Message from Pastor Alessandri April 3, 2020

20April3 Message from Pastor Alessandri (click for pdf)

April 3, 2020

The Peace of the Lord IS With you.

I don’t know who was more startled — the mama duck or me. It seems a mama duck has decided to make a nest in the bushes in the garden near my front door. I discovered her when I opened the front door one morning to get my newspaper. Out she scurried to fly over to the cemetery. I felt so badly. “It’s okay,” I yelled, “I won’t hurt you.” I thought she probably would be scared away for good. But low and behold, the next morning the same thing happened. Both of us did the same thing — she flew and I yelled.
The next day I did not go for the newspaper first thing in the morning. After checking the church mailbox, I walked to the front of the parsonage to get my newspaper. I walked right by the bushes where mama duck flew out. I got the paper and she didn’t fly out. I’ve got this figured out, I thought proudly. The next day I walked around the house to the front door for the newspaper and I pulled the mail out of the mailbox. The lid of the mailbox clanged shut. Off the duck flew and I’m saying, “No. No. No. I won’t hurt you.”  Yesterday, I walked around the front of the house and carefully lifted the mailbox lid and quietly closed it. No mama duck in flight. So have I figured it out or was mama duck not in the nest but off getting a carry out meal? Stay tune.
This slice of my Covid-19-at home life sent me thinking. Fear can make us as flighty and panicked as my mama duck. I imagine the Lord crying out, “It’s okay… Don’t leave me.” Fear is a thief. God is a life-giver. At our baptism, the Lord marked us with the cross of Christ and promised us God’s own eternal presence and love.
I will try my best to avoid frightening the mama duck in my bushes. Amid our very real worries and concerns in these times, I pray that we hear God’s call, “I got you… Don’t leave me.” Fear is a thief but the Lord gives.  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ” (Philippians 4:7)

PALM SUNDAY AND HOLY WEEK FAVORITE HYMNS  We’ll take yours until 12 noon today (Friday) We won’t be able to do them all for this week’s recording, but maybe we can persuade Steve Pastena, our exceptional organist, to record the others for posting during Holy Week. Here are the replies we have heard so far:

 

“All Glory, Laud and Honor” – 4
“O Sacred Head Now Wounded” – 3
“Beneath the Cross of Jesus” – 3
“The Old Rugged Cross” – 2
“The Palms” – 1
“This Easter Celebration” -1
“Ah, Holy Jesus” – 1″Go to Dark Gethsemane” – 1
“Were You There” – 1
“There Is a Green Hill Far Away” – 1

 

Send your favorite to me at l.alessandri1035@gmail.com or to the church office at havenoffice@havenlc.org. (No more than 2 please)

HOW ABOUT? Pastor Nancy Kraft (Ascension Lutheran, Towson) posted a way to celebrate Maundy Thursday at home or with others on-line. I will post that next week. What I wanted to share with you now was her sharing of what a friend of hers has renamed “social distancing.” She is calling it “love-distancing” for these reasons. It is out of love that we are physically staying away and apart. And though we are physically apart, we are still finding ways to express our love socially via phone, notes, e-mails and virtual meetings. Just a though I pass it along. Even if the phrase doesn’t catch on, the meaning is encouraging.

Breathe in the sun and signs of Spring as you look out of your windows, go for a walk or venture to the grocery story. It is a God sighting. There is more than crisis now and in the future. There is renewed life and an even deeper appreciation of family, friends, church, community, our neighbors throughout the nation and world and love. Breathe in that promise from the Lord who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

God IS with you. God IS with us.
Pastor Linda M Alessandri

A Pause with God’s Word

Read: Matthew 21: 1-11

1When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Reflection       
Prepared by Pastor David Kaplan

Save us, O Lord.”  It wasn’t the spontaneous surprise celebration we sometimes imagine.  Yes, of course, the Gospels all depict an outburst of enthusiasm that far exceeds anything we might have anticipated – the crowd spreading garments and branches (only John identifies them as palm branches!) along the road as Jesus entered Jerusalem on that first Holy Week.

But there was advance preparation.  We catch that right away in the first part of the story that Pastor Alessandri discussed yesterday – the borrowing of the donkey.  She wondered how its owner would so quickly turn it over to the disciples who requested it.  I wonder that too; if a stranger came to “borrow” my car with the curious explanation “The Lord needs it”, I think my response would be, “Well he’s going to have to request it himself.”  Which is exactly what may have happened.  No passage to support this idea, but I can well imagine a previous encounter between Jesus and the owner, where the Lord told him, “Jake, next Passover I’d like to borrow your animal to enter the City.”  “Sure, Lord, just send one or two of your men to pick it up.”

The preparation, though, extends way beyond that imagined conversation.  Its roots lie deep in the Old Testament.  The whole event of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to the acclamation of the people is a reflection and fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, quoted in the Gospel passage, Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!  Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.  Why a donkey instead of a horse, the processional animal we would usually associate with a king?  Check out the next verse: He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem.  This king was not a conquering super hero!  He came in humility and peace to set aside the ways of the kings of the earth.  In that sense this Gospel is also a parody of the Roman triumphal parades, where the victorious general would be seated on a horse or in a chariot with conquered slaves bound at his feet.  Our king comes in humility to become obedient to death, even the death of a cross, in order to set us free!

So the people cry, so we cry, Hosanna…Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  That verse also comes directly from the Old Testament, Psalm 118:25-26.  We’ll be hearing more of that psalm next week, it’s the psalm appointed for Easter.  But these particular verses are for triumphal entries, as God’s people of old would sing them as they entered the Temple.  They became a standard greeting through the centuries as pilgrims arrived at the Holy City during festival time.  But now they received a new fulfillment as Jesus entered the City.  At their center is the word Hosanna which is both prayer and praise.  You don’t see the word in the psalm verse (the ELW hymnal version has it), but it’s there.   It appears in translation Save us!   At the root of this exclamation is the Hebrew verb for save or deliver.  In English it doesn’t sound much like it, but it’s exactly the same verb that is at the root of the name Jesus (recall the angel’s greeting to Joseph at the beginning of this Gospel: Mary will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins – 1:21).   “Save us, O Lord.”  That’s what this beautiful Palm Sunday story is about (the fickleness of the crowd is a side issue).   At the beginning of Holy Week, even this dark Holy Week when we can’t sing Hosanna together, Jesus comes humbly to save and deliver his people.  Jesus comes to enter our hearts and answer our deepest prayer.

  1. In case you’re wondering why in Matthew’s version of the story the disciples bring two animals, and Jesus seems to ride on both of them (verse 7), it’s a misunderstanding of Zechariah 9:9. The last two lines of that verse, quoted above, also seem to speak of two animals, a donkey and its colt.  But those lines are an example of a device in Hebrew poetry called parallelism, where the poet (or prophet) for emphasis says the same thing in two different ways.  Examples abound in the Psalms and Proverbs, like Psalm 31 (this Sunday’s psalm): verse 10a, For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing.  Clearly these two lines express just one thought, not two separate thoughts.  So in the Zechariah verse, not two animals are intended, but just one.  The other Gospel writers understand that, but Matthew interprets the verse literally (one of the dangers of biblical literalism!) and ends up with both a donkey and a colt.

Prayer:   Lord, the people who greeted your entrance into Jerusalem yelled, Hosanna – Save us, O Lord.” Like us, they knew they could not save themselves — not from sin, oppression, hardship or death. We need you, Lord. We need you to walk and battle with us whenever we face our personal and worldly struggles, like COVID-19 with all its repercussions.  We need you to calm our fears and give us heart to care for our neighbors. We thank you for the promise of your eternal love and presence that makes it possible for us to praise you even in the storms. Amen.

Music:
“Ride on in Majesty”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD9rMkIS1yw

“Hosanna” by Hillsong https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoM0AT8fBvs