Palm Sunday or, “Oh, the Glory, the Beauty, & the Tragedy of Being Human!”


This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, the Christian holiday that ushers in Holy Week. It celebrates the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem (Mk 11:1-11). In hindsight, though, this is one of the oddest “triumphal entries” one could imagine. It is the triumphal kick-off for what would be the death of the Son of God for the sins of the world.

Even now, millennia removed from the events of this week, we still wonder at how this all works. How does one person’s death–however good they are–account for every sin of every human in all of history?

It only begins to make some sort of sense when we acknowledge that this great exchange is not between to equals. Jesus, the Good and Innocent human, cannot merely be “another man” dying for another.

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For Palm Sunday: “The Emperor Has No Clothes” [POEM]


I feel far, Lord.
But I know you’re here.  I know it.
(Do I?)

(Can I?)

It’s the nature of the matter; a matter of nature, I suppose.
Perhaps only now I feel at the deepest existential depths:
“I believe! Help my unbelief!”
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Of Saints & Suicidal Ideations


Warning: this post talks about self-harm and suicidal thoughts. If you are experiencing this, you can chat online with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call at 1.800.273.8255.

We are in the final weeks of the Christian season of Lent: a time where we focus on the fact that we are not yet who we will be, and that we still live in much darkness, weakness, and self-obsession. On its own, this could become masochistic or over-indulgent depending on your personality. But this is why Easter comes on the other side as a call to cast off the brooding and soul-spelunking to rise into the highest heights of celebration and freedom the Resurrection offers.

But still, this time lends itself to sadder reflections. The other day, my coworkers and I were sharing stories of social work clients we’ve worked with over the years and I was brought back ten years to my first time encountering a suicidal client when I was brand new to the field.

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The Darkest Week in Human History.


bosch-christ-carrying-the-crossIn our Holy Week reading of the Parable of Tenants, we see the startling revelation that the long-awaited Messiah—the One sent of God to accomplish salvation and liberation for his people—will be rejected by those very people.

And yet, this rejection was not limited to these religious leaders, or even to the ethnic group they represented. During Jesus’ Passion Week—which we meditate upon during this Holy Week—we see Jesus rejected at every level of his Creation.

On Palm Sunday, a large group accompanies Jesus, proclaiming his blessedness. This is not the group that later cries out to crucify him. Instead, it might be worse. These are people from the Jerusalem “suburbs” who have been receiving Jesus’ teaching for months. They accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, and then…. they just disappear, showing their ultimate apathy and indifference towards him.
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Palm Sunday: “The Emperor Has No Clothes” [POEM]


I feel far, Lord.
But I know you’re here.  I know it.
(Do I?)

(Can I?)

It’s the nature of the matter; a matter of nature, I suppose.
Perhaps only now I feel at the deepest existential depths:
“I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Or in a word: Hosanna

That cry.  That plea.

The certainty of uncertainty.
The pregnancy of a pause.
The pondering of a moment.

That moment.  The moment.  

The moment that dressed my doubt in assurance.
But that emperor has no clothes
(or so everything says).

So where does my assurance lie?
Where do my feet stand?

My body pelted with rain, snow, and hail;
I pray my heart rests beside a fire,
drinking tea,
rocking in a chair,
my shoulders draped in that most costly of quilts –
my Rest.

Clothe me–
with the coat I lay on your path–
for this emperor is naked

and needs his King.

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

Holy Week & Meditations on Radical Grace


Last year, on Palm Sunday, I got the privilege to deliver a little message to a group of men at the prison ministry my church does each month. I ended up building off of that message and its outline and writing a series of blog posts meditating on Holy Week and the radical, scandalous grace inherent in the story and actions of Jesus over those days. For your mediation this year over Holy Week, I wanted to post these links for your perusal and, hopefully, your blessing.

The Scandal of Holy Week

{i} the forsaking of God | In this post, we meditate on the fact that Holy Week was the week-long process by which everything–from humanity to creation to God Himself— forsakes Jesus. We see that true disciples are not those that never forsake Jesus. In fact, we will all forsake Jesus in radical ways at some point.
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On Palm Sunday (or, “Oh, the Glory, the Beauty, & the Tragedy of Being Human!”) [REPOST]


This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, the Christian holiday that ushers in Holy Week. It celebrates the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem (Mk 11:1-11). Seen with the insight of hindsight, though, this is one of the oddest “triumphal entries” one could imagine. It is the triumphal kick-off for what will be the death of the Son of God.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the common “courtroom” analogy for the Gospel. You’ve surely heard it: You are standing before a judge. You are guilty. The punishment is death. It is a right and just penalty for your crimes. But then Jesus comes in and freely offers to take your punishment for you on your behalf so you can be set free. Will you accept this gracious offer?

Many an atheist has pointed out the logical flaws in this analogy, but I think there are even bigger issues I have with it. Really, it only works if the parties involved in this switch are seen as equals. A pure man for a guilty man — seems like an even trade, right? But how then does the death of this one man absolve the sins of a multitude? How is this even just?

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The Scandal of Holy Week {v}: conclusion & benediction


As I said in Part 1, this series was originally given as a sermon to a group of prisoners attending my church’s prison ministry. This is the conclusion and benediction I gave them at the end. This post picks up right after the end of Part 4, where we listed out practical ways that Jesus prepares his disciples for them forsaking him and the ways he reveals himself to already-wayward disciples, thereby calling them back to Him. I encourage you to read the other parts of this message: Part 1: the forsaking of GodPart 2: the Grace of JesusPart 3: the limits of Grace?Part 4: the restoration of disciplesPart 5: conclusion & benediction]

Conclusion

These are not guarantees: all these different practical things I’ve mentioned are not the “magic formula” for how to restore your faith if you feel you’ve lost or forsaken it. Sometimes none of these things are necessary; the Centurion did not seem to have any of these things. Sometimes, you’ll do all of these things for years–decades, even–and nothing will change.

All I can tell you is that He is worth it. The God of Holy Week is a God worthy to be wrestled against for years and years and years and years until he finally meets you, even if it is for the briefest of moments before slipping away back into frustration, doubt and sin.
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The Scandal of Holy Week {iv}: the restoration of disciples


[Update: this series has been completed. Part 1: the forsaking of GodPart 2: the Grace of JesusPart 3: the limits of Grace?Part 4: the restoration of disciplesPart 5: conclusion & benediction]

In Part 1 of this series, we saw that we will all forsake Jesus many times in our lives, just as the disciples did on the Thursday night of Holy Week. In Part 2, we saw that in light of this abandonment, Jesus responds to those that forsake him by being unconditionally and unlimitedly gracious towards them in their forsaking of him. In Part 3, we looked at just how scandalous and beautiful this grace is and how and why we often try and limit it. Today, we give practical ways that we can prepare ourselves to come back to our Lord, even after we have forsaken him in our own “Thursday” seasons.

As we saw in Part 1, Holy Week was a week-long process in which everything–creation, creatures, and God Himself–all forsook Jesus, turning their back on him. We’ve said several times now that true disciples of Jesus are not those that never forsake Jesus, but they are those that after forsaking him, turn back. And so, to help us see how we do this, let’s look at the first person in this story to turn back.

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The Scandal of Holy Week {iii}: the limits of Grace?


[Update: this series has been completed. Part 1: the forsaking of GodPart 2: the Grace of JesusPart 3: the limits of Grace?Part 4: the restoration of disciplesPart 5: conclusion & benediction]

In part 1 of this series, we looked at the original Holy Week and saw how everything and everyone has and will forsake Jesus. We said that “Thursday”–the day when the disciples forsook Jesus–will come for every disciple. In part 2, we saw that Jesus, as he relates to those that have forsaken him and those that will do so, responds and relates to them on the basis of pure, unfettered grace. Today we look at why this matters and what it looks like in our lives.

We’ve seen that every disciple will forsake Jesus, but the true disciples of God are the ones that come back after they have left him. And further, it is my contention that what brings people back is not fear, not Law, but the unbounded and free Grace of Jesus.

But let’s be honest–this process can be a long one. It can be months, years, or even decades before these true disciples of God return to Him. People can go very far down the path of sin’s temptations, and still be Christians. In fact, any of us can go very far down the path of sin’s temptations and still absolutely be beloved, regenerated, Christian children of God.
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The Scandal of Holy Week {ii}: the Grace of Jesus


[Update: this series has been completed. Part 1: the forsaking of GodPart 2: the Grace of JesusPart 3: the limits of Grace?Part 4: the restoration of disciplesPart 5: conclusion & benediction]

Last week, we saw how Holy Week, kicked off by Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem, was merely the beginning of a series of events that led to everything around Jesus forsaking him. We went on to ask how disciples of Christ might avoid their own version of “Thursday”–the night the disciples betrayed and forsook Jesus. The reality is, though, that every disciple of Christ has, does, and will forsake Jesus many times over. And so, the proper question to bring to Holy Week is not “how might I keep myself from forsaking Jesus”, but rather “how does Jesus respond to those–including myself–that will end up forsaking him?” I went on to say

“The answer I want to fight for? Jesus responds to all of our forsaking him with pure, unadulterated, offensive, and scandalous Grace. My main point in this message is this: A disciple is not someone who never forsakes Jesus; it’s someone who, after forsaking him, comes back.

Today we will look back at Holy Week to see the ways that Jesus demonstrates this scandalous Grace to those that have and will turn their backs and abandon him.
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The Scandal of Holy Week {i}: the forsaking of God


[Update: this series has been completed. Part 1: the forsaking of GodPart 2: the Grace of JesusPart 3: the limits of Grace?Part 4: the restoration of disciplesPart 5: conclusion & benediction]

This Palm Sunday I had the honor to preach at the prison ministry that my church does. It was amazing. I love those guys so much. My message was scrawled in my journal in outline form, so this will be only a rough and condensed manuscript of what was said. I hope you find it beneficial as you navigate these murky waters of life and spirituality.

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples… When they brought the donkey to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” —Mark 11:1,7-9

This event is traditionally called the “Triumphal Entry”. It is when Jesus enters into the city of his people in such a way that confirms the suspicions of those around him: he is Messiah; he is King; he is Lord. But we also see that this Palm Sunday begins a week-long process of everything around Jesus forsaking and turning their backs on him, making this a very strange “triumphal” entry.

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Prayer for Good Friday in Holy Week


Almighty God, we pray thee graciously to behold this thy family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— from the Book of Common Prayer

you can also participate in Holy Week by joining Christians all over the world each day in morning prayer and evening prayer.

On Palm Sunday (or, “Oh, the Glory, the Beauty, & the Tragedy of Being Human!”)


This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, the Christian holiday that ushers in Holy Week. It celebrates the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem (Mk 11:1-11). Seen with the insight of hindsight, though, this is one of the oddest “triumphal entries” one could imagine. It is the triumphal kick-off for what will be the death of the Son of God.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the common “courtroom” analogy for the Gospel. You’ve surely heard it: You are standing before a judge. You are guilty. The punishment is death. It is a right and just penalty for your crimes. But then Jesus comes in and freely offers to take your punishment for you on your behalf so you can be set free. Will you accept this gracious offer?

Many an atheist has pointed out the logical flaws in this analogy, but I think there are even bigger issues I have with it. Really, it only works if the parties involved in this switch are seen as equals. A pure man for a guilty man — seems like an even trade, right? But how does the death of this one man absolve the sins of a multitude? How is this even just?

Continue reading

Prayer for Wednesday in Holy Week


Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— from the Book of Common Prayer

you can also participate in Holy Week by joining Christians all over the world each day in morning prayer and evening prayer.