pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Joyful Praise

Reading: Luke 19: 28-40

Verse 40: “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out”.

The parade that we observe today began with Jesus’ disciples singing joyfully as the approached Jerusalem. As His followers participated in a somewhat impromptu gathering, they did what Jews often did when approaching or ascending into the city: they sang a Psalm. The followers of Jesus were singing from Psalm 118 on this joyous occasion. Verse 26 reads, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. It has been implied that as the disciples neared the city, others joined in the singing and in the parade. Note the words in verse 38 from our text for today. It reads, “Blessed is the king who comes…”. It is a subtle but important shift.

In general, the Romans allowed the Jews to practice their religion. They were allowed to hold the three major festivals each year even though they drew large crowds. Large crowds meant possible rebellion so the Romans tended to be on edge during the festivals. Passover was approaching so the population of Jerusalem would be starting to swell. As long as the religious leaders kept the crowds under control, the Romans tolerated the festivals and regular practices of worship and sacrifice. Being able to keep things under control was essential to the religious leaders keeping their positions. Thus, as the crowd built, waving palms, singing, laying down a royal carpet with their cloaks, the use of the word “king” aroused the religious leaders. They asked Jesus to quiet the crowd. Jesus chooses not to. Instead, Jesus says, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out”. It is a reference to how all of creation glorifies the Creator. It is a way to claim who He was without crossing too far over the religious leader’s line.

Today, on Palm Sunday, we too may get caught up with the crowd. There will be lots of smiles and some joyous singing in churches this morning as the palms are paraded around. That joy is good for us in two ways. First, it connects us to our King, to our creator, to our sustainer, to our redeemer, through joyful praise. It is good and right to praise the Lord. Second, we need some joy as we step off into Holy Week. The joy of today reminds us of the joy that comes in a week, on Easter or Resurrection Sunday. It is important to remember that in the end, we are Easter people. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: God, like the stones, may I cry out. May I join the crowd this week in joyful praise of you, my King. Sustain me with that joy as I walk through Holy Week, bringing me at last to Easter Sunday. Thank you, God. Amen.

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Go and Do Likewise

Reading: John 12: 1-11

Our Holy Week readings begin with Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume.  It is something she bought and has kept for just this occasion.  Mary anoints His feet as a beginning step of preparation for His burial.  While this surface fact is true, we must look deeper as well because Mary is a study in faith, a great example to all who call on the name of Jesus.

This story is not our first or last encounter with Mary.  In Luke 10 we see Mary as obedient follower.  As sister Martha works to make all the preparations, Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him.  Jesus indicates that Mary has chosen wisely.  Unspoken is the warning not to allow business to get in the way of following.  The lesson here from Mary is to place His Word as supreme in our lives.

We also encounter Mary in the story of the resurrection of her brother Lazarus.  In John 10 it was Mary who first sent for Jesus because her brother was sick.  As  news of Jesus approaching their town comes to the grieving home, Mary does not rush out to meet Jesus.  She waits until He calls for her.  Then she goes without delay and confesses her faith in Jesus’ power, even over death.  This is a confession we too must make if we are to surrender our lives to His will.

Lastly, the anointing.  There is of course the sacrifice of the expensive perfume.  But for many of us, like Mary we too can ‘afford’ to give of our resources.  But to go beyond is the challenge for many of us.  To allow the Spirit to lead and to be willing to see God’s vision of what lies just ahead can be difficult.  Here Mary does both.  She goes the extra step and uses her hair to wash His feet.  She allows the Spirit to lead her into this act of service.  In the next chapter we see Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  He instructs them to follow His (and Mary’s) example, to be willing to serve one another.  Led by the same Spirit, may we be willing to go and do likewise.


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Together

As we move toward Holy Week, we must have a sense that we need to be prepared to walk with Jesus through the trials of the last week of His life.  At times on that journey, the forces of evil were in full force.  It is at times physically painful, at times emotionally painful and at times it is even spiritually painful.

Psalm 118: 24 reads, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  This verse can apply to each day in the week ahead.  Every morning when we begin our day, we can use this verse to garner strength for whatever may come personally and for being present in the events of the week as we walk with Jesus.  Every day God has made.  All things of that day too.  It is a mater of attitude to give each day to God.

It is also a matter of company.  The ‘let us rejoice’ is plural.  We are all in this together. All Christians should walk through Holy Week together with Jesus.  Whether your community is your small group, your church, or the group that reads this today, there is power in practicing our faith together.  There is unity and there is strength.

Holy Weeks is a week of highs and lows.  At times the forces of evil seem to rule the day and at times God is clearly triumphant.  It is as important to celebrate the highs together as well as to walk through the tough stuff together.  May our faith draw us together as we prepare to journey with Jesus through Holy Week.

Scripture reference: Psalm 118: 19-24