It is That Important

Last year, I had the responsibility of planning daily Holy Week services in Mercer County. It was the second year I had this responsibility, and I enjoyed gathering an ecumenical body together each day for worship and reflection.

What I remember the most about last year’s worship services was an interview I had with a reporter from the local newspaper. We were talking about why Holy Week is important and I used a phrase similar to this:

It is the Super Bowl, Daytona 500, Indy 500, March Madness, and Game 7 all rolled into one week.

That idea was the main point used in the article. It is still the main point today. Holy Week is our Super Bowl. Holy Week is our Daytona 500. Holy Week is our Indy 500. Holy Week is our March Madness. Holy Week is our Game 7.

It is that important.

Holy WeekCross Of Christ Religious Stock Photo begins Sunday on Palm Sunday and runs through sunset on Holy Saturday. It is the most important week of the Christian calendar, as we will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and reflect upon what it means for us today. We need Holy Week, because we need to hear the story again and again.

It is easy to assume we do not need Holy Week. We’ve heard the story before. We know Jesus. We know what the days means. All of this we will convince ourselves of as we make other things – personal lives, schedules, finances – more important than our faith and relationship with Jesus. We disconnect ourselves from the story as the same time as we allow other ideas and influences claim authority in our lives.

We need Holy Week because it reminds us that Jesus is Lord. On Palm Sunday, we will remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem as the heralded Messiah and King of all. We need that reminder of how Jesus is our Lord and King. Jesus lovingly desires to guide us to live out what it means to be in an intimate relationship and connection with God.

On Maundy Thursday we will remember how we often want something else besides Jesus all together. We will remember how we turned our back on Jesus – an act we will do today through our words, actions, and deeds – because Jesus isn’t what we often expect.

On Good Friday we will remember how Jesus loves us unconditionally. That no matter what we’ve done or who we are Jesus desires to be in relationship with us.

On Easter morning we will celebrate that there is hope in the world. Even when it seems like there is nothing to be hopeful about, the message of the empty tomb reminds us that God is in control and Jesus lives and reigns.

I don’t know about you, but I believe those are messages we need today. Those are messages that I need today.

Messages that we need as our lives become over scheduled by agendas that seek to control our time and connections. Messages we need as we seek to make power and politics as our primary concern instead of love and connection with God. Messages we need as we seek to be more focused on ourselves instead of the greater good.

We need Holy Week, because it is that important for our lives.

I hope you will join us throughout Holy Week at Ogden Memorial this year. More importantly, my prayer is that this week will be an opportunity to encounter the presence of God in your life and in our community.

Advertisements

The 8th Day

The night before was long and dark. It was the Sabbath day, the seventh day, and those who had followed Jesus had gathered together. Just hours before they witnessed Jesus’ gruesome death on the cross and now they waited to finish a job that was rushed that evening. You see, some of Jesus’ followers hurriedly placed him in a garden tomb knowing that the Sabbath was coming and that work to prepare Jesus for burial would have to wait for the next day, which was a Sunday.

That was the mood as the women gathered on that Sabbath night. We can assume they told stories of Jesus’ life. Perhaps they talked about how he fed more than 5,000 people with barely little food or how he healed so many people. Through their tears, they prepared the spices that would be used to give Jesus, their teacher and friend, a proper burial. The only things that kept them from going to the tomb, then, were the dark skies and the Sabbath laws that prevented any work from taking place until the following day. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: Living the Resurrection – By Our Love of God

Another Easter has come and past. Many of us have put away more than our fair share of candy and ham over the last few weeks. Likely the bunnies, baskets, and eggs have been stashed away ready to come out again in March.

Even some of the celebrations have ended, in reality, Easter has not. Easter is never finished. Easter is not a one-day celebration. It is not even a 50-day season focusing on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is more than that. It is a way of life.

Easter, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the grand announcement of God doing something new. It is not something that can be contained in one day or season. The Resurrection is a truth that defines everything and calls us to live with the hope of the Living God every day. Every day is a celebration of the good news that Christ is alive and is with us all today. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: Living Out the Resurrection

We all have stories we love to tell. Stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. Stories of memorable times with our family and friends. Stories where we were able to experience something that changed our life. Stories that must be told again and again. 

My guess is that few of us have a story anything like the stories Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome could tell their friends and family. They were among the followers of Jesus who went with him as he traveled throughout Galilee. They saw his miracles of healing and the moments of great teaching that he did. They were there. 

More than that, though, this group of women were the first to witness some of the events that have changed the world. They were present at Golgotha when Jesus was crucified. A moment that changed the world as Jesus gave of his life for humanity’s sin. They were present later that Friday afternoon as Joseph of Arimathea and Niccodemus buried Jesus in a tomb located in a garden near where Jesus died.  Continue reading

Easter Sunrise Message: It’s No Longer Dark

It was still dark that Sunday morning. An appropriate way for John to begin his account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the things to appreciate about the Gospel of John it is that word choice means everything. A word like “dark” or “darkness” carries with it a meaning that is deeper than what it may seem. 

On one hand, it was literally dark in Jerusalem and at the tomb where Joseph of Arimathea and Niccodemus laid Jesus following his death on the cross three days earlier. The morning sun had not broken through the darkness of the night as a new week began. Darkness filled the skies much like the darkness that greeted us, this morning, as we gathered for this sunrise worship. Continue reading

Living With a Promise

This morning, I must admit something to you all. As I looked back over the themes of the sermons from the last few weeks, I admit that what we have talked about in this series has been very challenging.

I know that it has been challenging for me and I am sure it has also been challenging for each of you. They have been challenging in that each of these sermons have asked us, in a way, to look at where we are, where we are going, and what Christ desires of us today and tomorrow.

Perhaps it is not ideal to preach a series of challenging sermons as the boxes are mounting at the house. It would easy to blame the lectionary for its selection of Easter season passages for this year, but that would not be fair to anyone. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of fluff. In my journalism days, I cringed at assignments that seemed to be space fillers, such as covering a local fair, before moving on to something else. I believe the Good News of Jesus Christ desires us all to be challenged to grow daily in our faith and what it means to be the church today. Continue reading

Living Our Calling

This week, we had the blessing of having my grandparents with us to help us begin to organize and get ready to move. It was great having them here and having their help with Noah and also with boxing up some of the things we do not regularly use.

Of course, having them here reminded me of many great memories I’ve shared with them through the years. The times my grandfather would drive me to all my wrestling tournaments and watch patiently as I would struggle to advance. The long drives in their huge van to Florida to see family. The many times my grandmother would try, almost unsuccessfully, to get me to do my part in picking up around the house. Continue reading