Palm Sunday 4-5-2020
Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door/Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
It's gettin' dark, too dark to see/I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door/Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.[1]
You may remember this old Bob Dylan song. Sometimes prayer feels like this, doesn’t it? It feels like “..we’re beating on heaven’s door with bruised knuckles in the dark…”[2] 
This morning, we continue our fireside series on prayer—the prayer of complaint, the prayer of lament.
PRAYER (from Northumbria Community)
Leader: Will it never end? I’m not as sure as when I started.
I never knew it would be like this. But this is my firm choice:
Lord I will go on with you.
All: Lord I will go on with you.
Leader: Lord, some of us are never far from tears, and some have forced ourselves not to cry. Bring our tears into your captivity and direction, that they respond to your voice. You have the words of eternal life.
All: You have the words of eternal life.
Leader: Lord I will go on with you.
All: Lord I will go on with you.
SONG—Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Come thou fount of every blessing/Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing/Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet/Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it/Mount of thy redeeming love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer/Hither by Thy help I've come
And I hope by, thy good pleasure/Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger/Wandering from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger/Interposed his precious blood.
Oh to grace how great a debtor/Daily I'm constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter/Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh, take it seal it/Seal it for Thy courts above.
SCRIPTURE
Psalm 22: 1-5 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.Yet you are holy enthroned on the praises of Israel.In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
HOMILY
Today is Palm Sunday and the beginning of what Christians call Holy Week. Wednesday is also the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Passover, commemorating the deliverance of the enslaved Jewish people from the plague of death, when an angel of the Lord passed over their homes.
Any other Palm Sunday, we would all be together waving palms in the air, celebrating the triumphant procession of Jesus into Jerusalem. But a festive religious service in the midst of the ravaging Covid-19 feels like Ash Wednesday ashes in the mouth.
The current world situation calls first—for a moment of silence.
You may recognize the first verse of Psalm 22—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It is the agonizing cry of Jesus as he died on the cross.[3] This coming Friday, what Christians call Good Friday, millions of us read this scripture and weep, for we can feel the agony of our Lord as he is crucified, and today we can feel the agony of people who are dying from the plague.
This holy week, many people deeply feel this prayer of the forsaken on a much more personal level as the Coronavirus continues to stalk innocent people all the world. Over 1,000,000 people have been sickened and 55,000 people have died. If you and I haven’t yet been touched by the plague—most certainly some of us soon will be. Lord, have mercy.
The Bible has a book of songs called The Psalter written by ancient songwriters and worship leaders. Biblical scholars suggest that at least 65 of the 150 Psalms are songs of lament. “I am here, calling for your help, praying to you every morning; why do you reject me? Why do you hide your face from me?” sings the writer of Psalm 88.
The Psalmists knew how to complain to God. This kind of prayer has largely been lost in sanitized modern religion. “These Psalms help us to pray our inner conflicts and contradictions,” writes Richard Foster. “They allow us to shout out our forsakenness in the dark caverns of abandonment and hear the echo return to us over and over again…The Laments give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and break into doxology the next.”
The Coronavirus is the greatest crisis of our lifetime. Corona means crown, and I am aware that at this moment, the virus threatens to be crowned king of the world.
Kingdoms are clashing.
I pray the prayer of lament but hear only my voice’s echo. I am afraid. “Where are you, God? Don’t you care?” I cry for mercy, but in the face of this crisis I feel helpless. Lord, I am tired of waiting, but I have nowhere else to go. You are my only hope. There is a beautiful, terrible word hidden in the book of Job.“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…”[4]

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[1] Bob Dylan
[2] George Buttrick, from Richard Foster Prayer, p17
[3] Matthew 27: 54
[4] Job 13:15
 
  June 2020  
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