Holy Week's Trajectory

Holy Week

Jonathan Mansur | March 1st, 2018

The events of Holy Week - Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday - convey in one week’s time the full trajectory of the gospel.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with praise! Upon his entry into the city, the crowds - and even children - were quoting Psalm 118 as they exclaimed “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, cf. Psalm 118:25-26). The people knew their King had come to Jerusalem!

As the week progressed, opposition rose, culminating in the betrayal of a friend. Instead of the peoples’ praise, Jesus now heard the religious leaders’ rally: “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke- 23:21). And Pilate conceded. In stark contrast to the shouts of praise heard at the beginning of the week, Jesus would cry out in pain as he paid the penalty for our sins.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1a ESV)

Sorrowful, the disciples went home for what must’ve seemed like the longest Sabbath day of their lives.
Then, much to their amazement, they heard reports from the women who went to prepare Jesus’ body that he was not there, but had risen. Lo and behold, he himself appeared to them alive indeed!

You can see this gospel trajectory in the hymn Paul quotes in Philippians 2:6-11. It begins in the heights of heaven, follows with the condescension of Jesus “to the point of death.” But then it soars with His super-exaltation as he is risen, ascended, and re-enthroned in heaven. Universal praise befits this event!

We have prepared several things to help us experience this trajectory from height, to depth, to height again.

On Palm Sunday (March 25) not only will we celebrate the beginning events of Holy Week that morning, but we will also celebrate that evening what God is doing in and through our church with our first ‘Celebration Service’. I’m excited for this service because we’ll hear testimonies of how God has led each Sunday school class to serve our community, we’ll share a meal together, we’ll worship together, and we will pray together!

Then, each day of Holy Week you’ll read a meditation written by one of our own church members. These will focus your attention on the cross as Good Friday approaches. In them, we will meditate on the significance of what Jesus said in his final breaths.

On March 30 we will have our first ever Good Friday service at 6:30 p.m. with a “Service of Shadows.” As we leave that service in silence, we will feel - to a lesser degree - the sorrow and sadness of the disciples.

But then comes Sunday. The shadows of Good Friday will make the JOY of Easter that much brighter when we enter with praise, for our Savior is Risen indeed! Because of Jesus, we will sing the victory song with the psalmist:

I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD. (Psalm 118:17 ESV)

Join us as we walk through the gospel trajectory of Holy Week & celebrate our crucified-yet-risen Savior.

- Pastor Jonathan

Songs for the Soul

Songs for soul

Jonathan Mansur | January 25, 2018
Admittedly, I am a theology nerd. One year for my birthday my in-laws asked what I wanted. I said, “Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology!” While I was in seminary at the time, this was not a required textbook for any of my classes (yes, I asked for a textbook for my birthday). This massive 1,200+ page “Introduction to Biblical Doctrine,” as the subtitle states, was merely for “fun” and future reference and study in ministry.

Books of this stature, and this dense in content make many of us cringe at the thought of “theology” or “doctrine.” Yet while theology is an inexhaustible field - for God is infinite - it ought not to make us cringe. Theology, as the study of God, ought to make us worship. Grudem says,

“[The study of theology] is a study of the living God, and of the wonders of all his works in creation and redemption. We cannot study this subject dispassionately. … Systematic theology at its best will result in praise” (37, 42).

Hence, Grudem ends each chapter with a hymn that teaches the same doctrine he discussed. A hym. Knowledge of God & His Word ought to result in praise from the heart. That is why we see the psalmists write songs stating:

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:17)

Tremper Longman III in his book How to Read the Psalms says, “Theology should be the expression of a person’s heart and should always be applied to life situations. … the Psalter represents theology in its most vibrant form” (52-53). The truths we find in these songs resonate with us because they package what we need to know about God in a memorable format.

That is why when you are overjoyed at God’s goodness, “How Great Thou Art” erupts from your mouth. Or when you are overwhelmed with life’s heartaches, “It is Well With My Soul” starts to swell within you. Or when you cannot go one minute longer in your own strength, “I Need Thee Every Hour” starts to hum from your lips.

That is why when you come to church, you anticipate singing praises with the congregation (Psalm 100). Or when you are afraid of the hurdles of life before you, you know you can trust in God (Psalm 56:3). Or when you have sinned, you turn in repentance to God for His mercy & cleansing (Psalm 51). Or when your heart is broken, you can feel the comfort of God’s presence (Psalm 34:18).

The Psalter was the hymnbook for ancient Israel - and the hymnbook for Jesus. Much like our favorite hymns, “The Psalms were born from life struggles, and they speak to people who struggle today” (Longman, 84-85). Yet these songs are greater than those in our hymnbook, for they are the songs inspired by God Himself. A “Him-book,” if you will.

On February 4th I will begin a new series on the Psalms called “Songs for the Soul.” The Psalms inform our minds to focus on God in worship, direct our wills to trust Him throughout all of life’s situations, and arouse our emotions to respond to God appropriately no matter what we may be going through. You and I need these songs for the soul.

To further stir your mind and heart over the Psalms, I highly recommend How to Read the Psalms by Tremper Longman III and The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Tim & Kathy Keller. Both are a manageable size, and rich in helping you understand & worship through the Psalms.

- Pastor Jonathan

how to read psalms
How to Read the Psalms, Tremper Longman III
The Psalms possess an enduring fascination for us. For frankness, directness, intensity and intimacy, they are unrivaled in all of Scripture. Somehow the psalmists seem to have anticipated all our awe, desires and frustrations. No wonder Christians have used the Psalms in worship from the earliest times to the present. Yet the Psalms cause us difficulties when we look at them closely. Their poetry is unfamiliar in form. Many images they use are foreign to us today. And the psalmists sometimes express thoughts that seem unworthy of Scripture. Tremper Longman gives us the kind of help we need to overcome the distance between the psalmists' world and ours. He explains the various kinds of psalms, the way they were used in Hebrew worship and their relationship to the rest of the Old Testament. Then he looks at how Christians can appropriate their message and insights today. Turning to the art of Old Testament poetry, he explains the use of parallelism and imagery. Step-by-step suggestions for interpreting the psalms on our own are followed by exercises for further study and reflection. Also included is a helpful guide to commentaries on the Psalms. Here is a book for all those who long to better understand these mirrors of the soul. | Available from Amazon and Christian Book.
Timothy Keller
The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms, Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller
The Songs of Jesus offers inspiration every day for an entire year based on the Book of Psalms. Each day readers will encounter a fresh, inspiring lesson from one of the most beloved books in the Bible.

The Book of Psalms is known as the Bible's songbook — Jesus knew all 150 psalms intimately, and relied on them to face every situation, including his death.

Two decades ago, Tim Keller began reading the entire Book of Psalms every month. The Songs of Jesus is based on his accumulated years of study, insight, and inspiration recorded in his prayer journals. Kathy Keller came to reading the psalms as a support during an extended illness. Together they have distilled the meaning of each verse, inviting readers into the vast wisdom of the psalms.

If you have no devotional life yet, this book is a wonderful way to start. If you already spend time in study and prayer, understanding every verse of the psalms will bring you to a new level of intimacy with God, unlocking your purpose within God's kingdom. | Available from various distributors.