Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taking It One Day at a Time

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.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I love the idea that Mark (in words) rushes headlong and slows to a relative crawl for the final week of Jesus' life. Seems to fly in the face of maybe a common modern Christian tendency to want to rush through the uncomfortable introspection of Lent (what a downer..) to get to emotionality of Easter.

When I think on your questions (why enter Jerusalem, at that time, in that way, at all...), I first think of all the famous statues of "great" leaders (mostly, men, in this case) on horseback, militantly surveying the surrounding fields, claiming it, etc. No really the same image or message if one is on a donkey, I think - and instead, borders on the comical (in the modern Western vision), despite the Zachariah passage.

I think, though, that we tend to ascribe a kind of precognition to Jesus that probably wasn't there. I don't know if Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen, or what his entry would set into motion. Yes, the scripture seems to indicate that he knew there would be conflict - even physical - and that he faced his own death. But how this was all going to play out was, most likely, a mystery even to him and serves as a tremendous example of trust on his part in this "turning" towards the seat of power, Jerusalem.

In reading the Mark passage, I wonder at the choice of words - a colt that has never been ridden. Does this have any significance in Jewish culture? Roman culture?