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Week 4 (4/5/20 - 4/11/20)

Devotional Day 26 - 4/11/20

Matthew 27:62-66

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.


Today is Holy Saturday. It is a day traditionally seen as a time of waiting and vigilance. Not much is seen in the scriptures about what transpired during the time between Good Friday and Easter Morning, but Matthew fills in some of the missing pieces. Matthew tells us that the Pharisees were concerned that someone would try to steal Jesus’ body and claim that he rose from the grave, so they approached Pilate to post guards at the tomb to prevent this from happening. 


I bet that the disciples and the rest of Jesus’ followers were in a bit of a holding pattern. They were probably astonished by what happened the night before as Jesus was crucified, and with Saturday being their Sabbath, there was not much that they could do. The religious leaders took the Jewish law of “doing no work on the Sabbath” to the extreme, prohibiting people from doing a wide range of things. So Jesus’ followers were probably isolated and going a bit stir crazy, as they waited for the opportunity to go to the tomb of Jesus to assess the situation. Even if they realized exactly what Jesus had said and meant about rising from the grave on the third day, they still had to wait and see what was going to happen. And with the placement of armed guards at the tomb, things got a little more difficult for them to even approach the place where Jesus laid in order to mourn his death. But regardless of what steps the religious leaders and Roman rulers took, nothing could stop God from doing the miraculous. 


Raising people from the dead was not something new for the disciples. Not only did prophets from the Old Testament scriptures resurrect people from the dead, but the Gospels specifically mention three such miracles performed by Jesus in the presence of the disciples. Luke 7 talks about Jesus raising the widow of Nain's son, Luke 8 shows Jesus bringing Jairus’ daughter back to life, and John 11 gives us the very well known story of Jesus bring Lazarus back from the dead after being “asleep” for four days (an impossible thing to do by anyone’s standards). But that was Jesus at work in the lives (and deaths) of others. Who would be the one to bring Jesus back from the grave?


Death is seen as a permanent condition. Even with our medical and technological advancements, we have a short window to resuscitate someone, bringing them back from death. But once that window closes, there is nothing anyone can do…except for Jesus. When it came to Lazarus, Jesus purposefully waited until there was no doubt that Lazarus was dead. And even amidst protest by Lazarus’ family and bystanders, Jesus still had the stone rolled away and brought Lazarus forward, still wrapped in the grave clothes. He gave life to Lazarus’ lifeless form, showing that he had power over death, and on Easter morning, Jesus showed his power over his own death as well. 


As we sit and wait on this Holy Saturday, we have more weighing on us than the standard Easter stresses of church services or having the entire family over for dinner. We too are stuck in isolation, waiting to see what happens, waiting for things to hopefully return to normal. We cannot see what God is doing at this time. Things are changing. People are joining together (not physically mind you) to help one another in their time of need. Companies are doing what they can to make things easier, more affordable, and safer so that people can have what they need. Relationships are being mended and formed as families and friends are reaching out to one another via texts, phone calls, and emails. People are finding a greater appreciation in the simple things of life. God is moving, God is working, but we do not always know how it will play out. We are in a season of unknowing, just like the believers after Good Friday. All we can do at this time is to trust in God, follow where he leads, and do all we can to further his kingdom.


Let us pray: Lord of all creation, you hold all things in the palm of your hands. You give us every breath that we take. Our very lives are held in the balance of your love. Help us to trust in you and to follow you wherever you would lead us. Amen.


Song: Lazarus - Bellarive​

Devotional Day 25 - 4/10/20 (Good Friday)

Mark 15:1-15 (Read also Mark 15:16-47)

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.


Today is Good Friday. It is a day where we focus on the cross where Jesus was crucified. We often hear or read powerful (and often gruesome) descriptions of what Jesus actually went through. Yes, it is important to understand the severity of what Jesus went through, but it is more important to understand the reason why he did it.


When we look at this scripture from Mark, I love what Pilate has to say as he interacts with the crowd. “‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them. ‘Crucify him!’ they shouted. ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’” Pilate pretty much says, there is no charge brought against Jesus that is worthy of his execution. Jesus did not deserve the punishment that he received. Jesus, the Son of God, lived a perfect life. He faced all of the temptations that we faced, but he did not sin. He committed no wrong, he is perfect. So why did he need to die? 


We have sinned. We have committed crimes against one another, and more importantly against God. We are the ones that deserve the punishment that Jesus was given. We are the ones that deserve the cross. Our sins create a separation with God. Since God is perfect, we cannot stand in his presence on our own merits. As the lyrics for today’s song express, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me a sinner, condemned, unclean.” That is where Jesus comes in. His death on the cross, his blood poured out, has covered us. It creates a lens through which God sees us. He has poured out his righteousness upon us, making us right with God. That is a marvelous and wonderful thing, that Jesus would love us so much that he would die for us, long before we were even born, long before we even had the chance to commit the sins for which he died.


The cross is a symbol, not of Roman rule and punishment, but of God’s love for us. Yes, we need to focus on the cross. We need to understand the full implications of what it means. But we cannot dwell there, we cannot stay there, because there is no meaning in the cross without the resurrection. It is only through Easter that the cross finds fulfillment. Without the resurrection, Jesus’ sacrifice would have been in vain, because it would have merely been another death by execution on the cross. But Jesus rising from the dead shows that the sins of the world do not hold a candle to the power of Jesus the Lord. It shows that death itself cannot hold him.


He took our sins and our sorrows and He made them His very own. He bore the burden to Calvary where he suffered and died alone. No one else had to die, nor could they. As Paul writes in Romans 6:8-10, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” We who believe do not face death any longer. We have life both here in this world and for all eternity in heaven, and as Paul tells us, we are called to live for God just as Jesus does. Everything that Jesus does in our lives is for God’s glory and purpose. So how will our lives reflect that same notion?


Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you used the cross to tear down all that has separated us from your righteousness. Help us to accept your forgiveness as you welcome us into your presence. We thank you for Jesus, who knew our griefs, who died our death and rose for our sake. Amen.


Song: I Stand Amazed - Chris Tomlin​

Devotional Day 24 - 4/9/20

Mark 14:12-26 (read also 14:27-72)

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. 

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” 

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Holy Thursday is an important day in the life of the church. It is the day that Jesus gives us one of the sacraments that he specifically institutes, just prior to being arrested and put on trial. The thing that always gets me, is the fact that Jesus shares this special moment with all of his disciples, including the one(s) that would betray him. Jesus tells them that one of them would betray him—one who is eating with him. They all question who it will be. But the thing is, it was all of them. Obviously, Judas was the one that betrayed him in the garden to the mob sent by the temple officials. But the rest of the disciples fled when that happened, betraying Jesus to face his trial and execution alone. And to top it off, Peter, one of his inner circle, denied even knowing Jesus.


Jesus shared a meal with all of his closest friends, people that he had known and lived with for three years, and every one of them were going to turn their backs on him. Yet he did it anyway. We are the same way. We have all done things wrong in the eyes of God. We have all sinned. We have all turned our backs on God at one point or another. We have all denied even knowing him at one point. But Jesus still shares the bread and the cup with us, giving us opportunity to share in his crucifixion which gives us the forgiveness of our sins. 


Jesus knew that it would be important for us to do something to actively remember what he did for us, and so he gave us something that was simple and accessible. Nothing could be more simple and accessible than bread, the basic necessity of life, and the drink that all people drank at the time. Jesus died for all people. He died to forgive us from our sins. So why would he want to exclude anyone from the table, from being able to participate in his loving forgiveness? We may not see eye to eye with someone, we may not agree with what they do or what they believe, but it doesn’t mean that God loves them any less. We have all sinned and do not deserve a place in God’s kingdom based on our own merits. We are all in the same boat. But Jesus died so that we may have eternal life. We cannot withhold that from anyone, because Jesus did not withhold that from us.


The next time we see someone who is different than us (in any way whatsoever), we need to understand that they are loved creations of God. We need to understand that they too are created unique and special. We need to remember that they have a spot at Jesus’ table sitting next to us. We are called to reach out to whomever we can, and help them find their seat at the table, to commune with the Christ who died for all of our sins. 


Let us pray: God of grace and mercy, you loved us before we ever knew we needed your love. You shared your sacrifice with us before we were even born. You give us a clean slate, forgiving us of all of our wrong-doings, and you simply ask us to remember.  Help us to remember what you have done for us, that we are loved, and that we are to love each other. Amen.

Song: In Remembrance of Me - Nelson Group

Devotional Day 23 - 4/8/20

Mark 14:1-11

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.


On Wednesday, Mark shows us Jesus sharing a meal at the house of Simon the Leper. Mark records a juxtaposition between Judas deciding to betray Jesus, and a scene with a woman who is completely dedicated to him. This woman is such a wonderful example of going “all in” for Jesus. She gives a prized possession (a jar of perfume) to Jesus to help prepare him for his burial. This perfume was so valuable that it was worth over a year’s salary. 


Some argue that this woman is the first true Christian. That she believed in the death (and most likely the resurrection) of Jesus Christ. She believed what Jesus said when he discussed how he would die in Jerusalem and rise again, and she didn’t have to see an empty tomb to believe. 


Throughout the Bible we see people completely dedicated to following God. Abraham followed where God was leading him. David stood up to both a giant and a king, knowing that God would protect him. Daniel held fast to his convictions, even though it landed him in the lion’s den. In the New Testament, it wasn’t any easier. Mary faced ridicule and being ostracized to give birth to the baby Jesus, and the majority of the Apostles and many of the early believers gave their lives to spread the news of God’s love. 


To us, what the early believers had to do may seem a little extreme, because in our society it is not something with which we are faced. We are not asked to leave our homelands, nor are we asked to face execution for our beliefs (and yes, I know there are exceptions). But we are asked to give of ourselves to help others. There are many other people in the New Testament that gave so much because of their love for God. We see this in the woman giving Jesus this perfume, we see it when we read about the woman giving all she can in the temple just the day before, and we see this in those that left all that they knew in order to follow Jesus. So what does following Jesus look like in your life?


As I said yesterday, Jesus really boils it down for us and tells us that we are instructed to love God and love others. Is that something that we do? And how much of a sacrifice is that for us? Are we generous with our time and our resources when helping others? Do we support the work of God’s people? Do we help, even when it comes at the cost of having others looking down on us for what we do? This woman in our scripture gave more than anyone expected or anticipated, and in doing so, was ridiculed by Jesus’ closest companions and followers. It was not an easy thing to do, but she anointed Jesus anyway, because she knew it was something that she needed to do.


I love Jesus’ response to what this woman did. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Jesus blessed her for what she did, and gave her a place of honor for all recorded time. 


As the woman anointed Jesus to prepare him for what laid in store for him, Jesus also anoints us to prepare us as well. He pours out his holy spirit upon us, to equip us for what he wants us to do. He fills us with his power, his presence, and his love so that we can live for him. God wants us to succeed and he will equip us to do so. May we look for ways in which we can live for God every day.


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit into our lives. Fill us with who you are and turn us into who you want us to be. May we be equipped for every good work, and may all that we do reflect your love. Amen.


Song: Anointing - Jesus Culture

Devotional Day 22 - 4/7/20

Mark 12:28-34 (Additional reading Mark 11:20-13-37)

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.


Mark focuses a lot on Jesus in the temple on Tuesday. Out of all of the days of Holy Week, Mark dedicates the most discussion to this day. The first half of Tuesday, Jesus is met with question after question trying to catch him in a trap. The second half of Tuesday, Jesus starts poking holes in the teachings of the religious leaders and concludes the day talking with his disciples about the fall of the Temple and his second coming. And right in the middle of this is a question posed by a teacher of the law, which is the scripture I chose for today.


Jesus had been dodging traps all day up to this point, so it could have been logical to assume that it was another trap. But this teacher asked a question, for the simple reason of wanting to know the answer. He wanted Jesus to tell him, how to distill the Law into a single thought. What is most important? What is the best way to follow God? I know it is daunting to think about all the laws and requirements that the Bible lays out before us, and this teacher wanted clarification as to what to focus on.


Jesus does not offer some cleaver retort, nor does he try to sidestep the question. He answers bluntly and simply with a two-fold answer. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus finishes saying that there are no commandments greater than these. In other Gospels it says, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (See Matthew 22:40)


The point is, if you had to sum up all of the Old Testament as we know it, it all boils down to loving God with all that you are, and then loving your neighbor as yourself. Sure, there are little nuances as to how that plays out in our lives that God specifies in different ways throughout the scriptures, but if you love God, you will try to live in a way that is pleasing to him. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will try to treat them in a way that you would want to be treated, which should lead you to thinking before you act and preventing wrongs and sins from occurring in the first place.


Life is so chaotic sometimes that we get caught up in the moment and we do not always think about all of the regulations laid out in the Bible that we expect ourselves and others to follow. So Jesus makes it easier, giving us only two instructions to remember; love God, love others. That is a little easier to manage when it comes to addressing our actions. Do our actions reflect our love for God? Do our actions reflect our love for others? That is the great measuring stick. So how do you measure up?


Let us pray: God of love, your love never fails. May we always look to you for guidance, and may we always judge our actions in light of your presence in our lives. Help us to be your love in this world. Amen.

Song: Love the Lord - Lincoln Brewster

Devotional Day 21 - 4/6/20

Mark 11:12-19

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

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.’”

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.


Today is Monday of Holy Week. Mark does a good job of looking at each day individually. And we start off this day with Jesus cursing a fig tree for its lack of fruit. We may often think, what does this have to do with anything when it seems like the main focus of the day is Jesus tossing over the tables in the Temple? Mark uses a structure in much of his writings to use one story to explain the other, and the events of Monday is no different.


When we first read that part of the story, it almost seems that Jesus is a little off his rocker. Now we know the fig tree was alive because it had leaves, it was just not bearing fruit. Jesus approached the tree expecting to find fruit at a time of the year where figs would not be available, and he was upset about it. If we use that story to explain what Jesus did at the temple, Jesus expected to find fruit and there was none. He went into the temple expecting to find signs of good and ripe fruit, but all he saw was corruption, which is why he shut down the temple later on that day.


Even though the tree was out of season for fruit, the temple had no excuse. Since the temple existed, it should have been doing its job. But instead, the priests were taking advantage of the poor and the powerless. They were padding their pockets, consuming the land of poor landowners, and they were rigging the system to benefit themselves. Jesus might have found fruit at the temple, but it was rotten. With the fruit tree, Jesus condemned it to whither and die. Jesus also prophesied that the temple would be destroyed. So even in the conclusion of these two stories, they support and explain each other. 


As I read this scripture, I kept thinking of the scripture from John 15:1-5. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” As the Church, we are called to be ambassadors to this world. We are called to help the poor, speak for those without a voice, and to seek out justice where corruption abounds. That was what God wanted all of his people to do, especially the religious leaders, and they fell short. They were more concerned with themselves rather than being plugged into the vine of God’s love. 


We are expected to bear fruit, even in a season where it seems impossible to do so. We are lucky that we have Jesus. He makes it so much easier to be in God’s love because he gave us the example of how to do it. What are you doing to stay plugged into God’s love? What are you doing to stay connected with Jesus? May God give you opportunities to live out your faith in all ways, and may the fruit you produce be ripe and pleasing to him.


Let us pray: God of all, you expect us to live a life that is pleasing to you. Help us to seek out ways to love you more, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. May we place our lives in you, and allow you to use us the way that you see fit. Amen.


Song: I am the vine - John Michael Talbot​

Devotional Day 20 - 4/5/20

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.


Palm Sunday is a special Sunday in the church. It is a time where we acknowledge the entrance of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem, marking the beginning of Holy Week. We sometimes call it Passion Sunday, where we acknowledge Jesus’ suffering on the cross as our primary focus. Regardless of what you call it, this day marks a pivotal point in Jesus’ earthly ministry. For my sermons in Lent, we have been going through the book of Mark where he spells out what happened on each day of the week. And so I thought “why not continue that in these devotionals?”


We often see Jesus’ entrance into the city of Jerusalem as being a celebration of victory. People shouting out cheers and laying palm branches (a sign of victory) and cloaks across the road as Jesus rode into town on the back of a donkey (a sign of peace). All the while, Jesus knew full well that he would be condemned just a few days later. In the book that I am reading (“The Last Week” by Marcus Borg and John Crossman), the authors suggest that one of the reasons why people welcomed Jesus as they did, was that they were looking for freedom, not just from the rule of the Roman Empire, but also from the oppression created by the corrupt religious leaders of their time.


The people had long been under the rule of the religious leaders. Those leaders were corrupt and would take advantage of the poor and powerless, just so that they could have more and more. Why else would Jesus be kind and considerate as he tossed demons into a heard of swine (see Mark 5) but called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (see Matthew 12)? Most of Jesus’ teachings during holy week revolved around poking holes in the teaching of the Temple, and empowering the people to take back worship, returning it to what it was meant to be, focused on God rather than on making the leaders more powerful. People loved Jesus because he offered hope. Hope for the common man to finally have a say, for people to be heard, and the powerful to be opposed. These people did not understand what laid in store for Jesus just a few days down the road. But even in their misunderstanding, Jesus still gave them hope. 


We are fortunate. We know how that part of the story ends. We know that Jesus died on the cross but rose from the grave three days later. Jesus still gives us hope. His actions on the cross took the punishment that we deserve. Through his cross we are offered forgiveness, and through his resurrection the door to eternal life is thrown wide open. We have access to God the Father, being able to come to his throne in prayer whenever we want. We have the promise of abundant life, and something greater than anything this world has to offer. 


But sadly, the idea of Jesus does not offer hope to all people. There are those that have been hurt by those carrying the banner of Christ. Churches have turned people away because they do not line up with our theology. Christians have become a voice of condemnation as they tear people down for not living up to the standards that we hold for ourselves, which we honestly cannot say we ourselves live up to. Since when has Christianity been about telling people how wrong they are rather than about how much Jesus loves them?


The song I chose for today, is one of praise and adoration, fitting for Palm Sunday. But the words are important, because it is a prayer that I have for all people. It speaks of turning back to God, praising him for who he is, and finding strength and purpose in him. God loves us. He loves all of us. He died for all of us, even those who hate him. I pray that we become the Church that we were meant to be once again. That we focus on building each other up, encouraging one another, showing people God’s love so that they too will come to know that love for themselves. We cannot be a people who welcomes others in on Sunday and then condemn them on Friday. We need to be a people of love and forgiveness, because God first offered that to us. 


Let us pray: God of victory, God of triumph, you have conquered all things and all things are under your control and your care. You have loved us even when we were dead in our sins. Help us to offer to others the same love and forgiveness that you gave to us when we did not deserve it. Amen.


Song: Hosanna (Praise is Rising) - Paul Baloche

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