The Gospel: Luke (19:28-40)
[Jesus] went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Old Testament: Isiah (50:4-9a)
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
The Response: Psalm (31:9-16)
9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; *
my eye is consumed with sorrow,
and also my throat and my belly.
10 For my life is wasted with grief,
and my years with sighing; *
my strength fails me because of affliction,
and my bones are consumed.
11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies
and even to my neighbors,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance; *
when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; *
I am as useless as a broken pot.
13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
fear is all around; *
they put their heads together against me;
they plot to take my life.
14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. *
I have said, “You are my God.
15 My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
and in your loving-kindness save me.”
The Epistle: Philippians (2:5-11)
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke (23:1-56)
The assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying,
Council “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”
Narrator Then Pilate asked him,
Pilate “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Narrator He answered,
Jesus “You say so.”
Narrator Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds,
Pilate “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”
Narrator But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them,
Pilate “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”
Narrator Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them,
Pilate “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.”
Narrator But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said,
Jesus “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Narrator Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
(Please stand as you are able)
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said,
Jesus “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Narrator And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying,
Leaders “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”
Narrator The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying,
Soldiers “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
Narrator There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying,
First Criminal “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
Narrator But the other rebuked him, saying,
Second Criminal “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
Narrator Then he said,
Second Criminal “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Narrator He replied,
Jesus “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Narrator It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said,
Jesus “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Narrator Having said this, he breathed his last.
Silence may be kept.
When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said,
Centurion “Certainly this man was innocent.”
Narrator And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
Yesterday, just as the people of St. Mark’s Church have done this time of year for decades, a group of us spent the morning in and around our buildings, cleaning and putting a sparkle on our facilities in preparation for our celebration of Easter. Our hard-working corps of volunteers was busy cleaning pews, washing windows, dusting furniture in the Community Building, wiping off baseboards, trimming shrubs, sprucing up the gardens, and basically doing whatever needed to be done.
I spent the time where I have been, weather permitting, every “Sparkle Day” for the past 23 years: over on the other side of the driveway, climbing through the trees and honeysuckle and fallen branches and weeds, picking up trash and cardboard and disposable cups and fast-food containers and candy wrappers and beer bottles and soft-drink cans and whatever else has either blown into the bushes or has been tossed there by pedestrians or from cars passing through. It is a job that, over two decades ago, I intentionally chose for myself.
When I first came here to share with you in this church’s ministries and learned about the parish’s tradition of Sparkle Day, I asked about all the various jobs that needed to be done. And I tried specifically to identify which of those jobs was the least desirable, which was the nastiest one that needed to be done, because I knew that that was the job that I needed to do. This particular job seemed to be to be a good candidate for the top of the list – or the bottom, depending on your perspective. I needed to do that job not despite the fact that I was the priest at the church, called to serve as its rector, but precisely because I was the priest at the church, called to be its rector.
All too often, those called to ministry allow themselves to avoid that kind of work. They adopt the approach that they somehow are above all that, that they somehow have a privileged position, that they deserve special treatment and special accommodations, and that they should be able to do pretty much what they want and be served by others. Sometimes, even their spouses and children, and maybe even their special friends, think that they, too, for some reason should be privileged, should receive preferential treatment, and should be allowed to do pretty much whatever they want. I personally find it to be incredulous that people who supposedly listen to, and try to live, and attempt to preach the gospel week after week, year after year, adopt that attitude. It is diametrically opposed to the example that Jesus gave us.
This Thursday evening, in the Maundy Thursday Eucharist that we will once again celebrate at St. Christopher’s, we will hear St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ Last Supper. And in that narrative, Luke (22:27) tells us that Jesus asked those who were sharing that meal with him: “Who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” As Jesus does repeatedly in Luke’s version of the gospel, he turns the values of the world upside down. And he not only espouses those values for others; he lives those values himself, giving an example of them to his disciples long ago and to us, as his disciples today. In the dominion of God, the last is the first, and the one who serves is the one who is truly great.
Over the years that I have been with you, I have tried to give that example to you and to others, not just on Sparkle Day but throughout the year, in all different aspects of our life as a church. But, as I have, an amazing thing has happened. I myself have been awed and inspired and humbled by the way that so many of you have given that example of Christ-like service to me and to one another and to the wider community to which we are called to minister. Whether it is in the way that most members of this church speak to one another and treat one another; whether it is in the gentle, loving acts of kindness that you show to one another; whether it is in your seemingly mundane work behind-the-scenes, caring for our church home, and preparing for and cleaning up from all sorts of parish activities; or whether it is in your generous ways of going out and serving others in the greater-Dayton community faithfully and in a self-effacing way – so many of you have intentionally made yourselves servants of others. Essentially, in your lives, you have proclaimed Christ and modeled Christ to one another and to the world around us.
To me, it is gratifying to witness the fact that you have got the message: that is, the gospel message. You have realized, first of all, that Jesus’ call to true greatness is not a call to enjoy some sort of privileged position, but rather a call to be last of all and the servants of all. And secondly, you have realized that the fundamental call to service, the call to ministry, the call to model Christ to the world, comes not with ordination but with baptism.
Baptism, baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, lies at the very heart of what we about to commemorate and celebrate once again during this coming week. This Saturday evening, we will gather here for the Great Vigil of Easter: the most important worship service of the entire church year. The Great Vigil is not just a preparation for Easter. It is Easter. It is the church’s primary celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. And an integral part of that celebration is our renewal of our baptismal promises.
In those promises, we commit ourselves once again to follow the example of Jesus as it is described in, what is perhaps, the earliest Christian hymn, the one that St. Paul included in today’s second reading (Philippians 2:5-11): “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.”
Although Jesus was “in the form of God,” he did not try to claim any sort of privileged position. Instead, he emptied himself completely, becoming the servant of all. As one commentator (The Jewish Annotated New Testament, p. 400) puts it, he willingly embraced “the lowest imaginable low from a pre-incarnate highest imaginable high.” And, in doing so, he gave us a living example of the values of the reign of God. Those are the values that our coming celebration calls us to model for the world in his name.