I feel challenged to continue to understand and live out our ministry in the world as defined by the Gospel and the Missio Dei (mission of God), not by every cultural debate and divide. Regardless of any Supreme Court decision, how will the church embody God’s righteous reign in and for the world? Jesus is Lord, not any political or cultural mindset. Both justice and righteousness matter intensely to God. Like Jesus we take our stand with and among real people where they live. But we actually kneel, submitting to God’s kingdom, confessing our own shortcomings as we profess a clear faith in God and enter into loving relationship with our neighbor. We cannot compromise God’s revealed vision of morality (but must confess that we, too, have failed) and we dare not compromise God’s revealed vision of love (even as we admit that we have in the past).
Jesus on the cross was demonstrating the incredible power of a new kind of love. Violently abused, he suffered for the sins of others. Tortured by an ancient military Empire, he suffered with conquered and marginalized people everywhere. Hanging on the cross he asked the Father God to forgive his enemies, for they did not understand what they were doing. Can we rightly live with anything else in our hearts?
In this week Christians call Holy, as we remember Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, may we join Jesus’ continuing mission to embody the righteous rule of our loving God. May that be a surprising sign in our world of something better yet to come…
Palm Sunday worship: 10:30am
Good Friday Communion Service: 6:30pm
Easter Sunday- Fellowship Breakfast: 10am, Resurrection Celebration: 10:30am
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, beginning Holy Week. Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem for the last week of his earthly ministry. Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time to shouts of praise and prayers for the deliverance of God’s people. Hosanna is essentially a Hebrew prayer for deliverance: something close to “Save, I pray!” The people longed to be delivered from Roman cruelty. And Jesus was arriving to set them free. But it was a different kind of freedom he came to bring. Jesus experienced the political problems that every resident of Judea and Galilee experienced. But he knew he needed to attack evil at its source: the stain of sin in the human condition. There would always be another conqueror, but there will only ever be one savior. Jesus was a king of a different kind, a king who would lay down his life, absorbing the full violence of an empire to set his people free from sin. Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord to bring full salvation to everyone. From slave to emperor, from laborer to President, everyone needs Jesus. Thank God, he came to save us!
Today is called Maundy Thursday in the Christian tradition. It commemorates Jesus’ last meal with his closest followers before his death. From this meal we have the Eucharist (thanksgiving) or Communion as the way to both commemorate Jesus’ sacrificial death and to experience the power of it in the present. It is considered by all or nearly all Christians to be a sacrament, a way that we intersect directly with the grace of God in our time. In our tradition (Church of the Nazarene) we call it a means of grace. So it’s not just an outward ritual. It’s a way to commune with God. We don’t emphasize anything magical happening with the elements of communion (bread & cup), but rather the act of obedience to Jesus’ command (do this…) puts us in a position where God can bless us in a special way. God uses the bread and the cup to draw us near to the center of our faith and Christian experience. It reminds us that it’s a relationship with God (expressed here in a meal) and not just a set of beliefs.
But in John’s Gospel the Last Supper commemorates the act of love where Jesus washed the feet of his followers. (John covers the Eucharist mainly in John 6). He wanted his community to understand that Jesus’ community was to be a community of servant-leaders who love and serve. You can read about it in John 13. Peter demonstrates that for some, the hardest part is being served. And so this keeps our communities of faith communities of Grace. Salvation is a gift and a calling. If we don’t keep these in balance, we lose our way.
So both traditions have been a part of celebrating Maundy Thursday. (The name probably comes from the Latin , Mandatum, which is the first word in John 13:34 “A new COMMAND I give you…, that you love one another.”) Celebrating the Eucharist/Communion and foot washing.
This year, our church is not having a Maundy Thursday service. But one could spend some time today reflecting on the meaning and significance of both of these traditions. Perhaps you’ll commemorate the powerful love of Jesus on Good Friday and receive communion on Easter Sunday. Spend time today preparing yourself for these events. Then think about how you live in community with others. If you’re not part of a worshipping community, consider connecting with one this weekend. We can’t really love one another if we’re isolated on our journey of faith. It’s in serving others that we really find fulfillment. And once we drop our guard, it feels great to be served. Let love not take advantage of others-those who are served are empowered to return the gift of life. It not only feels good, it feels right.
So there it is- Maundy Thursday. A chance in the middle of Holy Week to consider the awesome gift of love that we can share with others, if we would.
Good Friday service 7pm
NewHope Community Church
Is God your spiritual ATM? Has it sometimes (or often) been your pattern to come to God only when you need something? Has confession of sin been like entering your PIN, something you do to gain access to what you want? At this point we’re slipping out of an authentic relationship with God and into a manipulative religion of convenience. Our god is reduced to a robot dispensing grace when we want it, resources when we demand them, and instant circumstance gratification. Sound good?
The problem is a machine god that does our bidding is an illusion. In this scenario we’re a little too clever. We’re not smart enough to know when we need grace. We have very little imagination when it comes to our resource needs. (Similar to the limited balance in our bank account.) And circumstance manipulation is a pipe dream. We lack control and our machine god is powerless to move others. (Remember it’s merely doing our will.)
What Jesus offers us is radically different than religion as usual. There is no guarantee of material comfort. There is a near promise of human rejection. In fact, sometimes Jesus seems really bad at marketing:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
Matthew 16:24-27 (NIV)
Religion of convenience is out the window. But in return:
We get a dynamic relationship with a living God who has walked in our shoes and overcome every trial we face. We lose automation. We gain relationship. We lose cheap grace and gain costly but infinite grace. We lose the illusion of control and gain the reality of trust. We lose material comfort and gain communion with God. We lose the world and gain The Kingdom.
In short, we follow. We lose. We find. We are kept.
In this scenario, forgiveness is something we ask for quickly because we want the relationship to be restored. Because we love someone and genuinely grieve over our own selfish actions.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
He’s not a machine. He is the righteous judge of all the earth. He is the God who loves us, a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He is the jealous lover of our souls.
Gut check. Is it time to walk away from the machine god of our own making? Is it time to take up our cross and follow Jesus? (Hint: this works a lot better in community with others, called church.) He even promised to reward our new way of life when our journey comes to an end…
It’s Holy Week. Never a better time to get in step with Jesus on the way to Golgatha, where his cross was lifted up with Him nailed to it. He gave up everything. He gained even more. He invites us to follow
Good Friday Service: 7pm
NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene
This Sunday, Christian believers and seekers will gather in churches around the world to celebrate Jesus’ final arrival in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Many will be asking the same question that was heard on the streets that day—”Who is this?”
Crowds of people came to meet him! They welcomed him into the city, believing he might just be the answer to their prayers. Many were holding palm branches. Others laid their coats down for him. A scene fit for the arrival of a king. But Jesus didn’t look like a king. He looked like someone they’d never seen before, but had always been seeking. Still the question remained. Who is this?
It’s a question we should all answer. Who is Jesus? But make sure you don’t answer from your easy chair.
This Sunday, go to church. Hear the story. Experience the people who follow him. Get caught up in the moment. Come see for yourself. Many have testified to experiencing Jesus, directly, in worship. Most have told a story of transformation and hope. At NewHope Community Church we welcome you to come just as you are to experience Jesus just as he is. If you’re in Chicagoland, come check us out in NW Indiana. 10:30am (You’ll find directions by clicking on link) Good Friday (7pm) and Easter Sunday (10:30am) are additional opportunities to discover faith and and check out the church experience. Who is Jesus? Wherever you are keep seeking until you discover a life changing answer! Grace and Peace to you!
Jesus of Nazareth Part Two, Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection [Kindle Edition]
Pope Benedict XVI (Author)
Just started reading this book. I haven’t read any works by the sitting Pope, so it’s a first. I hope it’s not a last. The first few pages jump around quite a bit. He says he’s writing from a faith hermeneutic (doing interpretation unapologetically as a person of faith) but with due attention to historical exegesis, within its limits. He says his goal is to reveal Jesus in a fresh way, making him accessible to 21st century people. I like what he’s setting out to do. I hope I start enjoying what he’s actually done a little more…and soon!
Yeah, he’s, like ,Catholic and I’m, like, not. I’m Nazarene (an Evangelical Wesleyan-Holiness Protestant Christian denomination-similar to Methodist). But I share his desire to connect with the most essential aspects of Jesus. I’ll need to remember how different our concepts of authority are and hold onto my tradition. But it’s less of a stretch for us Wesleyans than say, Reformed people. We’ve always reached back to the early Church Fathers in interpretation. (Not that Reformed people don’t) Most of the time we’ve been pretty ecumenical.
He and I agree that what Jesus did in the last week of his life changed the world forever. Nothing is the same. There is now hope for this world. I hope this book avoids sectarian doctrinal detours and simply helps the reader follow Jesus all the way to the cross & resurrection!
I’ll let you know what I learn!
Grace and Peace