April 9, 2017

Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, Restore

Scripture References:

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’

Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Matthew 21:1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethpage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

Palm Leaf Cross

When I was in college, I wandered and struggled through many aspects of life. School was not easy for me, church was not easy for me, and my depression was often out of control.

So much of the theology I heard at the time seemed to me to contradict itself: the God of John 3:16 was also the God of Romans 6:23, and I could not understand how or why that could be. Both verses deal with the death of Jesus, but John 3:16 focuses on the gift of the cross and Romans 6:23 focuses on the necessity of the cross because of human’s sin. While both verses may be true, John 3:16 drew me closer to God because I desperately needed to hear of his love while Romans 6:23 pushed me away because it encouraged the guilt within me to take over.

I despised the Lenten season because everything was dull and dreary and highlighted every dark feeling in my soul.

Towards the end of college, I started to hear God’s call for me to think about a life in ministry and my faith journey started to be re-formed. God drew me towards people who were not always able to care for themselves. And with each encounter, I began to understand Jesus and his sacrifice differently. My theology formed around those people because they showed me how to see the world differently and thus, they showed me how to see Jesus differently.

How did the power-less see Jesus; how did Jesus find them? What about the home-less, the family-less, the uneducated, the dying? How could Jesus find the church-less?

If I believed that Jesus seeks us until the end, and I did, and I am confident in that, then truth, truth with a capital “T,” I reasoned, must be found both inside and outside the church walls. Jesus must search for us

And if I believed that God used all people, no matter their sins—choice or quantity—then I needed to consider that God might use me, and that God might use them.

And lastly, if I believed that God was still active in this world today, and I did, then I needed to consider that there might be modern day prophets who also spoke Truth.

Let me be clear—I believe in the Bible first and foremost. And any Truth that may exist apart from the Bible needs to be considered with a great deal of discernment through both study and experience.

For me, all God’s children have a part in this Faith story and they all, we all, have something to contribute to the furthering of the story. Whether we be scholars, dreamers, humble souls, or wild spirits, whether we be philosophers, songwriters, adventurers, or pioneers, we all have something to offer to one another.

Including people in the story is the beginning of my approach to evangelism and it was the way I found my way to an individual relationship with God. The beginning of someone’s walk with Jesus must be rooted in love because that is how the story itself begins! For God so loved, He created!

The Lenten season became very important to me and I now look to this time of year with some eagerness. I feel enriched by meditation, fasting, prayer, and study, and not overcome by guilt. I love to read from a variety of sources and I love to see how God might speak to me through them—through you!

Tell me about kindness, Glen Campbell. Tell me about reconciliation, Will Campbell.

Teach me about repentance, Henri Nouwen. Teach me to learn from the night, Barbara Brown Taylor.

Sing songs of lament with me, Shepherd David. Teach me to rejoice in singing, Fannie Crosby.

Teach me to consider creation, Henry David Thoreau. Teach me to be bold in my faith, Wendell Berry.

Teach me to hold the hand of the dying, Mother Teresa. Teach me to preach to the living, Dr. Claypool.

Let me learn from your wrestling with God, Jacob, son of Isaac. Let me learn about God’s love, Saint Paul.

Help me to be more selfless, Mary Beth Roland. Help me to be more passionate about discipleship, Dianne Escobar. Help me to love more fiercely, Ernie Forrester.

And when I fail to be kind, to be real, or to be Christ-like, help me understand the power of the cross, dear Lord. Lead me through a Lenten season so that I might understand the power of your grace. Amen.


Great Are You Lord
As Sung By Casting Crowns,
Songwriter, Mark Hall

You give life. You are love.
You bring light to the darkness.
You give hope. You restore
Every heart that is broken.

Great are you, Lord.

It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise.
We pour out our praise
It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only.

All the earth will shout
Your praise
Our hearts will cry
These bones will sing

Great are You, Lord.
Palm Sunday