We have been experiencing something we never would have heard of last year at this time: the birthday parade. People drive by the birthday celebrant’s house in a string of cars, honking, shouting, waving and holding up signs. The birthday celebrant feels the love without being physically touched and the whole neighborhood gets to know that it is someone’s special day.
The concept of a parade of praise for someone reminds me of what happened to Jesus when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. People stood at a distance and shouted, “Hosanna and hooray,” words of praise to Jesus, as he rode slowly by in the most basic mode of transport of the time: a donkey. Instead of waving signs, the people waved palm branches to the man of the hour. A palm branch sent the message: “You are a king, Jesus. You are our king.” When people put their cloaks on the ground, in front of Jesus, it was like writing in chalk on the sidewalks as people have been doing the last few months: “We are with you. We are in this together.”
The parade of Palm Sunday provides us with a template for how we should welcome our Lord Jesus into our midst during these trying times. We should rejoice in him. We should let our community know how special he is to us. We should make ourselves visible and present to him. With a cross, a sign or maybe a decorative flag waving in the wind, our homes should declare to anyone driving by: Jesus lives here and he is reborn in us every day. Alleluia and amen!
So much has been written about this COVID-19 crisis with stay-at-home orders and social distancing that I hesitate to even mention it. But then God put this verse in front of me: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). It seems as if this verse is made for these times.
We have taken refuge in our homes to stay safe and protected from the virus, just as we take refuge in our God to keep ourselves safe and protected from all manner of evil and danger is this world.
We have done all we can to keep ourselves strong health-wise during this pandemic, wearing masks, washing our hands, walking 6 feet from each other. But our greatest strength comes from our God, who cleanses us from all sin and keeps us strong in our faith that he will surround us with his power against all that would seek to weaken us.
God’s help is very present. It is not something old or forgotten. It is something that is real, that is modern, that is up-to-date. We do not need to worry that somehow God does not understand what today’s troubles are like. He is well-aware of all that we are going through and is able and willing to help. We are not helpless and flailing about in the wind. God has things under control and we are in his care.
Let this verse keep us grounded in God while everything else seems to want to make us off-kilter.
We are in an era when we are thinking about each other’s faces
more often than we perhaps did in times before. I am thinking about the many
faces of people that now appear before us when we video chat with family and
co-workers. I think of faces we can’t see when they are behind masks in grocery
stores or restaurants or other locales. I think of our faces on our profiles on
Facebook and Instagram and other social media outlets.
Face it! Our faces say a lot about us, about who we are, about how we feel, about what matters to us. Those who are fellow Christians with us (and those who are not) are looking closer at our faces than we may realize. It is important for our faces to reflect Christ. The Bible says, ”For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Our faces should shine with Jesus’ love. Our faces should reveal that we know God in our heart. Our faces should show that we are aware of the way out of the darkness. No matter what we face, we have a Savior who is watching us with love and leading us to glorify him in every smile, every listening ear and every eye that looks with care. People are saying they can see people smile through their masks. The beauty of our faith in Christ can go through and get out from under any barrier put in front of it. Let your face be a beacon of Christ’s presence in your life, no matter where it may turn up.
Today is the seventh in a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.
To you I lift up my spirit.
Jesus turned over what was rightly his Father’s Spirit to the Lord. He gave up the spiritual aspect of himself that ultimately belongs to God the Father. For the Spirit of the Lord came down upon Christ in his baptism. It rested on Christ until this time when Christ returned it to his Father, leaving his physical body to die. Three days later the Spirit of the Lord would be breathed back into Christ and he would be raised up.
Today is the sixth in a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.
Son, behold your mother. Mother, behold your son.
Jesus made sure that those closest to him were taken care of after he died. He asked his disciple John to treat his mother Mary like his own mother. And he asked Mary to take care of his disciple John as if he were her own son. These statements remind us that we are to treat one another as if they are our own family even if they are not. We are to open our homes to each other and freely give one another food, clothing and whatever else is needed. When we treat each other like family, we pray for one another and keep them in our thoughts.
Today is the fifth in a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.
It is finished.
Jesus makes it clear that there is nothing more that needs to be done to achieve salvation. His death on the cross puts the finishing touch on the release from our sins and our introduction into the heavenly realms. He took all our sins upon himself and said, “That’s it.”