As snow fell last night, yet again and some more here in Kingston … the palms are ready to be waved. The weather varies from year to year, but I always look forward to this Sunday, for the way this scene of Jesus riding into Jerusalem elicits the joy, the excitement and the strength of our Christian faith.
I love the way the early 20th century artist Wilhelm Morgner captures the intensity of the scene – the humble king on a donkey, the palms of the people’s praise arching like sound waves to eternity – but also the darkness all around and between. I notice at the very centre of the canvas a figure of solid black. We are reminded of what lies ahead for Jesus as he enters Jerusalem. But I also notice that the dark figure is surrounded by a circle of light.
As this Holy Week begins, I am moved once again by the determination of our Lord to live the love of God at all costs. And I celebrate the amazing gospel that this is the life the Sovereign God will redeem and raise, promising that life is the last word for him and for all who would follow him.
Palm Sunday, 10:30 a.m. Join us!
Sunday March 22, 10:30 a.m.
We conclude our journey with Elijah this morning (I Kings 19). The prophet has been loyal to his God, and his trust has not been in vain – the Lord was revealed as the One with life-giving power, symbolized here by a downpour of rain after a time of terrible drought. But even this gift of grace is not sufficient to turn the heart of the people and their king, Ahab … and Elijah must flee once again. In the wilderness once again, he hears a voice within whisper that all is futility, all is failure, and he cries out ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life’ (verse 4). It is a voice that many have heard, even and perhaps particularly people of faith.
But an angel was sent to embrace Elijah with care, setting bread and water by his head, for life. And later when Elijah was withdrawn in a cave, the Lord came, not in the wind, or earthquake or fire, but in a ‘still small voice’. While the voice within Elijah spoke of futility, this voice spoke of a continuing journey, one filled with purpose by the Holy One – Elijah was commissioned to anoint new rulers for the peoples, to open up new beginnings.
The voices we hear – the voice of human despair, the voice of holy grace. Not one or the other, but both.
Have a look at our Order of Worship for this Sunday, and if you are in the neighbourhood, join us!
Sunday March 15, 10:30 a.m.
After the high drama of Elijah’s confrontation on Mount Carmel with the priests of Baal, this morning we explore a much quieter scene (I Kings 18:41-46). And yet it is a scene that is filled with great spiritual strength, one that moves me deeply. The Lord God has proven the claims of other gods empty, and now the prophet Elijah waits on the mountain for the Lord to act. He waits for rain promised by the life-giving God in whom he trusts.
The very posture of the prophet was one of trust and patience – ‘Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he bowed himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees’. Elijah sent a boy to scan the horizon for the clouds that would bring the rain. The boy return to report only a clear sky. Elijah sent the boy again, and again there is no cloud in sight. Seven times the prophet sent the boy, and only on the seventh time was the wisp of a cloud seen.
Elijah, on the top of Mount Carmel, announced the impending rain before any single cloud in the sky appear (I Kings XVIII, 41-46) – Marc Chagall, 1956 – Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, France
As a Christian, I wait for God’s ‘rain’ of justice and peace for humanity promised in Christ Jesus. There may be little evidence of the arrival of the Kingdom of God, yet Elijah reminds me of the profound perseverance of life in faith. We continue in our posture of trust – we continue to extend water to the thirsty and food to the hungry, we continue to embrace the refugee and care for this creation – not on the basis of what we do or even see, but because God is faithful to God’s promises.
So be it. Amen.
May it come soon
to the hungry
to the weeping
to those who thirst for your justice,
to those who have waited centuries
for a truly human life.
Grant us the patience
to smooth the way
on which your Kingdom comes to us.
Grant us hope
that we may not weary
in proclaiming and working for it,
despite so many conflicts,
threats and shortcomings.
Grant us a clear vision
that in the hour of our history
we may see the horizon,
and know the way
on which your Kingdom comes to us.
A prayer from Nicaragua in Bread of Tomorrow