A Loving Father

Lord Jesus thank you for coming to us to save us and to set us free. Thank you for giving us a chance to come and praise you this day. Please do not leave us unchanged but renew us and draw us closer to you. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

We have entered into the holiest of weeks of the year. We are invited into a week of abiding with Jesus and walking in the way of the cross. We are invited to come be in his midst of his suffering and pontificate his great and many graces He has bestowed upon us. Palm Sunday is a roller coaster of a day! We begin singing praises to Jesus and imagining Him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. We imagine people throwing down palms and praising Him for all that they see happening around them; healings, encouraging teachings, and changing human lives. Jesus’ ministry has picked up and almost everyone He heals goes on to tell others about what He has done for them. The comical thing is that Jesus is often telling people not to tell anyone. People are flocking to where Jesus and His disciples are traveling. Everywhere that they go people are clamoring to be healed, helped, or to experience something life changing. Jesus is bringing the kingdom of God to the people and breaking into their sad, broken lives with the transforming love of the Father. We begin this day rooting for the good guy or being for the popular one that everyone is excited to see coming into the city.  

In the Epistle reading today we hear the powerful words from Philipians that says even though Jesus was in the form of God he did not count equality with Him as something to be grasped. In the book of Genesis we know that Jesus was at the foundation and creation of the world. We know that Jesus is a part of the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And yet Jesus did not count himself as equal with the Father. Jesus followed God the Father and trusted him implicitly to want the good for Him. As Christians Jesus is our way through this life. Jesus is the one who teaches us to follow God, to trust God as wanting good for us. The scriptures today say that Jesus emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant. Jesus did not remain in glory and majesty as he could have, however he came and lived, breathed, and worked among us. The way of Jesus is to follow him taking our lives and looking for opportunities to set ourselves aside, to pour ourselves out for the sake of another. 

I am reading a book called The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp and in it she writes about following Jesus and loving others through gentle acts of kindness, generosity with your heart and availability with your very soul for another person. She uses a quote from C.S. Lewis, who was an incredibly bright Anglican man,speaks of this pouring out. “You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, “Take up your Cross”-in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute He says, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” He means both…The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self-all your wishes and precautions-to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time to be “good”…If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be plowed up and re-sown.” 

In all of the scriptures today Jesus is talking about giving himself up in this way. Jesus is talking about setting his own dreams and desires for his life aside to do that which the Father has called him. Jesus is talking about living a life of surrender. Living a life full of the common, everyday acts of love and care for others. Our lives are really a bunch of small moments flowing one to another, what we choose to do in them is how our lives can be shaped. Mother Teresa was often quoted saying, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Jesus is talking about pouring out our ideas of our life and asking our Father what He wants to do with our life. I wear this necklace a lot at home that has a cross on one side and these words on the other, “so that we who come to you rough hewn, may by you be fashioned according to your will.” I wear it because I need to remind myself that my will is not what this life is about. My will or my way is not always the best even when I think it truly is. 

As a culture we often think we can come up with the most researched responses to our lives. We can think our way through any situation, think about the power we have in our pockets with the smartphone. You can look up just about anything on your device as fast as you can possibly think it up and type. But if you and I allow Him to shape our lives then we will become more like him and more like the person He wants us to be. What area in your life do you need to invite Jesus into? What area in your life do you need to listen to the Father? We can find freedom in the way of the cross, freedom in surrendering to the will of God. The scriptures from Philipians say,Jesus became obedient to God the Father because he was enfleshed as we are. Jesus took on flesh and poured himself out even to death. It was through death that Christ was exalted and lifted up to His rightful place such that every knee will bow in heaven and on earth. Jesus’ obedience to the Father shows us the life we should live. It is in our obedience to God the Father that we can find life abundantly. 

The Isaiah passage today is prophetically speaking about the coming Messiah, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” This is the Lord that we love and follow. He is acquainted with all of the difficult places you find yourself in your lifetime. He knows physical pain and suffering. He knows emotional heartache and separation from love and kindness. Our Lord hides not his face from our suffering. Our Lord does not stay up high and lofty but rather comes down to love and enter into our pain and suffering. Our Lord knows all of your difficulties and longs to have you see him there with you as well. When we suffer we can be joined into the sufferings of Christ. We can be brought close to Jesus in his suffering just as the criminal was who hung alongside Jesus. When we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior and we give our lives to His good purpose and seek to live out our lives in a godly way then our hearts are pointed in a direction of openness and reception from God. 

The Lord sees you in your heartache. The Lord sees you in your trying to live for Him. The Lord sees your struggles even if you cover them up and refuse to mention them. The Christian way is one in which we are seen by the maker of heaven and earth and loved for who we are. The Christian way is that we are not alone in our struggles, pain, sorrow, or mental anguish but rather God is close to the broken hearted and longs to lift your face so that you might see His loving gaze seeking to change your hardened heart. If you are in a season of pain and suffering I encourage you to look for Jesus, invite Him into your life and let Him speak to your heart and soul. God loves us so much that He allows us to choose or reject Him. God does not hoist himself upon us or demand anything from us but rather He allows us to seek, find, and humbly look for Him. 

The message of the Gospel is first and foremost a message of radical undeserved love. We can not draw people to Jesus with anything but the radical love of a good Father for a broken and errant son or daughter. Walking with Jesus this week can be a time of close examination of your own heart and own life. I encourage you to come to the services, carve out time in your life to come to church often. This week is one of the holiest weeks because we get to be in church over and over and we get to encounter the living God and watch him work in our lives. Easter tastes so very different when you do the hard work of asking God what in your life needs to go or to change. Showing up in church gives us a chance to hear God even if we are wrangling sleepy children and exhausted from a long day of work. Remember we are in the trenches with you struggling to show up with our family and to listen for God. I will never forget one Holy Week when I was surrounded with young children, nursing one, plucking another off the ground and thinking I was going to explode because everyone was missing their bed time. There was time in the service to venerate the cross and the kids knelt down in front of the cross and began reaching out trembling hands to tenderly touch the cross that reminded them of Jesus’ death. All the angst and emotional upheaval I was feeling faded away and I was reminded what we were doing. Raising little ones to know, love, and obey the Lord. I promise that when you show up in front of Jesus, He will already be there. He promises never to leave us or forsake us but rather to lead us through the valleys of shadow and death. He promises to be with us always even until the end of the age, and He does so with gentleness and kindness. 

This Palm Sunday we ride in on glory and honor over the arrival of Jesus and we end with the death of Christ. We arrive as one of many joyously singing the praises of Jesus and we end as scattered people afraid to be identified with the crucified Lord. Sometimes all at once and yet in different moments we identify as both people. Sometimes we may be bold in our relationship with the Lord and other times we seek more anonymity in our relationship to Him. The story of the Gospel passages today are meant to show each of us the places in our hearts where we need to let Jesus emboldened us and also the places when we need to ask forgiveness for running away or hiding our true selves. It can be easy at times to speak strongly about the things of Jesus when we believe people think as we do. However it can be really hard to truthfully speak up about the ways in which we see Jesus working in our own lives. Sharing our true selves speaking of how the kingdom has come in our own hearts can be challenging. The Christian life is one that is supposed to be the same no matter where we go and what we do. We should be the same person everywhere we go. If ever you wonder about some aspect of your life, imagine doing that action or thought in front of others from church. If you feel embarrassed or want to hide then it is a good estimation that this aspect of your life needs to go. Jesus’ love helps us want to change and gives us the grace to choose another way. Hatred, anger, or shaming is never the way of the Lord. But radical love that leaves us longing to change and to become more holy and to be made clean is the way of the cross.  

May your heart be strangely warmed that you might find Him merciful and mighty to change your unruly wills and affections. May you find Jesus gentle and kind to help you face into your brokenness and need for a Savior. And may you draw near to Jesus today and in this holy week and may you find Him steady and ready to love, help, and guide you in your life. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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