The church suffers from a bit of schizophrenia about Palm Sunday.
Should the focus be on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the
“Hosannas!” of the shouting crowd? Or should the emphasis be placed on
the cross and the “Crucify him! Crucify him!” chants of the people? Is
this a service of exultation or a service of passion?
I’ve noticed an alarming trend in ministry with college students:
they use words better in technological media than in person. Emails,
text messages and even facebook.com posts are often thoughtful,
eloquent and witty. But one-on-one, the same students and I will
stammer about, our words bumping into one another in mid-air.
Every time I happen upon Psalm 16:6, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,” I think about how any of us comes to be who we are. Some of us in ministry can name the incident or date when we encountered a call to this vocation, but for most of us, I think, the call is a process, not an event.
A folk-singing friend taught me that if I could link a sermon to a
song, listeners would remember the song, and thus be more likely to
remember the sermon. Music resides in a part of the brain that is
resistant to amnesia, he said.
The texts speak of thirst for life. The people thirst for water in
the wilderness. The Samaritan woman at the well meets the One who gives
the water of eternal life. Paul speaks of God’s love being “poured into
our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
By one estimate 7,000 churches close down each year in the United States. A 2012 study predicted that 20 percent of the churches in Philadelphia would close within ten years. Many of these churches are architectural gems. Razing these buildings can be very expensive. A more satisfactory solution is to repurpose them, turning them into art and culture centers or housing units. The Mount Airy Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is having 20 condominiums built on its property. The sanctuary will be leased back to the congregation for its continued use (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4).