Amy Martinell, Sioux Falls, SD

Warm-up Questions

Who is someone you completely trust? What organizations (school, clubs, health system, etc.) do you trust? What organizations do you not trust?  Is it easier to trust people or organizations?

Broken Trust

The last few weeks have brought worry and panic to the banking world. The panic began with the sudden collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank over a three-day span. These bank closures led anxious customers to withdraw their money from other smaller regional banks and place it with bigger institutions that are better capitalized.

These smaller banks then had to scramble to have enough money to cover the withdrawals. Many banks sought emergency loans from the Federal Reserve. Some of these banks then saw significant drops in their stock and credit rating. This problem is not limited to the US. Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second largest bank, was bought out by UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, in order to prevent a collapse.

All of this action leads to concern about global and personal finances and worry that we are headed into a prolonged recession. While Global financial regulators state that the banking system is secure and healthy, many cannot help but wonder.

Discussion Questions

  • Distrust of banks has been common especially after the Great Depression. Have you experienced friends or family distrusting banks.  What stories have you heard about this?
  • Do you worry about the current financial situation? How do you think money is tied to our sense of security?
  • What things help you feel safe and secure, especially when you are feeling anxious?

Sunday of the Passion/ Palm Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Philippians 2:5-11

Matthew 26:14—27:66

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

From one story of worry and panic to another. The story of Jesus’ passion is filled with tension and broken trust. We begin with Judas agreeing to hand over Jesus, his teacher and friend, for thirty pieces of silver. Judas is not the only disciple who lets Jesus down. When the disciples gather with Jesus for the passover meal, Jesus warns that one gathered there will betray him. Peter swears he will die for Jesus before he will desert him, but he quickly breaks this pledge. When Jesus is arrested, Peter loses his resolve and denies Jesus three times.

The road to the cross is a lonely one. When the High Priest and Pilate question Jesus, no one speaks a word in Jesus’ defense.  The very crowd that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem calls for his death. In the end, even God seems silent. The desertedness of the story reaches its climax as Jesus’ cries out to God in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The story of Jesus’ passion is hard to read. We want to rush to the good news of Easter, but it is important to sit with the story of Good Friday first.  In this story we see everyone fail Jesus—from his friends, to political and religious leaders, to the ambivalent crowd. These failures teach us that the ways of the world are imperfect at best and deeply flawed at worst.

We experience that in our own lives. We’re tempted to put our trust in earthly things. Things like banks, insurance, and retirement funds can make us feel safe and secure, but the current banking issues and history have taught us that they are not infallible. We put trust and care into our relationships with friends and family, but we know that while these relationships are wonderful and needed, they are not perfect. Forgiveness is such a big part of human relationships because even those with the best intentions, like Peter, will fail us and we will fail them.

It is only Jesus who never breaks our trust. Even when Jesus is betrayed and abandoned, he does not give up on humanity. Instead, he goes to the cross and takes on our sin and death, so that we might have new and abundant life. In Jesus, we have a God who has experienced every heartbreak we face: loneliness, betrayal of friends, and times when even God seems silent. Jesus knows our every pain and joins us in our suffering. 

In the story of Jesus’ passion, we also find the promise that God’s love is there for us no matter what. Jesus welcomed Judas to his table, knowing he would betray him.  The resurrected Jesus sought out Peter to offer love and forgiveness. Jesus’ actions promise us that nothing we can do can separate us from God’s love for us.

Discussion Questions

  • What stood out to you as you read the gospel reading? Were there parts that were hard to read?
  • Recall a time someone broke your trust? How did it make you feel? How did you respond to the situation?
  • When was a time that you felt God was with you amid a challenging situation?

Activity Suggestions

While only Jesus never breaks our trust, it is so important to have spaces where we feel safe and where we can trust each other. Help to build trust within your group by doing the activity below or other trust building activities.

Have everyone stand in a circle and hold out their hands parallel to the ground. They also stick out their index fingers. Gently place an object on their index collective fingers, like a hula hoop or a stick. Now ask them to lower the object to the ground but make sure their fingers do not lose contact with the object. The group may find it difficult at first. The idea is that they must formulate a strategy where they are working together and trusting everyone to do their part.

Closing Prayer

Dear Jesus, we thank you for the love you poured out for each one of us on the cross. May we put our trust in you in order to hear your call and follow your mission. Amen.