The message of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is that he is the King of the World! So what does this mean in a world that sees its share of trouble and sorrow? I’d like to briefly respond to this question from a personal and communal perspective.
First the personal. Is Jesus your king? Have you pledged your allegiance to him? If so, what does that look like in your life? At the very least, I would suggest, it means that you’re seeking to be a loyal and faithful subject of his kingdom, which means that you’re seriously trying to follow his decrees, which implies that you know them, which means that you listen to him through the reading and meditation of his Word. If you don’t take seriously the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, then I would have to question your loyalty to the king. So what can you do to put yourself in a good position to hear and obey God’s Word?
Now for the communal aspect. Of course there’s a whole lot more that we could say about what it means to be loyal to the king personally and communally, but at the very least, as far as the communal is concerned, if you’re a loyal subject of the king, then you gather regularly with his people to worship Him and to hear his kingdom proclamation. If you don’t regularly participate in communal worship, then I question your allegiance to the king. And the worship service helps us to take seriously the mission of King Jesus, which is summarized for us in Luke 4:18-19:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
Notice that the mission of Christ primarily involves the proclamation of the Good News to the poor and oppressed of the world, which should lead us to care for those same people. So how are we doing that in our neighbourhoods, communities and in the world?
Well, after some serious reflection this morning, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve failed to effectively prepare for the season of Easter. For years I’ve observed the season of Lent, which is a time of preparation and reflection as we prepare for the resurrection of our Lord. Notice I said, time of reflection. I think this is where I’ve failed. I regularly spend time in solitude and silence with my Lord. These moments of sweet fellowship with my Lord are life-giving. I couldn’t effectively minister without them. And yet I find myself (once again) exhausted as I enter Holy Week. I’m trying to extend grace to myself, but it’s hard, since only I can make the changes necessary to carve out time for more reflection. But this is a very counter-cultural activity, and I risk being misunderstood. This morning my youngest son asked, “Dad, what does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?” I responded, “Well, that’s a very good question, and it has many answers. But one is that to take up our cross means to be willing to do whatever Jesus calls you to do, no matter the cost, even if it means being misunderstood or rejected by others.” I pray that I would have the courage to take up my cross this season of Easter and follow Jesus.
What Jesus does that day at the tomb near Bethany is prove that he is the Messiah, that he is the resurrection and the life. So he ordered that the stone be rolled aside. Then he prays. Then he calls for Lazarus to come out. And the dead man came, “his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth” (v. 44). What an amazing miracle! This sort of thing has rarely occurred in the history of humankind. Who can do such a thing? The Messiah, the Son of God! The resurrection and the life!So what does the resurrection of Lazarus mean for us as modern-day readers? As Leon Morris writes in his Reflections on the Gospel of John (p. 417): “Through the centuries this story has brought comfort to the people of God as they contemplate death. It’s not they expect the miracle to be repeated. It hasn’t been. But it shows that our Lord stands in a relationship to death very different from that of our powerlessness. Knowing that he has the power over death and that those who believe in him will never know the full horror of death (vv. 25-26) gives believers confidence and calm in the face of their last enemy. That enemy has been decisively conquered.” (Morris, 417).
Thanks be to God!
The brief conversation we had regarding the basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life during the Mar. 18 sermon indicated to me that I need to discuss this matter further. So what exactly are spiritual disciplines? John Ortberg, in his book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, gives a brief and helpful definition: “Any activity that can help me gain power to live life as Jesus taught and modeled it” (p. 48). Although there is no definitive list of spiritual disciplines, Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline, gives us a list of the primary ones, which he places in three categories: (1) The Inward Disciplines: meditation; prayer; fasting; study; (2) The Outward Disciplines: simplicity; solitude; submission; service; (3) the Corporate Disciplines: confession; worship; guidance; celebration.
Well, I just finished teaching my first “inquirers/new member’s” class at Wolf Creek Community Church. I confess that I was initially unsure about conducting this ministry, as I’ve only been pastor of this church for fourteen months. Do I really know the church well enough to introduce it to others? And I was also concerned about the workload. Sundays are already busy enough! But after teaching this class for the first time, I’ve concluded that it is an effective avenue for building relationships with people. Of course I desire for these people to become official members of the church, but I’m even more concerned that they become devoted followers of Jesus. The minor burden I felt at teaching this class was replaced by the blessing of friendship and the joy of teaching. This is a prayerful community of love that I long for! I love these students and I want them to flourish. Membership is secondary. I can honestly say that I look forward to teaching another new member’s class–thanks be to God!
The Kingdom of God is a place of abundance and freedom. Often Christianity is depicted as boring and rigid. But this is the furthest thing from the truth. “They will come and go freely and will find good pastures” (v. 9 NLT). And as Jesus says in v. 10: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” And this isn’t only a rich and satisfying life in heaven after death, but now, here in the kingdom of heaven on earth. As the late Leon Morris writes in his Reflections on the Gospel of John (p. 375): “The Christian life is an exuberant affair, full of the joy of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit. The early-church Fathers often thought that it is life in the world to come that is meant. True, that is an abundant life. But surely those Fathers had missed the wonderful thing Jesus is saying here. Not only does he give believers the best things in the life to come; he also gives them the best things here and now. There are difficulties and troubles for the believer. Sure. That, in the modern phrase, is part of the deal. But the wonderful joy that comes from constant fellowship with the Lord far outweighs any such inconveniences. The life Christ gives is the abundant life.” Amen!
Well, I’m pleased to report that the first annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast of Lacombe, AB, was a success. I confess that I was felt overly anxious about this event. In fact, I was up at 3:30 a.m. that morning, which is very rare for me. I guess I was nervous, since I was on the planning team, and I had done quite a lot of the background work, and naturally I wanted everything to go well. At any rate, the Lord this blessed this event, which gathered about 170 community members to pray for the mayor of Lacombe and the city council. We also heard Amanda Lindhout’s story of kidnapping and forgiveness, which was very moving. I think it’s always appropriate to hear a story of human forgiveness, which naturally points us to God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Although I very much enjoyed hearing Amanda speak, I think that in the future the ministerial should focus the program more on prayer for our leaders and country, which is the primary purpose of the event.