For Small Groups: Palm Sunday.

John 12:12-19

The crowds on Palm Sunday worshipped with great zeal, passion, and enthusiasm.  But they lacked knowledge and submission, and so they quickly turn on Jesus. 

Here’s a question for you:  where are you lacking in your worship?

  1. Are you lacking zeal? We are commanded to worship God with shouts, claps, all the sorts of things you’d do when your favorite sport team wins.  Is your worship lacking passion, energy, and enthusiasm?
  2. Are you lacking knowledge? Do you know that you don’t know and never will?  This side of heaven we’ll never figure Jesus out entirely.  Do you embrace this truth?  Or are you spending too much time trying to figure Jesus out before you worship him?
  3. Are you lacking submission?  Are you submitted to Jesus’ reign in every area of your life?  We all make mistakes and we are frail, that’s for sure. But is there any area in your life where you are willfully and continually resisting Jesus’ reign?

Sermon Re-Cap: Palm Sunday

John 12:12-19

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 

The crowds hail Jesus:  “You are our King.”  Jesus responds:  “I am your King.”  This is a wonderful moment of agreement and celebration.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long.  What happened? On closer examination, there’s not as much agreement on Palm Sunday as we’d hoped.

The crowd hails Jesus as the warring King: “You are our King, and so go to war for Israel.”  Jesus displays himself as the peaceful King: “I am your King, bringing peace to the nations.”

Who is King?  Everyone agrees it’s Jesus. How should he reign? There’s no agreement there. The zeal, the passion, the enthusiasm for Jesus on Palm Sunday was real.  Unfortunately, that zeal lacked knowledge (what kind of king?) and submission (his ways will be my ways).

Black, White, and Gray.

From Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh

It’s spring break week here at the University of Connecticut.  And while it doesn’t feel anything like spring, new things are still happening.  Even in the midst of the “old”, there is still “new.”

Historically, the Roman Catholic church just saw an unprecedented and historical thing happen; the pope resigned.  Out with the “old” and in with the “new” (kind of!).  The world waited to see who the new pope would be over the course of a few days.  Would the smoke be black or white?  Who would be the next in line to be such a world-renowned leader?
Today, as I walked on campus to the building I work in, I looked up and saw gray smoke.  Well, it was probably steam, but work with me on this.  I saw gray.  Hence, the application: the things that life is made of are not always black and white.  In this, there is concurrent peace and insanity and everything in between, all rolled in to one.
And I think that life has gotten grayer as I’ve gotten older.  I know my hair certainly has!  But the thought came to me as I looked up to see the gray cloud ascend- my God is good with gray.  He’s comfortable with it.  He knows what to do with it, even when I don’t.  He comes in all shades of color and light, too.  He is multi-faceted, like a diamond.
Black and white can seem easy sometimes.  It seems that way now.  It seems that this season of life is more gray than anything.  If God is good with it, I can be, too.  I can rest in His unfailing love, revelation, and kindness.  And I can look forward to more colors appearing…like the ones to come on Resurrection Sunday when He bursts forth from the tomb.
What a colorful world we live in.

The Walking Dead.

The story of Lazarus being raised from the dead is perhaps one of the most powerful in the gospels, in the Bible, in Western Civilization, even. The image of the stone being pushed away from the tomb and Lazarus hopping out, still wrapped in grave clothes is one of those images that’s been impressed on my mind, something that comes up in artwork, in poetry, in different incarnations and different interpretations. And ultimately, it’s Jesus’ final sign that leads to his crucifixion. In this story, we see Jesus’ power, and we see his humanity: he raises a man from the dead, but he also weeps at the death of his friend and the grief death causes.

But this story also echoes something Jesus said earlier in John, something that upset the Pharisees and religious authorities. Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and now is here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. John 5:25

I had never noticed it before, but this is what literally happens with Lazarus; Jesus says his name, he calls for his friend to come out of the tomb, and his friend lives after he hears the voice of the Son of God. But this earlier, more cryptic explanation of his purpose and his glory, is not limited to the already dead.

Jesus is telling us we’re all dead. We’re dead where we stand. We think we’re “living” our lives, but really, we’re no better than Lazarus outside of Jesus. The present reality for people who don’t know Jesus is death, essentially. It is at the sound of his voice, calling us, that we’re brought to life. We need to hear his voice.

This is easy to lose sight of for me. I get bogged down in the “death” things more often than not: my problems, my job, my needs, my desires and dreams, my material goods, my preoccupations, my struggles, my passions, my interests. And these things aren’t evil necessarily, but they aren’t life-giving on their own. But I start thinking that these things are what life is. And when that’s what I’m most consumed by, I don’t really “hear” from Jesus, through no fault of his.

One of our next steps for this week was to be like Lazarus: to die in order to really live. True enough. As Paul says in Romans 6:4:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

This newness of life is ongoing. In the same way that death is not a single moment, but a continued state, so is a new life in Christ. It is a present state and a future promise.

I suppose the thing I still haven’t completely wrapped my mind around and that I still don’t really know how to implement is a living life that is actually listening to Christ, that hears his call to “Come out” of the tomb and stay out. It’s been difficult for me to see that this present state is wholly living, and not one that’s trapped between the tomb and life.

I don’t think that when one follows Christ that one could get pulled back into the tomb and closed in against one’s will. But sometimes I think that one can follow Christ and still have a rotting limb. Maybe this is just my personal experience, but even just living in a broken world, it seems impossible to get away from death and sin. What’s worse: I often find myself to be source of it.

My questions are: What do we do to die to ourselves and live in Christ? Is this something that starts with that initial acceptance that without Christ we’re dead, but has to happen over and over? How can we hear his voice and his commands more clearly, even from the inside of the tomb?

What I learned about Jesus from Dale Gribble.


From Steve Bell.

We’re King of the Hill fans at the Bell household.  My kids are grown but I miss dinners where our entire conversation consisted of lines from the show.

In season 3, Bill has a breakdown of sorts and Hank and the boys look after him in shifts. It begins to wear on all of them and Dale finally complains and says, “Hank, you know it’s not in my nature to care about others.

This struck me from the moment I heard it.  So much so, that I began to use it as a deflection when people would thank me.  After I’d helped the old lady across the street, or after I’d pushed the pregnant mom and her stroller from the path of a speeding car full of bank robbers, they’d thank me profusely and I’d say, “It’s not in my nature to care about others.”

This didn’t work so well, so I stopped.  It wasn’t worth the time to explain the cultural reference and it was a little less than gracious response.

But uttering the words brought it home to me.  It’s not in my unredeemed nature to care about others.  Thankfully I have been redeemed through Christ and it changes everything.

The great thing about growing in Christ is that our behavior becomes instinctive.  We spend less time thinking about the right thing, we just do it. The more we do it, the less difficult the decisions become.

I have less trouble doing the right thing than I used to.  But maybe I can learn to offer a more gracious response when people thank me. My grandfather had a habit of slipping me dollar bills whenever he saw me and I wasn’t sure what I should say.  My Mom said, “Just take them and say thank you.”

So that’s my new approach- take the compliments and say Thank You.  But I sure do miss the confusion on people’s faces…