

Are you Saved SquarePerhaps you have been asked “are you saved?” Perhaps the question seemed odd. Perhaps you were unsure how to answer. The question has invaded popular culture so much that it seems a lot of people, inside and outside the church, think that you can answer the question “Are you saved?” with a “Yes” only if you have prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” or have had a profound “born again” experience. Only if we have “accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior” can we know for sure that we are saved.

Are you saved?  It is an important question, but the answer differs greatly depending on your religious background.  There is more than one way to answer. Jesus provides a way for us to  answer this question faithfully (hint, it isn’t by saying some form of a sinner’s prayer).

In chapter 8 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus comes down from a mountain and encounters a leper.  The leper asks Jesus to make him clean.  Jesus cleanses the leper.  Through this healing, Jesus saves the man.  He saves the leper from not being able to practice his faith.  Unclean people were not allowed to worship or be around others.  The leper was cleansed, making it possible for him to have a relationship with family again.  He was saved from a lifetime of not being able to be touched.  He was made whole.  The leper was saved in that moment when Jesus cleansed him from his disease. Notice: Jesus did the saving.

Mark tells us in his gospel account about a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.  She reached out while Jesus was walking by and just touched his clothes.  The moment she touched Jesus’ clothes, her bleeding ceased.  Jesus knows something has happened (Mark says that Jesus knew power had gone out from him) and he turns to find out what exactly has occurred.  He sees this woman, who had been considered unclean and untouchable for 12 years.  He speaks with her and most translations of the Bible state that he tells her she has been healed.  Another translation says her faith has made her well.  One translation even states that this woman has been made whole.

The Greek word underneath the variations is sozo, which means to save.  All those translations are correct, and they all tell us she was saved, in a very different way than a lot of people talk about being saved.  This woman’s faith – simple trust in Christ – saved her, not because she said some sinner’s prayer, had some special experience, or assented to a doctrine. In her desperation she simply cried out to one that she somehow knew could save her from her suffering and pain. Notice: Jesus did the saving.

The sermon series for Lent is “Are You Saved?”  Jesus came that all might be saved, but what does that exactly look like? As a congregation we will explore the many different ways that we are saved so that our answer to the question is not just a resounding “YES!” but so that we can develop a depth to our understanding of what we are saved from and saved for.   If you want to hear more about how we answer the question, “Are You Saved?” and the abundance of ways that we are all saved, come to worship (or listen in on the podcast if you can’t be here in person). Notice: Jesus is the savior.

In Christ

Travis Segar, Pastoral Intern