Palm Sunday

March 25, 2018


Being that I don’t preach week in and week out at the time, I have days and weeks to ponder and think about texts and the scripture readings that are coming up. Weeks ago, when I re-read the Mark text for Passion Sunday I smiled thinking, “Oh yeah, this is the long, long story of what happens during Holy Week.” I studied the scripture for days on end and looked for a nugget of Good News. There are lots of nuggets or really amazing testimonies to what happens during Holy Week of course, but I was on the look out for a word, phrase or something that stirred my heart. I would read the text and put it away, hoping that when I would return, I would settle on something that would grab my Spirit. But, nothing did specifically and I started to panic until rather recently. 


Weeks ago, my friend, I’ll call her Marit, said she and her husband and three kids, would be coming down to Oslo just before Holy Week. I met Marit couple of years ago, when I was in Tromso for a brief holiday. Marit, at that time was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and was in the midst of chemotherapy. She had never smoked a cigarette in her life, but, for some unknown reason she was struck with lung cancer. Within months it spread into her lymph nodes and about nine months later went into her brain. Being in Norway, she has had amazing treatment and doctors have found ways to help her to live with her cancer. She was recently approved for a certain kind of gene therapy and has had access to things she would never have anywhere else. Even though, her cancer is very advanced, she has done her best to be realistic and live with it.


Marit and I have a very interesting relationship, as we have lots of common connections; we both are American, living in Norway. We have seminary connections in our past, and we share another set of good pastor friends in Tromso. Over the course of the last two years, I have prayed for, listened to, and cried with Marit in this cancer journey. She lives way up in northern Norway, and since distance keeps us physically apart we have stayed in touch on email, as I check in and pray for her weekly. We were going back and forth about when she and her family could visit us and she said their family would love to come to worship on Palm Sunday and then have brunch with us, so our kids and spouses could meet. Great, I responded, I am so looking forward to seeing you and having the time for all of us to hang out. That was Thursday. 


Friday morning, I was sitting on the t-bane going to the International School reading the Passion Story again for the 50th time, it suddenly hit me that this scripture reading is more powerful than I imagined. It’s about death and it’s about life. And suddenly, the tears began to fill up in my eyes, my nose started to run and I thought to myself, “Oh no. How in the world do I preach about this story of Jesus going to the cross to someone who I have grown to love dearly sitting in the pew, someone whose life is wrapped around death in the cancer she lives with in so many different ways?” I was crying by the time I got to school and had to pull myself together when my 11 year old students walked in. At the end of my lesson and I walked out, I kept praying, Dear Lord, what is it in this long and beautiful passion story about Jesus that I am supposed to say on Sunday? What is it? How am I going to do that with Marit right in front me? 


I went home that afternoon and found a message from Marit on my e-mail, “Emily, I just got word this morning that I have to fly to Bergen on Sunday for a radiation treatment on Monday. This was not part of my cancer plan. I have to have this radiation because if the tumor grows even one millimeter bigger, it will become very dangerous for me. I am in shock. I will be in touch. Cancer sucks.” 


And there it was, I knew at that moment, what God was saying in the Passion story for today.  At that particular moment, the Spirit cut right through my heart, reminding me, telling me what I needed to hear. The Passion Story of Jesus is all about God coming to be with us. The grown up Immanuel meets us in the realness of the messy, sad, and deep dark places of humanness. He meets us in our illness, brokenness, fears, depression, sorrow, grief, and challenges. To be honest, this is why I love the season of Lent so very much. Lent is full of humanity and brings to our reality of who Jesus is. This is the season of returning to the Lord our God. 


This is the time in the church year to be vulnerable as we really look at who we are deeply, at the very core of our Spirit. As we look at the brokenness within, I think we yearn to be put back together, to be made whole again. You see, this season is about yearning for the One who walked the journey of death and promised resurrection. Promised that death would not have the last word. Jesus would do that awful work that we could not do as he died on the cross and went to the grave. He did this so that we might have new life and that is what the heart and soul of what this coming Holy Week is about. That is what I want to say to you this day because that is the Good News. 


Holy Week in norsk, it is stilleuke, meaning still or quiet week. It is an opportunity to reflect and journey with Jesus. It is time to gather around the table and share in that last meal. It is time to sit at the foot of the cross, to be and listen to the one who loves us more than we will ever know. It is a time to know that we are not alone, but Christ is with us, today, tomorrow, and always. It is time to let go and grieve our Lord. But, it is also time to have hope in what lies ahead in the resurrection and the promises that are fulfilled for all time. 

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, for he is the one who is making all things new.  Amen.








Bible References

  • Mark 14:1 - 72
  • Mark 15:1 - 47



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