pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Stepping Forward

Reading: Matthew 21: 1-11

Verse 5: “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey”.

Today Matthew paints the picture of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The city is already abuzz as many have come into town to celebrate the Passover. As Jesus’ followers are joined by others along the road into the city, a spontaneous parade begins as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Cloaks and branches line the road to make for a royal entry. The people shout and cheer Hosanna as he rides on. But this king comes as he has always been. In verse five we read, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey”. Zechariah had spoken these words long ago. Jesus, ever the one of peace and hope and humility, enters the city as such. Here is our first lesson from today’s passage: enter humbly, looking for ways to serve others, seeking to bring hope and peace.

As we consider the most recent events in Matthew’s gospel and what lies ahead for Jesus, we learn another lesson. In response to James and John’s mother’s request for her sons to have seats of honor in heaven, Jesus reminds all of the disciples that whoever wants to be great must first be a servant. He also reminds them that he came to “give his life as a random for many”. With these thoughts on his mind, Jesus heads towards Jerusalem. Knowing what lies ahead makes it both harder and easier. Knowing that he would physically suffer and would die a brutal death must have made the journey forward harder. Knowing that God was in control and was leading him to a far greater purpose and knowing that God was going to work in and through him made forward motion easier.

At times we too will see the way forward but will be challenged by the potential cost or suffering. To enter into servant ministry always comes at some price. It is most often messy. Yet we can enter knowing what Jesus knew: God goes with us, leading and guiding us all the way. We also know that when we step forward in faith, that we do not step forward alone. The Holy Spirit goes with us. As we feel or see or sense the call to humble servant ministry to our neighbor or to an older member of our church or… may we step forward in faith, trusting fully in the Lord our God.

Prayer: Lord God, open my eyes and my heart to the opportunities to serve you and others today in this unique time and season. Help me to be responsive as we all seek to remain safe and healthy. Lead me to love others as you first and still love me. Amen.


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The Sure Foundation

Reading: Psalm 118: 19-29

Verse 22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.

The psalmist is going up to the house of the Lord to worship. In our opening verse today he asks for the gates to be opened so that the righteous can enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is what we do each Sunday morning – maybe in a virtual sense at this time – as we “gather” for worship. We praise and worship the Lord because we too can say, “You have become my salvation”.

Verse 22 is a common verse to our ears. Jesus himself quoted and claimed this verse, declaring himself the cornerstone (or capstone in some translations). In the Psalm we read, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”. As the sure foundation of our faith, Jesus is surely “the way, the truth, and the life”. Jesus is the only rock upon which we can build our faith. With the psalmist may we too rejoice and be glad in the good news of Jesus Christ.

Turning to verses 26-27 we hear Palm Sunday calling. In verse 26 we read words found in the gospels as Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. Moving on, we recognize Jesus as the light that has shown upon the world and upon us. This Sunday is typically one with joyous festal processions in our churches, waving palms as we celebrate and yet look toward the beginning of Holy Week. At our church we are doing a car parade as we will drive though town waving our palms, celebrating the coming of the Lord.

This Sunday, each in our own way, may we join the psalmist in declaring, “You are my God, and I will exalt you”!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I rejoice in the rock, the cornerstone of my faith. Thank you for the gift of Jesus, the example and perfector of obedient and humble service. Draw me to his light, help me to walk his path. You are so good. Your love endures forever. You alone do I worship. You alone will I praise. Amen.


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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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The Parade

Reading: Luke 19: 28-40

Most of life is routine.  We settle into our daily schedules and we prioritize so we can accomplish all we need to get done.  We sometimes experience a blip but we can usually push through and get back on track.  As Jesus began the journey to Jerusalem, He knew the journey would end at the cross.  Not many journeys end this way.  But even Jesus kept on track – He taught and healed along the way as He neared the city.

Then came the parade.  He sent two disciples ahead to find a vehicle for the guest of honor but that was all Jesus did in terms of organizing the parade.  Note that He did not send two disciples to this town and two to this village to drum up a big crowd.  Jesus simply got on a donkey and headed towards Jerusalem.  As the parade continued it picked up momentum on its own.  After all, the guest of honor was someone lots of people had heard about and wanted to see.  By word of mouth the parade route filled up and energy grew.

Clip-clop after clip-clop excitement built and pretty soon the crowd began to sing and shout and cheer.  The people who came out to see Jesus, this simple man who taught and healed in powerful ways, were suddenly cheering for a King who could raise up a powerful army to defeat the Romans.

I think Jesus knew where the building emotions would lead to as the parade continued.  The idea of a King to lead by power and might is just so juxtaposed to who Jesus was.  He never used the power and might that was surely His to use.  Jesus’ power came in how He loved others, in how He built relationships, and in how He humbly served.  The parade served to show the world who Jesus was not.  He lived to show us who He was so that as His disciples we would follow His example.  May we go forth into the world to love, to build relationships, and to serve others humbly, all for His glory and all for His kingdom.


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The Parade

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday.  Many children in many churches will parade into places of worship waving palm branches and singing songs.  It will be festive.  It will be joyful.  It will be like a good parade.

Parades usually accompany a special holiday or a special event.  It can range from a holiday like St. Patrick’s Day to an event like winning a big championship.  Parades are a celebration of something or someone.  The folks along the route cheer, encourage, and support those in the parade.  The folks in the parade wave, smile, thank people for coming, and maybe pass out candy.

On that first Palm Sunday, there certainly was a parade, although it was kind of an accidental parade.  The Jewish people were gathered to celebrate the Passover, a remembrance of great significance in the Jewish faith.  The spontaneous parade that broke out was for this prophet Jesus.  He too was born and raised a Jew so many in the crowd would assume He was also coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  And partly He was.  Even the disciples and followers who went along with Jesus did not really know what was about to unfold in the week ahead.

As Jesus rode along He must have smiled and waved to the crowd – you know, the parade wave.  Upon entering the city He went to the temple.  He took it all in and then went out to Bethany for the night.  He would return to the temple the next day, but, for now, He was just observing.

For us, Palm Sunday is a little like that.  We see and observe but know what is coming too.  Tomorrow may we celebrate with Jesus, the King.  May we be a part of the parade and may we celebrate His willingness to walk into the week ahead.

Scripture reference: Mark 11: 8-11 and 15-18