Archive for March, 2021
Read: Psalm 95.10 (NRSV)
Does God want us to despise an entire generation? Are we to be a witness of grace? Does he want us to hate anyone? Some of us hold onto hurt and hate for a lifetime. We think we are holding harm over them or protecting ourselves.
Think of the energy and personal resources that are required to maintain prejudice, pride, blame, and leverage over others. The psalm writer beckons us to look in the mirror and do more than talk about what we don’t like. It is time to return to God’s ways for our daily living.
When we keep the fires of discontent and hatred burning long after the perceived wrong, we are hurt far more than anyone. Blame is neither a cure nor an answer. We carve out a place in our hearts to carry this burden. Why not fill our hearts with mercy?
Action Plan: Pray about a wrong you have suffered that no matter how much time passes continues to fester like a wound in your spirit. Practice true forgiveness.
Prayer: Teach me forgiveness and let me repent that I may start this day new in your will. Amen.
Read: Nehemiah 5.15 (NRSV)
As a prophet, Nehemiah helps the king hear the cry of the people. Can you imagine a king raising taxes in a time of famine in the land? People were losing their homes, farms, and vineyards in exchange for food on the table today. We have had a glimpse of this firsthand in the pandemic.
The king has a change of heart, after thinking it over, he found people to blame and charge with the injustice. He had people who were sold into slavery returned and he established lending without interest.
A leader that loses sight of the needs of the people should fear what justice God will bring upon them. Reform to help the king is different from reform that helps the people.
Action Plan: Write letters to our local and national leaders so that they might hear the cries of the oppressed.
Prayer: Help me do more than talk about injustice. Let me be an agent of change and a prophetic voice for you. Amen.
Read: 2 Kings 8.9 (NRSV)
Hazael took forty camel loads of gifts to the prophet Elisha in hopes that he would foretell if King Aram would recover from his illness. Elisha reports that the king will recover but will surely die. Elisha also tells of the king’s unjust treatment of God’s people and weeps for the harm that will come under his leadership until the king’s death. Hazael goes home, reports the good news regarding his recovery. Hazael also suffocates the king and takes his place.
It is hard to see justice during such corruption. Sometimes evil must be stopped even through war and violence. People might be doing harm to themselves and others and not make the connection. We are called to live up to those who harm or act unjustly. (Do not go suffocating anyone, please.) Speak the truth that people may choose faith when given the opportunity.
Action Plan: They might be annoyed, but if you see someone smoking ask them if you can help them kick the habit. Pray for them and encourage them, as you are able.
Prayer: Lord, help me to hear the cries of the helpless and be their prophetic voice. Amen.
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. [NRSA: Mark 11:1-11]
Generosity vs Gratitude
We had some car trouble. While we are blessed to have three options for transportation, two of them were in the shop. In a moment where the three of our household needed to travel in two opposing directions, our neighbor most generously offered to let us use one of theirs. My story of generous sharing is shared in culture and moment of abundance. The two of them also have three cars and did not need all three that day.
Jesus’ story is of different quality and purpose. It is not simply about the kindness of sharing in a time of need. It is about devoting and trusting Jesus in something that might prove difficult to us and others.
The fellow in town whose colt was being untied by one of the disciples could have had a rock and sling and begun to whirl stones to scare them away.
Jesus’s instruction, at first appearance, was the opposite of the 8th Commandment. Go and take the colt, and “IF” someone sees you or asks, tell them we need your ride for the Messiah. To which the person who owns the colt agreed with faithfulness, pride, curiosity, or neighborly trust.
The first lesson in the passage for us to see and hear is that God calls us to make practical preparations for God’s work. There is an implicit inclusion of “Things To Do” for the kingdom that Jesus is expecting us to be working on and about. And the first in this instance is transportation and celebration.
The entry into the city by Jesus as the Messiah would signal a parade of sorts. Just when we hear the parade is coming to town, we make our way to the sidewalk where we might get a view, little ones near the curb, in case candy or prizes are hurled at the crowd. Small ones sit atop parents’ shoulders. Police clearing traffic, waves of people form the way with flags, banners, streamers, and festive decorations.
We ought not to be too surprised that people would wave palm branches just as we might wave foam fingers, rally rags, and noisemakers to share in the festivities. For two to four hundred years of seriously awaiting the appearance of the Messiah to restore the fortunes of Zion were the hope of everyone in town.
No Limousines nor convertibles.
Jesus is making both a political and theological statement to the people by arriving as the new king on an animal of humility. Some leaders parade riding in tanks, some in bullet-proof limos, others on the back of a pickup truck, making different political statements. Jesus, in effect, arrived on a Walmart/Murry riding lawn mower, and not the Zero radius variety. Which would have raised some questions by those seeking power and approval by those who did basic labor from day today.
There was no horse, chariot, carriage, and not even a litter. (That little box with poles carried by 6, 8, or 10.)
The (1) first lesson, God has work for us to help reveal the kingdom, and Our (2) second lesson from this passage is a reminder that Jesus’s mission is not to prove that he was King, but rather what type of Kingdom God’s kingdom truly is.
God wants us to be clear about the kingdom.
Remember some of the kingdom Says:
- Matthew 13:31 NRSA – He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;
- Matthew 13:33 NRSA – He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
- Matthew 13:44 NRSA – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
- Matthew 13:45 NRSA – “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;
- Matthew 13:47 NRSA – “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;
- Matthew 13:52 NRSA – And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
- Matthew 18:4 NRSA – whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 20:1 NRSA — “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
The Kingdom of God is not a complicated thing.
King Jesus’ Theological Platform:
The tiny mustard seed, the expanding work of yeast, hidden to be found and treasured, for all people, for old and new, humble and includes our labors for the kingdom.
The (3) third lesson for this Palm Sunday looks beyond the festivities of praise and worship to the timing of Revelation, Truth, and Judgement.
For all the effort of the celebration, what does it look like after the parade? After the Christmas presents are opened? After the Thanksgiving table has been shared.
At the end of the pageantry is work of cleaning things up.
Who likes to do the dishes? Take down the tree? Clean the carpet, return the order of everyday and not just the holiday.
- Jesus prepared, enjoyed, and celebrated with the disciples and the city, but his work was not to be done at the end of the day, but at its beginning.
- His work was not to be done in darkness, even though others would do their evil work in the shadows.
- Jesus’s intent is to reveal for all to see, as we peek ahead, we know at the moment he breaths his last breath, the skies turn dark as night, another reversal of our expectation.
The central part of the coronation and crowning of Jesus as Messiah would not be done by public opinion, and the fickle power of political change, his kingship is revealed in God’s timing, for our benefit.
Jesus looks around at the celebration and knows we will follow when the crowd is behind us when the party is raging, but Jesus needs disciples who are faithful until the judgment.
This is where Palm Sunday begins to point to the rest of the week.
- Our spiritual journey of Lent has prepared us for this moment, or we are not. Jesus needs disciples will follow in when…
- Faithfulness is not popular. When…
- Truth is twisted, and when…
- Persecution is at the door.
Palm Sunday in 2021 begs us to answer.
- are we waving the banner of Christ to a sinful world that is ready to rewrite what it thinks is truth?
- When it chooses the evil of Barabbas just to shut Jesus up?
- When the culture believes it is the judge of humanity and turns to threaten the intentions, faith, and witness of Christ’s faith?
Just as on the first Palm Sunday, we gather to worship and lift high the name and praise of Jesus and tomorrow.
- we will be tempted to go along with the crowd,
- to redefined what is honorable, good, and true.
- Avoid persecution by following the threats and demands of the crowd.
Jesus looks around and says to the disciples… We need to step back and review before the final exam.
As our Students are working hard toward the end of another school year, teachers are preparing the exams that will not only reflect how well the students have learned but also how well the teachers have taught.
Jesus retreats to give the disciples a final word. We will see in the story that Jesus shares the Passover, time in teaching, and prayer, in the wake of the full unfolding of grace and glory.
We now live knowing who the story unfolds and we join now as disciples with a similar list of To-Dos in the face of culture ready to threaten, dismiss, and attempt to de-thrown the body of Christ. Palm Sunday is our final wake-up call to use these next six days of work, that when Christ comes, we are ready to say, I have fed, I have clothed, I have taught, I have carried, I have healed, I have blessed in your name…. and not just found another outfit for the annual Sunday tradition.
This is a sneak peek are we ready for Christ’s return?
Read: 2 Corinthians 11.24 (NRSV)
Paul carries the marks of faithfulness for the Gospel, in his story and through his body. Thirty-nine lashes on five occasions are his evidence of standing up for Christ under opposition. That is persecution! We hear the alarm go off on Sunday morning and see the clouds are grey and feel the warmth of the bed and the promise of more sleep calls to us. What would Paul say about our temptation to skip worship?
Gathering for worship is not about the hymns, not about the preacher nor the sermon. It is about the People of God gathering to worship God. Would we be more likely to go if it were a challenge to attend? Would more people try to get in if we sold tickets? Since we can freely come to worship, is it too easy to stay away?
Prayer: Lord, Wake me up! I want to be where your people are worshiping you. If I’m not there, you will miss me and they will too. Amen.
Sabbath Worship: Go to worship and give yourself to God. Go to worship to praise God with boldness.
Read: 1 Kings 19.8 (NRSV)
Elijah is faithful to his job as a prophet. His words get him into trouble with the people and the king for pointing out their sinfulness. He is tired, scared, and wants to hide. God sends an angel to feed Elijah to make a journey of encouragement.
We push ourselves to get our work done, meet deadlines and prepare as best we can for the days, weeks, and months ahead. Is it ever enough? God prepares us every day when we work with God. Where is God pushing you to grow? Will we go in God’s strength to meet God where he sends us? Will we stay in bed, in hiding, in our fears?
How has the past month of prayer, study, and fasting affected your relationship with God? Are you eating enough spiritual food for the journey you are called to make with God? The days and weeks of the Lenten season are not an excuse for dieting; it is a time of feasting on the manna God provides our spirits now.
Action Plan: Think about how you will spiritually prepare for Easter Sunday which a week away.
Prayer: Fill my cup Lord. Feed me till I want no more. Amen.
Read: 1 Kings 7.38 (NRSV)
In the temple, jars large enough to hold 40 baths of water, were collected as storehouse for sacrifice and cleansing rituals. They used lots of water! (Even enough for teenagers to take a shower!) How many gallons of water do you use in a day. Check the meter and see. How much water does it take to keep our body hydrated? It’s a good healthy choice to drink eight 8 ounce glasses of water, in addition to other beverage we might drink. Do we consume enough to keep things flowing?
We hear about conserving water, fights over rights to water access, and measure rainfall every day. We are charged with caring for the earth as God’s caretakers. Do we treat our bodies as the holy temple of the spirit? Do we take care of them properly? Do we take the time to clean out emotional baggage to make room for spiritual refreshment?
The witness that the earth is mostly covered with water, is an ever-present reminder that we need living water. We need to be spiritually hydrated. Come to the Spirit! Come in worship, singing, and prayer to nurture your heart and soul.
Action Plan: Every time you bathe use that time to confess your sin and ask God to forgive and give you a fresh start.
Prayer: Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to Thee. Amen.
Read: 1 Kings 6.17 (NRSV)
The entrance area to the sanctuary has different names based on the size and use of the space. If your church has just a small space for getting out of the elements, fixing your hair, and straightening your skirt before entering, that is called a vestibule. If the area is a large space that the congregation can gather for fellowship, it is called a narthex; different parts for different needs of the community. Your church might have no transition space you jump right in when you open the door.
The Holy of Holies in the temple was the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, and was seen as God’s footstool and resting place reserved for God alone. In most Protestant churches that space is where the choir sits and that might be why they think that have better seats. More importantly, the space between the Holy of Holies at the back and the narthex or vestibule at the front entrance is called the Nave. It is the middle part, just like our navel. We usually call it the sanctuary. Which speaks of its function more than its dimensions.
Speaking of measurements, forty cubits would be roughly sixty feet. The height of the temple was thirty cubits and the width was twenty cubits. The nave was a large open space. Why would they need such a large nave or sanctuary? God was planning for the faithful to have plenty of room for worship. Plenty of room to move around, sing, dance, express, and make offerings. What size is the sanctuary or nave of your church? Do you have room for more people, probably, then this is your invitation to fill it up, and not just on Easter Sunday. Get to work.
Action Plan: Look in each room in your house and ask yourself what work is God doing here? How do we find the sacred and holy in all the places we live, work, and worship?
Prayer: Wherever I go, let me doing your work while I am there. Amen.
Read: 1 Kings 4.26 (NRSV)
Solomon’s kingdom had a lot of residual waste that went with his lavish success. We have layers and layers of experiences with all the different hats of responsibility we wear. Thankfully, some of those layers come off with a good bath. But most took years to build up and won’t come off overnight. Sometimes God shoots right to the heart of the matter when we are confronting grief, loss, or disaster. Most of the time think we will tackling things one layer at a time, but life seldom gives us that leisurely opportunity.
King Solomon builds alliances with other countries that give stability and prosperity during his reign. His efforts were much like one spinning plates on the end of poles. Instead of enjoying life, we are too busy spinning the plates to avoid catastrophe. The more success we strive to find, the more plates we think we need to spin. Eventually, the plates fall.
Is everything we are doing necessary for the good and faithful life we seek. The season of pandemic helped us see some priorities. We live in a culture and land of abundance. Will abundance make us joyful, loving, kind, generous, and at peace with ourselves, neighbors, and God? We use a majority of the world’s resources. Are we practicing extravagant generosity along with our great success? Are there things we would rather share with God and others than our spinning plates of science, politics, and technology? Are there things we can find release and make more room for God to work through us? Certainly! Practice breaking the cycles of wealth, power, and correctness that the world demands, and exchange that life for God’s vision for your life.
Action Plan: Clean out an area or room. Remember God always desires to forgive, renew, and clean our
hearts. Practice cleaning one area at your home or workplace as a redemptive action. Use that time, energy, and space for God to claim your attention.
Prayer: O God, unclutter my life and let me live in your fullness.
Read: 2 Samuel 5.4 (NRSV)
David reigned for forty years as king. How he ruled at age thirty changed by the time he was seventy. Think back about your own life, in five-year periods. How have you changed your mind and heart at different stages? Where can you see God at work? Sometimes we don’t see God’s plan until we look back over the years. Have we done something the same way for 40 years? Are you planning to have the same energy or struggles forty years from now? Can we do it differently now? Can we afford not to learn from the past and make the corrections in our spiritual growth? We have all said, “Don’t fix it, if it isn’t broken.” What if our perspective of wholeness differs from God’s? And what is comfortable and easy to us is not in line with God’s heart and word? Those who look for God find God looking back, here and ahead.
Action Plan: Shake things up in your spiritual practices. List three things you have done the same in terms of prayer or church for 40 years and make a point to do them differently this Lenten season. Look at it from God’s perspective in addition to your own.
Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God. Amen.