The Party Before The Win

Today I have more of a question to think over with you than the usual reflections. I’m thinking about the fact that the celebration of Palm Sunday (which is happening this coming Sunday) comes before the sobering events of Good Friday which are followed by the celebration of Easter. How often do we celebrate before the sad event and after it? Why did it happen this way?

Let’s start with a bit of context and a timeline so we’re all on the same page. After being on earth for some 30 years, and doing public ministry for 3 years Jesus’ time on earth is wrapping up. In the Bible Palm Sunday (also known as the Triumphant Entry) happens less than a week before the Last Supper (the time of celebrating the Passover and the initial event of the Lord’s Supper) which comes right before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, which comes 3 days before His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. During Palm Sunday there was a large crowd that gathered and shouted “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord” while they spread garments and leafy branches on the road for the donkey to walk on that Jesus was riding on. Then a week or so later we get to Easter on which a few women find the tomb Jesus had been buried in empty, they have a brief encounter with Jesus and then they tell the apostles what had happened (Jesus eventually appears to them and others before going back to heaven some 40 days later).

So back to the question: why this big Palm Sunday celebration? It almost feels like you’re celebrating the winner of the big sports event of the year before the event is played. Maybe because God knew how much cover-up from the government there would be after the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, so there couldn’t be as public an event. Maybe because Easter was meant to be a more holy celebration and not a party. Maybe because Palm Sunday was for everyone but Easter is only for those who believe. Maybe because God enjoys a good celebration as much as we do and saw an opportunity to reveal (and celebrate) the truth. Maybe it was to just give Jesus the proper recognition of who He was.

I invite you to share your thoughts on the party before the party, and to remember to celebrate the King this Palm Sunday.

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Kindness for April

Yesterday was one of my least favorite holidays of the year: April Fool’s Day. I have no problem with having fun in life and having fun with each other, but to play pranks on others and tell half truths or lies to people is just cruel on top of all that the world throws at you. I did hear one person’s rules on it for their kid that I could almost get behind and that was there could be no permanent damage, personal injury or cruelty in any of their pranks. That almost makes it OK but I’m still not a fan.

The past few days in my Lent and other devotionals there’s been a lot of talk of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Luke 15 also shares the story of a lost coin and a lost sheep. These devotionals reminded me of how much we can lose in life, from the seemingly small to the life-altering and how that loss affects each of us differently. Some may not have felt so strongly about a lost coin or sheep as the people in Luke 15 did, but to these people those individual coins and sheep were important.

We can screw up our lives on our own without help from anyone else. We rely on the honesty, predictability, and reliability of other people and businesses to run our lives as easily and peacefully as possible and with the least amount of stress. So when we’re faced with something like April Fool’s that gives the not-so-nice people of the world leave to play jokes (regardless of how many ‘just kidding’s’ that are said or sent with the joke), it almost makes me want to stay in bed all day and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, I think we’re a lot closer to getting rid of the time change than we are of April Fool’s Day (I’d like to get rid of both). So my suggestion to help with the darkness, bad energy and bad karma that was added to the world yesterday, is that we all share a little more kindness and compassion with the world for the rest of the week. We should always have it in our minds and actions to be helpful and considerate to others, but with how yesterday may have gone for some people I think it’s more important than ever.

Caring for the Kingdom

Today in the US is President’s Day. It’s also George Washington’s birthday, the first US president. As I was thinking about this one of my weekly spiritual newsletters sent the verse Luke 6:20 which reads: “Looking at his disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”” While it’s not a verse that speaks directly about politics, it did spark a thought.

This verse got me thinking about how we really see the leadership in the country and if we truly take ownership of the country we all share. Luke 6 talks about the kingdom being ours, but I don’t think we always take the ownership we should take. I don’t think our ownership of the US should be impacted by who is the current ruling political class, unless there’s truly corrupt individuals in leadership positions. Then those singular individuals should be removed, and it doesn’t have to be a reflection on the whole group of them. We do have a responsibility to be wise in who we elect, and I don’t believe that’s always done by following party lines. Party lines can be guidelines, but as we’ve seen in recent years there’s a lot of gray areas.

But back to my original thought, if the US truly is ours, the country we all share, isn’t it time to really step up? To vote, to sign petitions, to vocalize our displeasure, to celebrate the victories, to take action to make things different, to recycle more, to care for our national parks, to say something when we see an injustice? During the recent shutdown some people and companies did stand up and say that they were going to stand in the gap of missing funding, helping keep national parks open and clean, and that’s a great start.

I would say that God wants us to step up and care for our country and the people who inhabit it regardless of who is considered in charge politically. If it truly is our country and we are proud to be Americans, is there anything that should stop us from caring for our current kingdom? I’d say no. If the life we live now is supposed to be in preparation for and a reflection of the next one in Heaven, what kind of grade would you get on caring for your current kingdom?

Simply Jesus

Here we are, hours away from Christmas Day. It’s a time to reflect on family and friends, to celebrate life and love, to enjoy gathering and gifting each other with little blessings and tokens that show how much they mean to us. It’s the time of year that we go all out decorating, hanging lights, trimming trees, baking cookies and gingerbread houses, and setting out our Nativity scenes. I would encourage you to spend time with friends and family, but also to take time to be alone and reflect on your life and the many blessings you have.

I find it interesting that one of if not the most important events in the Bible is only shared in 2 chapters in detail, and that the big event can be captured in just 20 verses (Luke 2:1-20), with just one verse to sum up the actual event “She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” (Luke 2:7)

Sometimes it’s not about the big moments in life, but about those little events that aren’t broadcast around the world, about the people who you know but aren’t known by the world, about the memories that you’ll treasure forever but may mean nothing to others. Yes, there was a celebration with Mary, Joseph, Angles and Shepherds, and later wisemen and Anna and Simeon at the temple (Luke 2), but it wasn’t a large fanfare, there weren’t crowds around for miles waiting for a glimpse.

Yes, Jesus is God’s son, the ruler of heaven and earth, but He also came to earth as a baby, innocent and as human as you and I. He grew just like we did, but had a little extra special knowledge in His heart and mind. He knows what it is to scrape a knee, struggle through loss and make friends.  He also knows all about love, forgiveness, grace and hope.

This Christmas I would encourage you to take a moment and re-read the Christmas story, and ask God what He wants to share, teach, encourage, and reveal to you through those simple words.  Just because you’ve read it before doesn’t mean that you know everything about it, but if you think you do, try a different translation and see how God speaks to you through that.  Merry Christmas!

Fears of the Holidays

I was re-reading the passage in Luke that talks about Mary learning she would be the mother of Jesus, God’s son recently. As I was reading it, I got to thinking about the fear that she experienced in this moment and probably throughout her pregnancy, as well as the fear Joseph experienced in committing to Mary knowing all that was going to happen, the fears many felt as they went through the journey to return to all their respective home towns, the fear Mary and Joseph later experienced as they were fleeing to Egypt with Jesus, the fear the wise men felt when they were told by God that Herod was a danger to Jesus and they should avoid him, and the fear of parents around the kingdom that Herod would choose to kill their son.

It’s incredible that something we see as such a happy and joyous event was so filled with fears. But then the other day I was talking with a friend who shared that her company’s payroll company screwed up earlier in the year and now her checks are less to make up for the difference/mistake and she’s not sure how she’s paying for things (including where she lives) this holiday season. It made me think about this time of year and the fact that we still struggle with fears even though, or especially because, it’s the holiday season. We have fears about our finances, we have fears about how cold it will be (especially if we’re homeless or struggling with bills), we have fears about seeing certain people again, we have fears about attending all the office and other holiday parties with people we don’t know, some even have fears about buying gifts and getting the absolute wrong thing for someone.

Fears are something we live with and work through on a regular basis, but it seems like they’re amplified during this time of year unfortunately. Just when we’re trying to do the right thing and have healthy relationships and give to others and experience the spirit of the season we’re stuck struggling with fears that have the power to dampen if not ruin the holidays for us.

If you’re facing fears this holiday season know that you’re not alone. Just like you work through the fears that pop up during the rest of the year the holiday season is no different and you can work through these fears too. You may never quite get over the need to make the holidays special for those you love and the fears that surround all of the trimmings, but just like Mary and Joseph I think we can learn to make them fade to the background by focusing on what’s important and on what you can control and do something about.

Getting Involved with Christmas

We’re another week closer to Christmas, a week closer to the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  It amazes me every year as we get around this time that we have the blessing of celebrating Christmas another year.  It’s truly a gift, a joy, that not everyone can celebrate in the way that we do in the USA, with freedom to share our excitement and gather together.

There are a lot of emotions that we associate with the original Christmas story as well as our Christmases today, from joy and tenderness to pain and fear, but it’s joy that is most remembered with this  celebration.  As I was reading my devotions this week I was reminded that not only are we to count it all joy, but that we are to be full of joy in the Lord.  Joy isn’t something we can attain as humans, it needs God’s involvement, which is exactly what God did that first Christmas: He got involved.

Christmas is a time for us to celebrate with our families, but it’s also a time that we can use to help out in the community.  As a church, as a family, as a town we can help support the soldiers, donate food and time to help the homeless and be a little kinder to those we interact with.  How will you get involved this Christmas season?

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Luke 1:46-47a

Jesus’ Legacy

To finish off our spiritual look at legacy I want to talk about the legacy of Jesus. Jesus not only left a powerful legacy here on earth, He created an incredible one for our future as well in Heaven. The legacy of Jesus here on earth is a very simple one: love. Throughout His ministry here on earth through the relationships He had, the people He interacted with, the things He taught, and even the way He lived His life were all building blocks that contributed to His legacy of love. If there’s something that’s awesome to be remembered for it’s being a person who exemplified love.

Jesus also did something that most people don’t do and left 2 legacies. Jesus didn’t just teach us how to live here on earth, He taught us about living for the future. When He went to the cross and then rose from the dead 3 days later He brought something into all our lives that wasn’t there before: the possibility of an eternal future; a future that’s much better than anything we could think up or create here on earth.

Some people leave a legacy that can’t be taken when you leave the earth like paintings, buildings, or money, but Jesus left 2 legacies that can go with us throughout this life and the next: the legacies of love and life.  There’s no better way to differentiate yourself from the rest of the world than to live a life of love and hope.  Will you follow Jesus’ example and leave a legacy of love and hope as well?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.”  Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21