Showing posts from March, 2018

Friday of Holy Week: Standing At The Foot of The Cross

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman, here is your son," 27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is accomplished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Today is Good Friday--the day Christians commemorate the suffering and "passion" of Jesus.  On this day of Holy Week, according to the Gospels, Jesus suffered on the Cross between noon and three o'clock bef…

Thursday of Holy Week: Taken, Broken, Blessed & Given

"When they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take this is my body." Then he took a cup and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.  He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many."  - Mark 14:22-24

Today is Maundy Thursday.  We call it "Maundy" Thursday because the ancient church mothers and fathers connected it to Jesus' "mandate" to his disciples on this day of Holy Week to "love one another as I have loved you."  

This is also the day we remember Jesus celebrating Passover with his closest friends--what Christians call "The Last Supper."  

Jesus loved a good party.   If you read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life you will find that every other chapter he's sitting down to dinner with one group of people or another.  

As he gathered with the twelve disciples on Thursday…

Wednesday Of Holy Week: The Heartbreak of Betrayal

"Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.  When they heard it, they were greatly pleased and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him." - Mark 14:10-11

On Wednesday of Holy Week, according to historic Church tradition, we remember Jesus' betrayal by one of his closest followers, Judas Iscariot. 

Throughout the centuries, people have offered a number of theories as to why Judas betrayed Jesus.  

Some have claimed that he was poisoned by jealousy and greed, which pushed him to do something that he later regretted. Others have claimed that he wanted to force Jesus' hand, to back him into a corner, so to speak, in order to start an armed revolution.  

Still others have asserted that he was part of God's plan, and was simply "doing his duty."  

In fact, the first-century Gnostic Christian text The Gospel of Judas seems to indicate that Judas was the only faith…

Tuesday of Holy Week: Jesus Flips A Coin

Throughout Holy Week we'll be following in the footsteps of Jesus as he leads us to the Cross.  
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus on Tuesday of Holy Week, religious and political leaders came together to try and trick Jesus with a slippery question.  They asked Jesus "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?"  

If Jesus had answered "No," they would have reported him to the authorities for sedition.  If Jesus had answered "Yes," he would have been discredited in the eyes of the common people, who flocked to hear him speak.  

Instead, Jesus asked them to bring him a Roman coin that was stamped with Caesar's image.  He took the coin, and then asked, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They replied, "The emperor's."  

Then Jesus said, "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God's."  

This response forces the crowd to ask two follow-up questions.  

The first question wo…

Monday Of Holy Week: Jesus' Temple Tirade

Throughout Holy Week we'll be following in the footsteps of Jesus as he leads us to the Cross.  

According to the Gospel of Mark, on the Monday following Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he returned to the Temple and started a ruckus:  
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Mark 11:15-17So what was Jesus up to here?  Theologians Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan believe that he was staging a prophetic teaching moment, much like the prophet Jeremiah had done when he stood in front of the Temple and confronted all of the worshippers who tried to enter.  

The Temple system had b…

Palm Sunday - 2018

Today is Palm Sunday--the Sunday before Easter, the day when we celebrate the beginning of Holy Week with the waving of palms, singing of songs, and other assorted awesomeness.

This is the Sunday--before the Sunday.  The moment before the moment.

Did you know that the moment before the moment is the most important moment?

When I say the moment before the moment, I mean the moment before the great moment--the moment of decision, the moment of destiny, the moment that always seems to get all the attention

But it's the moment before the moment that's actually the most important---moment.

Think about it.

Remember the first time you went on the high dive at the pool?  You climbed up that ladder that seemed like it went to heaven.  Then you stood there at the end of that diving board, barely able to walk.  But you did--you stepped forward and then stood there at the end of it looking down.  And then you took a breath.

That moment--the moment before the moment was the most important moment.…

You Don't Need To Change To Follow Jesus

I'm not good enough. 

I'm not ready. 

I don't have it all figured out.  

I don't have enough faith.  

I don't know what I believe.  

These are just a few of the things we say when we're doing our best not to live the abundant life that Jesus promised us when we follow him.  

And for most of us, it's not our fault.  At some point in our journey, we were told that in order to really follow Jesus we had to get ourselves squared away first.  

We were told that we needed an abundance of faith.  We were told that we needed to change.  We needed to follow a bunch of rules and regulations  (most of which made absolutely no sense).  

We were told that we had to have the right set of beliefs.  

What we didn't know was that all of those things we were told we were supposed to have down cold, were actually limiting our ability to follow Jesus more fully, and live more abundantly.

Far too many Christians have fallen in love with the process of Christianity at the expense of t…

A Choice to Follow Jesus or Execute Him

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  It's also a day when we'll be commemorating the arrival of Jesus in Jersualem on the Sunday of the week that he was executed.

As part of my sermon preparation this week, I've been thinking a lot about what it took for Jesus to make that trip.  

He'd heard the threats by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, who were trying to figure out ways to get rid of him.  Jesus threatened their power.  His teachings held a mirror up to them and they didn't like what they saw.  So they decided to kill him.  

But he went anyway.  He knew what he was facing, not only from his opponents but also from the crowds who were gathering there for Passover.  His arrival would draw a line in the sand.   

The great Henri Nouwen once wrote: 
"Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the good news to the people of that city.  And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them:  Will you be my disciple, or will you be my execu…

The Battle Is Not Yours

"This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you..." - 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17

This past week has been a sobering and fearful season in my adopted hometown of Austin, TX.  A serial bomber struck five times (and nearly a sixth) taking the lives of two people, and seriously injuring several others. 

This morning, the terror ended when the 24-year-old bomber was confronted by law enforcement and set off an explosive device in his car, killing himself in the process.  It was a sad, terrible end to it all.   

I started thinking this morning about how helpless and angry I have felt off and on all week, and how that helpless anger guided my responses. Throughout the week, I found myself praying less for the situation and spouting off more. 

I found myself putting my trust in thin…

When God Was An Atheist

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) - Mark 15:33-34

I've been kind of weepy the past couple of days.  

I got choked up after I watched the American Idol audition video and the short bio of a young woman who teaches special needs kids.  

Then there was a song about the Resurrection that just spoke to me and I listened to it over and over again, wiping tears away the whole time. 

I even got a little emotional when I was standing outside this morning, breathing in the cool morning air on this first day of Spring.  

I have been flummoxed by this bout of emotional behavior.  It's not all that encouraging when you walk around with a low-grade sense that you may fall apart at any moment.  

And then it hit me.  

This is my first Easter without my mom in the world.  

Because of this sad fact, I have been f…

God's Answer To Suffering

"If I knew of any way of escape [from pain] I would crawl through sewers to find it." - C.S. Lewis

I've been considering the purpose of suffering lately.  

It's the season for these kinds of reflections.  In these few days before Holy Week our thoughts can often turn toward the journey of Jesus into Jerusalem, and ultimately to the suffering, that journey brought him.  

But I've also been considering the purpose of suffering in general as I read the news of the day--news of war, of violence, hopeless division, sin, and death.  

My oldest boy called me on his way to school today to ask me if I'd heard the news on the latest bomb attacks here in Austin, TX.  The last attack happened just a few miles from our house, injuring two men severely.  He also shared another story he'd heard about a terrible murder-suicide in Florida.  

I realize now that he wanted me to tell him something profound.  I didn't have anything profound to say, though.  All I had was a wor…

Rescue Me: Week Five - "Repent"

It's the Fifth and final Sunday of the season of Lent, and we are journeying together after Jesus as he travels to Holy Week and the Cross.

The thing is, when we walk the Lenten journey, it's easy to feel a bit lost.  It's one of the most difficult seasons of the year--a long wintry trudge that is sandwiched between the joys of Advent and the transforming moment of Easter.

And let's face it, following in the footsteps of Jesus as he journeys to the Cross isn't exactly the most thrilling of propositions for most of us.

What we need are guides to help us along the way, to inspire us to keep going and to give us direction when we feel lost and alone.  That's the focus of the sermon series we're beginning today--a series entitled, "Rescue Me."

We'll be engaging with the lectionary Psalms that are part of our Lenten readings for each of the Sundays in Lent.  The Psalms are more than just poetry.  They are more than prayers.  The Psalms provide us with …