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Sometimes I miss the childhood go-to of the “do-over.” Do you remember that? Maybe the sun got in your eyes when you were shooting hoops with friends. You could call for a “do-over.” Maybe someone ran through the middle of your four-square game at the precise moment you missed the ball. That’s definitely grounds for a do-over. As an adult, there are many moments I would have loved a do-over (can I take back my perm in the 90’s?…Ugh). But this Sunday, we get one of the best do-overs ever: Participating in a palm parade!
Alongside followers of Jesus Christ from all over the world, we will re-enact Jesus’ triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem. We’ll recall the purpose of Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem: his death and resurrection. We’ll give glory to God that absolutely nothing would stand in Jesus’ way when it came to loving and saving the world. We’ll get a shot at this glorious event even though we didn’t get it the first time.
As with nearly everything Jesus did in John’s Gospel, no one understood what Jesus was doing on his third trip to Jerusalem. John declares:
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. (John 12:16)
I thank God the disciples 2,000 years ago were as clueless about what Jesus was up to in the moment as I am today. But God gives us the grace-filled gift of retrospect and in it, the clarity of God’s work in the Word made flesh.
So, wave your palms! Sing Hosanna to the Lord! And know what God has done for you!
See you Sunday…
It takes a lot of chutzpah to ask that question. In four small words it accuses and places authority in the hands of the accuser. Essentially, it says, “You’ve done something terrible and you are accountable to me.” This is the question Pilate asks Jesus in John 18:35. With the weight of the entire Roman Empire behind him, Pilate demands an explanation. Jesus must come clean.
It’s jarring, in this season of Lent, to hear Jesus being ordered to “come clean.” Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing? Yet, Jesus has been so transparent about his life, his identity, and his ministry throughout John’s Gospel, why not ask? What has Jesus done? Let’s consider it for a moment. Jesus:
- made the blind see and the lame walk
- proclaimed unending love for the outcast
- fed the hungry
- calmed the stormy seas
- raised the dead
- etc., etc., etc.
Jesus has done it all – for you, for me, for Pilate, for the religious leaders, for the world.
Actually, from that perspective, I might be tempted to thank Pilate. He asks something I don’t often enough. During the season of Lent I can become so inwardly focused I can’t see who goes before me, is at my side, works through me, and carries me in love.
Perhaps God is calling out to us through this reading to ask, with chutzpah, “Jesus, what have you done?” With that question in mind, my week looks much different. Jesus:
- introduced me to some wonderful new children of God
- opened up time for me to spend with my family
- gave me peace in a situation that had overwhelmed me
- was with me in a difficult conversation
- listened to my prayers
What has Jesus done for you?
See you Sunday…
God’s love isn’t always easy to see. Images of distraught schoolchildren escaping gunfire are easy to find. But John’s Gospel insists upon telling us, in unrelenting fashion, that God LOVES this world. When times are tough, and I’m not convinced God’s love can triumph over the world’s destruction, God finds a way to give me hope. This week at St. Tim’s, God came through again:
Monday – Began with a birthday party. A now nine-year-old decided to raise money for animal humane in lieu of receiving gifts. You gave nearly $1,000 to enjoy the pancakes her family provided in the Community Room. Then, 24 people gathered for Bible study, laughter, and love. Later that evening silent prayer and meditation filled the sanctuary, an NA group met to support one another, four families were sheltered through Family Promise, 25 people gathered for “Come and See” to break bread and journey together in faith, and music rang out from a choir composed of adults with special needs.
Tuesday – Lutheran Family Services offered ESL for recently-arrived refugees and asylees. Local pastors met for bible study and encouragement. An AA group gathered in hope. The LIFE Program welcomed the second group of participants working toward financial wellness.
Wednesday – LFS staff and legal officials from Santa Fe met with refugees and asylees to begin the long process of obtaining the proper immigration paperwork. Two AA groups gathered. Musicians “jammed” to the glory of God.
Thursday – LFS returns for ESL, all are welcomed for Lenten worship and a meal, choir members make a joyful noise to the Lord, another AA group gathers.
Friday – LFS prepares refugees for employment through resume-building and interview skills. The GNM choir sings God’s praises.
God loves the world. Period. Where have you seen God’s love lately?
See you Sunday…
I arrive at the gym, not-so-ready to get on a treadmill, at 5 am. Adding insult to injury is the television programming at that time. The gym offers 12 channels. Sounds like plenty, right? Ugh. However, I’ve found myself studying the content lately rather than watching, and I have been struck by a theme that keeps appearing across nearly every network: We’ve gotta know who’s at fault for everything.
Take, for instance, the Super Bowl. The score: Eagles 41, Patriots 33. Celebrations filled Philly’s streets but if you listened to the reporters, the Eagles didn’t WIN it – the Patriots LOST it. Brady fumbled the ball – it’s his fault. Belichick sabotaged the defense by benching Butler – it’s his fault. And that’s just a GAME!!! There are endless options to place blame for our local crime problems, the opioid crisis, disfunction in our political system, etc. I wonder, what would happen if we spent all of that time brainstorming solutions instead of chasing down who’s to blame.
In John 9, God gives us an example of what it looks like to move forward in grace, not back in condemnation. Jesus encounters a man born blind. For his blindness, blame has been placed on the man’s parents and on the man himself. Jesus doesn’t play along. After dismissing these falsehoods in just a few words, he goes about dispensing God’s grace. A little spit here, a little dirt there, and in no time the blind SEE!! Jesus won’t allow this man to struggle in blindness one more moment. Jesus has disciples to call, love to distribute, and grace to proclaim.
Sounds pretty incredible, doesn’t it? A life focused on discipleship, love, and grace? Hmmm…what if each of us gave that a shot?
See you Sunday…
When my son was a baby I was concerned, like most moms, I wasn’t doing it right. I half-jokingly mentioned this to his pediatrician and she said the most amazing thing: “If you love your child, that’s enough. And if you’re not sure you’re doing that, remember how kids spell love: T-I-M-E.” Ten years later, those words still shape my understanding of being a mom.
Cleary, God’s got this down.
This Sunday we move to John chapter 3, the story of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. It’s the first of a number of longer passages we’ll hear from John. I thought, perhaps, we should cut these long sections down for Sunday morning worship. But the length of Jesus’ conversations, I believe, is part of the grace we receive through John’s Gospel. Jesus is not in a hurry when it comes to conversations and relationships. Jesus reveals God’s love by becoming flesh and abiding with us, shining light into our darkness, and giving us the gift of TIME with God – all the time we need.
It’s rather astounding that the God of all creation spends all day, every day, with us, AMEN?! If we need to pray all night to make it through the darkness, God will listen all night. If we need God’s presence in order to endure our frustrations at work, school, family gatherings, or in traffic, God will be there with us every minute. God’s love, grace, and mercy endure forever. God’s got all the time in the world for us.
It challenges me, though, when I consider how much time I give to God. I can only imagine how many times God has wanted to speak with me and I haven’t had the T-I-M-E.
What about you?
See you Sunday…
Being in New York City last week was an adventure. The city is a marvel of engineering, chock full of talent, and persists at an incredible pace. We’ve visited my sister’s family in Brooklyn many times, but this year was even more memorable.
On Thursday, the “Bomb Cyclone” winter storm hit NYC. Temperatures plunged and eight inches of snow fell in Central Park. Still, we had tickets to hear the NY Philharmonic and nothing was getting in our way. We bundled up and headed into Manhattan. We thought a walk down Broadway would be a great prelude to our symphonic experience. But when we arrived, we couldn’t believe what we saw. Nearly every business on Broadway was closed. We were alone on the sidewalks except for a few hearty locals, and a woman on cross-country skis at Broadway and 62nd. Even the Philharmonic felt the storm’s impact. In a hall that holds thousands, we were there with a few hundred others. The City That Never Sleeps stopped and marveled.
I can’t help thinking, no matter how dramatic the “bomb cyclone” was, it’s got nothin’ on the power of God. This Sunday we’ll hear the story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. It’s nothing for him to do it. He doesn’t lift a finger. He simply speaks a word and the whole of nature obeys.
This power, Christ’s power, for love, grace, and restoration are with us every day. What might happen if we stopped and marveled at Christ’s power in the world? Where the hungry are fed, the addicted are in recovery, and broken relationships are restored. Where mountains soar, rain finally falls, and people gather for worship in joy and hope.
What might happen?
See you Sunday…
I’m no artist. My one claim to fame is winning the 4th grade art show. Apparently, I peaked early.
However, I do have a faint recollection of being proud of what I created when I was a kid. I see that in kids today, too. I’m not sure which is more beautiful: the blob of glue covered with glitter that is intended to be a snowman, or the glee in the child’s face who’s made it as they offer it as a gift. Smiling as if to say, “Yep, I made that!”
As we approach Christmas Day, I’m struck by the words in John’s Gospel that describe who this Christ child is:
He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. (John 1:2b-4)
Christ may have been new on the scene for us, but not for God. As it turns out, Christ was from the beginning with God and “without him not one thing came into being.” Interesting. Not one thing. Not one conifer, creek, or cricket. Not one peak, primate, or person. Not me. Not you…
On Christmas morning we welcome the Christ child. The little baby who is somehow, miraculously, God. At the same time, the one who enters this creation had a hand in creating us!
Can’t you just see it: the Christ child, eyes wide open, looking around in awe at this beautiful creation. Saying over and over again, “I made that!” Now imagine, the eyes of Christ settling on you. And with absolute glee God exclaims, “Yep, I made you, too!”
See you Sunday…