Holy Week 2014



n Palm Sunday, my wife and I ventured across the Valley to attend worship at what will become the newest congregation in the synod at our upcoming Assembly. New Journey Lutheran Church in Fountain Hills is a community of saints committed to becoming a congregation in the ELCA. This community of Christ followers was part of Shepherd of the Hills, Fountain Hills, a former ELCA congregation, and is choosing to live into a new model of being the body of Christ.

This community of 55-60 people is focused on how they can invest their lives and their gifts in service to their local community and beyond, rather than devoting significant resources to support a pastor and a building. Retired Pastor Bob Halsey is assisting the congregation in a part-time capacity and they rent a storefront near the center of Fountain Hills. Though small in number, over the past three years they have been a force of love and mercy in caring for the least of these locally and beyond.

As we received Palm fronds we clustered in the fellowship area and listened to the Palm Sunday Gospel. We processed into the sanctuary singing "All Glory, Laud, and Honor". Former synod staff member, Pastor Jerry Ebbinga, was on the keyboard. The service was simple, but to the point. Pastor Halsey chose to let Matthew's account of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday serve as the sermon for the day. It was a helpful reminder that reading and hearing the Word can be as effective as even the most crafted sermon. Images of the familiar parts of the story filled my mind. I listened to parts that I almost could recite from memory, and both my wife and I commented on being surprised that we had forgotten that when the temple curtain was torn, the tombs of many of the saints were opened providing another testimony to the power God unleashed through the cross and through the death of Jesus, as well as providing a foretaste of what was yet to come.

As the reading ended with, "So they went and made the sepulcher secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard," I found myself struggling with leaving our worship and the story at that point. But that is part of the gift and drama of this week. It is so tempting to jump the Alleluias and the empty tomb without spending some time immersed in the events preceding that Great Day.

For those leading and participating in the Three Days of this week I hope that all the preparation, prayers and work supporting the various services does not take away from the timeless importance of simply hearing again what God has done for us, for all humanity, and for all of creation.

My prayers are with you all as we open our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and our minds to God's passion story.

Blessed Holy Week,
Bishop Steve