Palm Sunday: Triumph to Tragedy

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and I had the opportunity to bring the message at Sydenstricker UMC for a vacationing Pastor Don. Click here to hear the sermon, called “Triumph and Tragedy.” In it, I explore the shadows that fall over the joyous reception Jesus had that day at Jerusalem: the shadow caused by our own spiritual blindness, and the shadow of the Cross. Give a listen and let me know what you think!

logo_logo_v3

Advertisements

C-100 (Woo hoo!)

Over the Martin Luther King Jr weekend, my daughter and I were part of the team putting on the 100th Chrysalis weekend (woo hoo!) in the National Capital Area, for 22 teenagers (“caterpillars”) who came and joined us for a weekend of discovering Christ and learning more about his incredible love.

It was a special time for me, having my first opportunity to team with Sarah. She had walked on C-94, two years before, and when she started teaming a year later I had asked if she would be interested in having Daddy on her team. Nope. “I want to make friends and have my own space,” she said at the time. No problem. But come this year, when the time came to assemble the team for C-100 (woo hoo!)*, she allowed that perhaps she’d done that and it would be possible for me to serve. I was honored to see her lead worship and music, and watch her in her element.

There were actually six of us from Sydenstricker UMC on the team, four youth and two adults, which made us one of the largest, if not the largest, church contingents. I’m also proud of that: that our youth are stepping up into this program, and bringing others to Christ through it. We had one more of our youth walk on the weekend, and now maybe Michael will take a place on a future team.

C-100 (woo hoo!) wasn’t without its drama and its challenges, including bitter cold weather. But God was not to be denied, and He showed up in a big way on the mountain for all those kids. And in that is the greatest WOO HOO! of them all.

 

*(Yes, each time someone said C-100, we all had to say “Woo hoo!” It was fun.)

Our Growing Community

Tonight we brought our sister in Christ, LaRae, down off the mountain from her Emmaus weekend. She walked with 27 other women on E-184 and, as with every other such weekend, had just the most tremendous experience of God’s love in new ways that she had never experienced before. Some thoughts came to mind today at different times.

First, when we were seeing all the pilgrims looking so happy and radiant, it really brought joy to my heart. And that’s not just a saying: I mean it brought a touch of the divine, a moment of connection of heaven and earth, and I found myself tearing up a little because they were getting to experience it too. All I wanted to do was shout praises for what Christ was working in their lives.

Later, we welcomed LaRae into the Sydenstricker community of Emmaus with her Fourth Day Dinner. I remember my own, two springs ago, and I think there were perhaps 8 to 10 people around the table–some of them not even from our church. Instead, tonight there were 21 folks gathered. There is a wonderful new energy about our Emmaus community that is simply so refreshing to see, and rewarding to experience.

LaRae is already talking to her husband about his walking on the men’s weekend this spring, the one I’ll be teaming on for the first time. And there were a couple of other names tossed out as men who need an invitation. Who knows, perhaps we can get out to a couple dozen before long!

De Colores!

Come, Lord Jesus, Come

It’s Advent already. Phew. Wasn’t it just Labor Day? Wasn’t Easter about two weeks before that? How is it we made another lap around the sun already?

There’s the old joke about how wrong it is to be surprised that Christmas is around the corner: after all, it hasn’t moved off of December 25th in hundreds of years. And yet each year I find myself making plans to be better prepared to have a more meaningful Christmas, only to have them dashed against the rocks.

I think there’s two places I go awry at Advent each year. One is in just the sheer busyness of the season, and getting caught up in everything that’s “expected.” Here’s this weekend, for example. Saturday morning, Emmaus accountability breakfast with the men who help keep me centered in Christ. Then home to get our daughter to an appointment, then down to get my mom for her own appointment with the dentist at noon. After, a bite to eat, then off shopping for the holidays ahead of the annual lay leadership dinner at church in the evening, before a “mandatory” holiday party at a coworker’s house (“You’ve really got to come!”). Then Sunday is church, grocery shopping, making a batch of chili for the office holiday week coming up, going to help pack my mom ahead of moving next week (!), and then a couple hours in the office (because I didn’t get everything done and it’s a busy season and my boss gets back Monday and will expect things to be Just So).

It’s madness! And yet those are my days and weekends in December every year. Where’s the rest? Where’s the sabbath? Where’s the peace, the joy?

And that’s the second place I go off the rails. My Advent isn’t nearly enough about that ancient prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” We’re called to devote time each December to remembering the promise that what began in a manger two millennia ago will come to fruition when Christ returns.

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12-13)

Christ promises he will return. And my sin in Advent is I don’t spend nearly enough of my heart on praying for that day, on readying myself for his second coming. Instead I get consumed by the to-do list, not the to-love list. I suspect I’m not alone (OK, I know I’m not). But it remains my goal every year: to live a life more aligned with the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

It’s Advent again. A fresh chance to let my heart turn to Christ. Pray I don’t miss it again this year.

Visiting College Boy

This past weekend we had our first chance to go and visit College Boy, seven weeks into his freshman year. It was so good to see him–he slept in a little Saturday morning, but still was sitting on the steps by the parking lot waiting for us when we pulled up. Lots of hugs, and in many ways it was like we hadn’t been gone.

And yet it was different. He’s maturing in his own way: he took himself out to buy new running shoes, instead of coming to us asking for us to buy them for him. He’s also learned already, as he told his sister, that “In high school, they just expect you to know stuff. In college, they expect you to put it together.” If he’s figured out that secret already, and can apply it, then he’s in good shape for the next three years.

Lots of time together throughout the day: in his dorm room, then to lunch at a place he’d always wanted to try but was too far to walk, and then to Wal-Mart to load up. Evening spent with him and his roommate, enjoying the free bowling, billiards, and ping-pong at the student center.

In the late afternoon, as the ladies relaxed, he and I sat for awhile as he showed me You Tube videos he’d found funny. In that hour, as we shared Internet laughs, it was like he’d never left and was still coming to me to show me something funny he’d found online. I savored that connection once more.

And yet it was different. Around 9:30, he announced that he was tired and ready to turn in. When we asked if we should come back in the morning for brunch, or just go home without seeing him, he said, “You can just go home.” Our brief time was over, and, like a dream, didn’t get to last to the morning.

We have these little tastes of love, these little moments of joy, and the disappointment we feel when they pass remind us that this isn’t where our souls are meant to be. One day, our joy will be complete. Until then, we have the imperfect–the quick visit, the touches of grace–that can only hint at the spectacular wonder we’ll savor when we’re all together with Christ forever.