As some of you perhaps did, I watched the film "The Ten Commandments" on TV again the other night. Wed. April 8 is the first day of Passover for our Jewish friends. It is celebrated by eating unleavened bread and bitter herbs to remind them of their bondage as slaves in Egypt prior to the Exodus. Of course Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover celebration when he observed it as the Last Supper with his disciples which we commemorate on Thursday of Holy Week. It is portrayed as a Passover meal with the apostles in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but not in John. The Gospel of John has a different chronology. In John Thursday is the day before Passover, and the lambs to be eaten at the Passover meal on Friday evening will be killed on Friday afternoon at about the same time Jesus dies. Thus John points to Jesus as the new Passover lamb, slain for the sins of the world. In John's gospel Jesus has a final meal with his apostles, teaches them, and prays for protection, mutuality, and unity among the believers since they will face difficult times. See John Chapter 13 through Chapter 17. Can we trust God in the midst of dire circumstances? Jesus most certainly did. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, from Indiana, said this week ahead would be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives. It would be our Pearl Harbor and 9/11 moment happening all over the country. He said, "There is hope, but we all have to do our part." A rabbi from Long Island said, "I am no Moses, but I can assure you keeping social distance even at the expense of having limited people at the Seder table is now one of the Ten Commandments at least for the time being." We must pray and act at the same time. G.K. Chesterton asked, "How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans." Our lives have certainly been upended in a way that many of us thought would never happen. And all this is occurring when we are in the midst of major decision making regarding the future of our local church ministry and outreach. We must respond with both prayer and action, but even that is frightening. If to pray means to change it is no wonder that we hesitate and fashion protective clothing to help us stay as we are. It is no wonder that we seek quick, unproven solutions. Self chosen sacrifices are nearly always inferior to the ones existential situations throw our way. We can pray. We can pray for the safety of front line health care workers and first responders. We can assist them by social distancing. We can pray for an increase in the immune system of people throughout the world. We can pray that the best outcome will prevail, both globally and here at our own local congregation with decisions that confront us. And we must believe that Christ is in the midst of us. "This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood, shed for you." As our conference superintendent reminded us, "focus less on ourselves and more on Christ, speak into anxiety with truth and peace, and focus upon God's mercy. In God's Blessing, Pastor Joe
Devotion forApril 5 (Palm Sunday)
There was quite a scene on that first Palm Sunday. Thousands of travelers were converging on Jerusalem to celebrate the upcoming holiday of Passover. Passover was like America's 4th of July celebration. It was the Hebrew Independence Day. It was a celebration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt under the domination of Pharoah. And it is in that context as a new Moses, a liberator, that Jesus entered Jerusalem that day from the Mt. of Olives on the east as Pontius Pilate would have been coming into the city from the west. It was customary for the Roman procurator, who lived on the coast at Caesarea, to come to the city for festival days. Luke tells us Jesus entered the city on a colt that has never been ridden. Cloaks were thrown on the ground before him as he entered the city. Contrast that with Pilate's procession which would have been filled with symbols and soldiers emphasizing the might of Rome. Pilate himself probably entered the city riding a stallion.
29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”[a]
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
45 Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; 46 and he said, “It is written,
‘My house shall be a house of prayer’;
but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.