Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Palm Sunday with Passion Narrative 03/20/2016

Our processional Gospel reading from Luke brings us into Holy Week on a high note – Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus, the king, is riding in on a colt, a donkey. This peaceful, small animal is carrying the Prince of Peace. Jesus is not arriving as the mighty, powerful king people are hoping for and expecting, one who would be more likely to enter Jerusalem on a great horse to much fanfare. Instead, we have a full-grown man riding on a gentle little colt covered with cloaks, riding along on clothing laid out before him. Jesus’ “red carpet” is a patchwork medley of people’s coats.

And then all the disciples join together to praise God for the powerful deeds they’ve witnessed through Jesus. It’s a joyful day, with Jesus on his way to coronation as king. But the moments of joy are brief this day, because, as we know, the coronation crown is going to be one of thorns.

Today is Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. In the coming days, we’ll be on a roller coaster of emotions – some ups and many downs, a few highs and some devastating lows. There will be inconsistencies, and frustrations, and deep grief.

Our Holy Week services are designed so that we’ll hear the stories more than once, and I invite you to come to Bethany to hear them during these seven days: Morning Prayer on Tuesday; Maundy Thursday with foot washing, forgiveness and communion; Ecumenical and Tennabrae Good Friday services; and Saturday’s Easter Vigil. Our stories will be told not only through the Biblical texts we’ll read, but through singing the hymns, listening to beautiful music, and participating in the liturgies and rituals. I feel privileged to be a part of your traditions this year – traditions that promise to offer me a new encounter with The Great Three Days – involvement in worship services that I know will heighten and engage my five senses as I put myself fully into the experience – tasting the bread and wine of the Last Supper and imagining the bite of the sour wine offered to Jesus; listening to the shouting of the crowds, and the lashing of the whips and contrasting these sounds to the words of bitterness and lament, guilt and silence; turning our eyes from the savior’s bloody red wounds  - and glimpsing the flickering firelight … later, the deep darkness; smelling the burning fires and the spices prepared for burial; and recognizing the sense of touch – from washing feet to cutting off an ear; from the beatings and floggings to the heaviness of the cross …

Two years ago, during Lent I was in the midst of a spiritual practice called The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. For the six weeks of Lent, and especially during Holy Week, I was instructed to immerse myself in the Passion writings – from all four of the gospels. I placed myself deeply into the writings, and by Easter dawn, I was filled with sorrow and a sense of hopelessness. Where I lived, there was no Easter Vigil to help with the transition, and when I attended Easter services that Sunday, I found that the resurrection was a shock to me. I had so deeply identified with the events of the week, with the despair of Jesus’ disciples and the mourning of the women who loved Jesus, that I, too, was grieving his death. That morning, I couldn’t seem to get up to speed with everyone else who was celebrating.

It was the closest I believe I’ll ever come to envisioning what it was like for those encountering the empty tomb Easter Morn.

I invite you now into this Holy Week and encourage you to enliven your senses. Put yourselves into as many of the moments as you can. Be there with the fearful disciples, the incited crowds, the priests, Herod, and Pontius Pilate. Be there with the criminals and with Jesus. Take time to experience the confusion and fear, the suffering and abandonment. Imagine yourselves there, participating in the events of Passover week. Put not only your mind and senses into this space, but your heart, too, and begin to feel what the many participants are feeling.

As we entered our sanctuary today, we experienced the joy and exuberance of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem: the high of Holy Week. Hosanna in the Highest!

Now let us hear the next pieces of the story, the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Luke.

Vicar Terry Frankenstein


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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