Archive for category Holy Week

John 12:12-16 Jesus is Coming to Town

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The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!”  Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. [NRSV]

Why Hosanna?

The words of praise. Hurray! Glory! Wonderful! come to mind, but this is a more unique word that Hebrew and recorded in Jesus’s native Aramaic. It is a phrase word. Just as the folks from Athens, GA might say: “How ‘bout them Jackets” (haha, twist intended) it would be a celebratory “Glory, Glory to ole Georgia.” If these phrases were encapsulated into a word we would the idea of ‘Hosannah”

Hosanna began as Lord, God Save us! and through the Gospel’s has come to mean, Highest Praise, who has saved us. So their use of the original context is twisted with the early church’s use of the old testament word.

So we have Palm Sunday as a pre-celebration that Jesus coming into the world, and in our hearts and lives, is the celebration of our salvation.

Which means if Jesus does not come to the world, to our heart, and to our town, then we are NOT saved. Here in is theological of preparing for a life as Easter People.

We usually only read this passage as an observer of a historical event, but it is shared in the Gospels as Good News and not just historical newspaper clippings.

Hosannah: Jesus has saved me, even though we celebrate the death on Good Friday and the Resurrection of next Sunday as Easter, we look at this story of entry into the city as a necessary part of the process.

We prepare for Easter knowing it is our victory march! The ASSURANCE of what WILL be and not just hope of what MIGHT be.

Why Palms?

The disciples did not gather to get Creighton’s Florist to order dozens of palms to be ordered, the palms were a response from the people who are making a traditional sign of welcoming the king.

This is a difficult time for us to respond in unison with any unifying act of praise and celebration because we have become a culture of suspicion, rebellion and divided support.

Some might hope, in our country that the “Stars and Stripes” would be an obvious rally flag. For some, it an illicit political protest.

I hope that you will do the spiritual work to see that the people might have divided reasons for welcoming Jesus as King.

Some who were in the crowd that day had experienced Jesus teaching, healing or miracles, while others knew only the oppressive Roman rule, and still, others were supporting glorious days of kings of the past hoping for the revival of political greatness.

Bottom line the palms are unifying symbols of many different individual reasons, some helpful and some dangerous.

Why a donkey’s colt?

Jesus came to town with is Colt? Would mean have met the expectation of many who were hoping for a new sheriff to clean house and restore order. When in fact, Jesus comes in humility to spiritually reorder the whole world and all time.

Think of the Jesus riding in a church parade. If this were a political parade there would have been legions of soldiers, a banner of the empire and emblems of Cesear. This is a church parade. Not everyone entered a float, but the people respond as if it is a political, flag-waving event.

Jesus rides in, not in a BEAST of an armored car, not on the back of a convertible, not even proud Clydesdale stallion. It’s more like he rides in on a pickup truck, not a four-door, HEMI, but a simple work truck.

But the symbol for some would be as if the self-proclaimed president was riding in ‘on’ a smart car.  You know that Consumer Reports does not the rate the “Smart Car” in their rating in a polite way of saying: “If you can’t say something good and helpful, don’t say anything at all.”

The palms and praises are the people’s response, Jesus message is the spiritual work that is being completed through the events of the week at hand. We call it Holy Week, but it is the week when everything we hold dear is lost and hope is out of our grasp… Oh, how we long for Easter, Salvation, Life, and Christ!

Wave OUR palms because we need to lead others out of hopelessness, fear, and sin into the joy that aways through the journey at hand.

This is what we share, this is why we praise, this is why we are the church, we are Christian, not for ourselves, but for OUR collective hope in the ONE who does save us. This week of Journey is the toughest part. Reach out to one who is in the hardest part o that spiritual and physical journey sharing the hope and joy that we KNOW is coming soon!

Again the call is to share the journey with those who cannot see this week is holy.

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Luke 19:28-44

PalmCross  As [Jesus] was going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it.’ “ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
  As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop. He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
  As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” [NRSV]
The entrance into the holy city Jerusalem is akin to the presidential motorcade after the inauguration swearing in service. People lined the way, shoulder to shoulder, waving and cheering the confirmation of their new leader. But Jesus did not arrive in the usual way. Neither had he been endorsed by the Sadducees nor Pharisees. He entered riding on the back of a humble work animal instead of a proud steed of power and status. He was praised by the disciples, those who had been healed, fed, blessed and taught along the way of Jesus’s ministry. I make NO contemporary political correlation to candidates running today, only to the stress and strife of a non-establishment figure being ushered into the city by the voice of the people.
We may have more insight into the context of this event that other generations. The Pharisees saying, “If this Jesus becomes our leader, I’m leaving Jerusalem” The Sadducees saying, “If they don’t get a handle on this outsider, we will take steps to bring our own man in.” Do you get the scene and the tensions?
The establishment says, stop your people from this circus. Teacher, we hold you responsible for the chaos. It’s your fault. We will stop you if you don’t stop the unruly crowd. [Again, I am not suggestion that any of our political figures are messianic leaders, but I am listening to the similarities of the crowds and the commentators and voices of the establishments then and now.]
All this sets the stage for Palm Sunday. We would much rather look at the scenes of the children lining the streets waving along the Jesus parade as a sweet image of Palm Sunday and not see the emerging political unrest that blows up in less than a week. I believe it is vitally important to look at the politics that is very much part of the Palm Sunday story.
The sweetest fruit in this passage from Luke’s Gospel is about seeing and not seeing. It is about believing and refusing to believe. It is about choosing to accep or closing our eyes, “sticking our heads in the sand in times of fear”,
instead of proclaiming
  • Jesus Christ is real,
  • Jesus is King, and
  • Jesus is with us.
The secondary witness is about praise that cannot be held back.
  • When we know Jesus is real, this becomes the foundation of our life
  • When we know Jesus is King, this becomease the guide for our living
  • When we know Jesus is with us, nothing can stop us from praising.
So What is “Palm Sunday About?”
  • There story is about preparing for worship
  • The story is about making way/room for Jesus in our public/fears
  • The story is about remaing awake and aleart that it is Jesus that leads us and not anything or anyone esle.
Where does Peace come from? The Prince of Peace:
  • Peace does not come from armies and weapons
  • Peace does not come from governments and policies
  • Peace does not come from acts of kindness and justice
  • Peace comes from God, through Jesus Christ, guided by the Spirit, through the church, through us for for the whole world.
Palm Sunday is about seeking peace from God with us.
If we cant’ see God with us, we will never find Peace.
Peace in Syria?, in Instanbull?, in the media? in the streets of our nation? in our homes? in our hearts?
  • Peace comes when Jesus comes in.
  • Peace comes when Jesus is praised
  • Peaces is possible to see when we see God showing up on our streets.
We life our palm brances as signs of a
  • new life,
  • a new way
  • a new day, made possible thorugh Jesus Chirst, our King.
The Practice response..
Start with what we have: cloaks and branches and pave the way.
Start with our
  • Praise
  • Words
  • Witness of kindness
  • Forgiving first,
Loving even though others have not loved us first
  • Our hearts
  • Our gifts
  • Our time
  • Our presence
  • Our wintess
Use these to pave the way for Christ to enter our
  • hearts,
  • conversations,
  • homes,
  • streets,
  • communities,
  • nation and the world.
That means raise the praise in church but don’t stop there, don’t stop now,
LIft Christ… and let a hurting, hateful, fearful, broken world know Jesus is here.

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Sunrise 7am Dausett Trails Chapel JUMC Worship 20140420.07:00

Sunrise 7am Dausett Trails Chapel  JUMC Worship 9&11 Easter “Whom Do You Seek?” 20140420 SeekingGod

Lectionary Readings from NRSV for Easter 2014 below:
Colossians 3:1-4 (7am Sun Rise)

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. If you have been raised with Christ. I would guess that on any given Easter Sunday, 99% of those who show up at an Easter Sunrise service are indeed already believers. Who in their right mind would get up so early to take part in a service they had no idea what it was about. So I’m, as they say, preaching to the choir, this morning. I would also guess the Paul writes to the church at Colossi knowing they are believers. But they are believers who might have lost the connection with what it means to be raised with Christ. The power of Christ’s resurrection affects our life more than our death. Christ arose so that we could start living the whole life God has for us from our birth, confirmed in our baptism, strengthened throughout our lives and bridges us through death into eternity. So much our grief over those loved ones who have died is evidence that we forget what it means to be raised with Christ. Certainly we miss them in the flesh with us, but in Christ we are never separated. I know my father’s love, guidance and tears in my walk. He was my best friend. He still is. The emphasis Paul implies is not so much ‘IF’ were are raise, but ‘SINCE’ we are raised with Christ. His word remind us of the foundation of our faith and the bedrock of our relationship. This is the Good News of the Easter story: He is alive, for us. Christ is alive because God has a claim on our hearts and struggles. Setting Your mind on Christ Sometimes we think the answer is to focus our mind on some area we would like to change and that would be enough to transform our living. I struggle every day making choices about my diet. I struggle every day making choices about my work, my finances, my relationships and my life. Paul gives the starting point for transformation. The best way to a person’s heart starts with their mind. We see, hear or experience a hungry child and our heart is motivated to feed and save. We see a broken step or windowpane at a neighbors house and we have the perspective they have learned to over look. We become aware of our neighbors sins and struggles and our mind can judge and condemn or our mind can have compassion and identify with our own sin and struggle and work toward mutual healing. The starting point is in the wonderful mind that God has created, but it is not the final answer. Our heart is the target that God claims and seeks to unite. Hiding or Revealing The tradition of Easter eggs is rooted in a way of teaching about the treasure of the tomb. It would be a more accurate practice if they eggs that children hunted were found to be empty instead of filled with treats from the magic bunny. Bunny have been used for their prolific ability to reproduce which points to the power of the resurrection. It would be a better example if we replicated the Easter message as prolifically as bunnies multiply. But with those knocks against the Easter bunny and his hiding eggs the text begs us to ask are we: hiding or revealing Christ in how we live our lives. I don’t know about you but I’m guilty of both. Sometimes I thrilled to share the Good News and help folks hear and know the love God has for them in Jesus Christ and him crucified. And other times I am hiding in fear, frustration and sin.

  • Paul writes to encourage the church to be proactive in remembering and reclaiming the hold Christ has on their lives. His words invite us to do the same.
  • He writes to give them a starting point: First set your mind and your heart can follow. If both your heart and head are not heading in a Christ like way, we are fooling ourselves, and others. (but not God.)
  • Finally Paul asks us to reveal what is hidden and allow the light of Christ to guide our whole lives.  In doing this the resurrection we celebrate at Easter lives in us now and for ever.

It’s Easter: You are claimed by Christ, set your mind on God and grow in Spirit by sharing Christ with others.

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Matthew 21.1-11 Celebration Time JUMC 20140413

RidingonanDonkey When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” [NRSV]

People like to celebrate. We like something to get excited about.

Look at any sporting venue of your choice. There are more acres and structures devoted to accommodating those who celebrate than those who play the games. Sometime the celebrations get out of hand and crowds rush the playing field, goal posts get torn down, the crowd takes the celebration into the streets and what was apparent joy turns into rage and violence.

Think of Jesus’ entry into the capital city: What would make you take off your coat and cut down the neighbors tree limbs to celebrate.

I lived in Grant Park when the the Freak-Nick celebration began in Atlanta. It was not as crazy in our neighborhood as some but there were a day that we were snowed in with abandoned cars filling the streets around the church. At the time it was very frustrating and unsettling. Looking back it was evidence of what a crowd of people who get lost in the celebration can do.

On one hand they can celebrate their leader because they hear what they want to hear and cheer on one another. In the next moment they choose the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus.

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a political action group asking me to join other clergy in the presidents invitation to use our pulpit time to encourage people to sign up of the “Affordable” healthcare plans. The president was crossing the line of church and state to ask us to pray for the poor; he was not asking us to help victims of storms; he was not asking us to care for the sick. He was asking us to promote his political agenda. Is that what we have come to celebrate?

Maybe we are to be quiet and reverent only. Should not Jesus have been shown more respect and people just sat and watch quietly as he entered Jerusalem? Jesus didn’t want to show all the pomp and circumstance. He choose a donkey instead of the emperor’s steed. Maybe celebration has no place in our worship. It would be proper to keep quiet and manorly. Right? Look and around and listen this morning: Where are the palm branches? the coats and crowds… We can be assured that we are behaving as we ought and there will be no need for threat or crucifix going on anywhere around here today. “Am I right?”

This text begs the question: What is the appropriate way to welcome Jesus into our town? Quietly as if it were against the law? Not against the law of the land, but the law of opinion and perception.

Rather the harden, stone-like hearts has been set free, bodies healed, lives transformed and eyes opened and the people were shouting, Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest!  Blessed is he that comes in the Lord’s name. Hosanna! Glory Hallelujah!

Let’s try whispering that together. <in a whisper> Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest!  Blessed is he that comes in the Lord’s name. Hosanna! Glory Hallelujah!

Even when we all whisper it together our collective voice of praise is louder than one person sitting quietly minding their manors of respectability.

It’s not that God wants to hear certain words coming out of our mouths, but rather than try so hard to be quiet, let us try to respond the what God has done for us.

It might be the case Jesus has not come to our house; he might not have visited our streets; he might not have spoken to our hearts in such a long time that we have forgotten the joy. Is this the case?

Did Jesus want attention?

If you are going to start a parade riding into town. You must expect some attention. If you came riding in a shiny, red convertible Austin Martin, throwing candy and beaded necklaces to the crowd, you would expect some attention.

But if you came into town announcing you were a king, riding on a Murray Lawn mower and had your disciples throwing palm branches like a humble king David, you might not get the same attention from the crowd, but you would incite the eye of your critics. Jesus enters the city with intentional, radical risk and reveals the extravagance of God’s presence.

The text of Palm Sunday is one that asks each of us to identify where we are in the story? Are we paving the way with the coat off our backs? Are we waving whatever is within arms reach to celebrate? Are you shouting praise to God for all to hear?

Or, Are we wishing the parade was over and worried about who is going to clean up the mess? Are we feuding and steaming because of the irreverence of others? Are we resisting challenge and change? Are our dreams and expectation called to expand beyond our control and measure? Are we simply feeling left out?

Every Sunday is a celebration day. This Sunday is the beginning of a holy week of celebration leading us through the cross to the resurrection. Is it a journey you already know too well and will save the trip this year or will you make the pilgrimage again, if not for yourself for those who see your actions and hear your words.

There’s a party in the house… the prodigal has come home will we going in and join the father’s family and friends or will we stay outside?

As for me and my house, we will praise the Lord.

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Matthew 21.1-17 Fan or Follower? Palms or Power? JUMC 20130324

palmsunday

1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately. ” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” 14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” 17 He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there. [NRSV]

YOU WERE MADE FOR A MISSION  do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. [NRSV] 2 Timothy 4.5b

I remember the old TV episodes of Mission Impossible. The agents would receive a small reel-to-reel tape player that would play the message and mission and would begin to smoke and self-destruct. It was a secret mission for the agents alone. The agents had the responsibility to listen tot he mission, choose to accept it or not. And the moment would begin. We are here today to hear the message and accept it, or not. But ours is more than a TV episode. Ours is life or death, for ourselves and others.

The past month we have been looking at the question posed by Rev. Rick Warren in his book, What on Earth am I Here for?

In a Nutshell: Answering this question begins by affirming that life is not about us, It’s about god!
God is equally interested in you and god is concerned about me, God does not have favorites.

In Review

  • We are here as a product of gods love
  • We are here to praise god
  • We are here for fellowship as gods family
  • We are here fo become like Christ
  • We are here to serve gods work
  • Finally we are here because we have a mission, a specific work, task or charge

We are here to tell others what we already know

  • They are here not for themselves rare here by gods love for gods purpose
  • It is out work to show folks how to praise god, when all around us is fallen
  • It is our mission to build a faith family, hopefully our biological family but limited by
  • It is our charge to show the world around us what Christ looks, thinks and acts like
  • It inspire purpose to serve god and not ourselves…

What is the cost commandment from Moses?

No god comes before me… I’m first.
Here we are at Palm Sunday and we can look back at this only as a historical event, or we can see our present in the story as well.

  • Who is on the Jesus parade in Jackson?
  • What might not be revealing God that has God’s name and people attached, in our church and community?

Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem and pointed out where we had made worship about

  • the rules,
  • the money,
  • the business,
  • the divisions,
  • the politics,
  • The rich and the poor,
  • the house of us and not the house of god

He enters the city and would be disciples follow I with the triumphant parade, until he turns things god side up

Disciples see the mission is to turn the world God side up.

i challenge you to hear the parade and celebration when it affects our home, our business, our income, our choices:

  • Who will tell Jackson that God loves them?
  • Who will tell our community they are loved at the core of their being?
  • Who will show those with live, work and play  how to praise God?
  • Who will show hope and faith in the face of fear, guilt and grief?
  • Who will build up the family of God and be present for the family when it struggles
  • Who will show the neighborhoods what Jesus looks like, thinks and acts in our time?
  • Who will inspire others to follow God first

If it is not us, then we have wasted each others time here today.

What on Earth are YOU here for? You are here for this very mission, you have heard it and this message will not destruct. The question is, as God’s agent and disciples, as a Christian and follower of Jesus, will you accept the mission or pass?

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Hebrews 10:4-10 “God’s Not Pleased with our Bull” JUMC 20120401:0900

1 The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan. Since that old “law plan” wasn’t complete in itself, it couldn’t complete those who followed it. No matter how many sacrifices were offered year after year, they never added up to a complete solution. 2 If they had, the worshipers would have gone merrily on their way, no longer dragged down by their sins. 3 But instead of removing awareness of sin, when those animal sacrifices were repeated over and over they actually heightened awareness and guilt. 4 The plain fact is that bull and goat blood can’t get rid of sin. 5 That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ: You don’t want sacrifices and offerings year after year; you’ve prepared a body for me for a sacrifice. 6 It’s not fragrance and smoke from the altar that whet your appetite. 7 So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God, the way it’s described in your Book.” 8 When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. 9 When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan – 10 God’s way – by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. [The Message]

1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. [NRSV]

In the Old Testament, the practice of offering God animals has shown conflicting reviews rather than answers and faithfulness.
On one hand, from earliest of stories, [Gen. 4], it is Cain and Able bring offerings to God. Cain is the farmer brings grains that he has plucked, baked or even brewed and God declares that his gift is pleasing and appropriate. Able is the herdsman brings an animal that he has butchered and brazed or barbecued and God declares that Able’s gift is dis-pleasing and inappropriate.

Able’s response to doing what God does not approve or displeased God leaves Able hurt, disappointed, feeling rejected and after internalizing all this, he becomes angry and seek revenge on Cain.. who is later killed by Able. There is a great mis-placed and mis-directed response of Able to go after Cain. Feeling rejected for doing what displease God, Able feels Cain has showed him up. Cain didn’t bring grain to make Able look bad. Able didn’t necessarily know God would be please or dis-pleased.

God makes it clear. I don’t want your animal, Able I. A nice wool sweater would be just fine or some goat cheese. Rather than Able asking God, for instructions or help or forgiveness. Able seeks revenge and resolution by his own judgment. This is his sin. (Not so much bringing the wrong gift.)

What does God want from us this Palm Sunday? Do we need to be waving palm branches high in the air? Is that what God wants from us? Maybe, but probably not if we leave the leaves by the way-side and resume speaking ill of each other. God is probably not pleased if we are interested in getting even with those who hurt us. God is not so happy when we kill someone’s spirit and joy. God is not happy when we don’t learn from our mistakes.

The Old Testament gets confusing, because several generations later sacrificing animals becomes the focal point of seasonal celebrations for God’s people. Did God suddenly change the rules and expectations? The grain, oil, perfume offerings along with the fellowship of sharing meals seems to be approved by God. The next thing you know there is an entire priestly family clan and tradition with rules that are kosher or not. There are offerings of animals for the community, the family and the individual.

Later the people are exiled in foreign lands and cannot come to the temple to worship and the animal sacrifice seems to be the exception and not the rule.
Jesus comes along and becomes the final passover lamb sacrifice that God finds pleasing.. this is my son, listen to him.

In the letter to the Hebrews, God is saying, I’ve come not only to complete my part of the work, I’m going to do it from your perspective. Jesus becomes for us the sacrifice that we need. Jesus becomes our bridge to the no-where we have created out of our sin and detachment from God.

If you look back to the Gen 4 passage, God neither asked for an offering, nor gives any instruction. Only after seeing how we respond, does he correct Able. God doesn’t want us to fix what we cannot repair.
God does not want us to play God’s part in the drama of our own lives.
God doesn’t need our blood, God has given us that life in the first place.

What does God expect, want, need, ask of us? “See I have come to do your will.”
God wants us to trust God’s system
God wants us to follow God’s lead
God wants us to ask for help and direction
God wants us to come to God first and not after we’ve tried all our other options..

But hear the Good News! God has a preference for our life. God has patience for us to find God, if we will patiently continue to seek God.
So often, we try something once or twice, if we fail we give up on it.
Try asking for help again.
Try reading the scripture with a fresh set of questions.
Try coming to the table and finding an invitation, even though we have not done what was asked.

God will teach, correct and straighten out our brokenness.. that may not be pretty no easy.
But don’t give up, Don’t judge or get even with those who have found faithfulness
God doesn’t want our bull, God wants us. Not a stand-in or replacement. God stand in the way of sin, to find us where we are.
Don’t hurt our sister or brother, just because we are able.

Easter is about raising cain… and raising all of us.
So celebrate! Now and through the Maundy and the darkness of Friday… Sunday is coming. Don’t’ give up now.

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Luke 1:26-38 “remember what’s possible” JUMC 20120401:1100

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. [NRSV]

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth 27 to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. 28 Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you. 29 She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. 30 But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: 31 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; 33 He will rule Jacob’s house forever – no end, ever, to his kingdom.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.” 35 The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God. 36 “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months’ pregnant! 37 Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say. Then the angel left her. [The Message]

When Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, riding on a colt, on donkey, Mary must have had a flash back to the trip to Bethlehem some thirty plus years earlier. She certainly remembered that long journey with Joseph over dusty and rocky paths. It was probably a four day trip, less than 70 miles as the crow files, but closer to 90 miles on the main traveling roads. As the end of her pregnancy she and Joseph were filled with anticipation and celebration and a good dose of frustration having to travel so near to her delivery time. And now, Mary travels with a different family members, to another time of anticipation, celebration and another good dose of frustration, remembering the words the angels and Jesus foretells about coming to Jerusalem.

I invite you to join me thinking from Mary’s perspective today. She was a “ponderer.” Compare and contrast the starting point and this parade. Imagine the procession and celebration of people praising and celebrating her son. She would have been proud as any mother might be. From their humble beginnings and through difficult and threatening days, Jesus seems to coming into his own. What amazing impossibilities have become possible for Mary and her son.

Ahead of this moment of celebration, comes more impossibilities. Jesus’ last supper, capture, trial, and sentence of the death penalty. And the greatest impossibility, Easter, the resurrection. This is where we join the story for real. Not by looking back and placing ourselves in Mary’s shoes or even standing beside her, but in the unfolding of possibilities that come out of impossibilities.

What is impossible for you today? Is it physical? Is it financial? Is it relational? Is it personal and internal? Is it the juggling of all these? The message of the Angel and cousin Elizabeth, of Jesus and the disciples, of the Word lived out in our flesh… is that NOTHING is impossible for God. Everything hits impossible without God.

Remember, it is possible to eat at Christ’s table and find healing and wholeness for our broken hearts, bodies, and relationships.
Remember, it is possible to drink from Christ’s cup and find salvation, forgiveness, fresh starts for our broken trusts and broken spirits.
Remember what this bread and cup are for us.. Evidence, proof and invitation to step where we cannot walk and run where we cannot go.

God’s word that became flesh and moved in with us, continues to live that we might have a life that is full of hope and power.
What is possible for God in your heart today? What is possible for God in your home today? What is possible for God in this place today?
Don’t forget, remember and believe.
Don’t just believe, remember to live.

Hosanna, Our Saviour comes to walk with us.
Amen.

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