Thursday, April 23, 2020
In the past few weeks, I have heard a lot of strange phrases uttered, like “the new age of COVID-19” and learning to “live in the new normal”. Well okay, the second one I have used my own self to talk to people about dealing with loss and death. I do it to help them understand that there is a path that needs to be walked and that they can walk it because they are not alone. But there is a list of things that we need to be aware of that can help us to live that new life.
For example, we are to “self-isolate” or to quarantine ourselves to protect lives – including our own. We need to work out our economic troubles and worries. Some demand that the Government support their way of living so that it does not cost them anything. In my own life and ministry, we are dealing with the pandemic and now we are dealing with a flooded church hall. The Church has been broken into and there are looks and doors to fix. There are other important church building issues that need attention but are going to have to wait until things are back to whatever normal looks like. This is when I realized that we need to remember that we must not lose sight of the fact that this is not about us but about God and his Church.
If we consider the words of this week’s Gospel lesson and the Walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) There is a great phrase I heard, listen to a bunch of videos as I worked away – Mary Lower, a Christian musician and comedian said, “When the dead sit up, the funeral is over!” The walk to Emmaus then is about three simple things: (1) get the story in, (2) get the story straight and lastly (3) we need to get the story out. (Becky Pippert, “Out of the Saltshaker”) In asking the question, “What things?” Jesus invited the people he was walking with to share what they knew and saw of the events in Jerusalem. They had taken the events of Holy Week in and thought that things were at an end. Things had been really bad on Friday on that hilltop when hope died. In walking with them and talking with them, Jesus opened up the Scriptures and showed them how Christ had to suffer and die and rise again – helping them to get the story straight. Then at the table together, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them. This caused the people who had been with Jesus to get up from the table and run the seven miles back to the City of Jerusalem and report what they had seen and heard to get their story out.
In doing so they were sharing with others, including Peter, who had seen the risen Jesus the same day.
Remember now, when the dead sit up, the funeral is over. And we have our story to tell. It is not just that Jesus lives, but that because he is alive, Jesus reigns. We need in this time of plaque (and that is what this is) to get the story in, get it straight and then get it out into the community because we have a message that will help people live in hope and with courage. We can help people to turn to God and to begin build relationships with God and with those who God is redeeming. But we must become reenchanted with our story – the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. That he has been crucified and raised from the dead for you and for me. He lives and he reigns.
Do we have the courage to become re-enchanted with our message and through the message to rediscover our first love? We cannot afford to preach a lukewarm, mediocre gospel because if it is true. And because it is true is life-giving. And if our message is lifegiving, it is the most important message in the entire world. This message can make and does make all kinds of real difference in the world and that, beloved, matters to the world who is looking for and in need of some good news and hope in this age of COVID.
Love people perfectly. Live life totally. Be what people need you to be in this moment and serve where you are sent. Be ready to be a help in another person’s trouble and remember, it is Christ himself we serve. In this way, we will get his story out.
Thursday, April 2, 2020
On Palm Sunday five-year-old Jason had a very sore throat and had to stay home from church with a sitter. When his family returned from the Church service, they carried several palm fronds. Jason asked them what they were for. "People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by," his father told him. "Wouldn't you know it," Jason fumed, "the one Sunday I don't go, and He shows up!"
This will for certain be one of the oddest Palm Sundays of my nearly 30-year ministry. It will be odd because it will be almost totally silent. Palm Sunday s one of those services where we let our liturgy out for a walk. Literally. This is the Sunday where we go for a walk around the Church in procession singing hymns like “Ride on, ride on in majesty”. There would be tambourines and noisemakers and lots of voices signing as they strode along. That will be happening this year. This year, there will be silence and I suspect I will be straining to hear the rest of creation cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
In the Gospel for Palm Sunday, Jesus rides in on a donkey to the City of Jerusalem. As he and the others go along a people gather into a crowd calling on Jesus “Son of David have mercy on us!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” People were looking for healing and mercy so that their lives could be better and they could do better things, do more things and have a better life. They wanted safety. They wanted to be rescued. They wanted to be blessed. Most of all they called for God to be merciful.
You know what mercy is? That is when one person stands between another person and the second person’s disaster, and first-person calls the second to himself to avoid the disaster. That is why Jesus and his death on the cross is crucial. He is lifted up so that we can see him and be drawn to him. God is providing mercy through executing judgment so that we can have that mercy and that rescue, that salvation. Through the cross, Jesus takes our judgment and our punishment. We, in turn, receive the mercy, the grace and the peace of God that passes all our human understanding. We are healed by the stripes he took for us. The cross teaches us about who we are and how far we are going to take this to make sure that we are in control. The cross also points out what God is going to do about it.
We are to follow, even chase if necessary, Jesus up the hill as he makes his way up the hill at Golgotha. We are to seek out the opportunities to build and reconcile relationships. We are to call out for healing and for rescue in the midst of the storm. We are prevailed upon to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus up the hill. We need to count the costs of following and not following Jesus. We need to guard our message and our integrity. We need to be wise in the ways that we walk and act, including our service of God.
Take time to look for Jesus. He is here and he has shown up. Cling to him!