My weekly Thursday morning bible study (10 A.M. in church parlor) is focusing on the days of Holy Week for our Lenten study this year. This week, our focus was on Passion/Palm Sunday. We're using the book, "Christians at the Cross" by Anglican Bishop and New Testament bible scholar, N.T. Wright.
The book consists of a series of sermons that Bishop Wright preached at Church of the Ascension, located in Easington Colliery, north east England, overlooking the North Sea. The reason he preached a a series of sermons for Holy Week in this particular location in 2007 is due to the tremendous economic hardships facing this former coal mining community which shut down in 1993. This is also a community which continues to carry the heavy grief of a terrible mine explosion which happened in that community in 1951 (81 miners and 2 rescue workers died.)
The events of Holy Week which led Jesus to the cross is a way to help whole communities facing economic and societal problems like Easington Colliery to work through immeasurable pain and grief and point us forward to a new beginning and a new way of living through the hope and promise of Jesus' resurrection.
During this Lenten focus, members of my bible study will be naming the pain and struggles of our community and surrounding area by printing these on pieces of paper which will then be brought to the cross at our Good Friday service for God to bring about healing and a new way of moving into the future with hope.
This morning, we focused on Monday of Holy Week and the scriptures were from Isaiah 42 (the hoped for servant who would inaugurate God's rescue of creation) and John 12 (the story of Mary pouring out a year's wages of costly ointment on Jesus as a sign pointing to the anointing of Jesus for his burial.)
Who do you identify with most in the story from John 12? Mary who was willing to offer extravagant generosity to Jesus by pouring the costly ointment on him? Or maybe Martha who misses the point of what Jesus is doing and would rather simply be busy with a bunch of tasks? Perhaps Judas who focuses so much on the checkbook balance that he loses sight of what it means to offer our very best to Jesus? Or are you more like Lazarus, quietly sitting in the background, thankful for Jesus who brought you back to life from the dead, but still pondering what all of this means?
And how does all of this relate to the suffering and pain in our community and world and God's desire to bring healing and newness of life?