Why is this so hard for us?
2009-04-07 by Fred Rose

John 13:31b-35

I find this to be a clear and encouraging exhortation from someone who gives his life for the world and for these who listen to him. Why is this so difficult for us? There is good reason for so much energy given to so many other concerns. The world is full of hate and hunger and greed and war. We worship power in all the wrong places. If we could really give serious attenton to Jesus' instruction here, I believe the church would see itself renewed for service and ministry in the world in ways we may never have imagined.

Here are some observations about this passage for Maundy Thursday:

1) There is an air of finality between verses 33 and 34. The New Jerusalem Bible identifies this passage as marking the beginning of Jesus "Farewell Discourses."

2) Why is this a new commandment? Is it new because the other commandments have focused on God and neighbor and not the community of faith? Leviticus 19:18 reads, “You will not exact vengeance on, or bear any sort of grudge against, the members of your race, but will love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.”

3) "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."  How has he loved them? a) He has washed their feet. b) He has taught them truth. c) He has given them front row seats with his signs. d) He has given them a life’s purpose. e) Later, they remember these words and realize he has died for them. He gives his life for them.

4) Verse 35 The church in Acts does this. If 2:42 and 4:32-35 is an indication of the faithfulness of the disciples who heard what John records, they did what Jesus commanded them to do.

5) Isn’t this a different kind of evangelism? Members of the church care for each other with such authenticity, the community takes notice.

6) People do all kinds of things to exhibit their being "Christian" these days:  bumper stickers, personal jewelry, inserting the word “blessed” in casual conversation, “family values” political stands, political affirmations (someone asked my daughter several years ago, “How can anyone be a Democrat and a Christian?”), good works, by telling people we are Christian, i.e. “Since I am a Christian, I don’t do things like that.”, with going to church for various activities, by wrestling with peace and justice issues, with caring about the least of these in our world, by arguing about what scripture says .

7) Why can’t we simply consider the strength of Jesus’ idea? a) It is far more difficult than stickers, jewelry and voting for the “family values” candidate. b) We are confused about what it means to love one another. Why? Hasn’t the church gotten this yet? Do we not understand what it means to love one another? c) We are too busy to focus on reconciliation and forgiveness in our churches. d) We have little energy for evangelism. e) What “everyone will know” is immaterial to our faith. f) It requires pastors and church leaders to get serious about their relationships with one another; it requires all of us to do some serious soul searching about who we are in relationship.




Nowhere. Nothing. Nobody.
2009-04-07 by Paul Janssen

Beginning to work on Easter. Sometimes I hew close to the prescribed text on Easter Sunday, sometimes I work more doctrinally -- as in, what does this all mean?  This year, this outline presents itself as a possibility.

Nowhere.  As in, since Christ has shattered the bonds of death, there is now nowhere that you can go that is beyond the peace he offers and establishes.  "Peace be with you," he said to the disciples who'd gone in somewhere and shut the door behind them. (John 20:19)  Peace knows no bounds, since Christ knows no bounds.

Nothing. As in, Romans 8: 39..."nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  No power is as great as the power of self-offering love; this has been vindicated by the resurrection of Christ. 

 (The powers of death have done their worst, but Christ their legions hath dispersed; let shouts of holy joy outburst:  Alleluia!"

Nobody.  (Or as Werner Wolf articulates it, No. Buh. Dee!)  As in John 16: 22 puts it, "So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take our joy from you."  Joy is no far-off goal, nothing you have to save up millions for, not something the economy can reduce (countless studies have shown that 'happiness', anyway, is inversely proportional to wealth).  And no one -- (you fill in the blanks here) can take it away, because Christ is alive.

Well, that's just a raw skeleton, but I think it might preach.  At least here.

Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2009-04-05 by David Howell

Fred Rose, who will celebrate 30 years in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in August. He has been married to Georgia for all of those and a few more; as his dearest friend, she has been a great encourager with his calling in the church. His children are now young adults who have finished college and are making their way in the world. He has served Tuckahoe Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA for enough years to help his congregation face new challenges. Fred has the privilege of working currently with Dr. Charlie Brown, Director of Pastoral Care and Associate for Youth and Family Ministry, Steven Good. Fred hopes his comments can offer some light to a fellow preacher seeking to be faithful with the texts for Holy Week.

Palms Up, Stretched Out
2009-04-03 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Amy Butler for her contributions, especially for helping us to see the profundity of the palm-waving.  Thank you to all who contributed this week.

I am thinking about the children's sermon and what to say to the children about the palms. Maybe we're playing follow the leader, waving our palms, following Jesus to his death?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Waving Palms
2009-04-02 by Amy Butler

Well, if the thought of church children blissfully waving palms is too much to give up, then I think the danger of staging an “early Easter” should be foremost on the preacher’s mind going into the pulpit this Sunday.  As one astute reader asked on Monday: “If you do palms, when does the average Christian confront the demands and the sacrifices of the Christian life?”  It’s true: even if you decide not to go with passion on Sunday, there’s no denying that there’s a whole lot of darkness to get through before we put on our Easter bonnets.

So what if the preacher took Palm Sunday as an opportunity to reframe the story we hear every year and have somehow turned into a festival of greenery-waving happiness?  Fred Craddock calls the Palm Sunday procession a protest march, and several commentators cite Borg and Crossan, who describe Jesus’ entry on a colt through a back gate on the other side of the city as staged in direct and intentional contrast to Pilate prancing in on a war horse through the front.  This interesting detail might shed some light on the utterly radical and wholly defiant statement Jesus was making, both in his entry into Jerusalem that day . . . and, frankly, through his whole entire ministry and message.

Who would have thought that my Christian faith is a radical protest to the structures and expectations of this world?  This Sunday could be just the Sunday for that kind of invitation!  What a gift it could be to head into Holy Week with an invitation to follow our radical Savior, Jesus . . . to think within the context of this Palm Sunday protest whether or not we’ve ever considered that our confessions as Jesus-followers might lead us to stand up publicly and forcefully and to protest, to speak truth to power, to insist that injustice end, to put our reputations, to our careers, to our friendships, whatever . . . on the line.

Ultimately, in order to face the darkness of the week ahead, we’d better know what it is we’ll hold onto no matter what . . . we’d better have thought about how far we’ll go to follow Jesus, because the path ahead is leading straight to the cross.  If you look at it that way, our palms all of the sudden become placards and empty celebration turns into an act of courage that ushers in the Kingdom of God.

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