Tag: palm sunday

Palm Sunday Service Idea

Designing worship for Palm Sunday has always been a challenge for me. Either we focused on the joy of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with palms and singing and celebrating; or, we focused on the Passion of Christ — His crucifixion, death, and burial.

Last year, however, we combined both the joy of Palm Sunday, and the pathos of the Passion into one service. Below is a draft version of the bulletin we will use this Sunday.

As you can see, the service begins with joy. We have children distribute palm branches to the congregation during the prelude, the choir sings a rousing “Ride On, King Jesus,” and we read the triumphal entry story from Matthew 21:1-11. We top it off with the congregation singing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” a wonderful hymn of praise.

After the children’s message, we shift gears. The offertory hymn is “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” I have a brief reflection on the events from Palm Sunday through Good Friday. The change in tone continues as four readers read the Passion Story from the Gospel of Matthew. These are the revised common lectionary readings for this year. Between readings, the congregation sings an appropriate hymn for the passage just read.

Finally, we sing three verses of “Were You There?” and we conclude with the verse that asks, “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” After a closing prayer, we depart in silence, reflecting on the sacrificial death of Christ.

Many of our members will not attend a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service. By covering the last week of Jesus’ life in one service, we remind the congregation that between the joy of Palm Sunday and the glory of Easter, the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus are events to which we must pay solemn attention.

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Palm Sunday: A Service of Lessons and Prayers

PalmSundayFor this Palm Sunday, we took a different approach. We combined elements of the Liturgy of the Palms about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, with elements of the Liturgy of the Passion. This enabled us to move from the joyous crowds which greeted Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, to the vengeful crowd that cried, “Crucify him!”

We took this approach because many in our congregation will not attend a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service. If they attended a joyful Palm Sunday service, and then a celebratory Easter service, they might miss the events of Good Friday and the drama surrounding the crucifixion. To solve this problem, here’s what we did:

1. For our first reading early in the service, we read the Gospel story of the triumphal entry into Jersusalem, from Matthew 21:1-11.

2. We sang appropriate Palm Sunday hymns of celebration including All Glory, Laud and Honor, and Hosanna.

3. During our children’s time, the children heard the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Then, they distributed palm fronds to each person in our congregation. When everyone had a palm frond, the entire congregation waved their palm branches and said in unison, “Praise God for the Son of David! Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God to highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9 – NLT). It was a little chaotic, but then the first Palm Sunday probably was a little chaotic, too.

4. Our organist provided a musical transition from the Palm Sunday celebration to the events after Jesus’ Passover meal with the disciples.

5. During the time alloted for the sermon, I read the following scripture lessons from the Liturgy of the Passion. Because the entire narrative moves from scene to scene, I separated each scene with a corporate prayer of confession. After I read each passage, I then invited the congregation to pray with me the prayer of confession. Here’s the sequence:

Palm Sunday Liturgy of the Passion

Reading: Matthew 26:14-30 — The Last Supper

All: Lord, we confess that just like Judas we have come to your table with thoughts of betraying you in our hearts. Like Judas, we have taken the bread from you hand and the cup from your table while harboring doubts about you and your teaching. Forgive us, O Lord, for this spirit of betrayal that presumes we know more about your Kingdom than you. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 26:31-56 — The Garden of Gethsamene

All: Lord, we confess that when you struggled in agony, we slept in apathy. When they came to arrest you, we betrayed your teaching by fighting back, and then abandoned you in your hour of need. When they accused us of being your disciples we denied ever knowing you. And when the cock crowed, we wept over our own failure to be faithful. Forgive us, O Lord, for our apathy, our fear, and our faithlessness. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 27:1-26 — Jesus Before Pilate

All: Lord, we confess that like the crowd gathered before Pilate, we have chosen Barabbas instead of you. Like the crowd that day, when Pilate asked, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” — we have answered, “Crucify him!” Forgive us for our failure to choose you and the freedom you offer. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 27:27-66 — The Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus

All: Lord, we confess that we see ourselves in the faces of the Roman soldiers who nailed you to the cross; we hear ourselves taunting you as you hang silently before us; and, we feel the bitterness of one thief and the contrition of the other. May we be counted among those who, in great sorrow, lovingly laid you to rest in the garden tomb, hopefully waiting for God’s salvation. Amen.

I wrote the prayers of confession, so feel free to edit them for your use.

6. After the readings and prayers, our choir sang the anthem, The Hour Has Come, which was a solemn and powerful account of the last days in Jesus’ life.

7. When the anthem ended, the congregation left the sanctuary in silence, with a solemn organ postlude played during their exit. We included this note in the bulletin:

“In the tradition of the Liturgy of the Passion, there will be no benediction after the choral anthem. Please leave the sanctuary in silence as we contemplate the death and burial of Christ, and wait in hope for God’s salvation.”

Many people commented on how powerful and meaningful the service was for them. While it was hard for me to resist preaching on Palm Sunday, the narrative of the events of the last week in the life of Christ needs no explanation.

However you choose to celebrate and commemorate the events of Palm Sunday through Good Friday, give careful attention to including them all, including the betrayals, the trials, the mocking, and the crucifixion. The glory of the resurrection shines brightest when celebrated against the backdrop of evil, suffering, and death.

Palm Sunday Podcast: Sharing in the Suffering of Jesus

In Mark 15:1-39 we read the story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The descriptions of the suffering of Jesus remind us that we should not trivialize the sacrifice of Christ. The apostle Paul reminds Christians that we share in the suffering of Christ. This passage provides us the background for both understanding and living a life of sharing Christ’s suffering by sharing the suffering of others. Here’s the link — http://traffic.libsyn.com/chuckwarnock/02_Sharing_In_The_Suffering_of_Jesus.mp3

Palm Sunday Sermon: What Kind of King Did You Expect?

If Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was triumphal on Palm Sunday, what went wrong less than a week later?  Why did the crowds who adored Jesus on Sunday, turn on him by Friday of that week?  And what choice does Palm Sunday present to us today?  In this sermon, I’ll try to answer those questions and explore the reasons the Roman empire, the Jewish religious leaders, and the common people all turn on Jesus after that glorious Sunday. 

Continue reading “Palm Sunday Sermon: What Kind of King Did You Expect?”

Palm Sunday Sermon: On The Road To Calvary

On The Road To Calvary

This Palm Sunday Sermon reminds us that the road to Jerusalem’s celebration was also the road to Calvary.

Luke 19:28-40

28After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30″Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

32Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38″Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40″I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

The Illusion of Victory

We know this story that we celebrate today.  It’s the story of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Luke transports us back in time to the last week in the earthly ministry of Jesus.  And what a week it will be!

With his instructions to the disciples to go and find the colt in the village, Jesus seems to be doing exactly what his disciples expect him to do — take charge, make a bold statement, enter Jerusalem as the Messiah that he is.

And, so the colt is brought to Jesus.  The disciples create a makeshift saddle, layering their cloaks on the colt’s back.  And Jesus rides this colt into Jerusalem.

The crowds in Jerusalem have swelled to several hundred thousand, crowding the streets of Jerusalem as pilgrims and residents of the city prepare for The Feast of Passover, the most memorable feast in the history of the Jewish people.

Continue reading “Palm Sunday Sermon: On The Road To Calvary”

We’re Ranked #105 in the Top 130 Church Blogs

ChurchRelevance.com ranked Confessions of a Small Church Pastor as #105 in the annual Top 100 Church Blogs rankings.  Of course this year they threw in 30 more blogs, so we made the cut in the Top 130!  Am I wrong, or is this the only small church blog that made the list?

Give yourself a giant pat on the back because YOU made this happen.   Readers make blogs, and you’re the greatest bunch of blog readers any blogger could hope for. (This is where the violins start.) No joke, and thanks for reading.

Looking For Churches Doing Cool Outreach Stuff

Okay, enough of the shameless self-promotion.  Here’s your opportunity to have the spotlight for your very own 15-minutes of fame.  I’m always looking for churches doing cool outreach stuff, particularly churches that run 300 or less in attendance.  If your church is doing something interesting in outreach, or you know of a church that is, please let me know.  You just might get featured either here or in my Outreach magazine column, Small Church, Big Idea.  Thanks.

What Are You Doing for Palm Sunday and Easter?

Finally, I’m interested in what your church is doing for Palm Sunday and/or Easter Sunday to connect with your community.  I’m working on a column of ideas for that week, and would love to include yours.  Email me at chuckwarnock (at) gmail (dot) com with a paragraph or two about your plans.  Please include your church name and location, a link to your website, and any photos or artwork you can attach (without crashing google’s servers) and I’ll include that, too.

For those who do sermon outlines or manuscripts, I’ll link to your Easter sermon if you’ll provide the link, your name, your church, and the text you’re using.  These will go up on Friday before Easter if I get enough, so let me know.  Remember, I need a link, not the whole sermon, so you have to post it somewhere yourself.  Thanks.

Sermon for Palm Sunday: Sustaining The Weary

Here’s the sermon I’m preaching tomorrow, Palm Sunday, April 5, 2009.

Sustaining the Weary

Isaiah 50:4-9a

4 The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

Continue reading “Sermon for Palm Sunday: Sustaining The Weary”

Sermon for Palm Sunday, Mar 16, 2008: In the Name of the Lord

Blessed Is He Who Comes In The Name of the Lord
Matthew 21:1-111As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ “[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Peace Comes To A Divided Nation

On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, arrived at the McLean home at Appomattox Courthouse, not far from where we sit today. Lee arrived about 1 PM, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant about 30-minutes later. Grant, the younger and smaller man, began the conversation by telling General Lee that they had met before in Mexico, and that Grant would recognize General Lee anywhere. To which Lee replied, that, Yes, they had met before, but that he — Lee — could not remember any detail of what Grant looked like. They talked on for a while, and then General Lee asked Grant to commit the terms of surrender to paper. Grant did so for the next minutes. As he concluded, Grant cast his eye upon the sword hanging by Lee’s side. Turning back to his paper, he prescribed that the sidearms of the officers, and the private horses of the Confederate soldiers were not to be included in the terms of surrender. The document was signed, and the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered.

At about 4 PM, the two men moved outside, where General Lee called for his horse. Seemingly lost in thought, Lee snapped back to the matter at hand when his horse arrived. Mounting sharply, General Lee began to ride slowly from the house back toward his troops awaiting his return.

As General Lee passed, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, removed his hat in a non-military salute to Lee. All of the Union soldiers standing also removed their hats as General Lee passed by. Peace had come at last to a nation torn by war, and Grant, by his gesture, acknowledged that Robert E. Lee had given the peace that to that day the Union forces had been unable to take.

Peace Rides Into Jerusalem

That scene played out in 1865, was eerily reminiscent of the scene that occurred on another day, long before anyone knew to call it Palm Sunday. Jesus, on a circuitous journey to Jerusalem, instructs his disciples only a few miles from Jerusalem, to go into the village of Bethpage and bring the donkey and her colt tied there to him. If anyone should ask them what they were doing, Jesus said, “Tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

Then, Matthew takes a moment to explain to those of us looking on, what all this means.

4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ “

Matthew is quoting from Zechariah, one of the minor prophets of the Hebrew scriptures. Zechariah wrote in the days after the nation returned from the Babylonian captivity, about 500 years before Jesus’ birth. Even after the nation of Israel returned to their land and to Jerusalem, things did not go well. Old enemies reappeared, new enemies threatened to annihilate the weakened, chastened nation. The rebuilding of the temple lagged, the people still in shock over a lifetime of captivity in Babylon. Zechariah, Haggai, and other prophets both challenge and encourage the nation to rise to the moment, to again be faithful, to embrace the God of Israel who has brought them home.

Zechariah’s prophesy of hope extends from chapter 9 through 14. In chapter 9, verses 9-10, Zechariah speaks of the Zion’s King coming to his people –

9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The king is coming, to repeat that rousing song of a couple of decades ago. The king is coming, and when he comes he comes riding a donkey, more precisely a donkey’s colt. A young, unproven beast of burden known more for its sure-footedness than swiftness. Riding on a donkey was the king’s way of saying, “We’re not at war anymore. We no longer have to mount the horses of war. We can ride slowly, confidently, joyfully because I bring peace.”

But, Zechariah doesn’t stop there. He continues in this prophesy that covers chapters 9-14. Zechariah describes what happens when the Lord comes and reigns –

8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.

9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

Jesus Comes in the Name of the Lord

And so, here is Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, fully aware of the prophecy of Zechariah. The crowd also seems to understand. For their dilemma is not the rebuilding of the Temple. Herod the Great has already accomplished that. The dilemma of the nation in Jesus day is that they are in exile again. Occupied by Roman troops, whose headquarters abuts the Temple compound itself. Rome, with its despised Roman eagle insignia, holds the nation hostage in its own land, in its own city, Jerusalem.

Insurrections against foreign enemies had arisen quickly, but had ultimately been crushed. The latest and most significant was the Maccabean revolt, about 167 years before Jesus, which ended badly for the Jews. Pompey, in 63 BC, conquered Jerusalem and the puppet king Herod the Great was installed as ruler. Now the people again longed for a king, a popular figure, a person of the people, a common man who would be like King David. A king who could unite them, shepherd them with love, stand against their enemies, defend them in the face of foreign foes.

And in that atmosphere, Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. We do not know how it happened that the crowd began to shout and sing –

Hosanna to the Son of David
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

But in those shouts, those accolades, those songs of triumph were the hopes of everyday people. People who were tired of living in fear. People who were weary of a religion that piled rule upon rule, law upon law, until it was all so heavy that no one could bear it. People who longed for hope and help and kindness and gentleness. People who wished for the impossible.

And yet, here he was. The symbolism of the animal upon which Jesus rode was not lost on them. They knew the scripture, too. His name was not lost on them either. This name which we pronounce ‘Jesus’ they knew as ‘Yeshua.’ In English, Joshua. And they needed a Joshua. Joshua who took the nation into the promised land after the death of Moses. Joshua, with his companion Caleb, who had been the only spies to say, “This land is ours. God gave us this land. We can cross over and take it.” Only that day, the people wanted nothing to do with Joshua. And so they all wandered 40-years until all the naysayers died. And it was left to the next generation to follow Joshua.

All of the people living were the children of the Maccabean revolt. It had been over 60-years since they ruled themselves. What their forefathers had only seized for a brief time — freedom — they wanted for a lifetime. Jesus, the new Joshua, seemed their best hope.

And so they sang, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Names Meant Something Then

Unlike today, when we name our children for rock stars, names meant something in Jesus’ day. The angels gave the name of John the Baptist to his father, Zechariah. And the angels gave the name Jesus to Mary for her soon to be born son. Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. The same sins from which Joshua saved them — the sins of unbelief and faithlessness. The same sins for which they had suffered in recurring cycles throughout their history.

But, not only did the name Jesus mean something, the title Lord did, too. Jesus tells the disciples to explain that “the Lord” needs the donkey and colt, if anyone asks. Zechariah says that

“The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

Not only will the Lord be king, but his name will be the only name. So, he who comes in the name of the Lord, comes with the full authority of God the Father. God, whose name the Jews never pronounced until it was lost from any way to vocalize it, was always referred to as “Adonai” — Lord.

To come in the name of the Lord was to come in full authority of God, the God of Israel, the God of manna, and of freedom, the God of a thousand blessings, the God who shepherded his people with kindness.

And to come in the name of the Lord meant mostly to come bringing peace. Peace. Not power, not dominance, not wrath, but peace. Peace to a people who were weary of war. Peace to a people who had no means to fight. Peace to a people who could not seize peace, but who longed for it desperately.

To come in the name of the Lord meant to come bringing peace. On a donkey, without arms, without aggression, with no defense, to bring peace to the midst of chaos.

Just as God had spoken light into darkness at creation, so Jesus came bringing peace.

The King Comes To His Kingdom

Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king who has already won the battle. Peace is his now, and he can give peace to his people. Jesus’ ministry has been about the kingdom of God. His preaching announced it, his teaching explained it, his miracles demonstrated its power. The only thing left is for the kingdom to come in its messianic peace.

Momentarily, the people of Jerusalem think they understand. On that day, they believe that Jesus will bring peace, the kind of peace that means armies are defeated, governments overthrown, power shifted to the powerless. But, Jesus has already told them, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives…”

Later in the week, they will grow tired of this peace “not of the world” and will impatiently reject Jesus in favor of nothing. “No peace is better than this, they will reason. Peace can’t come if you don’t defend yourself, answer your critics, fight for your freedom. No, we’re better off with no hope than with this Jesus.”

But he who comes in the name of the Lord brings peace, just as surely as Lee brought peace to Appomattox 143-years ago. Peace is given, never taken. Peace is a gift, not a prize. Peace is an act of love, not the result of victory.

People of Peace

On Thursday, Debbie and I drove to Roanoke to attend the funeral of Donnie Bower’s father, Orville. Donnie grew up in the Old German Baptist Brethren Church, and his mother and father were faithful members of that group their entire lives. The Old German Baptists Brethren maintain some of the old traditions of our Anabaptist forebears. They wear long beards without moustaches, like some of the former ministers of this congregation. The men wear dark suits, but from an old pattern style — jackets without collars, white shirts worn without ties, matching vest and trousers. Women wear modest high-necked, long-sleeved dresses with low hemlines almost to the floor. A head covering of a white net cap tied tightly under their chin rounds out their wardrobe. Black bonnets are worn out of doors.

You might think that these folks would be joyless and stiff, dressed as I have just described. We arrived about 5-minutes late, because google maps sent us to the wrong road near Boone’s Mill. As we walked up to the meeting house door, the sounds of singing rang through the building. In unison and without accompaniment, as one great strong voice, the congregation was singing as we entered the meetinghouse. A bearded minister stood at the front of the large meeting room, “lining” the hymn — he spoke the verse, which the congregation then sang. The sound reminded me of vespers at a monastery retreat I took several years ago. Almost a chant, the melody soared and fell in a slow, deliberate cadence that was solemn, but not sad.

Debbie and I sat down, only to realize upon looking around that we were seated on the left section filled with men only. The center section contained families — husbands, wives, children — and the right section of pews seated only women. All the pews faced the front of the room, which could probably seat about 400. One group of pews on the left faced toward the ministers. Deacons occupied those pews, I was later told.

The meetinghouse was well-constructed, but plain — a wood floor, newly polished; white unadorned walls; flat ceiling about 14-feet high; and plain pews with no hymn racks. The rectangular room was lined with pews in three sections, all facing the wall opposite the door. The two entrance doors were on the south wall, the pews faced the north wall, both were the longest walls, so that the congregation was broader than it was deep.

As I looked at the front of the room, there was no platform and no pulpit. The ministers, who are elected by the congregation and are unpaid, sat on two rows of pews facing the congregation. In front of those pews, between the ministers and congregation, was a long wooden table. I had read that the earliest Baptist meetinghouses had a central table around which the congregation was seated. I was witness to that 300-year old arrangement at the Old German Baptist Brethren church today.

After the hymn singing ended — each person carried their own small hymnal with words but no music — a minister stood to speak. Although he used no microphone, his words resounded off the floor and walls with crisp clarity. “This is what a service must have been like 200-years’ ago,” I thought to myself, although the room did have plain electric lights hanging from the ceiling.

The service included two speakers, two or three hymns, two prayers during which the entire congregation of men knelt on the hard wooden floor, and the Lord’s Prayer followed each prayer. From 10 AM to 12 noon we sang, prayed, knelt, and listened as this funeral “meeting” offered words of comfort, and a community of support.

After the funeral, we drove the short distance to the church-owned cemetery. As we stood by the graveside, brief words were spoken. Then cemetery workmen lowered the casket into the vault, secured the top of the vault, and lowered both into the grave. As they did so, two of the Brethren came alongside with long tamping poles. As the vault was lowered, they inserted the poles down each side, guiding the vault away from the sides of the grave into the center. What followed was remarkable.

The gathered congregation began to sing. As they sang, bearded men in black suits picked up shovels and began to shovel dirt into the grave. These hands were not strangers to work, and as they shoveled, other men holding the tamping rods tamped the dirt vigorously as the grave filled. One song gave way to another as one by one, bearded men and family members shoveled dirt into the grave, and tamped it lovingly into place. Some tears were shed, but most wore pleasant expressions of seeing an old friend off on a long journey. As the grave filled, other men brought rolls of sod, covering the smoothed dirt with green grass.

The hymns ended. A minister spoke of the journey of their brother, a journey that had taken him safely home. A prayer was offered and then another minister thanked everyone for their loving kindness to the family.

As Debbie and I stood among these gentle people dressed in clothes belonging to another place and time, I marveled at how they had gathered to take care of their brother even to the duty of laying his body in the ground. This was a community of faith. A community carrying out centuries-old traditions, but not without meaning. This community gathered from all over the country, as automobile tags carried the designations of many states. They gathered, greeting each other with hugs and holy kisses, to do what communities do — to cry, to pray, to help, to support, to do the work that one friend does for another.

Most of those Old German Baptists were old. Gray beards and gray-bonneted hair were in the majority. I felt we were witnessing the passing of an era. An era when people believed together, worshipped together, mourned together, and rejoiced together. An era when life was simple, families were close, and faith was real. These were people who brought peace to a family. People who had come in the name of the Lord.