Lent 40: using gifts

27 03 2013

Palm Sunday. Triumphal Entry. Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, a humble animal to say the least. Prophecy fulfilled. Praises offered.

Lent 40: using giftsOne of the ways we honor this humble King today is by using our God-given gifts.

On Palm Sunday at Christ Covenant, I was once again touched by the gifts within our church community. I am touched and blessed by the multitude of gifts used on any given Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Day 42: seeing Jesus

19 04 2011

seeing Jesus

“We want to see Jesus.”

This is what some Greeks said to Philip, in today’s scripture passage. (John 12:20-26) These “Greeks” weren’t necessarily from Greece—the word Greek was sometimes used to refer to non-Jews. Gentiles. Whoever they were, “Greeks” approach Philip and say, “We want to see Jesus.” Philip, not finding his copy of “How to talk to ‘Greeks’ about Jesus”, turns to Philip. And they both turn to Jesus.

Instead of giving simple advice, Jesus talks about his hour of glorification. In other words, it’s time for Jesus to die, and to rise, and to be exalted and return to God. It’s time for the cross. It’s Holy Week. Only they didn’t know it as that, yet.

Fast forward many centuries—it’s Holy Week 2011. And this afternoon, I saw Jesus. I was actually invited to church for Easter–a different church.  A friend and I, and our kids, were at a coffee shop housed in this local church. We were packing up to go, and a little boy—maybe six or seven years old—approached us. He had played a bit with the kids, so I didn’t think anything of it. Then he showed me a post card, and said, “you can come back here on Sunday.” I looked at the card, and saw the worship service times listed for Easter Sunday, and smiled. Thank you, I said.. that’s so nice of you to invite me. I already have a church that I’ll be going to on Sunday.

“But you can see this service…” he said, pointing to the card again. Thank you, I said again. I’m a pastor at a different church, so I’ll be going to that one on Easter Sunday. But thanks again for the invitation. He moved on to my friend.

Who knows what this kid was really thinking. Maybe he was being coached by adults, maybe he just picked up the postcard and thought we seemed like nice people. Or maybe he loves his church and loves his Jesus. He seemed quite earnest and excited to invite us to church on Sunday.

Are we this bold, earnest, and excited to share the faith and worship that we participate in? And, if non-Christians were to approach us and say “I want to see Jesus”, how would we respond? How would we explain and show the meaning of Jesus’ glorification on the cross, as we walk through this Holy Week?

Day 37: alarming sound

14 04 2011

alarming sound

I think this is what happened. In the early fall of 2009, when Jim and I visited Harleysville for the first time, we were riding around in Carolyn’s car, and were stopped at a stoplight. Right then an obnoxious, alarming, deafening, frightening sound went off–very close to us. Of course, if we had been alone, we would have eventually figured out what it was. But fortunately Carolyn was driving, and was able to explain that to us that we happened to be quite close to a township siren–so there was probably a fire somewhere. I still think of that sound often–not every time I drive by the siren, which is pictured here, but often.

I imagine that for the crowd on that first Palm Sunday, the sounds of “Hosanna” aimed at the man on the donkey weren’t so alarming. For some, maybe, but not for most. After all, crowd mentality takes over, and you simply jump in. But for the religious authorities, who were trying to do whatever they could to get rid of the guy… this would be alarming. It would further confirm their need to take action against Jesus. Little did they know that their actions would only help fulfill scripture, some of the very scriptures they claimed to subscribe to.

Before we get too down on the religious leaders, though, let’s remind ourselves that we don’t always like the sounds of Jesus. We don’t mind the ones like “Hosanna”, which mean “Save, please!” And we don’t mind the nice, gentle-Jesus… but the one who challenges us beyond what’s comfortable, the one who suggests that we need to live differently… the one who even would die on the cross? Sometimes these “sounds” of Jesus are a bit too jarring, alarming, and somewhat frightening.

Day 35: needed

13 04 2011


Lord and donkey–those are two words that I would not typically think go together. But then again, Lord and sinners, Lord and manger, Lord and cross, Lord and empty tomb….none of these word pairings fit our stereotype of what a Lord might be. Yet, Jesus doesn’t fit our normal stereotype anyhow. Never did, never will.

This Sunday’s Palm Sunday gospel passage, from Matthew 21:1-11, illustrates this even more. Jesus sends two disciples on an errand to get a donkey. If it’s not shocking enough that the Lord sent for a donkey, Jesus instructed his disciples to tell anyone who asked about it, “the Lord needs it.” Needs? If Jesus is Lord, why does he need anything? can’t he snap his fingers and have things appear? A regal horse, perhaps, instead of a lowly donkey? Why send the two disciples?

It’s part of the Christian faith that I both appreciate and am puzzled at, at times: the fact that God needs people. Including me. God needs us to help carry out the mission he began while Jesus was on earth. Talk about risk-taking. It seems much easier to do things oneself, than to leave it in the often-erring hands of humans. But then again, this is the same God who pairs words like Lord and manger, Lord and cross, Lord and empty tomb, and Lord and donkey.

These phone book pages help me think about the bigger world beyond my circles. The names and organizations listed on these pages (including Christ Covenant Church) represent God’s bigger kingdom here on earth. And even that, this phone book, represents only a small portion of the earth. And though at times it might seem ridiculous that Jesus Christ needs and uses each of us who call him Lord, it is the reality of following this humble King.

God’s blessings as you discern where God needs you to participate in his kingdom. And God’s peace and strength, as you faithfully follow.

Imagine the possibilities, if all of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, responded in faithful obedience….

“the Jesus pile”

19 12 2010

Today’s Gospel text is Matthew 1:18-25, the birth of Jesus. Verse 18 begins, “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way…” (NRSV).

Here at our house, the birth of Jesus begins like this photo: all the Jesus-es (?)in a pile on the bookshelf. Kajsa has loved playing with many nativities this season. Loved it. I have a couple fragile ones up high where she can’t reach, but for the most part, I’m discovering that our nativities are child-friendly. For the first few days I had them out, Kajsa was playing with Mary and Joseph, too.. who were frequently going to meetings.

the Jesus pile

“They’re very busy” she told me. So “Grandma and Grandpa” (other Marys and Josephs) and sometimes some animals were keeping Jesus company.

Then she turned to categorizing the nativities… all the Mary’s lined up in a row, Josephs, animals… shepherds… and this week, she left all the Jesus-es on a shelf. I asked her one day where a certain Jesus was, when I noticed he was gone. “Oh” she said, “He’s in my Jesus pile.” and she pointed to the shelf.

The birth of Jesus took place in one way, but has continued to influence many languages, cultures, socio-economic systems…. etc.

A child’s perspective can be so refreshing, even in a season that already brings wonder and joy and awe…

Christmas Trappings

2 12 2010

This Sunday I’m preaching on a John the Baptist text: Matthew 3:1-12. John the Baptist is one of those people from the Bible who I love to read about—but he makes me uncomfortable enough that I’m glad he’s not preaching here in Harleysville! He shows up in Judea, looking and probably smelling rather weird, and preaching, “Repent!”… and “Produce fruit worthy of repentance!” Yeah, not a message we like to hear.

Scott Hoezee, (from the Center for Excellence in Preaching), observes, that if John the Baptist were here today, he might be calling on Christians to repent about the way we actually celebrate Advent and Christmas. Touché.

Christmas Trappings... waiting to be unpacked

The way I celebrate Advent and Christmas reflects an honest struggle. I want to celebrate Christ’s birth, anticipate his coming, and live into the reality of being a person of hope in a world overcome with problems. Yet I also love the Christmas trappings. I’m not sure I love the word “trappings”, but I understand it, and give in to it. Christmas trappings, for me, includes the decorations, some shopping, lights…lights…lights, Christmas baking, music… yes, I even like the guy from the North Pole. No, I don’t believe in him. Yes, I like him. Mostly.

It’s not that I think we Christians shouldn’t have fun, or enjoy the season. But despite my good intentions, I end up focusing more on the secular nature of Christmas than I want to. Or than I want to want to. And it’s not even that I have no religious decorations, nativities, candles, spiritual ornaments… I do. And I love them, and love to look at them throughout the season. But I still struggle.

“Repent!” John preached.

Ok.. I’ll repent. Then what? Then what do I do with this tension? I have lots of answers… and I also have Christmas decorations that I’m going to unpack. But the reality is, I’m so thankful that John the Baptist doesn’t live in Harleysville. Because he makes me a bit too uncomfortable.

And maybe he should.

Easter Day: Dance

8 04 2010

Morning Dance

Originally uploaded by cathyse97.

Our favorite singing group–Lost & Found–has a song called “Dance”. It’s one of Jim’s favorite songs, about the ladies going to visit the tomb of Jesus: and the tomb is empty! Part of the lyrics are as follows: “At dawn as the walked sadly hanging their heads. They fell in reverence when the angel said, ‘Why do you look for the living with the dead?’Their mourning song turned to dancing instead.”

Mourning song turned to dancing. Imagine the joy, yet disbelief, at realizing what had happened.. that Jesus had risen, just as he said. Of course there would be disbelief at first, and shock, and all that stuff. But after that.. when they saw the risen Christ… what must have they thought? done? imagine the dancing!

Of course, life circumstances can distract us from the dancing joy. Life can get us down, it can discourage, depress, disappoint… obviously. We know this all too well. So we keep hoping, trying, reminding ourselves and others of the Easter Dance: that Christ is victorious, Christ is risen. Regardless of life’s circumstances, Christ is risen. We can dance… and we can keep hoping in this risen Savior.