"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 20, 2011
We will be celebrating Easter on Sunday. Jon and I did something different this year; we observed Lent and gave up a couple things in observance of it. Growing up, my church never observed Lent and I really didn't know much about it. I looked it up and found out that the traditional purpose of Lent "is the preparation of the believer through prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial". It made me wonder what would happen if all christians actually adhered to the true purpose of Lent and spent the six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter giving themselves fully to those things?
Regarding Lent and Easter, a friend wrote, "I think non-liturgical churches have actually lost something by not observing Lent -- like it's been dismissed as "tradition", without considering its spiritual purpose. Easter come and goes too quickly, and I don't think we spend enough time contemplating the Cross and the Sacrifice it symbolizes. We spend far more time preparing for Christmas than we do for Easter, when Easter is the defining moment of Christianity. It's what sets us apart from every other religion."
Many times it seems as if Easter has become more of a tradition than a celebration. Everyone dresses in their finest clothes and for a couple hours set in a church service where they hear the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. But if we're not careful, our attitude can be one of, "I've heard this over and over again! Same old story, same old songs once a year!" But do we really take time to contemplate what we're celebrating, and how important it is to our lives? Do we spend time to ponder and meditate on the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins? Do we truly memorialize the resurrection and its significance to us personally? Or do we just blow it off as a been there, heard that type of story; without allowing it to speak to our hearts anew and reaffirm the precious gift God gave to us, through His Son?
I've appreciated the fact that for the past several weeks, our pastor has been preaching a series of sermons leading up the events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. They have been very thought-provoking and has made me think about what all was taking place prior to the sacrifice on the cross.
This past Sunday, Pastor Phil preached about the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As they drew near the city, Jesus sent two of His disciples on ahead to Bethany saying, "Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?', say, 'The Lord has need of it,' and immediately he will send it here."
So the two disciples obeyed and did as Jesus asked. They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And great multitudes of people spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
When Jesus had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?" So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee."
A couple days later was the Passover, and Jesus and His disciples gathered in the upper room to eat the Passover. It was here that Jesus told them, "Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray me." Judas had already went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. It was this night that Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray. While there, Judas with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came to arrest Jesus.
I've wondered why the multitude with Judas felt the need to arm themselves with swords and clubs. Judas surely knew that it would only have been Jesus and the other eleven disciples there at Gethsemane. He and those with him far outnumbered Jesus and the eleven with Him. But have you ever noticed that those who choose to do evil deeds feel the need to carry weapons? Perhaps they feel it offers them a measure of protection, in case they are confronted or caught. It may cause them to feel a false sense of bravery. It also seems as if most evil acts are also done under the cover of darkness, as was the case here.
Jesus said to the multitudes that had come to take Him, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled."
When Jesus was brought before Pilate we find another multitude of people. Pilate asked, "What do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?" The crowds cried out, "Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they cried out again, "Crucify Him!" Pilate said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate asked, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar."
We see here three multitudes of people. The first were laying their clothes down on the road and waving leafy tree branches as they followed Jesus into Jerusalem. They were crying out, "Hosanna!" The second multitude came, under the cover of darkness, to arrest Jesus. And the third were gathered in front of Pilate crying out, "Crucify Him!"
Jon and I were discussing this and I made the statement that I wonder if any of the same people were in the different crowds. Were some of the same people who were waving branches and crying out, "Hosanna" the same ones who were standing in the streets before Pilate's judgment hall crying out, "Crucify Him"? Jon stated that he imagined there probably were a few who were in both crowds. There are many people who will get caught up in the emotion of the moment, regardless of what it is. If they're with a group of people who are excited about Jesus and worshipping Him, then they'll yell, "Hosanna!" Then a few days later if they're with a crowd who are rioting and wanting to put an end to Jesus, they'll cry out, "Crucify Him!" They'll follow whatever is popular at the moment.
We still see that mentality today; in fact, we can even be a part of it at times, if we're not careful. People get caught up in the emotion of the moment. They want to be wherever the excitement is. They want to be part of the "in" thing. Over the years I've seen trends in churches and in teachings. Churches will change their names to follow the trend and try to draw in more people. I've seen where using the word temple in the name of a church was the "in" thing; then it was not using your denomination in the church name, thinking that that would draw in more people; then it was not calling it a church, but a worship center, etc. I've seen the trend of churches trying to be casual, laid back and people friendly, thinking that will draw individuals in and make them feel more comfortable. "Come as you are" has been a common theme, with churches having cappuccino bars in the foyer. One of my pet peeves is when one preacher/teacher will make an expression popular, so then others imitate them. A common saying for a long time was, "Look at your neighbor and say...." Music in churches will follow various trends. I'm not saying that these things are wrong; but if they are used in place of preaching the complete gospel of Jesus Christ, and are being used to gain popularity or to manufacture excitement, then it can become a gimmick.
As individuals, we can be guilty of crying "Hosanna" one moment and "Crucify" the next; maybe not literally, but in our attitude and general speech. James 3:8-10 says, "But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so."
We can sit in church and sing hymns and give praise to God. Then walk out of that very same service criticizing the pastor or someone in the congregation. We can say, "Oh yes, I want a deeper relationship with God!" but then turn around and busy ourselves with activities that never include time for God. We can raise our hands and sing, "Hosanna!", but then later sit with friends, and if they are complaining or criticizing someone or something regarding the church, we get caught up in the moment and find ourselves taking part in the conversation. We follow the crowd and join in, whether they're saying hosanna or crucify, in order to fit in.
This Easter, let's determine to single-mindedly follow Jesus. Let us not get caught up in hype or the emotion of any particular moment, but rather stay focused on Jesus and what's important. Being part of the crowd isn't always a good thing. It was a very good thing when they were following Jesus and crying, "Hosanna!" But when they began to cry out, "Crucify Him", that was the time to separate themselves from the crowd. Being popular or fitting in, isn't always the right path to choose. Worrying what others will say if we refuse to join in is not reason enough to give in and do something we know to be wrong. And sometimes it may not be that we're participating in the words and saying anything, but we can associate ourselves with the wrong group.
There may have been some who were in the crowd that day when the crowd were crying, "Crucify", that were not taking part or saying anything. They may have been there out of curiosity. Or perhaps there may have been a few who were there because they didn't want anyone to associate them with Jesus, fearing that they might lose their life if anyone knew they were a believer. But there are times when we need to take a stand and not go along with what's popular. We can look guilty by association.
May our hearts be filled with worship and praise as we celebrate our Risen Lord this Easter. Let's truly celebrate and remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. Christ the Lord is risen today -- hallelujah!
I do understand shifting our attitudes. About two months ago, I kept saying, "Sure, we can remodel the bathroom. While we're at it, we should rebuild the pantry and broom closet across from it into one big pantry with a small spot for a broom and mop. It should only take us about six weeks." But now, about eight weeks later, I feel like saying, "We can be done before Easter. If we don't really need a toilet in the bathroom. And if we don't need drawers or shelves in the pantry."
The last couple of weeks, we've been at a point where we see progress in everything we do. But we're also at a point where we need to hurry, and each task we need to do seems to take three times as long as it should based on our schedule. We have to get the tile down, then let it sit 24 hours. Then grout and let that sit 48 hours. Then seal the grout and let that sit for 6 hours. Ah, but we also need to finish the tile before we can do the door trim. And we have to finish the door trim before we can do the baseboards (actually, we're using tile instead of boards, so I'm not sure 'baseboard' is the right word). The baseboards need grout too, so that puts off the sealing, which delays the sink and toilet. I should have been able to do all the door trim and the baseboards in one evening, but of course, the door trim has taken the whole evening.
I tell ya: I sure have a new appreciation for those who have worked two jobs. I can barely handle one and a half for much longer. And if it gets too much, I could take an evening off. It might mean that I don't get the toilet in till Saturday instead of Wednesday. I don't know if I could handle two full-time jobs.
Even with all the hard work and frustrations, we do have an end in sight. It's good to look at it each day and see the progress we've made, and see that we're getting closer to our target. Even as I see the list of 20 tasks go from 2-3 each evening (a week ago) to a list of 13 tasks stacked up to 6-7 each evening, I can see that the list really is shorter. It feels really good to see the effort we put into it paying off.
We can all see good pay-offs in our lives and the lives around us. I suggest everyone find a small church. Do something for the church, and watch the results. You could talk to the pastor or someone in the church to see what they need. Money helps a lot of smaller churches, but they often have more basic needs. Maybe they could use a few hymnals or Bibles to keep in the pews. Or they might need a room cleaned and painted. Or they may just need someone to help take food to a retirement home, and spread God's word. Loretta and I have gotten to do several of these things, and we love hearing the results later. It's more of a blessing to us than having a beautiful bathroom.
Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding (Paula Deen recipe)
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
6-8 bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 (5-oz.) box instant French vanilla pudding
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz.) container frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip), thawed
Line the bottom of a 9x13 by 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies (leave the cookies whole) and layer sliced bananas on top.
In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using an electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Jon shared this story with me recently. I was going to have him write it, but he is extremely busy right now with work and trying to finish the remodeling, so I will hopefully write it the way he told me.
Jon remembers going to his Uncle Lee and Aunt Peggy's home on Easter a few times. They lived out in the country and he loved going there. One year he found a baby rabbit while there and caught it. He was quite proud of himself, thinking he had done something special and unique. He later found out that a few years earlier his dad had caught a baby bunny for his sister, and that his brother had also caught one by himself. It kind of deflated his feeling of pride. He was holding the baby rabbit and carrying it around. Jon's dad told him that they got frightened easily and could have a heart attack, so he needed to be really careful with it. Jon put the rabbit in his shirt pocket and put his hand over it, thinking the baby would feel like it was buried in its underground den. The rabbit fell asleep and Jon carried around for a while. Jon showed his special find to some of his cousins who were there that day, but he wasn't sure any of them were very impressed. Before leaving to go home, he put the baby back where he had found it. Ah, the sweet memories of past Easters!
God doesn't excuse sin, but God does forgive sin. - Pastor Phil Taylor
We love you!
Loretta & Jon