Our texts for this first Sunday in Lent are Zechariah 9:9-13, Psalm 25:1-10, and Mark 11:1-11. You may read them here.
The change of seasons is not just palpable in the spring-like temperatures outside this morning: last night, we marked a change of church seasons as we gathered together to observe Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Christ's death on the cross, a time traditionally used for self-examination, repentance, making a new start with God, and being immersed in the story of Jesus.
This year, we are going on a particular Lenten journey together as a congregation. Since Christmas we have been focused on Mark, the Gospel assigned to this year of the lectionary. In Lent, we will be sticking close to Mark as well--but instead of covering one chapter, as we have done over the last few weeks, we will be walking through Mark's last several chapters. Mark is the shortest of the Gospels--only 16 chapters long (by comparison, Matthew is 28 chapters, Luke 24, and John 21), but a whopping 40% of Mark's Gospel--chapters 11-16--is devoted to the events of what we now call Holy Week--the last week of Jesus' life.
Why would Mark, who has rushed through the first three years of Jesus' ministry in a scant 10 chapters, screech almost to a crawl and devote 6 chapters to a span of 8 days? Whereas Mark raced through stories with minimal elaboration before, now we are given rich detail--almost a play-by-play and definitely a day-by-day account of Jesus' final words, actions, and interactions. You cannot believe this is accidental--Mark wants us to slow down and really, really pay attention to every detail of Jesus' final week. Apparently, it is not just Jesus' death in Jerusalem that teaches us about the shape of our salvation--the choices Jesus made, the reactions of people around him, the things he chose to teach about and enact...all of these are worthy of our careful attention.
And so we will attend to this last week during Lent, focusing on one day of Holy Week each Sunday--beginning with Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on this Sunday. Why did Jesus choose the way he did to enter the city? Why go at all to a city that would only want to kill him? Why now? Join us this week as we begin journeying with Jesus through his final week, day by day, that our days may be more fully shaped by the life he chose to live.