pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Hosanna!

Reading: Mark 11:1-11 and 15-18

Verse 10: “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest”!

Photo credit: Valentin Salja

After having two disciples fetch a colt, Jesus rides into Jerusalem. People spread their cloaks on the ground, along with branches that they had cut. It is an ancient version of the red carpet. The crowd cheers for Jesus as he enters. They offer praise mixed with hopeful expectations. They express both as they shout, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest”!

The people expect a Messiah that is a great king, much as King David was. He brought peace to Israel – through his great military exploits that were blessed by God. Israel was the big dog in their small corner of the world during David’s reign. To be rid of the Romans, to again be the big kid on the block – that was the peoples’ hope. Jesus rode into Jerusalem to be king – just not their type of king.

The second section of our reading today reveals how different Jesus’ kingdom will be. Driving the action towards its culmination on Maundy Thursday, Jesus goes to the temple and begins to announce the new kingdom. It is not a kingdom of power and privilege and gain. The sellers and money changers are driven out. The religious leaders get the message that such is not the proper use of God’s house. The line is drawn in the sand. The religious leaders begin to look for a way to kill Jesus. It has begun. As we enter Holy Week, we too begin the journey to the cross.

Prayer: Lord God, we too welcome Jesus with great hope and expectation. He is worthy of our praise. But how will we react when he overturns the tables in our hearts? Will we look within and see how we’ve wandered or will we seek to maintain the status quo? Guide and bless our journey through Holy Week, draw us deeper into Jesus’ kingdom of love and grace. Amen.


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Marvelous

Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2 and 19-29

Verse 22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone”.

Have you ever been driving down the road and, as you looked ahead, thought there was water or oil across the road? Or have you ever approached someone, thinking it was a friend, only to have them turn at the last second, revealing the face of a stranger?

Psalm 118 is a song of God’s love for Israel. The psalmist writes of God as helper, refuge, defender. The psalmist rejoices in God’s strength, righteousness, joy, salvation. The Psalm speaks of the blessings of the one who comes in God’s name and of the festive parade when the faithful process to the temple. Is that King David we see in our mind’s eye? Or is that Gideon returning after defeating the Midianites? Or is it Ezra welcoming the exiles back to a rebuilt city and temple? Perhaps that is Jesus coming up the hill on the colt.

In verse 22 we read, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone”. These words do not fit David or Gideon or Ezra or any other king or prophet that rode into Jerusalem. Only one’s “festal parade” would end with him being the sacrifice. The parade, the palms, the celebration of tomorrow is a bit of an illusion too. The cheering crowds of Palm Sunday will soon be the taunting and jeering crowds at week’s end. Many who shout “Hosanna”! and wave palm branches are caught up in the excitement. Soon enough many will reject Jesus Christ, enabling the religious leaders in their quest to be rid of Jesus. There is an illusion here too. They are not eliminating Jesus; they are an essential part of the glory that will be revealed on Easter, on resurrection day. There are many plot twist and turns in the week ahead. Much is not as it seems to appear. The tide rolls along, ever guided by the hand of God.

We begin tomorrow with the celebration, the palms, the joy of Jesus’ triumphal entry. Knowing the end of the story allows us to walk with Jesus, knowing the truth of verse 23: “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes”. Yes, Easter is coming. God is in control. Give thanks to the Lord! His love endures forever!

Prayer: God, you are the creator, the one who sets all things in motion. You sent Jesus knowing he’d be rejected and killed. You did so knowing he is the capstone of the kingdom you are building. You sent him to us, knowing what we’d do. Thank you for your great love, O God. Amen.


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Willing to Die?

Reading: John 12: 20-26

Verse 24: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain”.

Photo credit: Noemi Pongracz

Our passage begins with some Greeks wanting to see Jesus. They are probably in town for the Passover and are curious about this man. Perhaps they were in the crowd that waved palm branches and shouted “Hosanna”! Maybe they’ve just heard a few stories – snipets of his teachings or whispers of miracles. These Greeks know enough to want to know more.

Jesus begins by announcing that his time has come. Soon he will be glorified. Jesus wants them to know that not only he will soon die but that all who follow will also pay a price as well. In verse 24 Jesus says, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain”. Jesus is paralleling his physical death with the emotional, cultural, spiritual… deaths that all followers of Christ are called to. During the season of Lent the question that Jesus might ask of us today is this: What kernels of wheat do we need to allow to fall to the ground? Is it being greedy with my money? Is it being selfish with my time? Is it judging those who are different than me? What is your kernel of wheat that you need to let go of so that you and those you meet can experience true life?

As a society we have come to see humility and death as the enemies – physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. We do all we can to stave off death. This is the right and godly thing to do with a child or young parent or many others. Yet for each of us there comes a time when our physical death is a welcome friend. As a society we look down on humility. Instead we are taught to be strong, to be independent, to work for success in life. We’re taught that once we accumulate these things, all will be good. Until we do. Then we learn that meaning and purpose and love and contentment and peace and joy and hope cannot be earned or bought. Living as a person of the world, these eternal gifts are elusive.

We must be willing to die to pride, fear, arrogance, anxiety, selfishness, doubt, greed, lust, envy, racism, jealousy, judging, anger, prejudice, worry, elitism, injustice… as we seek to follow Jesus. As Jesus says in verse 25, we must “hate his [or her] life in this world”. Only then will we be willing and able to die to self and to begin to walk as a disciple of Jesus Christ, following him daily and one day into eternal life. May you and I be willing to do the hard work of this call to die to self. May the Lord bless our journeys.

Prayer: Loving God, your Spirit leads and guides me daily, holding up to me those kernels that still need to die. I’ve plucked off leaves now and then. Help me to get to the roots. For those things that still separate me from you and from others, grant me the strength to die to these barriers and sins. Thank you God. Amen.


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Hosanna!

Reading: Matthew 21: 2-11

Verse 9: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

In our passage today, Jesus enters Jerusalem to the praises of a large crowd.  His entry is like a victory parade in some ways.  Jesus comes riding into the city amongst happy and excited people.  They are praising Jesus, much as they would a victorious king returning from battle.  But Jesus is riding in on a donkey, not a powerful and majestic war horse.  The prophet Zechariah had written that the king of peace would enter the holy city riding on a donkey.  Jesus fulfills this prophecy as He enters the city.

Many line the way and lay down cut branches and even their cloaks as Jesus comes along.  There is growing excitement in the crowd.  Certainly some here are Jesus’disciples and followers.  Most of the others have probably heard of Jesus.  But there are probably a few in the crowd waving Palm branches and shouting out, “Hosanna…” who turn to their neighbor and ask, “Who is this”?  They may be in the crowd and may even be cheering, but they do not know who this Jesus is.  Our passage reports, “The whole city was stirred”.  There is excitement and a buzz that can be easy to get caught up in.

Just as there are some there that see all that is going on and get caught up in the buzz, there are some in our lives that sense a pull towards Jesus, but still ask, “Who is this”?  Maybe they see Jesus in our lives or they have had a brush with His presence.  Maybe they are hurting or are curious.  Something is drawing them to know about this Jesus.  Hopefully they see Jesus in us and in how we live our lives.  This may lead them to ask us, “Who is this”?

May we be ready to answer, to testify to who Jesus is to us and to share the good news of what Jesus has done in our lives.  May we be ready and willing to proclaim His name and to shout, “Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”!


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Blessed Is He

“Hosanna in the highest!”  He who saves comes today in a parade.  We celebrate Palm Sunday for the same reason we celebrate Christmas: it is a significant event.  Jesus was born with one purpose: to show us the way, the truth, and the life.

The celebration and words we say today remind us of this.  People were cheering for a king that day.  Jesus is a king.  He just as not the kind of king people along the parade route were seeking.  They sought the only kind of king they knew.  They sought a king like King David, someone to lead them out of Roman oppression.

As our King, we know that Jesus leads us out of oppression.  On the cross he freed us from sin and death.  Because of the eternal life He offers, sin and death no longer have power over our lives.  Jesus also calls us to be agents who end oppression.  He calls us to help the weak, to care for those trapped by need, and to triumph justice.

“Hosanna in the highest!”  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Jesus is indeed mighty to save.  Today we celebrate this idea.  Then we go forth to bless others as we serve in the name of the only one who can save: Jesus Christ.

Scripture reference: Psalm 118: 26-29 and Luke 11: 8-10