Recent bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt remind us of the dangers of professing Christ as our Lord and Savior. This incident reminds us that following Christ has physical implications that will indeed test our resolve to trust the one true God.
Yet even Christians in Western nations are tested. First the Church is increasingly marginalized as Sundays, even Sunday mornings are being filled with secular activities. Our children’s coaches have told us that if our children wish to remain on the team they cannot miss games and practices, including those on Sundays.
Western Christians are also tested in the application of faith in political discourse. Should we support candidates who challenge our values for sexual morality, for responsibility to care for the earth, and for our neighbors who are hungry or homeless?
Our faith is tested in the hospital room watching a friend or family member suffer a debilitating disease. We ask: “How can a loving, all powerful God allow this to happen?” or “Where is God in all this pain?”
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. — 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NRSV)
On Sunday, April 23rd, we anticipate receiving as new members, those who have completed the confirmation class. However, the tests of faith do not end when they receive a Bible during worship. If anything, this ritual marks the beginning of testing the integrity of faith in all phases of life.
I will have more to say about 1 Peter 1:3-9 and testing of faith on Sunday, April 23rd at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
A young officer on his first dive in a submarine carefully inspects the equipment as the ship slowly descends to test depth. Prior to going to sea every system has been carefully inspected and tested using various equipment that simulates actual conditions when submerged. But the real test is taking the ship out for the first time and actually diving to to that depth where the test results indicate that the ship should function as designed.
Suddenly a pipe in front of the young officer jumps from a bracket with a loud bang. The officer freezes. He speculates: ‘should that have happened? Is that an impending crisis?’ At this depth, a rupture of even a small pipe could have catastrophic consequences as sea water would spray with horrific force inside the ship damaging equipment and quickly affecting the delicate balance of buoyancy and speed needed to resurface. But the young officer does not panic for facing him and staring at the same pipe is a first class petty officer, a rank that implies several years of experience. Since the petty officer did not panic, this must not be worrisome the officer supposes. Only later does the officer learn that this was that petty officer’s first cruise and that since the officer had not panicked, the petty officer saw no need to panic either. But when more experienced sailors learn of it, they sound the alarm quickly bringing the ship to the surface and back to port.
More frequently the lack of understanding causes inappropriate panic. Considered the two women went to see the tomb of a recently deceased friend when an angel suddenly appeared. Guards stationed to watch that tomb quiver then freeze stiff with panic. Yet the women hear the authority of the angel telling them: “Do not be afraid! The one whom you seek is not here. He has been raised as he said. Come and see the place where he had lain. Then go quickly and tell his disciples …”
How does trusting Christ’s resurrection affect how you live?
Our Palm Sunday celebration begins with children leading a triumphant parade around our building.
This year’s cantata conveys the emotional roller-coaster from the triumphant entry of Palm Sunday to the loss of hope at the crucifixion in nine movements.
The overture samples themes of the entire work and introduces the Jesus as the Rose of Calvary.
Isaiah’s prophecies of restoration of creation lie behind the rejoicing in second movement. Here Jesus is called the Rose of Sharon, an alternate translation from Isaiah 35:1-2.
Our offerings and prayers between the second and third movements will embody our rejoicing for God’s creation.
The prophets also pointed to the need for people to turn from their sins. The aptly named third movement, “Call to Repentance,” portrays both our need and Jesus’s answer; his standing ready to save with love and power.
Between movements, the congregation will publicly confess our imperfections and failings.
This movement, “A Rose in the Valley,” expresses God’s promise of pardon for our failings.
The excitement of the fifth movement will have you bouncing in your seat as the people triumphantly “Shout to God” with a loud hosanna, musically evoking Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.
During his few days in Jerusalem Jesus taught us to live gently with loving kindness for one another and to love our neighbors as ourselves, for that is “Love’s Way.”
After this movement the congregation will demonstrate our compassion for one another in prayer.
Not everyone was pleased by Jesus’s popularity. Leading the Rose to the Garden of Gethsemane to weep deep in prayer for his disciples and for release from the cup that the lay ahead, while also praying: “Father, let Thy will be done.”
Meanwhile the priests had excited the mob “In the Praetorium” now to shout “crucify him!” The eighth movement resonates with anger at the Rose of Sharon, urging Pilate to plant the Rose on Calvary.
Even the thorns had beg not to be placed upon the head of the Rose of Calvary as His petals fall and the flower dies.
Our Palm Sunday worship service will conclude with the congregation singing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” receiving the benediction, then leaving.
Joseph M. Martin’s The Rose of Calvary offers one more movement, but we must wait a full week to celebrate God’s surprise ending.
The fine voices of our choir will be supplemented by professional soloists and instrumentalists. You, your family, your friends, and your neighbors will not want to miss this musical account of Christ’s passion. Please share this invitation to experience the journey of the Rose of Calvary at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday April 9th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.