Sunday, April 5, 2020 – U18 SUNDAY
Exodus 25/Mark 11
Welcome to Hanover Missionary Church this morning. I am Pastor Amos, the pastor of children, youth, and family. This is actually a U18 Sunday and it’s Palm Sunday and we’re streaming from my house.
We’re going to start this Sunday off with a Palm Sunday reading from the scriptures. This is coming from the gospel of Matthew and it’s titled The Royal Welcome.
The Royal Welcome
21 1-3 When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”
4-5 This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:
Tell Zion’s daughter,“Look, your king’s on his way, poised and ready, mountedOn a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal.”
6-9 The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”
10 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”
11 The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”
That’s our prayerful scripture reading this morning to start off our Palm Sunday/U18 Sunday service. Now, this is a little bit different. This is weird. If four weeks ago or five weeks ago you’d told me I would be live streaming Sunday service from my house with a selfie stick, I probably would have laughed at you. But, this is where we are in the Covid era and I am really excited to be doing something different in these strange times.
What we’re going to do may feel naturally unnatural, but what we’re going to do, is I’m going to invite you into our home to have church with us this Sunday morning. Today, I’m going to invited into a different form of worship in the form of eating. My family is just sitting down for a Palm Sunday pancake breakfast so we’re going to head inside and continue on from there.[Kitchen]
We’re having some pancakes, some whipped cream, some coffee.
So, church in the home. That’s where we are this morning. We’re in our kitchen. Church in the home really isn’t that strange historically. Now, it’s odd to us and i feel that this is very very weird that this is our Sunday service, but it’s an amazing opportunity to be together in a new way. But for the historical church this really isn’t all that strange. The early church met in homes. And even in the Jewish tradition, the Jews would go to the temple and the synagogue, it was really the family and the parents responsibility to raise their children up in the law of Moses, so the synagogue was really a secondary thing to normal life in the home with parents and kids and grandparents. And so the church in the home is really naturally unnatural.
So as I was preparing for this service, I couldn’t help but think of my own church experience. I grew up in the church and we were really involved: programs and retreats and camps and Hawaiian nights and youth. It’s where I learned to play the drums, where I learned to play the piano, it’s where I met my lovely wife. And church was just a normal rhythm for our daily life. But if I were honest with you, a lot of my church formation didn’t actually happen within the church building, it happened in something just like this: a kitchen full of people talking, eating, hovering around the island. I think of my own parents, all the countless conversations I had about God with my dad and my mom around the kitchen sink, around the kitchen table. All the times I had conversations with friends, theological discussions and debates. There were all kinds of times in my life, in my own home, where I met Jesus. I even committed my life to Jesus as a grade one in my families living room on my favourite chair which my parents still have to this day. Church in the home was interesting. It even spilled outside of my my own home into friend’s houses and mentor’s houses. I have all these memories of sitting in other people’s kitchens and other people’s houses, talking and learning and forming around Jesus.
Now, there’s one kitchen in particular that I remember with real distinction and that was my Baba’s kitchen. My Baba is my Ukrainian grandmother. I recently got to spend some time with her. She had a stroke in Florida a couple months ago, and so before the pandemic hit, she returned and I went down to visit her and ended up having a great conversation with her. She’s in her 90s, still sharp as a tack. We had a wonderful conversation about the ways she had formed me as a child, and particularly her kitchen. When Baba and Gigi would invite us over as kids to spend time at their farm – I lived in the town and had six other siblings, so the chance to spend time one-on-one time with someone who doted on me hand and foot was a very wonderful opportunity – my favourite thing to do was sit in her kitchen. Now, I got to go to the bush, to play with a hatchet, to build a fort, I went running around the forest with my Gigi, I got to wear mismatched clothes, and I ate really well; but in the morning, my Baba and Gigi would wake up really early and I would sneak into the kitchen and sit in the rocking chair but the wood stove and rock as I listened to my Baba sing and tell stories and tell how God had worked in her life through all these years of having seven of her own children, including my father, stories of provision and the ways the spirit had guided her in her life, and the stories of the Bible. They were incredibly shaping and formational. Baba’s kitchen was a place where I met Jesus regularly.
And talking to my dad, I’d kind of forgotten there was a long lineage of in-home church in my own family. When I was 16, my family and I went out to Alberta and met my Baba and Gigi there, where my Baba was born and had grown up. Her father had immigrated from Ukraine and was given a hundred acre lot that he had to clear. But while he was there, he met Jesus. His life was turned around, and he ended up starting a church in his own home, a little hut where my Baba was actually born. And when the Ukrainian community got established enough, he actually led the building charge for this tiny little Ukrainian church in northern Alberta. And we actually got to go visit there when I was 16 with my Baba.
So, church in the home, while strange and unnatural to us, and the historic unfolding of God’s story through time and history and the Christian church and the Jewish model, it’s actually not that uncommon even though it feel strange and weird.[Upstairs Studio]
This is probably my favourite spot in the house, this is my studio spot. This is where I do a lot of my work and my drawing.
This is a strange time for all of us and I can’t help but feel a strange connection to the ancient Israelites as we are in this time of being disconnected and lost. It really reminds me of the story of the Exodus. We’ve been going through that story as part of the bedtime story and that just happens to be where we were for the midweek meal before the pandemic hit and we’re continuing on with those which are streaming live at 7:30 on Wednesday nights.
The story of the Israelites is an interesting one. I just want you to pause and imagine that the Red Sea has just folded over itself and Pharaoh’s army has been wiped out and the treat of returning to Egypt through force is over. The Exodus has really begun and the Israelites are standing on the shore of the wilderness. Imagine how that would have felt for them. They had lost everything that was familiar to them. Even though they were slaves and their life was terrible, I think we take for granted the fact that every kind of system they had in place, every kind of routine they had, all the familiarity and similarity of their lives had changed in an instant and they couldn’t go back. Their government, their food source, even their work – even though it was slavery – they did have things to do. It was all gone.
Now if we read the temperature of them, we know this is a strange place for them to be because it didn’t take very long for them to start complaining. They complained about how much food they had, how much water they had, and they actually stated saying they’d rather die in Egypt than die in the wilderness. They were more upset about where they were than where they had been.
And I think it’s because they were scared. I think they were terrified of being in that unknown space, of being in that wild. And I can’t help but feel a similar kind of feeling right now: how strange and weird and uncomfortable and uncertain and that seems to be growing daily.
The Israelites were not alone and they weren’t without a plan. See, God was actually drawing them out of Egypt, drawing them into the wilderness to embed His story and His plan and His image on them. In that moment they were a continuation of a promise God had given Abraham to pass on to Isaac and Jacob. So they’re actually being stripped away from what they’re familiar with to find something new in the wild.
So God choses Moses, Moses leads them through and a pillar of cloud and fire leads them day and night, a three month journey to the foot of Mount Siani where God shows up.
At the bedtime story last week we told the story of God’s thunder and lightening being his theophany. He speaks to them. He gives them the Ten Commandments, these ten new ways of living and being as the first starter of the formation of His image on these people in the wild. And the people are terrified. They had never seen anything like that. Though they knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they knew He was the God of One, they didn’t have much to rely on besides the stories of their patriarchs. They’d been surrounded by the Egyptian gods and the Egyptian god structures, so they’d seen idols, and been told god had presented himself in the form of Pharaoh – that’s what they were told to believe – and these idols the Egyptians would have worshiped around the temples: that is what they would have known. The Israelites would have never seen such a display of God’s power before, of His actually presence coming down on the mountain in the thunderous overwhelming way.
They didn’t like it. They said, ‘Moses, you talk to God. We’re too afraid. You speak for us.’ So Moses ends up going back up the mountain and God reveals a further plan for His people in that moment.
You can read that for yourself in Exodus 25. It continues on. It starts with the ten laws of living and it spills into the priests and the altar and the incense and the lamp stand. There are two critical parts to this revelation that God gives to Moses and it’s actually the formation and the building of the Ark of the Covenant and the building of the Tabernacle.
The Ark of the Covenant was a chest that was to house the presence and spirit of God and would lead the Israelites through the wilderness. And the Tabernacle was a dwelling place where they would set up the Ark every time they moved. And then the instructions were the Israelites were to camp around the Tabernacle. So God was saying, ‘I’m going to dwell in your camp. Your entire civilization will be built around me. Wherever I tell you to go, you will go. Wherever I move, you will move. I will lead you and you will live your live around Me.’
This is a beautiful thing that had happened. The Israelites had gone from having nothing to, within a few months, having this new way of approaching and relating to God. So that’s what they did: they built the ark, the built the Tabernacle, they had these systems of sacrifices that God had instructed, and that’s essentially how the Israelites lived for thousands of years.
In some ways, where I relate to the story, is that a lot of our daily and weekly rhythms have been totally lost. Our way of life, the way we relate to our government, our jobs, our economy, the way we relate to each other, being distanced from each other and isolated – it’s strange, it’s sad, it’s uncertain, at times we all feel lonely, we don’t really know where we’re going. I can’t help but feel like those Israelites when they first entered the wilderness. Where’s this all going? How is this all going to be resolved?
What I find really encouraging is that, just like the Israelites, we’re not alone and the plan has already been put into place. The plan is already in action.
This morning is Palm Sunday. It is a day to celebrate the arrival of the King. I’m going to turn to Mark. I really love the Gospel of Mark and I’m going to read it again. This is Mark 11. This is the triumphant entry of King Jesus.
4-7 They went and found a colt tied to a door at the street corner and untied it. Some of those standing there said, “What are you doing untying that colt?” The disciples replied exactly as Jesus had instructed them, and the people let them alone. They brought the colt to Jesus, spread their coats on it, and he mounted.
8-10 The people gave him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out,
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in highest heaven!
11 He entered Jerusalem, then entered the Temple. He looked around, taking it all in.
My friends, it is Palm Sunday. We are in a wilderness, but we are not alone and the plan is already in action. The King has already come. He’s already marched in, He’s already brought God with Him.
And that day was symbolic as Jesus was brought into the Temple there’s convergence of this mosaic of law and God’s Son meeting together.
Christ has given us a new way of living, a new way of approaching God, and it’s actually through His spirit. And what’s actually really exciting about being alive in this time and having Jesus in our life is that the same God that manifested on Mount Siani with all the thunder and the lightning and the power and the thickness of the air and the smoke and the fire; that same God can indwell in you. And if you are a follower of Jesus and His spirit is in you, He is already in you. That same God lives in you. What’s also amazing about that is that it’s not just an individualistic thing. That same God who lives in all of us is actually Tabernacling with us as families: that wherever we are, God’s presence is. We don’t need an Ark of the Covenant, we don’t need a Tabernacle for God to dwell in or a tent. We don’t need to set Him up and move Him around. Wherever we go, He is with us. Wherever we are, His presence is there. Whoever we’re with, the presence of God is there. Which means, wherever you are, it’s actually church. Whether that’s in a building, or in your home, or down at the park you’re not allowed to go to anymore, wherever you are, the spirit of God is with you and He’s written His law on our hearts. His spirit is the one to convict and shape and give vision and lead. And I find that really encouraging. I find that incredibly exciting.
I know we’re going to get back together again someday. We’re going to meet at Hanover Missionary and we’ll have a big old celebration. We’ll have songs and music and good coffee, and I’m promising you ice cream and cake. We will get back together again, but the church isn’t the building, the church is you. The King has already come, His plan is already in place. He’s already filling your home with His love and presence. He’s with you wherever you are.
That’s my encouragement to you this Palm Sunday: the King has come!