Tag Archives: expectations

The Disappointment of Holy Week

Mark 11:1-11

…Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

(Read the whole passage here).

Sermon

The Palms have been waved, and Hosannas sung. Today begins Holy Week, today we join with anticipation as the people of Jerusalem greet Jesus, riding into town like a King. This moment begins as sequence of events that pushthe people of Jerusalem and us from welcoming Jesus as a King to only days from now demanding death. During Holy Week, we re-live and rehearse this movement, this change in attitude towards Jesus, towards God. We rehearse this movement because as much as we would like to believe it belongs only to the people waving palm branches 2000 years ago, it is an experience that we know too well. It is expectation and hope met with disappointment and resentment.

The scene of the Triumphant entry is not easily identified by us for what it truly is. The idea of riding a donkey up a dusty road covered in palm branches, into an ancient city does not trigger memories or images for we modern people. Yet, for the people of Israel the symbol that Jesus represented was far more powerful than we imagine.

For us it would be better to imagine a Head of State stepping down the stairs of a private jet, being met by the welcome of cheering crowds and a band playing presidential music. Or we might be better to think of celebrities and stars walking down the red carpet to screaming fans and the flashes of media cameras. Or a motorcade with little flags on long black limos with motorcycles and big guys in suits with ear pieces and guns under their jackets.

Jesus is not just some guy on a donkey, and the reception he receives from the people is not just an impromptu greeting. Jesus has been headed towards this moment since he first rose out of the waters of the Jordan river and that voice thundered from heaven, “This is my son, my beloved.”

The people of Israel too, have been waiting for this moment. They have been anticipating the arrival of Messiah. They have been waiting for a King.

A King who was to hear the cries of the people.

A warlord who was to oust their Roman oppressors.

A spiritual leader who would re-establish the Kingdom of God on earth, with the Jerusalem temple at its centre.

And so when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a steed, just like the Kings of Israel would have according to the Old Testament, the people believe that their salvation is near. They have high expectations for what is to come. They shout Hosanna, which does not mean Praise the Lord, but means Save Now. They believe that Jesus is One who has finally come to meet their expectations, to deliver on their hope, to save them from their problems.

We know this hope, we know this expectation. We have all longed for the one who will save us. Who will save us  from our problems, from our worries, from our brokenness, from our suffering and pain.

And again, we know the disappointment that will come. We know what it is like to have promises broken. We know that un-met expectations lead to resentment.

Holy Week is a reminder of this experience.

Holy Week is a practice in disappointment.

As much as we long for a saviour to come on our terms. A king from the house of David or a prime minister leading our party of choice. A warlord who will oust our oppressors, or a lottery ticket, romantic partner, job opportunity that will finally make our problems go away. A spiritual leader who will establish God’s Kingdom, or a pastor or program that will bring all the people missing from pews back to church (along with their wallets).

Our expectations for salvation. For our version of salvation will only lead to disappointment, this week more than ever.

This week, more than ever do we try to hold God’s feet to the fire for not being God in our image… and by Friday, Save Now becomes Kill Now.

But the disappointment is necessary. Because none of this has been about what we want. Jesus has reminded us all along the way, that our expectations, that our version of the world is not what he come for.

Jesus has come to do God’s work. Jesus has come riding a donkey, a symbol of peace, rather than the war horse of a conqueror.

And peace is what Jesus delivers. It will not be on our terms. It will not come by Thursday or by Friday morning. It will not happen in the Garden when Judas comes with soldiers. It will not be in Pilate’s court.

No, peace does not come on our terms. Salvation is not according to our version.

Instead, in the place where we have finally given up on peace, On Golgotha, where no one can imagine salvation. On the cross, where there is only death. God will deliver us from evil, and the King will finally sit on his throne.

On Good Friday, salvation will finally be on God’s terms.

We just won’t know it until Sunday.

Amen. 

 

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6 Things Pastors Actually do Love about Christmas

It seems odd to be writing a post on Christmas Eve day, and yet as we approach what are likely the biggest services of the year, it is hard not to think about all the stress and all the preparation that has been undertaken over the past few weeks.

As a pastor, Advent and Christmas can be seasons to dread as everything ramps up, as the struggle to keep Christmas from overtaking Advent is a daily chore, as the Christmas parties, visits and extra planning fill all available time slots. Pastors work longer hours in an already busy time of year, pastors are called on to provide extra services and find ourselves at centre of the Christmas rituals of many, rituals that are often full of demands and expectations about the perfect Christmas.

I have written about my frustrations with Christmas and there are other pastors out there blogging and writing about the struggle of trying to provide the most wonderful time of year to a lot of people with high expectations.

And yet, Christmas still is a time to love. Despite all the extra work and high expectations, there are still are a few surprising things that Pastors do love about Christmas.

1 Getting to tell the real Christmas story.

For roughly 2 months before Christmas proper, the world is full of sweet Christmas carols, sentimental nativity scenes, nostalgic holiday movies that paint an idyllic version of the Christmas story: A gentle Joseph and Mary giving a painless and calm birth in the most sterile and picturesque of barns stalls, with friendly animals and shepherds. Yet, the real Christmas story is full of scandal like teenage moms, and unmarried couples having babies, and homeless immigrants squatting in the same place that animals east, sleep and empty their bowels.

2 Preaching to a full house.

Even if church is full because grandma wants the grandkids in church at least once a year, or that people have come just for Silent Night by candlelight or to see the kids dressed up like shepherds, angels and animals, seeing a full house when looking out from pulpit is just a little satisfying. Knowing that what you are about to preach is going to be heard by such a large crowd reminds us that we haven’t totally faded into obscurity.

3 Finally saying ‘Merry Christmas’ for the 12 days season.

One of my favourite things it to offer a Merry Christmas until January 5th. When you get to greet people with Merry Christmas well after New Years, it is a fun way to catch people off guard and use the opportunity to remind people just when the actual season of Christmas is. It is allows us to plan fun things like 12th night parties, complete with Christmas tree bonfires.

4 Getting a zillion cards.

While Christmas cards themselves can be a little cheesy or corny at times, the fact that many, many people take the time to write kind messages and show they are thinking of you is nice, especially considering that pastors aren’t the only busy and stressed people at Christmas.

5 The music, the decor, the festive spirit.

Sometimes church can be routine or sombre. Some Sundays just feel like the same old same old. It is nice for pastors, too, to sing those familiar carols, see the sanctuary decorated, to enjoy friends and family in this long season of darkness (for us northern hemisphere folks). Even when we try to make everyone observe Advent, when Christmas does finally roll around (Dec. 24th, not November 1st), it is a special time of year to enjoy.

6 Spending time with family.

Pastors have family and traditions too. We open our presents at certain times, cook certain meals, do certain activities with extended family. And once the Christmas Eve and Christmas day services are over with, it is nice to take some time (when usually no one at church is needing your time) to enjoy the Holy-days.

I know that sometimes I can come across like a Christmas grinch to those around me. And I know from colleagues and pastor friends, that Christmas is a super stressful time of year. And yes, there are moments when I, and I am sure others, just want it over with.

Yet, just like anyone else, Christmas is a special season for us. Even with the all the stress and extra work that comes along with being a pastor at Christmas.


Are you a Pastor with strong feelings about Christmas? Have wondered what Christmas is like for your Pastor? Share in the comments, or one the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik