The rejected stone is now the cornerstone. Let us rejoice!
Imagine a group of pilgrims standing before the walled old city of Jerusalem singing, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.” They have traveled on the annual pilgrimage and have prayed and reflected on the compassion of God and on their history as a nation. Imagine their joy as they enter the city and go to the Temple.
One sin of our age is the lack of time for reflection or sabbath rest. Busyness distracts and diverts our focus on spirituality, ministry, and mission. Let Psalm 118 recall you to that purpose.
Psalm 118 is the last of the psalm sequence known as the Egyptian Hallel because they celebrate the liberation from slavery in Egypt. These psalms continue to be chanted or sung during the great pilgrim festivals: Shavuot, Sukkot, and Passover. The sequence begins with a prayer of praise that remembers that the Lord “raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy . . . to make them sit with princes” (Ps. 113:7-8). The Hallel sequence ends with a psalm that celebrates Israel’s deliverance from battle or war. Today we rightly prepare for Palm/Passion Sunday by reading Psalm 118 and remembering God’s deliverance of Israel.
As we move closer to the intricate plot, verses 22-23 may jump out and shimmer. The Messianic intent of the words may be familiar, and yet each reading brings a freshness. We marvel that God uses the one rejected by those in authority to build the new kingdom. But that is the essence of God’s master plot: to turn upside-down the expectations of those in power and to lift up the needy and the oppressed. In turn we join the pilgrim song, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.”
God, in the marvelous ways of your love, you transform our lives as you transformed the life of the Rejected One. Lift the lives of all who are needy and oppressed, and make your pathways plain for all. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does your faith community reflect the servant in this reading?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How are you rejoicing in this day that the Lord has made? How are you blessing “the one who comes in the name of the Lord”?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this hymn of the early Christian community speak to you as you prepare for Holy Week?
Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. Spend some time imagining the scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem as described in the reading. Where are you in the scene? What do you see? What do you hear around you? What do you feel as you watch this event?
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