April 5, 2020

Beginnings and Endings

Preaching Minister:
Passage: Matthew 21:1-11, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:5, 9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 26:14 - 27:66
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Bible Text: Matthew 21:1-11, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:5, 9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 | Preaching Minister: Andrew Beers | Beginnings and Endings, A Passion Reflection
Sunday, April 5, 2020

Beginnings and endings are often emotional, messy, anxious, and they always seep past the well-constructed boundaries we create for the moment. The first moment you meet someone there are butterflies in your stomach well before the moment you or they enter the room. Think of a first date, walking into the room for an interview, meeting the future in-laws for the first time. When you say goodbye, it is never over in that moment, as soon as the words pass your lips. The separation, the void, the absence seems like an avalanche of feelings pouring over you. Not just at a funeral, but leaving for a long trip, leaving family as you move away; as you send a loved one off to college.

In our passion narrative for Palm Sunday I am struck so deeply with two phrases. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”, and “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” A beginning statement and an ending statement. They take us from the entry into Jerusalem straight to the cross; from a life in triumph to a lifeless corpse.  One can argue that these statements do in fact cover the entirety of Jesus’ human form. From the Annunciation of our Lord to the very Ascension of our Lord.

Beginning and endings are central to our human experience. They are central to our experience because they are our existence; our beginning and our end. Not just in birth and death, but the myriad of beginnings and ends between those fixed dates.

It was on a Palm Sunday several years ago that I was parked in a parking lot. It was a lovely Sunday morning; Spring had arrived, and the flowers were in full bloom. Life was going on as normal all around, but this was not normal for me; it was an ending. While this wasn’t a sudden ending, definitely not a tragic event, it was none the less a goodbye. It has been well planned and discussed thoroughly. The sanitized term was “transition of leadership.” It was my last day in my former congregation.  We were leaving on the best of terms, no bad blood to speak of, there wasn’t a scandal or disdain.  Just the reality of a call to minister to a new community, in new ways. I was to walk in conduct the service, preach my final sermon there. Game over. Years of joys and sorrows, prayers and meditations, growth and change. That chapter had ended. I remember vividly getting back into the car that day, after the service had ended, in a sense of befuddlement and bewilderment. What happens tomorrow morning? What do I do now? There’s no service to plan for! No sermon to write! I have no visitations. I was leaving behind people I loved and cared for, share the rawest moments of life with. It was the time of unknown. It was like our current reality is for us. Like the reality for the disciples, unknown, painful, anxious.

As you might have deduced this ending was a new beginning. I started here at St. Paul’s in 2018 a new beginning for myself, my family, and all of you. That beginning came at the ending of the call for Pr. Dave. A conclusion of his years of faithful leadership and service to our congregation. His dedication to the Gospel and all of you.  For me, the beginning of new friendships and memories to be made. New joys and sorrows, new beginnings and new endings.

Beginning and ending. The Passion of our Lord is just that beginning and ending. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is God who is made incarnate, made human for you. The immortal and never-ending God who became finite, small, human, for you. So you might know God personally. So, you could know the creator of all the universe.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Who comes to the cross for you. To take upon his body the weight and consequences of your sin. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Who comes to your grave, your tomb. Who comes to the hell in your life. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Who come back from the grave, the tomb, who comes again and again for you. All so you might boldly declare to God, into your hands I commend my spirit. With the full faith and trust in Christ our Lord, that you will live with God forever. That your death is just a new beginning.  That is the Passion of our Lord; that the ending is never the end, the ending is the beginning of something gloriously new.

It is through the Passion of our Lord that we can cling to the promise of the resurrection, the promise that Jesus Christ is with us no matter where we are, where we go, or how far we wander. God never loses us. God will leave his perfection of Heaven, trod this earth, go to the very depths of your Hell to pull you home, pull you close, into the very arms of God. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord so that we may proclaim into Your hands I commend my spirit. At every moment of our isolation, our joy, our sorrow, all our lives, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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