Mar 20 2018

Pastor Mike at Aztec Methodist Church

As I write this, plans are underway for our celebration of “Holy week”. These are the “High Holy Days” of the Christian Faith. Our celebration begins with remembrance of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Jesus has been an itinerant teacher and miracle worker for three years now, and is something of a celebrity. He has also clashed with the religious authorities (the Pharisees, the Saducees and the Herodians) over the proper ways to interpret scriptures. 

As he enters Jerusalem on this visit expectations are high. Jesus is visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. Since that is a memory of the time when God delivered Israel from slavery, the people feel it would be a great chance for the Messiah to announce that he was raising an army to deliver the people from subjugation to Rome. They greet him by waving palm branches and laying their cloaks on the road, traditional ways of welcoming royalty. Everyone is excited, maybe Jesus really is the Messiah. 

But Jesus doesn’t act as expected. Instead of challenging the Roman authorities, He challenged their religious custom of selling sacrificial animals (at a hefty profit) to worshipers at the temple and changing worldly money for pure temple money (at a profit). He allows one of “those women” to anoint him with perfume. He tells people that the end is coming, and they need to change their ways and come back to God. The crowds grew disenchanted rather quickly.

Then during the Passover meal with his disciples he changes their customs again, by giving new meanings to some of the ancient symbols. When no one thought to provide a servant to wash the feet of the guests at the meal, Jesus did it himself. This was a scandal a religious leader acting as a servant to his followers. Then he went on to tell them that one of them would betray him, another would deny knowing him, and all of them would desert him, and he would be killed. He tells them he is leaving them with a new commandment: that they should love one another. The Latin for “new commandment” is mandatum novum, which over the centuries was elided to “Maundy Thursday”. This year for our service we will have a seder, the opening feast of the Passover celebration for the Jewish faith. We will see how Jesus changed the traditional symbolism.

Afterwards he takes his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prays. In the garden Judas betrays him with a kiss, and the other disciples flee. Peter follows at a distance, but as Jesus had predicted denied knowing him three times while Jesus is appearing before the Jewish court. Jesus is taken to Pontius Pilate, and eventually is condemned to a whipping, and crucifixion. He is mocked and reviled by soldiers and Jewish authorities. We call this Good Friday, not because the events of the day feel good to remember, but because His death on the cross bought forgiveness for all who believe. We have been invited to join the Bloomfield Methodist Church at 6:00 for a service of Tenebrae (“shadows”) a traditional remembrance of the gloom of the day Jesus died.

Then on Easter Sunday the gloom comes to an end with our community Sunrise service (at 7:00 am) as we remember how the women went to the tomb before sunrise on the first day of the week only to find it empty. The light of the world had risen from the dead. We will follow this with our regular celebration of the resurrection, then an Easter Egg hunt for the children, and fellowship time for the adults. 

We hope you will join us for all of these solemn observances and more joyful celebrations.