Sermon teaser for Palm Sunday

Here is the opening paragraph for this Sunday’s sermon. May God be glorified…

The holy bookends of Palm Sunday and Easter, encapsulate a holy drama that ends in a sure and certain hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the king of peace, is later mocked as the King of the Jews and then bursts through as the victorious King; one who obliterates sin, death and the power of Satan. We enter this morning in jubilation but leave somber and reflective as we contemplate the events of Holy Week. We enter worship this morning shouting, “Hosanna” which means “save us now” and leave hearing how Jesus does just that. The scope of this day is a microcosm of the holiest week of the year but may we not be satisfied with only this, rather, may we encounter the Passion of Jesus Christ anew as we listen to our salvation unfold and the power of death crumble into oblivion.

May God bless you as you journey through Holy Week; coming through the darkness and emerging into the Light of Easter morning.

The Pastor -|—

Holy Monday ~ Victory Is Coming

And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
[Mark 11:7-10]

Yesterday was Palm Sunday; the beginning of Holy Week; as Jesus rode victorious into Jerusalem. But as you begin this holiest of weeks I invite you to ponder this triumphal entry.

Think about it…

…Jesus rode into the city as a king returning from battle, but in this case, Jesus was claiming victory before the actual battle.  The cross (Good Friday) is still a few days away and his resurrection a couple days after that, but yet, Jesus is claiming victory now and giving hope to a hopeless people.

For you, here in 2015, the cross has happened; death has been defeated; and the victory definitely has been won and given to you through faith in Jesus. But now we wait. We wait for Jesus to return with a trumpet blast to bring us home. And as Jesus knew the outcome of the battle before it was fought; through faith we too can know the outcome of our battle in this life. For you see, we still battle Satan, sin and death. We still battle sorrow, pain and sadness. We still battle temptation.

But…

…through faith in Jesus you can know the final victory that is to come. Through faith in Jesus you can know that forgiveness will be declared when you confess your sins. Through faith in Jesus you can know that death will not be the end. That right there is hope in a chaotic and scary world.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:56-57 ESV)

Your glory in Jesus Christ is coming; so ride into and through this life, claiming the victory Jesus claimed for you through his death and resurrection; all the while, submitting to Jesus as Lord and King. You will still ride through dark valleys, but because of Jesus and faith in him, you can rest assured that green pastures and still waters are waiting for you (Psalm 23).

Isn’t it comforting to know victory is coming before and during the battle?
Praise be to God!

Awesome God, Jesus won the victory over Satan, sin and death through the cross. May that victory give strength and hope to us in this world as we look forward to and long for the day that we rejoice and worship You forever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Hosanna!

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Mighty God, as Jesus rode victorious into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday; ride victorious into our hearts today through the hearing of Your Word.

Create in us humble hearts to receive Jesus as King.
Create in us humble hearts to confess our sins and receive forgiveness.
Create in us humble hearts to submit to the Lordship of Jesus.

And through shouts of ,”Hosanna!”, may we see our salvation through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. What a glorious day, oh God. So receive our worship and send Your Spirit. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

May this Palm Sunday be a blessing to you as you shout “Hosanna!” to King of kings and the Lord of lords. And then as you enter Holy Week, may the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday lead you to a deeper understanding of the love and compassion and mercy of our King.

All praise to God the Father through Jesus Christ our King.

The Pastor -|—

Wave those branches loudly

Palm-Sunday

Wave those Palm branches to the glory of God and don’t be silent.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
[Luke 19:38-40]

Let us pray…
Loving God, we enter another Holy Week.  We will hear the same story.  We will participate in the same worship services.  But your story is anything but business as usual. The Passion of Jesus is anything but old news.  I ask that you may make this story come alive for us so that we can see once again your amazing grace; not old news but Good News.  We are sinners, O God, with very short attention spans and therefore we need to hear this story over and over again.  Work faith where needed.  Strengthen faith where needed.  And in the end may we seek you with our whole lives.  May we cry out to you in praise so the rocks will have no reason to take our place. To you who is worthy of all worship, honor and praise…in Jesus name…Amen!

Blessings to you on this Palm Sunday and during your journey through Holy Week as we approach the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The pastor -|—

Holy Week stress and an answer to prayer

Holy Week has been a good one for me this year, but there was still some stress for me.  This is an account of one particular stress point and the faithfulness of our awesome God who came through for us.

We have a number of traditions here at Salem Lutheran Church as it pertains to Holy Week; traditions I look forward to.  Here are just a few of them (that relate to my particular stress point this week):

–We have a large rugged cross that stands in the narthex during lent that has a purple cloth draped on it topped with a crown of thorns.

–On Maundy Thursday we strip the altar and bring that rugged cross outside, to the base of the narthex ramp and drape a black cloth over the cross beams.
[A cool story about this from Good Friday.  Our custodian saw a van flying down the street next to the church on Friday.  When the van got to the church and saw the cross at the base of the ramp he slammed on his breaks and came to a screeching halt.  He looked at the cross for a couple moments and then proceeded on his way.  This cross, each year, attracts a lot of attention.]

–On Saturday we bring that rugged cross back inside to prepare it for Easter.  There are rings attached to the cross that hold Easter lilies.  We then staple the palms from Palm Sunday to the cross.  And let me tell you it is quite a sight…as pictured below…

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…well…here’s where the stress comes in…

…on Wednesday this week my wife and I noticed that the Palm branches from Sunday were dead.  They were dried up and crunchy even though they were still in water.  The problem was that we forgot to cut the ends to allow the branches to soak up the water.  Now what were we to do?  Wednesday was already a stressful day for me and this was the last thing I needed.  One of my deacons came in and cut the ends and put them in water.  We prayed that somehow God would resurrect those palms for Sunday.

On Thursday when I went out to Belmont for Maundy Thursday worship I noticed that Belmont had a bunch of palms that they were no longer needing.

[cue the ligh bulb that popped up over my head]

I asked the ladies of Belmont if Salem could have the palms and they said that would be no problem.  Now we have palms for the cross and our Easter tradition can continue.  An answer to prayer.  Praise be to God!

Now…as I write this, people are up in the sanctuary getting ready for Easter worship.  There are families in the Fellowship Hall preparing for the Easter breakfast.  And I am here finishing this post and soon will be finishing my Easter sermon.  I sit here feeling refreshed from great Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worships.  I sit here feeling hopeful that our amazing God is ever so faithful.  I sit here looking forward to our Easter worship services (as tiring as they will be for me, but I never seem to notice at the time).

God is faithful…not because He “resurrected” some palm branches for us, because…well…just look at the cross.

Have a very blessed Easter Sunday and God bless!

-edh-

The Passion of the Christ

Happy Holy Week!

That almost sounds strange to say, but someone said that to me this morning…so why not?  I know Holy Week is about the last week of Jesus life; about his arrest, trial, beating, crucifixion and death.  But through all of that we get to celebrate his resurrection and the victory Jesus gives us:

Death has been swallowed up in victory!
Where O death is thy victory?
Where O death is thy sting?
The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the Law;
but thanks be to God for giving us the victory,
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

So…Happy Holy Week…

To kick off Holy Week each year, I have been showing the movie, The Passion of the Christ.  Yesterday marks the fourth year in a row we have done this.  Each year we get new people to come and watch; usually only around 8 to 15 people.  Last night we had 9.  This year I sent an email to the churches in town inviting people to come and of the 9 that came last night 5 were from other churches.  One particular couple stands out though.  I can’t remember their names right now, but the wife is legally blind.  I see this woman around town and have talked to her a few times so I think she can still see a little.  But when I walked into the Fellowship Hall last night I was surprised to see her there with her husband.  After the movie got going they realized that there were subtitles and she could not see well enough to read them.  I started feeling bad for her.  Then I heard something that made me smile and gave me goose bumps…her husband started reading the subtitles and read every single line to her throughout the whole 2 hour plus movie.  Every once in a while he had to describe a scene to her and which character was there and/or speaking.  It was a really amazing display of love AND ministry. There are so many things we take for granted.  The reading of the lines was not at all distracting…actually…it added to the movie for me.

After the movie we had a time of discussion and this woman participated.  She enjoyed the movie and thought is was very moving (even though she can’t see as well as you and I).    In addition to watching the events of Jesus life and death unfold, I got to experience the love of a husband telling the Passion Story to his wife.  I will never forget that night because in a way, I got to experience first hand one way the “passion of Jesus” is displayed and showed to people.  It is one thing to say that Jesus loves you and he died for you, but it quite another to display that love in your life.  This husband did that last night (and I am sure every other day in their lives).

I have seen this movie at least a half a dozen times and each time I get something new out of it.  Last night…I experienced something new…and for that I thank God.

I hope and pray you have a blessed Holy Week as we celebrate the victory won for us through Jesus death and resurrection.  God bless!

-edh-

“Nice try”

My Palm Sunday has gotten off to a rocky start…

…first off…my stupid “smart clock” sprung ahead one hour this morning for day light saving time (I normally get up at 5:45am on Sundays…not at 4:45am).   And…”yes, I know”…day light saving time happened a few weeks ago, but my clock didn’t get the memo.  But here’s worst/funny thing about this whole thing…I wrote a post about this a couple years ago about this happening to me except that time it was in the fall and I overslept by one hour.  One of these years I will learn my lesson.

Second…last night an April snowstorm moved into the area.  We were in a blizzard warning, but it never materialized into the storm the Weather Channel was predicting.  But even though this blizzard fizzled out, it was still enough to cancel worship out at Belmont Lutheran Church (my small county congregation).  Roads are still pretty bad out in the country.

Third…because these two events happened on the same Sunday, I am really out of my rhythm.  As I am sure many pastors can relate to, I have a routine each and every Sunday that I depend on.  I know it may sound strange to some, but this routine is important.  Currently I am in my living room watching Fox News instead of preaching at Belmont.  I will be moving over to my office shortly to restart my morning routine (if that is even possible).

But in light of all these mishaps, it is Palm Sunday…the beginning of Holy Week…one of my favorite times of the year.  And even though my routine got thrown off; even thought I got one less hour of sleep last night; even though Satan has thrown a lot at me today already…the Gospel will still be preached.   Even though today got off to a rocky start, I can still say to Satan…”Nice try”.

Have a wonderful Palm Sunday and a blessed Holy Week.

-edh-