In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis, I have wondered what celebrating Passion Week is going to be like while physically separated from fellow believers and my church family. You probably have too. I mean, I think we can all admit that church is different now – or at least it feels different now. Sitting on the living room couch snugly under a blanket, singing hymns mostly off-key while my teens stare at me in bewildered amusement, and watching the sermon remotely on a computer screen while sipping my perfectly home-brewed java is not the normal Sunday morning experience for me. (I’m assuming it’s not for you either.) Actually, that is quite far removed from my normal experience at church. Normally, I am sitting in a pew, having my shamefully discordant voice swallowed up by the melodious voices of those around me, and I am EMPHATICALLY NOT drinking coffee in the sanctuary while I receive grace through the preached word. Yes, things have changed for the American church – at least for the time being.
Home-church must be especially difficult for believers that are used to a liturgical church service. Our church doesn’t have a high level of liturgy as a regular part of its services, on account that it is non-denominational and a fairly young congregation (it is less than 50 years old). However, having had some exposure to a more liturgical type of church atmosphere (and being a little A.D.D.), I can appreciate the beauty and solemnity of church colors, historical prayers and traditional readings that are enjoyed by some branches of Christendom on a weekly basis. Actually, one of the reasons that I especially enjoy the Easter season and Passion week, in particular, is that even in non-liturgical churches such as my own, our music selections, prayers, and sermons tend to focus on the Lord’s suffering, cross-work, and resurrection.
However, embracing another week of home-church this week, I had pretty much resigned myself to a Palm Sunday service that lacked the depth and beauty that is called for in the commemoration of the Lord’s entrance to Jerusalem in preparation for His crucifixion.
But, this morning as I sat under the preaching of this sermon remotely, the church didn’t seem so far away and Palm Sunday didn’t feel as different as I expected it to feel. I think this is because, in this message, I saw Jesus intentionally moving towards his church, humble seated on a donkey, yet going forward in power – despite the suffering that awaited Him. It is the type of message that didn’t miss the theological forest through the doctrinal trees, i.e., that didn’t miss who Jesus is by focusing on all the Biblical texts that surround Him.
In this sermon, the preacher wasn’t neglectful in addressing the realities of our current situation in dealing with the Coronavirus – nor did he try to use this crisis as an opportunity to manipulate us the listeners. Instead, he just focused on Jesus. And, in this way, the Coronavirus was put in its rightful place – under the authority of Christ and as an opportunity for us as believers to enter into the suffering of our Lord during His Passion week.
Someone might notice that the preacher has the last name as my own. And, that is because he is my husband. But, that is not why I am posting this sermon. If Dan were here, he would tell you – I am painfully honest about what I think of his preaching. Rather, I am posting this sermon because it really did encouraged me – and I think it would encourage you too if you listen to it. So grab your favorite snuggle blanket, brew up a cup of java (or tea) just the way you like it, and let Christ put COVID-19, the oddities of home-church and everything else in its rightful place as you see the King Approach this Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.