For many of you, this is the first time you will hear me say a few words about faith. Allow me to tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up in West Virginia. I spent the first 23 years of my life in the Mountain State, learning everything from the proper way of eating a hot dog – that would be with mustard, ketchup, coleslaw, chili, and onions – to how to look away from a West Virginia basketball game that doesn’t seem to go your way.
One of the most lasting impressions West Virginia and its culture gave me was a strong work ethic. You worked hard at what you did. There was a strong emphasis placed on proving yourself, showing your worth, and getting the most out of life. You were taught to earn everything you have in life.
Even though this is an ethic I learned in West Virginia, I do not think it is too far from the norm for many of us. We value hard work. We want to earn what we have and prove our worth to people. This is true whether it is in our jobs, our families, or in any other situation that comes before us. We want people to know us by what we do, by what we know, or by what we’ve accomplished. Continue reading
On this Palm Sunday, we began our celebration by going back to the beginning of that Passover celebration so many years ago. Jesus and his followers triumphantly entered Jerusalem.
It was a celebratory scene of great jubilation and anticipation. The people expected Jesus to come and fulfil the promises of the Messiah and restore the Kingdom of Israel. So, they brought out the palm branches and laid them on the ground – an act that is something like laying out the red carpet today – and shouted “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” All while Jesus humbly rode into town on the back of a donkey. Continue reading
There is no need to beat around the bush. This is a difficult passage of Scripture to engage.
A lot of aspects to this passage make it difficult for us to interact with. We have the uncomfortable aspect of hearing Jesus cry out in pain from the cross. There is the word “abandoned” or “forsaken” that leaves us wondering about the emotional and spiritual pain that Jesus felt in those moments. We hear these words and we want to move past them quickly, act like they were never said, and go to another passage.
We cannot hide from difficult passages of Scripture. In the examining the harder passages we find elements of truth that speak to us in the difficult moments of our lives. The good thing is that, today, we will walk through this difficult and challenging passage from Matthew 27:45-46 together. Continue reading
At our property along U.S. 127, you see a common adaptation of what took place on the Golgatha hillside. Nestled among the hills and overlooking the passing cars are three crosses that serve as a symbol of an event that changed the world.
For on that hillside sits the same number of crosses Scripture tell us were there at Golgatha on the afternoon of Jesus’ death. One for Jesus and one each for the two criminals who were crucified with him. We give a lot of attention, and rightly so, to the one in the middle – Jesus – who died unjustly and committed no act that was worthy of this kind of brutality. Yet, the two criminals play an important role in helping us to understand what took place that day.
To set the scene for us, Jesus and the two criminals have already been placed on the cross. There were two ways someone was affixed to the cross. They were either tied to the cross or were nailed to it. John tells us that Jesus was nailed to the cross. Jesus is facing the deep and unthinkable pain that goes along with the crucifixion. At the same time, he is experiencing the public humiliation that went along with this kind of punishment and torture. Jesus was mocked by the religious leaders who insisted that he put on a show and save himself. The soldiers joined in by gambling for Jesus’ personal items, which was a customary act for a crucifixion. Continue reading
This morning, and for the next five weeks, we are going to be at the cross on Golgatha’s hillside. We are going to immerse ourselves in a moment that has changed the world and continues to change it today. We are going to experience Jesus’ final moments before his death.
The way we are going to do it is by looking at the seven phrases that were said by Jesus in the hours that he was on the cross. Each of these phrases are powerful and express what was on Jesus’ heart and soul in those final moments. They are also words that would have been extremely difficult for Jesus to say. Continue reading
The scene was dark and disturbing. It was a complete contrast from how the week began. A week filled with so much hope, expectation, and promise, ended here on this hillside. A week that began with shouts of “Hosanna!,” would end at a place known as “The Skull.”
There weren’t many who gathered at this hillside where three people, two revolutionaries and the one from Galilee, were crucified. Among the witnesses were the Roman soldiers and religious leaders of the community who wanted to make sure the crucifixion of the one in the middle – Jesus of Nazareth – was carried out. Also there were some of Jesus’ followers, women and men, who risked their lives to be close to Jesus in his final hours. Continue reading
It is almost ironic.
Here we are on this day where the imagery, symbolism, and tradition takes us to the city gates of Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. It is the day we remember Jesus’ arrival at the start of that fateful Passover week proceeding his betrayal, death, and resurrection. Yet, our passage takes us beyond the gates and to the courtyard of Pilate’s headquarters. On this day when we want to join the crowds in their exaltation and shouting of “Hosanna!,” we find ourselves in the midst of Jesus’ pain and anguish.
It is ironic, however it is also appropriate. As we have seen throughout our current sermon series, Holy Week is about more than palms and celebrations. It is about finding ourselves in the midst of Jesus’ journey and experiencing the stories in a way that opens our eyes to the depths of God’s love and our need of Christ in our lives. Our tendency, though, is to stay among the crowd and shout “Hosanna!,” and rush through the pain of the week and what it teaches.
The reason is that we want this day of Palm Sunday to be both the beginning and ending to the story of Jesus’ narrative in Jerusalem. We want to stay in this place where Jesus is heralded as the beloved Messiah. Doing so gives us the “Hollywood” story and ending that we desperately desire. Where everything is neat, tidy, and comfortable. Yet, life is never a “Hollywood” story and neither is the journey Jesus has been on throughout his ministry. Continue reading