Palm Sunday

Liturgy of the Palms: Mark 11:1-11a; Ps 118:19-29
Passion Sunday: Isa 52:13-53:12; Ps 22:1-11v; Phil 2:5-11; Mark 15:1-39

Lord Jesus help us to join with the crowds and say hosanna for the joy of your coming again. Help us to see where we cry, “Crucify him.” and bring us back to you as wayward children in need of a savior. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Happy Palm Sunday!! We have finally arrived at Holy Week. All this long Lent we have been waiting for the holiest of weeks in the whole year. Holy Week is the opportunity to walk in the way of suffering and grief and to come into the powerful joy that comes with the resurrection of our Lord. The way of the cross or walking in the passion of our Lord is a great gift we are given in the church. Jesus enters into profound suffering in order to join us in our suffering. Jesus enters our world in such intensity, sorrow, and unwillingness to back away from all of it. He gives his active presence in the situations, he does not retreat to the glories of heaven where he could be attended by angels and be in comfort. Instead Jesus makes himself present to those who he comes in contact with. Jesus enters a poor family, lives in a poor section of town, and loves those whose lives are broken and in need of a Savior.  

This Holy Week is about remaining present in each moment walking alongside Jesus and listening for his voice. It’s about carving time out of your everyday life to join in the passion of our Lord. In my phase of life in raising a young family it can be very difficult to commit to the whole of Holy week. Getting school done, taking kids to activities, and caring for young children who are typically in bed by 7:30pm means that it is a challenge. However every time I commit to all the extra services Jesus shows up in my life and in the lives’ of my children in some unexpected way. 

Perhaps you are caring for someone who needs your help 24/7. Perhaps you are taking on extra work to provide for your family. Despite whatever your challenges might be I encourage you to think creatively about how you might engage this week. Can you prepare yourself by making a commitment to be in church? Perhaps you are unable to come, could you set aside times to watch the livestream of church? And when you do watch, do so with an active posture. Perhaps light a candle to signify church is beginning just like we light the candles on the altar. If you are able to stand when people stand, sit when others sit, and pay attention as if you were in church. Lean into what is happening and listen with an ear of expectancy. Then you will get so much more out of it rather than being a spectator seeking only entertainment. 

Jesus longs to teach us, Jesus longs to show us His face and great love for us. Jesus longs to walk alongside us in our good times and bad. Jesus longs to show up in your life and show you that you are not alone. When we choose to draw near to God the Father he promises to draw near to us for comfort, support, and love. A godly love that encourages, teaches, and sets us upright back on the path that we should be going. In the Isiah passage we hear that the appearance of the Lord was marred and beyond semblance. That there was not much to notice about him and yet kings would come to listen to him. Usually the most worldly powerful people are those who look impressive and those who others long to be like. Jesus though was the definition of godly power in that He knew who He was and to whom He belonged. Jesus’ identity came to him from the Father. Jesus was constantly regrounding himself in what God the Father wanted him to do and in the Father’s love for Him. 

There is a book by Max Lucado called You are Special and in it there are these wooden puppets or people who go about receiving stars or dots based on what others thought of them. The character Punchinello works so very hard to get people to give him stars for being good, impressive, or doing something well. Punchinello however keeps getting dots for not doing something well and soon he stops trying to be good and begins to look for others with only dots. He begins to feel worse and worse about himself. And then one day he notices a wooden girl that has no stickers whatsoever. She tells him about going and seeing the Maker who designed them. When he makes his way to the workshop he finds the Maker waiting for him, knowing his name, and longing to see him. With Punchinello’s permission the Maker begins to remove the stickers and tell Punchinello who he is and to whom he belongs. Punchinello’s heart begins to heal and he begins to listen to the truth so much so that when other wooden puppets try to give him stickers they just fall off. When Punchinello turns his eyes and ears to the Maker then he is peaceful, loved, and not seeking out others approval or dismissal of him. 

It is in the nature of God to profoundly love us even though we are broken, lost, and often make bad decisions. It was profound love for you, me, and all of humanity that Jesus took upon the cross so many years ago so that we might know the way to the Father. Jesus’ gift of being willing to suffer so traumatically for all of us was meant to set us free from our brokenness and free from our addictions and free from our thoughts of worthlessness. The way of the cross is meant to be a profound gift of love for the whole world despite the color of your skin, or the socio-economic status of your life, or the places in the world that you find yourself in. Jesus’ suffering is meant to break the bonds of sin that hold us back from living a holy and beautiful life. 

One of the ways or gifts that we have being here in the Jacksonville area is the gift of the Christian Healing Ministries. Jesus uses everyday people to bring about restoration and freedom in the lives of those who long for a change and freedom. I have been taking the Level One course with others in the church and in it I have had the blessing of hearing one person’s story after the other experiencing freedom from physical problems, to healing of traumatic events, and to the release of what others thought of you from birth or your false thinking that inhibits you from doing all that God might have for you. CHM has reminded me how much God the Father longs to make his children well and how much He longs to get in the thick of our lives with us to help us. In the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned we often remember that they were sent away to fend for themselves. Judith McNutt pointed out in our class the other day that we always seem to forget that God came to Adam and Eve in the cool of the day even after they had sinned. God did not just instantly ban them but rather he came to them to be in their midst and to provide for them what they would need to exist outside the garden. God actually killed an animal and used the skins to veil their bodies since He knew that they would not be looked upon in the manner that they should be. Our intimate bodies are meant to be veiled in order to protect us. 

God will not abandon you in your sin and difficulty, he is a waymaker who longs to heal our broken thoughts, hearts, minds, and to set us free from our broken pasts. Following along in the Holy Week services allows space for us in our lives to come face to face with this great act of love of Jesus that is found in His suffering. If we just jump over the suffering and rush to Easter we miss out on the power of the resurrection. Jesus longs for you to see Him in your suffering whether in the past or now. Jesus longs to release you from the bondage that comes from past hurts, ways in which you were raised or given or not given love from your parents or family of origin. Each and every one of us has hurts and pain in our lives that come from the events in our lives. Due to our fallen nature we can not perfectly love others in our life, but we can ask for forgiveness, try again, and seek to discover why we do what we do. We can go to others and ask for prayer and receive healing for our wrong actions, thoughts, and feelings. God is in the business of restoration, resurrection, and making people new. 

The reading from Isiah says, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. “ It is through Jesus’ suffering and bearing of the cross that we get to experience God’s love. Without Jesus’ intercession for us to God the Father we could never draw near to the throne and experience perfect love and the perfect casting out of fear and darkness. Jesus’ way of the cross is our way to God the Father. The one who can fix us, correct our wrong thinking, and set our eyes upon His eyes so we do not falter when the world pulls at us to see things it’s way. There isn’t a single one of us that can stand on our own and hold to Christian values without the help of the Father correcting us, challenging us, and showing us the way to go. We are all like Punchinello looking around us to find our answers to this life. The only good place to go for wisdom is from God the Father, Jesus his Son, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is only our maker and creator who can give us what we need to walk in this life as fuller, freer, and more healed individuals.

 God wants to show you your broken heart. God wants to correct your wrong thinking. Fr. Chris and I long to be people who speak God’s truth and who get out of the way for you to come to Jesus. We long to be people who hold up the scriptures, the grace of God, and the restoration that is found in walking in the way with Jesus. We can never do this perfectly but we pray fervently to be people who do not get in the way of you from your holy and blessed Father in heaven. If you hear something in church that causes you to question what you think and believe, go to Jesus and ask him to reveal himself to you. How we see God as our Father is often faulty.

 In these years of raising children Fr. Chris and I have worked very hard to learn God’s ways of caring for our children and each other. I have learned from Chris that Christian fathers clean diapers, wear babies in carriers, cook dinner, bath kids, correct unkind behavior in children, scrub showers, take out the trash, and clean a pool they have never ever wanted in their lives. Christian fathers are to sacrifice their time, energy, and finances for the betterment of those around them. They are to lay down their lives for their family. How many of us have had this as our example…not many I would imagine. We often carry wrong thinking around God the Father because we never experienced such sacrifice and love. Going to Jesus with a prayer partner can correct some of this wrong thinking and bring about healing in our lives so we can draw near to the Father and experience love.

This Holy Week I implore you to ask God to reveal himself to you. Ask him how can I know your love more? How is God wanting to shape your thinking of him? What visions of God the Father do you have that block you from growing in His mercy? How does God want to set you free from something that holds you back and keeps you from loving others and loving the life He has given you. I will be praying for you this week that you might be moved to see Jesus anew, that your faith might grow, and you might be able to experience His love in a profound and lasting way.

To God be the glory now and forever. Amen.

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