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…)
Most of the time during lent people spend the day thinking about what they are going to be giving up for Lent. For me I have never really found that helpful for my spiritual formation. Giving up sweets makes me angry. Giving up chocolate would make me down right angry. Mostly I would be thinking all day about how I missed that food or thing I gave up. For me it doesn’t point me to Jesus. I want you all to know I don’t find anything wrong with giving something up for lent as it is certainly a spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is a time honored way of strengthening ones faith. For me however it has never been appealing or truly beneficial.
So today I decided to do something different. I decided instead of taking something away I am going to add something to my family’s life. We are going to spend the next 40 days reading through the Gospels. We are going to spend this time on the journey to the cross following Jesus’ journey to the cross. I know for me reading the scripture brings it alive. I am excited for this journey and would challenge you to think about it as well.
In the reading schedule I gave myself a day off because lets be honest having a day off is needed sometimes. Life can be crazy busy. I don’t need something else to give me more guilt for messing up. So below is the plan.
My goal this Lenten season is to journey to the cross with my Lord and Savior. My prayer is that many of you will join in this journey. Let us be in the Word together as we make this journey to the cross and see these great things he has done for us.
Lent Reading Plan: 2017
||Matthew 10-Matthew 12
||Matthew 13-Matthew 14
||Matthew 15-Matthew 16
||Matthew 17-Matthew 18
||Matthew 19-Matthew 20
||Matthew 21-Matthew 22
||Take a Break
||Matthew 23-Matthew 24
||Matthew 25-Matthew 26
||Matthew 27-Matthew 28
||Mark 1-Mark 3
||Mark 4-Mark 6
||Mark 7-Mark 9
||Take a Break
||Mark 10-Mark 12
||Mark 13-Mark 14
||Mark 15-Mark 16
||Luke 1-Luke 3
||Luke 4-Luke 6
||Luke 7-Luke 9
||Take a Break
||Luke 10-Luke 12
||Luke 13-Luke 14
||Luke 15-Luke 16
||Luke 17-Luke 18
||Luke 19-Luke 20
||Luke 21-Luke 22
||Take a Break
||Luke 23-Luke 24
||John 1-John 2
||John 3-John 4
||John 5-John 6
||John 7-John 8
||John 9-John 10
||Take a Break
||John 11-John 12
||John 13-John 14
||John 15-John 16
||John 17-John 18
||John 19-John 20
Sunday night I decided it was important for our Jr. High students to pray for our world. So for about 45 minutes we prayed. We broke into groups and walked around the building praying for people. We prayed in both worship spaces for the people who will worship there. We prayed for the guests who will be with us for Easter and Holy Week. We prayed for the leaders who lead worship, that they may point us to Jesus. We went to the Atrium and looked North and South of the building and prayed for the lost, the Muslims, Jews and other unbelievers. Then we walked to the east end of the building and prayed for those at Crittenton hospital, for the sick, the doctors, Nurses and other staff. After those 25 minutes we headed back to Luther hall and prayed for a specific person in our lives who needed to hear about Jesus or who was struggling with things in life. It was a neat experience.
Hearing students pray out loud for those they never met was a cool experience. It was amazing to me how well the students in my group prayed out loud for those who need Jesus. They spent 45 minutes praying for others. They prayed for the lost in this world. They want them to know Jesus.
We ended the night in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. We focused on the importance of sharing Jesus and Him crucified for us. You see I think we try to make this witnessing thing way more complicated than it has to be. My goal last night was to remind those teens and myself, we don’t have to know all the answers about Jesus to share him with others. We just share Jesus and him crucified for us and let the Holy Spirit work on the hearts of others.
In the next couple of weeks, we are going to meet others curious about Jesus. They are going to wondering about this Jesus person. As Easter approaches you will have opportunities to share Jesus. Point them to Jesus’ work on the cross. Focus on him crucified and raised for you.
Today I was reminded of why I have the best job in the world. Yesterday I spoke in chapel, and preached for our Lent services at St. John. Although it is truly an honor to stand up front and point people to Jesus, it is not what gets me through the day. It is not what I truly treasure about my job. My greatest joy isn’t teaching a bible class or preaching up front. My greatest joy is walking with, talking with, listening to, and praying with those God has placed in front of me.
Today was a great day. Most of it wasn’t what I planned to do today. The first was praying for a friend I work with. She was in need today and taking the time with a few others to pray for her reminded me why I love my job. It is ok to be sad with them and seek to see God’s work in a tough situation.
The second was another instance where someone asked me about an issue they were having with a child they knew. We walked through some very difficult stuff. Through it all I was reminded of something the first Pastor I served with told me. After 31 years in ministry he said “Steve I have preached many sermons in my day. People don’t remember the sermons or the bible studies, people remember the times you sat with them in their time of need.” Those words are words I have modeled my ministry on. It isn’t about being up front in the lime light or being the funniest guy it the world it is about being there for people and sharing Jesus.
This week as you go about your day please remember that. Please remember that people will not remember what you did for the group. They don’t remember the speeches they remember the times you stopped to listen to them, stopped to pray with them, and the times you lifted them up when they were down. Paul wrote it this way.
“so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
1 Cor. 12:25-27 NIV
So let us rejoice together, let us suffer together as the body of Christ lifting each other up one person at a time.
Recently I have started telling Middle school students they can ask me any question they want and I will answer it. These students don’t know me very well so they think if they ask something like “How are babies born?” I won’t answer. Much to their surprise, and quite honestly disgust, I am more than willing to talk about that. Just ask any former student and they will tell you I talk about that a lot with students. I think many people are terrified to tell middle school kids or anyone for that matter, to ask them anything. I have found it to be most helpful in striking up conversations with young people. I even have this same policy with my own kids. I want them to ask questions and I want them to learn. I find when I allow questions it allows students to ask and to be willing to learn.
Many moons ago I went through a class in college by Dr. Steve Arnold that helped me to articulate something I understood but didn’t know how to explain to others. The idea is that in order to teach someone something they have to give you permission to teach them. Students, adults and just about everyone will only learn something from you if they give you permission. Most often it occurs in the form of a question they have asked. You see many people still teach in a way that says you are going to learn from me because I am the teacher. What I have found with kids today is they don’t care if you are the teacher, pastor, DCE, mom or Dad. They want to know you care first and then they will give you permission to really teach them something.
This waiting for permission is hard and sometimes I fail to remember my own lesson. I do know that students and most importantly my kids learn best when I get permission. I love to have my students and my kids ask questions. Those questions open them up to my answers. It opens them up to hearing about Jesus. It opens them up to hearing about life.
My encouragement for you as parents, fellow believer and fellow Church workers is to let your kids ask questions. Let the adults ask questions. Let them learn from you. Don’t answer questions they are not asking. Develop a culture of questions. You may be surprised by the amount of sharing you can do if you wait for the question.
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. Mark 7:17 NIV