RNS: Anti-Semitism and the Passion

The Church has a long and tragic history of anti-Semitism, and sadly the Lutheran tradition has played a large role in that story. From Luther’s own writings to Lutherans’ abject failure to oppose Hitler (the responses ranging from mere complicity to out-right collaboration), we need to reckon with and repent of our racism.

As we head in to Good Friday and turn our attention increasingly to the Passion narratives, especially Saint John’s, we are also entering a trying time for ant-Semitism. Saint John often used “the Jews” as a short-hand for religious leaders, especially the chief priests; as we read this story aloud on Good Friday, many will wince at the implications. The Jewish people in Europe were often charged with, and frequently attacked over, the charge of deicide, or the murder of God. For the Church to fully and humbly repent, it is vital that we put John’s language into its full and historical context.

To that end, I commend to your attention Rabbi A. James Rudin’s recent article over at the Religion News Service. The rabbi offers a brief history of Passion plays, their unfortunate anti-Semitic connections, and contextualizes the role of the chief priest as a Roman puppet. As we retell the story of Christ’s crucifixion, Rabbi Rudin reminds us, we must place the blame squarely upon the oppressive hand of the Roman Empire and their agents.

Paschal Triduum: The Great Three Days

Lent is nearly over; Holy Week, having just started, will soon be wrapping up. We are approaching the holiest days of the Christian year: the Paschal Triduum, the Great Three Days. After forty days wandering through the wilderness, and a week in Jerusalem, we have reached the most sacred time: the three-day long period leading up to the Great Vigil of Easter. During this time, we hit our spiritual low point followed almost immediately by our highest; we mark our most solemn fast followed by our most joyous feast.

Over these three days, we gather to worship through prayer, singing, the reading of Scripture, and the celebration of the Sacraments. We gather, depart, and gather again. The three primary services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil just after sundown on Holy Saturday form one complete liturgy.  Continue reading “Paschal Triduum: The Great Three Days”

A Divine Protest

A Homily for Palm Sunday

Text: St. Mark 11:1-11


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the triumphant king. Amen.

Can you feel the tension in the air?

You can cut it with the knife.

The world feels like it’s on the very verge of coming undone.

In the shadow of Rome, a divisive preacher arrives riding on the foal of a donkey, echoing the ascension of King Solomon, the Son of David. It was Passover, the city had swollen to many times its usual population, and was full of pilgrims eager for the liberation foreshadowed in the exodus.

For the disciples, this was it. Isaiah had said that the Messiah would free the oppressed, right? And how much more oppressed could you possibly get than Judea under the Roman Empire? The confrontation between the world and God must be at hand. Finally, the Roman oppressors would be overthrown. This was what all of history had been building towards. Continue reading “A Divine Protest”

From the Mount of Olives to Golgotha:The Palm/Passion Sunday Paradox

palmsundayHoly Week takes us through a liturgical and emotional swing, from cries of “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” to “Alleluia!” But that swing is sudden, making that first move over the course of the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday morning. We gather with palms, kids joining in excited because things are so very different this day. And then by the sermon, a pall has fallen over the assembly. Somehow, Christ has been crucified — and we haven’t even gotten to Maundy Thursday yet.

Palm Sunday presents a particularly vexing issue for those involved in planning Christian worship. We begin outside with a collect and Gospel reading, process inside and…have another collect and another Gospel reading. We somehow jump the gun straight from the palms to the Cross. Why? And which text should a preacher take into the pulpit? And what songs should we sing? Continue reading “From the Mount of Olives to Golgotha:The Palm/Passion Sunday Paradox”