4/1/2012 Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!

Palm/Passion Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a/50:4-6 IV, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Mark 14:1-15, 47/14:1-15, 51, Mark 11: 1-11/11:1-13 IV

Here we are, once more, just days away from Passion and/or Palm Sunday, the beginning of the most important week in the Christian calendar. Yet it brings this rather uncomfortable question: How many Christians really care, or for that matter actually notice and alter their normal routines?

For much of my adult working life I was a (if you’ll pardon the crassness of the term) a “professional religionist.” As an editor for my denomination’s publishing house before and after it was absorbed into its international headquarters, I couldn’t help but be aware of Holy Week’s importance. And this was true, despite the fact my faith community was hardly “high church,” liturgically speaking. Well, at least the office was closed every Good Friday and there was not-so-subtle encouragement to participate in local congregational activities throughout the rest of the week, as well.

Anthony Falbo, "Gethsemene" (The Hour is Near, 2006)

That was nothing like my first year in seminary, however. I recall what a very big deal that was: foot washing in my own congregation during a Maundy Thursday service, attendance at two (!) quite different Good Friday services (my New Testament professor preached the homily at the Anglican cathedral downtown; afterward, several of us seminary students dropped by a Baptist communion service); then there was the Great Saturday Vigil service in the school’s chapel, which followed the centuries-old Anglican rite (including incense–didn’t care for it then, don’t much like it now either), a sunrise service on Easter morning, followed by a glorious Easter service in my own congregation. I was exhausted by Sunday afternoon. It’s just a good thing the school gave us “Easter Monday” off, as well.

Nowadays, well,… at least I blog. I don’t think I’ve attended a Good Friday service in all the years since.

But enough about me and my mea culpa.

I wonder: Will American Christians this weekend be more focused on the beginning of Holy Week or the end of this year’s NCAA basketball season with the Final Four semi-finals Saturday night and the finals Monday evening in New Orleans’ Superdome? It’s probably unfair to even ask such a question. And I don’t bring up the subject to guilt anyone into “appropriate” religious observance.

But maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us all to hit the pause button on life and spend some time in the Gospels. This year’s lectionary takes us through Mark, at least until Good Friday when, as always, the lectionary focuses on the Gospel of John.

Matthew and Luke are perfectly fine accounts, of course, although Mark has the advantage of brevity. Recall, too, that Mark begins this way: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1 NRSV). Mark spends a lot of time and effort to persuade us of that basic truth, that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. But it isn’t until chapter 15 until a Roman soldier, of all people, proclaims this out loud: “Now when the centurian, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, `Truly this man was God’s Son!'” (15:39).

Even if all we do is start reading Mark’s Gospel with chapter 14 and go to its end (at 16:20), we will find a story like no other. Keep in mind that Luke and Matthew offer differing perspectives and details–fortunately, there is no “one true account” of God’s good news. Palms and hosannas in Jerusalem. Cleansing the Temple. With Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. The Upper Room. Gethsemene. Arrest and trial. Peter’s denial. Crucifixion. Empty tomb. Certainly it’s far more important than checking off those last few brackets in our NCAA predictions.

May the coming week be, for you and for me, an exceptionally holy one.

For a little insight as to how I came to spend the past two and a half decades as a writer/editor, check out my latest posting at Isaacspress.com, “The Future Is What You Make It.”

About Rich Brown

Rich Brown is a writer, blogger, editor, and publisher. His most recent book is "Speak to the Bones: How to Be a Prophetic People in a Time of Exile" (Isaac's Press).
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3 Responses to 4/1/2012 Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!

  1. Hello! I dropped by your blog because a recent article in a “subsidiary” blog of which I’m a part was “pinged” from this post. (The blog title is “Absolutely Random – Shitsugane.”) I certainly enjoyed your post, and I look forward to following you as the days go by. I want to give you a little background on myself, my bog, and the “subsidiary.”

    Much of this is mentioned in my “About My Blog” page, and my “Contact Me” page, which you will find at my principal site: http:paulatohlinecalhoun1951.wordpress.com/ , which is entitled “Reflections From a Cloudy Mirror.” What is not mentioned is that I am married to a (now) retired United Methodist Pastor – 37 years this October. (I am 61 yrs, old, and Ashley will be 69 this July.) Ashley served as a pastor in several conferences of the UMC: New York (in CT), Troy (in Upstate New York and Vermont), and Holston (southwest Virginia, and East Tennessee) – from which we retired to the mountains of western North Carolina, in Waynesville. Ashley took a part-time job when we moved here, as a research archivist for The Heritage Center, which is the keeper of the history of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC. He loves it, and it helps to keep his “finger in the pie.” I do not consider myself primarily a “Pastor’s Wife,” as my interests branch far beyond being strictly a “helpmate,” but it certainly has been one of the great joys as well as great frustrations of my life. I am currently in the midst of writing a memoir entitled “Irreverently Yours: the Itinerant Life of a Pastor’s Wife,” in which I tell the stories of the unique life I have lived while serving in that capacity. It is mostly humorous. Much of the life is! (I am writing it under a pen name, and changing the names of the characters and places in order to protect the innocent – and the guilty!)

    My blog is very eclectic. Sometimes I do cover matters of faith – which is the most important aspect of my life, but it ranges over a wide variety of topics. Lots of poetry, some photography which is becoming more and more important to me because of some handicapping issues which make playing the piano no longer possible. I occasionally write short stories and children’s “Dr. Seussian” stories, the occasional rant, and frequent stabs at humor. I have organized my blog on weekdays with a daily meme – basically to help me keep my head on straight – otherwise I would most definitely stray far afield.

    As far as “Absolutely Random – Shitsugane” goes, it is a venture that I have undertaken with an African gentleman who I met here in the blogosphere. He is an extraordinary poet, which I admire, but also a man who has become increasingly interested in deepening his faith and his relationship with Jesus Christ. He asked me to go on a 100-day prayer/meditation journey with him. We support one another via this “diary blog” through posts (most he does, some I do), and comments. It started on Ash Wednesday and will continue past Easter. The post that was pinged from your site was one that I asked my husband to write, as I knew he could best explain and answer some of the questions he had about the history of Lent, Easter, and Baptism.

    My question for you is, of what denomination are you a part? What seminary did you attend? How long have you been serving, etc. Just general info. You sound as though we have much in common, especially in terms of faith.

    So now you know more than you ever wanted about a woman you do not know. What can I say? I’m chatty! I wish you a blessed Easter season, and a life filled with the abundance of enough. . .


  2. Rich Brown says:

    Thanks for stopping by and will look forward to future visits. I notice you’ve visited my Isaac’s Press site and the “About Me” pages here and there. So you probably know I’m a member of the Community of Christ and attended Vancouver School of Theology in British Columbia, Canada, many years ago. I was employed for 23 years by the denomination and its publishing house, Herald Publishing House (which was incorporated into International Headquarters in 2000; something similar has happened to many other publishing houses before and after that date). I also served as a bivocational pastor (meaning, they didn’t pay me anything for it) for my home congregation (membership is somewhere around 300-350, depending on various factors) from 2003 to 2007.


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