Holy Week begins this Sunday, April 9th as Christ followers all over the world observe and celebrate Palm Sunday and cross the threshold into the week of Jesus’ Passion.
To much of the world it will be just another week. Cable news networks will squawk about government investigations and stream “breaking news” banners across screens. World governments will flex muscle and attempt to wield influence over war torn and troubled lands. Everyday folk will get up, go to work and try to make a better life for themselves and their families. Children will go to school. Spring will make another run at grabbing a toehold and offering weather to match the calendar. And, in the midst of all that and more, we will remember and revisit the path our Savior walked during his last days and hours in Jerusalem.
It’s a pilgrimage journey we are invited to make during this week. Continue reading
The season of Lent is based on Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. Take 40 days, add Sundays, and you’ve got Lent – a season of preparation that leads us to Holy Week. I’ve come to think of Lent as a time of pilgrimage or journey. It’s an annual trek we undertake designed to reshape and form our thinking and living. It’s an opportunity to once again make Jesus the model or prototype that we follow, and to devote our attention to his life and teachings – as opposed to allowing so much of the noise from our over exposure to media (social and news) to shape our outlook.
I invite you to imagine, or better yet, set forth on a journey with Jesus during these Lenten days. A great way to do this is to commit to read through one of the Gospels. Follow the chronicle of Jesus’ life from its beginning to end (manger to cross and resurrection). Allow that story to read your life and what may be going on with you. Sit with it. Don’t be in a hurry. Continue reading
In Ecclesiastes 3:1 the Preacher/Teacher/Assembler of Wisdom sayings states: For everything there is a season, and a time for everything under heaven.
New Year’s, for me, has always been a time for reflection, goal setting, and re-engagement in the routines of life and ministry. I look forward to the quiet days, or moments, after the hub-bub of Christmas services, events and gatherings to sit with the Lord and ask, “What’s next? What time is it? What is it time for?”
Do you do this? Continue reading
As I have studied Isaiah 35 once again this year in preparation for Advent worship, it has come to me that water is at the very center of this vision Isaiah of the Exile offers from God to God’s people. Sure, there are a lot of other pieces to this vision: a desert in bloom, the mighty forests of Lebanon and Carmel, pastures of Sharon; not to mention people being healed or restored to wholeness and a mighty and holy highway being built. But right there in the middle of it all (v.7) is the very wet and wonderful reference to water: The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs . . . even grasslands turn into wetlands. Water, water, water – water everywhere! It’s water that makes it possible for the desert to bloom, the forests to grow and pastures to flourish. Our bodies, when they are whole and functioning at their prime are over 60% water. Highways could not be built without water. Water seems to be the very central image to all of Isaiah 35. That was new to me this time around.
But it makes sense. To a people (in exile) who are longing for home while scratching out an existence in a dry and parched land, doesn’t it make sense that God’s image of redemption would be soaked in water? They are thirsting for this vision. Their thirst for home and things of home (the faith of home) cannot be slaked there in Babylon. They just need some water to quench their thirst, to renew their faith, to regenerate their hope and propel them forward.
It’s usually at about this point in December (mid-way into Advent) that I am reminded, in my work as a pastor, that not everyone is all giddy and goose-bumpy about Christmas. Continue reading
There is a phrase I often think of this time of the year. It’s associated with my dad in my thinking. “What do you want for Christmas, daddy?” was our childhood question. To which he almost always replied, “Peace in the valley.”
As children we did not find that answer to be particularly helpful, nor easily understood. I can remember puzzling over it in my thinking: Where is this valley? Why isn’t there any peace there? We did not live in a valley, though we lived near one – Chad valley. Dad’s workplace was located, more or less, in that valley. Maybe that was it? We’d been through valleys on family vacations. The one that comes to mind is Maggie Valley in North Carolina. It was located on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Perhaps they needed peace? But the ease with which dad let his seasonal response roll off his tongue led me to believe there was more to this – this peace, in the valley; this valley peace.
Those of you who know gospel music will recognize this phrase as the title of a song. Continue reading