Palm Sunday began a bumpy and difficult journey for the liturgical cycle. If you thought yesterday’s readings were intense, wait until you pull out the Lamentations passage!
The loneliness and mournfulness of Lamentations captures the emotions that surround this journey. This series of five poems represent a building expression of grief over the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon. But it also captures the thoughts of Holy Week, the rejection and suffering that surrounds the procession to the cross. It is a lonely and isolated time.
This week we are offering something new at FPC-Duncan. I encourage you to come to the Maundy Thursday service at 6:30pm on Thursday, and then the Good Friday Tenebrae at Noon on Friday. The way these two services are structured somewhat mirror a Stations of the Cross service, journeying with Jesus through those last hours of betrayal and arrest, and the rejection and suffering of Via Dolorosa. It many ways this is our church walking along with Jesus, and experiencing the depth of emotion he must have felt.
“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.”
In Mark, we see the shift from the shouts of Hosannas, which immediately precede today’s reading, and many churches read for Palm Sunday. The darkness of Holy Week creeps in, with Jesus cursing a fig tree and cleansing the temple.
The cursing of the fig tree has been one of the more troubling actions of Jesus for me. Later the disciples find the tree withered, and remember him cursing it earlier. Jesus launches into a speech about having faith. It is hard to put two and two together here without a little context.
First, why does he curse a tree that is not producing fruit? This is part of God’s good creation! This tree isn’t producing because perhaps it is dormant, or it is old. Is that reason enough to curse it? As if Jesus was angry with it. Because of the tie in with faith, I have to assume that Jesus is meaning for the disciples to produce fruit, through faith and forgiveness. Jesus even makes the allusion that the Romans have more faith than the Jews. It is gutsy and edgy talk.
I also believe, that paired with the cleansing of the temple, Jesus shows that anger and isolation can be used to the glory of God when channeled properly. And if one knows the Old Testament, these two stories clearly work together. The abundance of disillusionment with the establishment rings forth! The fruitless fig trees of the Old Testament prophets comes to mind: Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, and others. The temple represents the old guard as well.
Jesus is announcing a withering and destruction of the old ways. He is inciting and shaking up the order. Holy week is in full swing and it is only Monday!
May this week be one that rattles your foundation, brings a new vision of Christ at work in you, and restores in you a vision of new life and hope for the future.