April 10

The Bach Experience- Sunday, April 10, 2022

By Marsh Chapel

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Luke 19:28-40

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Dean Hill:

It is not so long ago that we greeting Jesus at his nativity, singing carols and lighting candles of hope.  It is not so long ago that we witnessed his growth in wisdom and stature, in the knowledge and love of God, while as a teenager he taught in the temple.  It is not so long ago that this mighty young man Jesus stooped, fully human, for baptism in the surging river Jordan, the river of death and life.  It is not so long ago that we saw him take up his ministry among us, preaching and teaching and healing.  It is not so long ago that with Peter and James and John we saw him ascend the Mountain of the Transfiguration.  With him have we walked this Lent, step by step.

And now it is time to take the full measure of this Man, and to have the courage to let Him take our full measure, too.  The crisp air and vistas of the mountain pass have fed our souls.  But now it is time to head home, and turn our face to Jerusalem.

The road down the Mount of Olives, or down any mountain, can tax the traveler.  It reminds us all of earlier homecomings.

Odysseus walking the last few miles to Thebes.  Socrates walking to the center of Athens and the cup of hemlock.  Richard the Lionhearted sailing the English Channel, heading home.  A prodigal son, scuffling up the last mile of country road toward a dreaded homecoming, as we heard two weeks ago.  You, returning at last to whatever you have long avoided, wandering as you have in the Galilee of the rest of life.  At last, there is the Emerald City, and the road home.

Today, I raise just one question.  What was Jesus’ state of mind, what was on his mind and heart, as he entered the Holy City?

It is perilous, even arrogant, at this late date and from this great distance, to try to imagine Jesus’ state of mind as he descends the Mountain and enters the City.

Albert Schweitzer, before he went of to heal the jungle sick, showed convincingly how inevitably errant are most such attempts.  We paint our own inner lives into the life of Jesus, when so we try to see what cannot be seen in Scripture.  And yet, particularly at this point in his journey, at the entrance into the Holy City, and on the threshold of his own death, we are haunted—are we not?—by the desire to see what Jesus saw and feel what he felt and sense what he did sense, coming home.

Now Jesus is walking down into the city, down off the mountain, and down into the heart of his destiny.  He is going to his grave.

Some of the Gospel today, as Jesus heads home, is too true to be good.  He is not at home, not at home, in a world of injustice, abuse, violence, and death.  For him, in such a benighted world, there is no place like home.  He is not at home under the rubble of Ukraine.  And need to recall and recover our own tragic sense of life, and our own use of biblical terms like sin, like death, like the threat of meaninglessness.

As are we all, though it seems sometimes to be a conspiratorially well-kept secret.  We all are walking down the lenten mountain and into our lasting, our last future.  Every one of us is going to die.  We are going home.

Here is a possible sentiment in Jesus’ heart and mind as he descends the Mount of Olives.

He looks back upon his ministry and feels that there is no place like home.   He has found no lasting nest on earth, no lasting crib, no lasting domicile.   He has found opposition and rejection.  He has encountered misunderstanding and criticism.  To a harsh world he has brought a gentle manner.  To a wolfish world he has brought the labor of love.  To a selfish community he has brought the summons to service.  To an inconsistent dozen disciples, he has brought the steady presence of peace.   He has not found a home, not here.   There is no place like home, for Jesus, descending the Mount of Olives.   He has even said of himself, “foxes have their holes, and birds of the air their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Some of greatest sentences ever written in English are devoted to a similar ennui, a similar existential vagrancy, Hamlet’s soliloquy, ‘to be or not to be’

And those of you who have been shot out of the saddle, riding for a righteous cause, as you dust yourselves off and bind your wounds, do so in the best of company, in the company of the crucified, for whom, on this green earth, as yet, there is no place like home.   But let me ask you something.  What other saddle would have rather ridden?  Some losing causes are worth support even in defeat.  I would rather be shot out of the right saddle than to canter comfortably all the live long day in the wrong saddle.  So dust off, bind the wound, and get ready to ride again.  We have not a person, dollar, idea or dream to spare, locally, nationally, or globally.  Not one.  And it is, let us confess it, an uphill pull.  But there is no other saddle you would ride in, for all the risk.  This is the place to be!

This hunger for home, this is what Paul meant:  this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Our beautiful Palm Sunday Bach Cantata may arouse again this hunger for home.  Dr. Jarrett, how best shall we listen this morning?


Dr. Scott Jarrett

This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. A slight momentary affliction. One could be forgiven for thinking it a little churlish of Paul to categorize the human condition as a momentary affliction. Especially if our only solace is acceptance of a future heavenly home that can only be verified by faith. That’s a tough one.

With our loud hosannas and palm branches waving, we commemorate Christ’s triumphal entry to the city of Jerusalem, riding on a lowly donkey. In a few days, we’ll recall the events of the upper room, a dear friend’s betrayal, another’s denial and recusal. We’ll observe the manipulation of a populace through lies and falsehoods – alternative facts, perhaps? We’ll observe the original washing of hands – an abdication of responsibility – moral ambivalence, a giving up and giving in when the fight becomes too difficult.

Today we offer Bach’s Palm Sunday cantata Himmelskönig sei Wilkommen. Beyond enjoining ourselves to those who shouted Hosanna in Jerusalem centuries ago, Jerusalem is in our hearts, and the Salem of joy, our eternal rest. Cantata 182 is a triumph of charm, sweetness, humility, mercy, and fortitude, a joyful dance. Listen for Bach’s interpretation of a royal French overture – no trumpets or drums here. Christ’s entry on a humble donkey represented by solo recorder and violin with pizzicato strings. Utterly charming and affecting. A Lutheran theology, a Bachian melody, an invitation to acknowledge our need for salvation, a joyful acceptance and confidence of the redeemer’s grace and mercy, all that we might take up the Banner of Christ’s Cross and Passion to be Christ for and with one another throughout all our momentary afflictions.


Dean Hill:

Whittier’s poem:

I know not what the future hath of marvel or surprise

Assured alone that life and death God’s mercy underlies

 And so beside the silent sea

I wait the muffled oar

No harm from Him can come to me

On ocean or on shore


I know not where His islands lift

Their fronded palms in air

I only know I cannot drift

Beyond His love and care

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