THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION
NORTHWOODS, MISSOURI 63121
March 25, 2015
Dear Friends in Christ,
Several years ago, New Testament scholars Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan published The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem. Using the detailed account in Mark’s Gospel, this book chronicles the events of Holy Week day-by-day and, sometimes, hour-by-hour. It’s a wonderful read and thoughtful discussion of the context in which Jesus lived, died and was resurrected.
But, as the authors make clear, their purpose is not just to illuminate the last days of Jesus’ life. Rather, it’s to focus our attention on the “bigger picture” – the radical challenge Jesus was (and is) to those who hold power and the institutions they represent. The Holy Week narrative pits Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God against the imperial power and theology of Rome. Where Rome ruled with a sword, Jesus espoused peace. Where Rome demanded taxes to support corrupt politicians and aggressive armies, Jesus elevated the poor and powerless. And where Rome claimed its emperor to be a god, Jesus was God. Taken in this context, Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey is less a triumphant procession than a mockery of the Roman governor’s ostentatious parade being held in Jerusalem at the same time!
Holy Week also is a direct challenge to the self-serving dominance of Israel’s religious elite. At the very least, they collaborated with their Roman occupiers at the expense of their own people. They transformed the temple from “God’s House” to a “den of robbers.” And, they distorted the faith they had inherited to ensure their continuing power. Thus, Jesus’ “cleansing of the temple” was not an assault on his own Jewish faith, but rather a confrontation with the corruption and duplicitous collaboration of its leaders. As Borg and Crossan concluded, “Jerusalem had to be retaken by a nonviolent messiah rather than by a violent revolution, and the temple ritual had to empower justice rather than excuse one from it."
Perhaps more so than any other time in my life, I’ve been struck these past months of Advent, Epiphany and Lent by the extent to which Jesus’ mission and ministry – his life and death – stand in such stark contrast to the values of the world we inhabit and, so often, to our own expectations of “the messiah.” It’s this Jesus who asks that we build bridges to a criminal justice system that devalues us. It’s this Jesus who invites us to welcome those so different from us. And, it’s this Jesus who pushes us to pray even as we protest.
To be sure, Jesus came to re-order the world and those who rule it. But, we diminish Jesus if we understand him solely as the voice of social justice. His life also offers a model of obedience, servanthood, humility, grace, compassion and love. As we continue our journey to the cross with Jesus these next few days, may God open our hearts and minds to the breadth of a Christ who was all and gave all for you and for me. That’s what Borg and Crossan would call “a radical challenge.”
· Ascension and Advent (Crestwood) parishioners will prepare and serve the “Peace Meal” at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, March 28 from 2:00 – 6:00 P.M. I hope you’ll join in this ministry to those in need in the Tower Groves neighborhood.
· Holy Week begins with the Procession of the Palms, reading of the Passion Narrative and Eucharist on Sunday, March 29 at 11:00 A.M. This service has more than a few “moving parts,” so I hope you’ll make a special effort to arrive early.
· We will gather in the sanctuary to pray the Stations of the Cross on Friday, April 3 at 12:00 P.M. Our Good Friday service will be offered at 6:00 P.M. that evening.
· Easter’s Feast of the Resurrection will be celebrated at 11:00 A.M. on Sunday, April 5. Donnetta Jones is coordinating planning and preparation for Ascension’s annual Easter egg hunt following this service and would greatly appreciate donations of candy and eggs. Please contact her at (314) 332-0023 if you have questions or are able to assist.
· Staff meeting will be held in Rev. Deb’s office on Wednesday, April 8 from
11:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.
· Our Spring Parish Clean-Up will be held on Saturday, April 25 from 9:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. Lunch will be provided. Even if only for an hour or two, we need your help and hope you’ll join us.
· The Bishop’s Committee will meet in Rev. Deb’s office on Sunday, April 26 from
12:30 – 1:30 P.M.
Finally, I encourage you to read the attached letter from Rev. Deb regarding our support of the food pantry and pray that each of us will be generous in our donations.
May God bless your Holy Week journey with prayer and your Easter with joy.