Spiritual Sacrifice in a Pandemic

Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar on April 5, 2020

Pastor Kelly Jane’s At-Home Altar Space where she leads us in weekly worship

It is out of sacrifice that love grows in the desert.  

So you see that our altar space has evolved. 

At the beginning of Lent it was rather bare – vases filled with sand and brown cloth everywhere 

Each week we saw how Jesus can bring nourishment in our desert times – 

And vases were filed with water. 

Jesus’s nourishment not only gets us through the desert time, 

But allows love and life to grow.  

Today, the water of Jesus’s nourishment,  

has provided the nutrients for the palm branches to live. 

As we begin our Holy Week journey, we remember the great sacrifice Jesus would make – 

And how that sacrifice allowed love and life to grow in the desert.  

(add palms to one vase) 

On Palm Sunday the people offered – sacrificed – what they had to bring glory, laud and honor to Jesus. 

They offered what they had out of love for Jesus – and out of hope for the salvation he would bring. 

We have been asked to sacrifice much this Lent – far more than most years. 

We aren’t just sacrificing chocolate, we are sacrificing the joy and pleasures of going out and about – 

To the movies, to restaurants, to concerts, to worship, to parties, to game nights, to the barber shop.  

Some of us on the front lines are sacrificing our health by serving the basic needs of others.  

As I studied more deeply the Palm Sunday scriptures, 

I saw some spiritual tips for this unprecedented time of sacrifice in our collective lives.  

On the first Palm Sunday, people sacrificed what they had.  

They took the cloaks off their backs and broke branches from the trees nearby.  

We do the same this day with our homemade palms and offerings. 

Sacrificing what we have takes on new meaning in our current context. 

We have been called – or forced- to be more resourceful. 

One person remarked to me,  

“I need some spinach, but I’ll wait to go out. I’ll make do without.” 

Sacrificing what we have has forced us to become more creative and more innovative – 

Whether it’s in the kitchen, making palms from newspapers, or sewing homemade masks. 

As we make sacrifices during this time it is important to remember that God beckons us to look at what we already have and to give what we can. 

Jesus was pleased by the offerings of the people on that first Palm Sunday. 

He did not chide them for not bringing him a velvet carpet or neglecting the trumpets. 

He was honored by the humble and resourceful gifts they gave. 

As we make sacrifices during this time,  

May we give what we can – not more, not less 

And trust that our simple gifts are more than enough.  

When we give what we can – not so much that we deplete ourselves,  

But not so little that we hoard and deprive others – 

When we give what we can,  

We are in fact helping our community live in this desert time, 

Spreading resources so all have enough to live.  

(add palm branches to vase) 

Palms added to the vases as symbols of life growing from the nourishment and sacrifice of Jesus.

On the first Palm Sunday, people sacrificed in hope of salvation.  

They sang out “Hosanna!” which means “save us” – but in this context it is paired with  

“blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” – 

So the Palm Sunday Hosanna is both a plea for salvation and a belief salvation is coming. 

The people offered their sacrifice of coats and branches, 

in hope and trust that Jesus was bringing salvation.  

When we make sacrifices today we are doing so in hope and trust that salvation is coming. 

We stay home and wash our hands, 

because we believe it will save us from the worse of this pandemic.  

Nurses, drivers, and grocery store clerks are working, 

In hope of bringing healing to our world.  

Keeping an eye on the hope can help us when the sacrifice weighs heavy. 

Whether you are out on the front lines or  

At home in quarantine, 

Everyone is making sacrifices that are difficult emotionally, mentally and physically.  

When we make these sacrifices with our eyes on the hope of salvation, 

We can be strengthened in our efforts. 

We have learned this in the sacrifices we have made in other ways – 

Perhaps trudging through homework in order to graduate and get a good job; 

Perhaps by caring for a child or grandchild in order to love deeper; 

Perhaps by sweating through a hard workout in order to stay physically healthy.  

Now many of us are called to sacrifice as never before – 

May we do so in hope and in trust of the salvation Jesus has showed us. 

When we can keep our eyes on the hope of salvation, 

We are helping our community live in this desert time,  

By lifting the spirits and perseverance of all.  

(add palm branches to vase)  

Jesus shows us salvation in a way that was unexpected and still may make us uncomfortable. 

Jesus shows us salvation not through a mighty warrior king, 

But through a humble servant on a donkey. 

On the first Palm Sunday, people sacrificed for a humble king, a carpenter riding on a donkey.  

The humility of Jesus reminds us that our sacrifices today may not garner the great praise and fanfare we would like. While some in the crowd praised Jesus, we remember that many stood in the wings, asking who this man was, and plotting his death.  

Jesus did not need empty praise and worldly glory –  

after all, when Jesus was tempted in the desert, 

 he rejected the devil’s offer to rule the earthly kingdoms.  

Jesus trusted God and in doing so eventually became the eternal king of all.  

Given the chaos of this time,  

our sacrifices today may not be given the attention or publicity they deserve.  

This is part of the reason I am asking people to share God-sightings.  

My hope is that in sharing the ways God is working we will be lifted up in hope. 

Even so, the fear and uncertainty of this time will leave many of our sacrifices unnoticed. 

Too often check-out cashiers are subject to the overwhelmed anxiety of shoppers. 

Too often deliver people, nurses, and doctors are asked to work overtime amid supply shortages.  

Jesus’s humility shows us that our sacrifices are made not for our own glory,  

But to show the power of love and community – the power of God – during this time.  

Whatever sacrifices we are each called to make, 

May they be made humbly, for indeed all of us are sacrificing.  

When we give out of compassion and care, not out of pride or desire for a reward, 

Our sacrifices are met with the sacrifices of others, 

Together bringing healing, salvation, and life in this desert time. 

(add palms to vase) 

May we sacrifice what we have in humble praise of a humble king, 

For in doing so we can allow love and life to grow.  

Paper palms were made by church members this year.