Palm/Passion Sunday

Yesterday was one of those days that never end. That didn’t make it a bad day – far from it. But it didn’t end until long after it ended.

On the church side, our pastor talked about how nature worships God. The elements of nature worship and praise God by being what they are, what God made them to be.

[This can go more than one way theologically, I thought.]

Consider Psalm 19. Or Psalm 148.

Consider how molecules warmed by the sun move faster and disperse and become lighter and rise and cold air molecules rush in to the vacuum created in that way and humans experience that as wind – molecules obeying “the laws of nature.”

[Perhaps not coincidentally, today was the day I received Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings article quoting Maria Mitchell saying “every formula which expresses a law of nature is a hymn of praise to God.”]

We can think of “the party” as the pageant, the dance, the movement of creation in response and obedience and honor and praise of God –

… let us not be ashamed to take pious delight in the works of God open and manifest in this most beautiful theater …
Calvin, Institutes I.v.20

[We are all “theater people” in this sense: all people who live in “the theater of God’s glory.”]

So here is Palm Sunday, “the triumphal entry,” Jesus joins the party, the disciples join the party – to the extent of being willing to steal a donkey, let’s be honest about this, says our pastor [although I think, in the end, it seems not to be stealing after all] – the donkey, too, …

The Pharisees cannot get on board with it; and not to just uncritically cast the Pharisees as the cartoon villains, but still, here they are “like me on a bad day,” says our Pastor, unable to participate in the general outpouring of praise and acknowledgement of what God is doing … “Ever had a day like that,” he asks, “when something was happening and you didn’t want to respond, obey, honor someone calling you away from your temptations?”

[This can go more than one way, I think.]

Jesus says even the stones would cry out. “What is rock praise?” asks our pastor.

[And I think of my one of my father’s favorite poems, which he had framed on his desk at the end of his life, “Pebble” by Zbigniew Herbert, and I think “that is a way of thinking about rock praise” – it seems to fit.]

So what about us? He reminds us of the beautiful greeting he heard in North Carolina: “Each of you is welcome here. All of you is welcome here. All of each of you is welcome here.”

Each of us is a child of God, he says, “claimed by God’s grace and wrapped in God’s love,” with our baptized identity that of true selves formed in the image of God, made for the praise of God’s glory.

[So much depends on how we read things. What is the praise of God’s glory. What is the image of God. What is obedience, rebellion, integrity. We human beings do not always agree about how to read particular cases. I don’t think any of us ever imagine we are the Pharisees. But I never like to rule it out altogether.]

I was reminded of this beautiful quote that came in the email on Saturday:

If God exists, why evil? If God is love, why sorrow? If God is a father, why death? If I have knocked, why has he not opened to me? Wait! Believe in him not out of self-interest, but out of love! If you want to reach the Promised Land, you must accept the scandal of all the things you don’t understand right to the limits. Having faith means believing that he fills all space, that no leap can cast me out from his arms. Having faith means believing that he knows everything, that before I arrive he runs through the infinitely complicated plan of my existence all the way to its conclusion, like an ever new problem solved by his infinite love: my final entry into his kingdom.
Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes

On the VOICES side, the 25th anniversary concert was an immensely gratifying event: beautiful singing, stirring testimonials, profound emotions, meaningful connections. My personal fan club reported high levels of satisfaction. When everything comes together this way, the hours and demands of preparing for it take on a whole new meaning.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” From now on, we will have to remember, fondly, our superlative director, Jeff Buhrman, who retired with this concert: a wonderful teacher, and an exemplary human being. The lyrics of one of our songs reads “We do not know how many lives we touch; it may be many, it may be few.” But I know this: I am a better person for having known and worked with Jeff; and I am one of many.

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