March 30, 2018 – Good Friday

Today’s texts are from Luke 22:39-53, Matthew 26:57-68, and John 19:28-37.


It’s all led to this: Death. One year of Jesus’ ministry has led to this moment. One year of bringing about the kingdom of God. One year of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the lame walk, driving out demons, raising the dead. Only one year of saying that the poor are blessed, that the Messiah was here for the sinner, that the hungry will be fed.

That’s all it took. One year. And we decided that was all we needed to hear. After one, short year of Jesus’ ministry we, like the people, decided enough was enough. That we were tired of hearing about how the poor were blessed, that those who mourn would be comforted, that those who hunger for righteousness would be filled, that the peacemakers would be called children of God.

After one year, we – like the crowds, leaders, chief priests – we had heard enough. This Jesus of Nazareth wove together words like poetry, sung songs of hope and fulfillment, proclaimed the people’s hour.

And after one year he was silenced. Not because his voice had become too powerful, or because he spoke lies, or because he was an agent of evil, but instead because he threatened the ecosystem of those in power.

Jesus was a threat to the status quo. Jesus challenged the way those in power and privilege lived their lives. But, power and status quo and laws based in ritual and tradition and the way things have always been done aren’t changed with a single word.

And so, Jesus was killed. Killed not because he wanted to bring down the religious leaders and take over their positions of power. Killed not because he wanted Pilate’s job. Killed not because he wanted the Roman Empire gone. But killed because he advocated for justice, righteousness, peace for everyone.

So, in a very deliberate sense, Jesus was in the business of bringing down the whole power structure and system. Jesus was in the business of leveling every inch and ounce of injustice and corruption that brought only certain people to their knees.

Jesus was and is in the business of bringing about a kingdom that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Jesus is claiming a power that doesn’t reflect any power we’ve ever seen on this earth. Jesus is claiming a strength and wisdom and might that has no correlation to anything that’s ever been done or thought of across society and time.

And that’s because Jesus proclaims justice, mercy, forgiveness, grace, love, and peace without any regard for his own wellbeing. Jesus – throughout the entire 365 days of his ministry – knows the cross is nearing. He knows that with every step he takes the cross approaches. With every sin he forgives the cross approaches. With every death he reverses the cross approaches. With every healing he performs the cross approaches. With every parable he tells the cross approaches.

Yet Jesus continues forward anyway. For you, your neighbor, your friend, your enemy, for the entire world. This is the radical and inbreaking nature of God. That with every step, breath, word, and action, Jesus was focused on shining a light into the darkness, proclaiming the kingdom of God, raising up the lost and oppressed – all while knowing that the price for doing so would be death.

And yet Jesus continued on anyway. This is the good news on this Good Friday. That no matter your sins, Jesus dies on the cross for you. No matter your failings, Jesus dies on the cross for you. No matter your denials or betrayals, Jesus dies on the cross for you. For God so loved the world – God so loves you – that God’s one and only son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – died this day for the whole world. Jesus Christ, your friend – died this day, for you.

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March 29, 2018 – Maundy Thursday

Today’s text is from Mark 14:12-26.


And when he had given thanks. We hear this phrase in our reading today and we hear it every week before we have communion – that before Jesus gave the bread and wine to his disciples to eat and drink he first gave thanks.

I find that to be an incredible moment. Now, it’s not unusual for us, we as people, to give thanks – we do it all the time. We give thanks for seeing another day, we give thanks for family, friends, work, freedoms, food – we each have things that we’re thankful for.

But what a humbling reminder to always be thankful that we get from Jesus today. In our narrative timeline we’re only moments away from Jesus being arrested. Jesus’ last moments with his disciples is unfolding before our eyes – and Jesus knows what is going to happen next – he knows that Judas sits at the table with him – that his betrayer is present in the midst of this final and intimate meal shared between friends.

And yet in the midst of impending arrest, trail, and less than 24 hours away from his own death, Jesus gives thanks. Not for all the miracles he performed or all the lives he changed, but instead for the simple elements he held in his hands: Bread and wine.

That the God of all creation – the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end – thought it necessary to give thanks for the meal that was before him. What a powerful statement. That in the midst of impending pain and suffering and death, Jesus didn’t worry, didn’t run, didn’t hide from what he knew was approaching.

Instead, he ate a meal with his friends. He gave thanks for the food that was before them. And so this day we give thanks for the gifts that we have been blessed with – whether they are many or few. For in and through Jesus Christ you have been given the ultimate gift of salvation.

In Jesus Christ you have been made right with God, all your sins have been forgiven, and you have been given grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy, and love upon love. The Savior of the whole world calls you friend. At this table Jesus Christ joins you each and every week providing abundant and overflowing gifts.

And so, we too, can give thanks. We can give thanks for the love and friendship we receive from Jesus. We can give thanks for the forgiveness and salvation. We can give thanks for the breath of life in our bodies. We can give thanks for the creation that surrounds us. We can give thanks for the seemingly small and insignificant things in our lives – like bread and wine – for through Jesus Christ they are transformed into gifts of everlasting life.

March 25, 2018 – “Reversal”

Today’s text is from John 12:12-36.


The crowd waited with nervous energy as Jesus approached.

A young girl jumped up and down to see who was sitting on the donkey. “Who is that, mamma?” she asked.

“It’s Jesus!” her mother replied.

“He’s the Son of David!” another said.

“He’s here to save us!” said yet another.

The little girl weaved between people’s legs until she reached an opening where tree branches had been spread out to form a road.

As Jesus and his disciples road past she could hear the crowd anxiously saying to one another, “Who is this?”

Others responded, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The little girl’s eyes opened wide. “A prophet?” she asked her mother.

“Well,” she replied, “that’s what some people are saying.”

And so, the little girl stood anxiously at the edge of the crowd, waiting for Jesus to appear. She imagined a parade of important people would come down the road at any moment. People dressed in royal purple, maybe even wearing jewelry made from gold, with Jesus seated on the back of a horse. Maybe there would be a crown on his head? Maybe it too would be made from gold – with jewels of every color set on it.

His followers would certainly look the part, too. Wealthy, full of power, looking ready to take over the city.

“Mamma,” the girl asked, “is Jesus here to free us?”

“That’s what some people think,” she replied.

“Will he be made the king?” the girl asked.

“Well,” her mother replied, “we shouldn’t get our hopes up.”

But the little girl couldn’t help herself. In the distance she saw the crowds begin to shout and yell – tree branches were being held high in the air – a commotion of people were coming down the palm-strewn path.

“Here he comes!” the girl shouted in excitement. But as the group of people came closer she stood with a puzzled look on her face. No royal robes. No crown. No horse. No wealthy looking followers. No sign that this was a king.

“Is that Jesus?” she asked her mother.

“It must be,” she replied, but even she was lost in thought. Was this really Jesus? The Jesus of Nazareth who they had heard so much about? The Jesus of Nazareth who healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead? Was this really him?

“I don’t think that’s a king, mamma,” the little girl said with confusion in her voice.

“No,” she replied. But after a moment of thought she continued, “At least, not our idea of what a king should be.”

_________________________

Throughout the week Jesus taught at the temple. The little girl and her mother were joined by hundreds who sat patiently and quietly nearby as they took in every word. With each passing day the crowd became larger and larger.

But by the end of the week a dark cloud hung over the city. The mother and her young girl left for the temple like they had all week, but Jesus was nowhere to be found.

“Where do you think he is?” the girl asked. Someone nearby overheard and replied, “He’s been taken to the council of the elders – and Pontius Pilate.”

“Hurry,” the mother said, “we must go and see what is happening.”

They rushed off to find a crowd gathered at the foot of Pilate’s palace.

“What’s happening?” someone asked.

“They’re putting Jesus on trial!” another replied.

“Jesus?” the young girl said. “Isn’t he the one we’ve been listening to this whole week? What did he do wrong?”

“The leaders are saying that he’s been causing trouble in the city.”

“What trouble?” someone asked.

“Something about claiming to be the Son of God. And how he caused a disturbance at the temple the day he came into the city.”

“Well,” another said, “much of what he said goes against our law.”

“He is quite unusual,” the mother said, “and what you say is true – if our leaders think he’s broken some laws then we must trust them.”

“But mamma,” the young girl said, “what’s he done wrong?”

“We’ll just have to trust the council of elders,” she replied. “Look! Here they come!”

The chief priest spoke first: “Listen! This Jesus of Nazareth is a blasphemer! He openly teaches against our laws and against Caesar! He’s going to get us all killed!”

A hush fell over the crowd. The little girl could sense the fear rippling through the hearts and minds of those around her.

“People of Israel,” Pilate shouted to the crowd. “I find no basis for a charge against Jesus. However, during Passover you have a tradition for me to release one prisoner. Do you want me to release Jesus?”

Through fear and anxiety, the crowd shouted together, “No! Release Barabbas!”

“But why, mamma?” the girl asked.

“I’m not sure. But they’re saying he’s causing too much trouble,” she replied.

Others shouted still, “We have a law! According to that law he must die!”

Pilate responded, “Look, I have found no reason to charge him.”

But the chief priest was indignant. “People of Israel!” he shouted, “If we let Jesus go we are no friend of Caesar’s.” He turned to look at Pilate and said, “Anyone who claims to be a king – like this Jesus has done – opposes Caesar.”

Another hush fell over the crowd.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the crowd.

“Take him away! Crucify him!” they shouted.

“But why, mamma?” the girl asked again.

“Because,” she replied, “we must trust what our leaders are saying.”

At this, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.