April 5, 2009

So many of the congregation had studied the lessons before the service that there was lots of good discussion this Sunday.  We started with Paul’s letter to the  Philippians 2:5-11, but blended in ideas about Mark 11:1-11 as well.

MH explained that Paul’s letter consisted of an early Christian hymn except for the addition of “on a cross” in referring to Jesus’ death. The letter was written from prison, possibly house arrest, to the prosperous Roman colony in northern Greece, Philippi.  PG added that the Christian hymn also referenced  Isaiah 45:22-25, where the words were said by the prophet to describe the reign of God. That commentator added :”The ultimate goal is the glory of God the Father, the reclamation of God’s sovereignty, his power over, and presence in, the universe”. DC spoke about the Ups and Downs of the story of Holy week.  Jesus, as in Philippians, is humble, yet he arrives in Jerusalem as a King.  He’s exalted by the crowd then days later is doubted and crucified.   PG liked the phrase “Let the mind( “attitude” in some translations)  be in you which is also in Christ Jesus”.  Jesus as our teacher can inspire us to think and have his attitude.  MH concluded with the emphasis on humility in this early hymn.

Mark 11: 1-11

KU pointed out that a colt that had never been ridden before might have been a hand full.  DC said that this was one of several examples of Jesus’ supernatural powers in the story, others being his foreknowledge of the colt and the withering of the fig tree.  CB explained that in those days, a donkey was a symbol of peace.  The people were looking for David, for a return of his kingdom when they were blessed with peace for 40 years. “Hosanna” meant “Save us”.  She also pointed out how poor the people were who greeted Jesus.  They would only have had one cloak and this they lay down on the ground for him to ride over, which was a sacrifice.  No wonder the pharisees were offended.   PC  added further historical context remembering that Jesus had been preaching and teaching in the countryside to poor people, people on the fringes.  When he entered Jerusalem with this crowd plus the residents of Jerusalem, he attracted the attention of the Roman officials and Jewish leaders.  The acclamation of the crowds was threatening to the Romans, who had been content to let the Jewish community worship as long as it did not conflict with the Roman Rule.  The Pharisees also would have been threatened by Jesus, especially after his “cleansing of the temple”.

MH read from a letter from Rev.Geoffrey T. Smith, vicar of the Old North Church in which   he, in turn, quoted the Rev. Rob Voyle, whose work shop on “Appreciative inquiry” he attended.  “Appreciative Inquiry is an organizational behavior theory that assumes it is easier to change with a positive goal ahead of you than a negative push from behind. The Thin Bood of Appreciative Inquiry by Susan Hammond says:

1.In every society, organization or group, something works.

2. What we focus on becomes our reality.

3. The experience of reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple experiences of reality.

4. The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way.

5. People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future, the unknown, when they carry forward parts of the past with them.

6. If we carry parts of the past forward, it should be what is best about the past.

7. It is important to value differences.

8. The language we use creates our reality.

To this, Rev. Voyle added:

9. At any given moment people are doing the best they know how to do in that context at that time.

10. The deepest longing of the human heart is for acceptance.  The only change outcomes that will be sustainable are those that come from greater self acceptance.

MH briefly expanded these points as they might relate to the Easter story and to our churches in transition.

AB concluded the discussion relating her experience in Jerusalem.  She said that there were no sidewalks there.  Where are we in the story?  Since there are no sidewalks there, if you’re not part of the parade, you have to go inside.

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