This morning in chapel at St. John I thought it would be fun to take all the palm branches left over from Palm Sunday and strewn them all down the aisles. It was a huge mess. I would say it might have been the biggest mess you can make in Church. In fact I was pretty sure after chapel the janitor would no longer be speaking to me with kind words. Kids walked in and were shocked by the mess on the floors. It was a glories mess. (By the way as a youth leader making a mess is what I do)
I had them read with me Mark 11:1-11. It is my favorite version of the story of Jesus being called king. In this text, Jesus rides his donkey into Jerusalem and the people were excited that this might be the next king to rule. They are excited because they thought he would come and kick out the romans and rule the world again. Jesus walks into the temple and does nothing. He just walks back out. I would say all the people who are holding those palm branches just dropped them on the floor. He wasn’t the king they expected, but He is a king and he would show them how he would clean up their mess they had in their lives.
I proceeded to share with the kids and staff about the mess we all live with. My family can make some big messes. Please don’t ever plan on just dropping in because if you do you will see a mess. If you give me some time I can clean up some and make it look like my house is clean. In fact I say to my wife and kids. The trick is make it look good but not too good so they don’t know we worked for a couple hours making it look clean. You see I think many of us have a mess in our lives we pretend isn’t really there, or we spend a lot of time making clean ups look like we have it all together. But here is the thing we are a mess.
This week is Holy week. It is the week Jesus shares with us that he isn’t here as some great king to conquer the world but here to clean up our mess. He shows us his love Thursday through being a servant, then he continues that service on Friday to make the ultimate sacrifice on the cross to clean up our mess. He rose again Sunday to keep His promise of new life in Him.
If you haven’t been in worship in awhile I would encourage you to join the Church any Church these next four days. Come and see all He did for us. It wasn’t necessarily what we expected and certainly is more than just a quick cleaning. Jesus has come and rose again to bring new life and clean up the mess that is our life.
Thank you Jesus for your love and grace.
(By the way we did clean up the sanctuary today, and the janitor is still speaking to me…)
I am tired. I have been busy these last few months. I haven’t written a blog post is over 3 months. It has mostly been due to being busy and tired. I often forget about how tiring ministry can be. We can be tired because we are overworked, or struggle to find purpose. Most of all I think we are tired because we grow tired of sharing Jesus. We forget our joy in sharing the story of Jesus and his forgiveness. We do this because we lose focus on what we are doing in ministry.
yesterday however was a fun and exciting day. I am a Star Wars fan. I really enjoy the fun of the light sabers and music, and the wonder we see in those films. I had the joy of leading chapel yesterday. I handed out light sabers to the ushers at chapel and I had them play Star Wars music for chapel as the kids walked in the room. It was a great moment watching many of the kids come into chapel excited to see what would be done today. We of course didn’t put our primary focus on Star Wars. We focused on Jesus. We used Star Wars as a way to share Jesus with students. We used light sabers to foscus kids on the light of the world. We had so much fun as a group. What I noticed most today was the joy I had in sharing Jesus with kids. Too often we forget about this joy because we are so focused on work to be done, or the projects to be completed. We focus on the conflicts in our churches or the pain being caused to us by our sin.
Those things above don’t go away when have are good days but when we can focus on sharing Jesus we see God working in the lives of people we can have joy. So let us instead focus on sharing Jesus. Let us never grow tired of sharing Jesus.
For those of you who are reading this and aren’t full time ministers. I would challenge you in your daily life, when you are feeling tired, to focus on the joy of sharing Jesus. We all are busy with life but if you can focus your time on sharing Jesus in our work, family and daily lives we can find joy. We may be tired today but let us all never grow tired of sharing Jesus with everyone we meet.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV
When I was a kid I remember all sorts of catalogs of toys especially this time of year. We would often get the big toys r us book around Christmas and circle all the things we wanted to get. We were so excited when it came. We probably circled 200 items in the whole catalog. It probably would have been easier if we had just crossed off the things we didn’t want.
What I found most amazing was often when I got that one toy I so wanted for Christmas sometimes it didn’t work out the way I tought it would. Maybe it wasn’t as big as I had hoped or it didn’t look as shiny up close. We all have expectations and sometimes those expectations aren’t realized because they aren’t the right expectation.
This week as I was preparing for Chapel I was reading the text from Luke 2:1-7. It is the simple story of Jesus birth. What jumped out at me was this story is not something that people expected. At least most Jews didn’t expect it to go down this way. Here is some of the unexpected that maybe you just ran over on your way to finishing the text.
He was born in the city of David Bethlehem. First of all the city of David in the old testament would have been Jerusalem. His City was Jerusalem. To hear him being born in Bethlehem was shocking. This was a tiny little back woods town of maybe 200-300 people. This is crazy the king of kings born in such a place.
Or how about the wrapped in clothes a lying in a manger. Ok this takes some explaining. How come no castle? How come not a palace, and beautiful bed? Well he was placed in the feeding area for the animals in the small one room house. Such a humble beginning for the prince of peace.
Wow unexpected for the king of the universe yet it is how He came. It is how God fulfilled His promise. It is how God is working in the lives us his people. God will fulfill his promises. He fills them in unexpected ways but he always fulfills his promises.
Jesus makes two other promises at the end of his life. He promises to be with us to the ends of the age and He promises to come again. Does God being with us always make sense or always look the way we want it. Probably not. But we have a God who fulfills his promises yesterday today and always.
Tomorrow I get to lead chapel at my Church School. Tomorrow is ash Wednesday and that has me thinking deeply today. Many of the children who will be here will experience imposition of ashes. My prayer tomorrow is that many of our students will take the time in worship to remember their sin and more importantly be reminded of the eternal life won for us on the cross, and given to us in our baptism as we are connected to the cross.
I know many people don’t like the imposition of ashes because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 about keeping our prayers and fasting to ourselves and not to show it off. Jesus is obviously right, and if the goal of ashes is to show the world we are repentant or how good of a Christian we are we have failed.
The purpose of the ashes placed on us is to remind us of our sin, remind us that without Jesus we are dust and without him we will continue to be dust forever. I love that in that moment. When we are brought to the realization of our brokenness. The part I think is more important and often overlooked is we are given the sign of the cross. The same sign we were given at our baptism. That this is not our end. We are not just dust but we are God’s child. We are the ones who are connected by baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection. You have eternal life today in Jesus and forever more. As we spend the next 40 days in a time of reflection on our sin we must not forget these two truths.
Tomorrow as you are reminded of your sin, and the death it brings, remember the life that comes in life with Jesus.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:21-6:2