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Life in Greencastle

Three times a year the Jewish people would set out for Jerusalem. They would leave their homes and embark for the Holy City. Pilgrimage, we call it. Mothers would see that their children would have food to eat for the journey. Men would ready the oxes and donkeys. Children would begin to grow giddy with excitement, and two days into the journey they would conspire, "Are we there yet?" And up the people would go to Jerusalem. Every time: up. Regardless of where they lived: up ... because Jerusalem was literally a city on a hill, a high point in Palestine. So, for the three major festivals, faithful Jewish families would set out as pilgrims, venturing towards Jerusalem.

And the biggest festival was the Passover. Jerusalem would be overcrowded with pilgrims. For one week the city would be so packed with people even nearby Bethpage and Bethany would be teeming with families.

On the way to Jerusalem, the people sang songs: the shiray hammaloth, the Songs of Ascent. We still have this songbook. And we still sing as we travel, but I doubt any of us grew up singing Psalm 125 in the back of our parent's station wagon. Still, here they are: Psalms 120 through 134 ... fifteen psalms likely sung to do more than pass the time and miles. They sang to remember God's saving acts. Eugene Peterson says that the picture of the Jewish people traveling towards Jerusalem, singing these songs to each other and to God, is the best picture "for understanding life as a faith-journey". This picture reminds us that we too are pilgrims. It might seem like a far cry from life in Greencastle, but I hope we can follow the example.

I want you to realize you are on a faith-journey. I hope you know you are more than an observer; you are a pilgrim. You too have the opportunity to ascend and hear about God's ways of salvation. You'll drive along Round Barn road and then turn up our drive. And, you'll be invited to walk up the small incline into our church, where you can "travel" the final week of Jesus' earthly ministry. Come home, everyone. Let's celebrate. Let's remember.

I am looking forward to beginning that journey with you this Sunday, Palm Sunday. We'll be able to remember the time Jesus entered Jerusalem - riding the crest of the people's hopes. And, we'll be ushered into worship by Ellen Mangan, a harpist who will begin playing around 9:45 am. Please do come early for this. You'll also be given a palm branch, what the Israelites used for the "red-carpet" treatment. You'll be invited to place your branch on the ground, inviting Jesus - our Savior - to walk before us again.

You may also notice something else. The stack of toys and gifts that we've collected for our daycare have disappeared. That's good news. They are now being used and enjoyed by the children and by the staff. And, instead of toys, you'll see a number of cards and hanging "ornaments" on the table. These are signs of gratitude. A host of children kept parading through my office and Jane's office with these cards. They wanted Jane and I to know they are thankful for the gifts. And, I want you to know they are thankful. I'm proud of your generosity and Christ-like sharing.

There is too much going on to write about in full, but let me also say that this Saturday has been set aside to clean and prepare our church for this high, holy season. I invite you to dawn your servant's clothes (aka ... your cleaning clothes) and join others at 9 am on Saturday.

"When they said, 'Let's go to the house of God,' my heart leaped for joy." (Psalm 122:1). May it be.



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