Making Holy Week Holy

Holy week begins this Sunday, Palm Sunday. Note: the week between Palm Sunday and Easter is not intrinsically holy, except in the way that all time is holy, since it belongs to God. We can, make next week holy by setting it apart and choosing to give it a sacred focus.  That can be a struggle.  After all, Spring’s incredible beauty mocks Lent.  With Spring comes new life, re-birth, warmth and light.  All fantastic reminders of Easter, but all things that tempt us to ignore the steps that led to the empty tomb.  Holy week starts with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  From there, he washes his servants’ feet, he presides over the Last Supper, and is betrayed- all remembered on Maundy Thursday.  The next day, Good Friday, is the day we remember his torturous death, and his sacrificial love for us all.  It is only after this, that we can truly celebrate Easter.  Only after following his steps to death, can we cry out in faith, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!” 

Plan now. 

Put it on your calendar. 

Join us for worship next week:

Palm Sunday: (April 1st) 8:30 and 10:55am Worship, Caroline Berardi preaching                  “Rejected.”
Final Lenten Luncheon: (April 4th) 12:15pm Worship in the Gallant Chapel, Caroline Berardi preaching “Golgotha.” 12:45pm lunch in the Kirk, $5.00.

Maundy Thursday: (April 5th) 6:00pm Worship with celebration of Lord’s Supper                  Dennis Tedder preaching “Basin and Towel.”             

Good Friday: (April 6th) 12:00pm Worship in the Gallant Chapel, “Solemn Reproaches of the Cross.”

Easter Sunday: (April 8th) 8:30 and 10:55am Worship, Dennis Tedder preaching  “Looking for Life in All the Wrong Places.”

May I encourage you to worship each day of Holy week, whether in the sanctuary or as you live out your life.  Worship daily the God who lived and died so that we might live eternally.  Do that- and I promise that you’ll better see the incredible, unbelievable, truth of the Gospel message.  God is revealed through God’s word in Holy Scripture.  Make a point to read and study Jesus’ last hours.  I dare you to fix your eyes on Jesus: the one who loves you to the point of death- even death on a cross.

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No Idea

Call it arrogance, but one of the things that my father taught us was the phrase, “You obviously don’t know who you’re dealing with.”  It wasn’t to be said to people’s face- that would be rude. Instead, it was said as a way to maintain one’s sanity while dealing with the incompetence of others.

  “Hello, Yes, I want to order three pizzas……no, not thirteen!  Yes, I’d like delivery- I live at 1234…   WAIT, NO, I will not please hold!  ARGGH!  …Well, they obviously don’t know who they’re dealing with!”  Implied was the rest of the sentence, “Because if they did (!), they’d be nicer, they’d listen, they’d respect my time, etc, etc, etc.”

Jesus was in a position like that once.  He stood before chief priests, scribes, and eventually governmental leaders (See Luke 22 and 32). If it weren’t so tragic, it’d be funny:  the foolishness with which he was dealing, the inability of his persecutors to understand that which seems so obvious to us- it’s almost slapstick.  The people  obviously didn’t know who they were dealing with.

…and so they try to find out. “If you are the Messiah, tell us.”  His answer?  “If I tell you, you won’t believe, and if I ask you, you won’t have an answer.  From now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  That didn’t help, so they clarify. “Are you the Son of God?”  “You say that I am.”  Jesus didn’t deny that he was the Messiah either- an action that might have saved his life.  His failure to say that he was not the Messiah, combined with his cryptic, response seemed to be all that was needed.  And all are swept up into it… suddenly it goes from cries of “Blasphemy!” to “Guilty!” to “Crucify Him!” in the blink of an eye.  Has it ever bothered you that Jesus wasn’t clearer about his mission and identity? It does me- a lot.  Jesus gave indicator upon indicator that he was the Son of God, not to mention the words that he used.  Still, the people tried to figure him out. 

And in trying to figure him out, we failed him.   We, the Israelites trying to serve our God while living in the real world- we failed him. We, the ‘good temple-going people’ tried to protect our faith- and we failed it and him.  We, the modern-day servants of Christ trying to discern his will in the world- we, too often fail him. We become those who don’t know who they’re dealing with.

We may not have Jesus’ role all figured out, and we may not have always used our encounters with Jesus for the best- BUT GOD HAS.  God makes it work.  In my opinion, Luke’s gospel shows this best: Luke shows us a double irony: that, in calling for Jesus’ execution, the leaders of the faith thought they were acting on God’s behalf- ridding themselves of one who, they thought, sinned against God…but in betraying Jesus, they betrayed the God they worked so hard to serve. More Ironically, while trying to do right by God, the faithful did what was wrong, and even as they worked against God’s plan, they ended up serving it!

Then and now, we obviously don’t know who we’re dealing with… and thanks be to God for it! 

The Call to Prayer

I find that my heart leaps with the coming of spring.  New life, re-creation, and the warmth of the sun seem to sing God’s praises, and I join in.  In the opposite way, suffering, pain, and the difficulties of this life call me to prayer as well.  In the silence and the waiting that seems to come with tragedy, I am led to seek the Divine. 

Why is it that extreme circumstances cause us to stop and remember God?  

Remember our calling from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

 Our spirits may be more inclined to give thanks when we see the beauty of a blooming flower, or the ugliness of disease, but every single event or thing within God’s creation can be an impetus to pray… if we are intentional about paying attention.  Why not pray when you see the weed, fighting through the asphalt in the parking lot, or the grown child, who with grace and patience returns daily to spend time with aging parents?   Are these, too, not incredible things?  Do they not show God’s glory in the world?

 The poet Mary Oliver reminds us that by stretching ourselves, and letting all that we experience call us to prayer, we put ourselves in a position to receive.  It is then, that we find ourselves at the feet of Jesus, listening. 

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

Another Voice may speak.

                   – Mary Oliver

Dishcloth Discipleships

Dishcloth Discipleship

For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done…(Jesus, after washing the disciples feet, John 13:15)

Throughout the ages, including our own, the story of Christ’s Church is full of heroic, historic acts of faith. Our faith family stories of countless disciples whose devotion to Jesus required great sacrifice and courage inspire generations. We might even ask ourselves if our Christian witness could withstand times of severe testing.

On most days and for most of us, however, our walk with Jesus does not lead to what we would consider big, dramatic, memorable moments. Instead, our daily discipleship brings many moments for small acts of loving service.

A couple of weeks ago, Rachel, a long-time member of our congregation died and entered the Church Triumphant. We remembered her life as a devoted wife and mother, and we recalled her dedication as a Middle and High School Home Economics teacher. Rachel taught hundreds of young ladies basic cooking, sewing, knitting, and other home-making skills. She was a one-woman “house keeping” hotline for numerous neighbors and church members for decades.

Also, Rachel knit dishcloths and gave them away. Even in her later years, battling memory impairment, Rachel kept knitting dishcloths and passing them on, insisting that the dishcloth be used! By her family’s count, there are thousands of these dishcloths washing dishes, scrubbing counters, and reminding her students and friends of a caring woman.

After Rachel’s death, her daughter and granddaughter came to her room at the assisted-living facility to pack up. When they entered the room, granddaughter Jill spotted an unfinished dishcloth in her grandmother’s knitting basket. Though she had not knit as her grandmother had taught her in years, Jill immediately sat down and finished the dishcloth.

Just so, Christian discipleship calls us to take up the mantle (or dishcloth) of those who have kept the faith before us. Doing the dishes will not make the Church histories, but “dishcloth discipleship,” doing the little things one can for the sake of others, is the heart of God’s kingdom.

Boast in the Lord?

 

PSALM 34:1-9

  I will bless the Lord at all times;
   his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
   let the humble hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
   and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
   and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant;
   so your* faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
   and was saved from every trouble.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
   around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
   happy are those who take refuge in him.
9 O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
   for those who fear him have no want.

    Dear Heavenly Father,

As you always do, look on me with love and patience!  Forgive my unworthiness, forgive me for not doing that which you ask me to do.  My faith is too well hidden and not shared, according to your wishes, with those who might need it.  You know I love my church – your church- and I love my church family.  I confess that I can be quite obnoxious in talking to people at great length about both and yet, and yet … I never share with those same people my love for you.  Seldom do I share with them the many blessings you have bestowed upon me; the many prayers you have answered.  This gives me pause because I know it is what I am called upon to do. I cannot assume that, in speaking of my church and my church family, my love for you comes through. I suppose it’s what I’m hoping for, but deep down I know it’s not enough.

     Are there others out there like me? I think there might be. What is it that keeps us from speaking freely about the greatest gift we have ever received?

     God, we need your help.  Your patience with your disobedient and oh-so-foolish children is truly a blessing.  Please continue to bless us and allow us to “look to you and be radiant so our faces shall never be ashamed.”  In so doing, give us the grace and courage to do our part, in your name, in a troubled world sorely in need of your good news.  

Many thanks to Nora Kuester, a member of my Charlotte church family for her thoughtfulness and her willingness to let me use her ideas on our blog.