Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Confessions of an Alabama lawbreaker

On December 28, 1991, my wife and I proclaimed our mutual love for one another at Alder Springs Presbyterian Church and formed a covenant with God as man and wife.  We also assumed a legal status in the State of Alabama, and came dangerously close to breaking Alabama law.  You see, at that time, Section 102 of the Alabama State Constitution forbade the marriage of whites and negroes.

Especially not in Alabama.

Fortunately for us, my wife is of Asian ancestry, so the State frowned less upon our mixed race marriage.  I have dear friends, however, who would have been marrying in defiance of the laws of the State of Alabama.

No doubt many astute readers are thinking "That was repealed in 2000."  Indeed 60% of Alabama voters agreed to allow the mixing of races, while 40% voted to hold on to that valued tradition of racial purity.  Yet, I'm not off the hook.

I confess that I've been voting in defiance of Alabama Law.  Section 182, which has not been repealed, forbids the vote to a large array of miscreants, the insane, and those who marry outside their race.  This is triply condemning of miscreants who are crazy enough to marry an Asian chick.

Clearly this dude is unfit to vote.
His wife, however, is smokin' hot.

So, I reluctantly remand myself to the custody of the State of Alabama, to be prosecuted for voter fraud.  I ask that all other so-called law-abiding Alabamians who are voting in defiance of this law also turn themselves over to the law for prosecution.  That includes all idiots, of whom there are plenty, all you adulterers out there, as well as those who have violated the laws of nature.  The Quixotic Iconoclast does not desire specific confession, especially from the latter group.

There is yet one more confession to make.  I have schooled my children with those of other races in defiance of Alabama Law.  Section 256, which has not been repealed, requires that "Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race."

 The illegal multiracial school compound.

I bear particular guilt in this regard because I home school my children.  I freely confess that I have allowed my mixed-race children to school with White children of pure blood.  I have also invited and taught Hispanic and Negro children in our school.  We have even hosted Semite children within our walls in defiance of the laws of the State of Alabama.

I know others of you out there are no doubt feeling pangs of guilt as you realize that you are sending your children to public schools with children of other races.  You are lawbreakers, living here in this State in defiance of the Constitution.  Like me, this guilt is no doubt leading you to turn yourselves over to the State for prosecution.  The practice is rampant in Alabama, I have witnessed this in schools all across our Great State.

One of the many educational institutions
with no respect for the rule of law.

Recently the State of Alabama has gone to great lengths to bring pressure on those who are here in our State illegally, breaking the law.  We are told that "illegal is illegal".  City leaders in Albertville have been very public about their instrumental role in upholding "the rule of law".

I wonder if this love for the law will extend to prosecuting those voters are are marrying interracially, and those parents sending their children to schools with children of other races. Will the city of Albertville, a place zealous for the rule of law and the English language prosecute those who are breaking the law in voting booths and classrooms?  How long, I ask you, will our local governments ignore the rule of law?

"Illegal is illegal."

Might we instead come to realize that Alabama has some stupid laws that should be ignored by anyone who values justice?  Some of those laws were passed long ago, and some quite recently.  Might we realize that there's hardly a soul in Alabama who isn't, probably at this very moment, in violation of one of those stupid laws?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Peacemaking and table-kicking: a guide to conflict resolution.

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

 What does it mean to make peace?  Answering this question is essential for those who want to be called God's children.  How and with whom do we make peace?

This is not the sort of Peacemaker Jesus had in mind.

Clearly, the first place we must make peace is with God, and yet we cannot do that.  We are powerless to satisfy his just grievances against us -our idolatry, adultery, and rebellion are an insult to a Sovereign God.  Yet this very God chose to make peace with us, through the covenant of the blood of Jesus Christ, so that we are clothed in righteousness.  This peace is a gift of undeserved grace, that we must accept in humility.

We don't get to stop there, however.  We must also make peace with one another, and there is no generous gift of grace there for us to claim in most cases.  We end up being in the position of making peace with people that we really don't want to make peace with, and who really don't want to make peace with us.  Yet this is not an option, it a very serious matter:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We cannot be at peace with God if we are unwilling to make peace with his other children.  Any parent will understand this immediately.  I am not at peace with my children when they are hurting one another.

A typical day at my home.

Does making peace mean that we avoid conflict or confrontation?  No.  The scriptures clearly state that we are to confront error and actively work through conflict.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”   His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

This is not gentle Jesus, meek and mild.  This is Jesus kicking over tables, battling against the injustice of those who would twist God's law for their own profit.  This was civil disobedience.

And don't come back, Yo.

If we want to understand peacemaking, we need to understand that Jesus did not avoid conflict, but rather he sought to resolve it.  Peacemaking is an active process, and Jesus gave his people a very simple formula to follow in personal relationships:
“If your brother sins against you,  go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

This is not a Cowboy vigilante system.  This is a system where believers act under authority.  That's much less fun than kicking over tables.  While the Quixotic Iconoclast endorses kicking over tables when the Gospel is perverted, Christians must also understand that Jesus spent a lifetime, and gave his life, to make peace by more, well,  peaceful means.  However, there are still those table-kicking moments:

Poster-children for "I never knew you."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy this!

The "Occupy Wall Street" movement didn't really capture the attention of this quixotic iconoclast at first. They seemed like just another group of latte-sipping hippie-wannabes complaining about a bunch of things.  I mean, back in my day we had real hippies.  Their first manifesto didn't help matters, because it was a seemingly-unconnected list of social grievances:

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

Really, seriously, this is about animal testing and cheeseburgers?  Nothing invites mockery and scorn like condemning the cheeseburger.

Yet, as time has brought out more of their complaints, it seems that not all of them are ridiculous.  I recently got a really good laugh out of this column.  If nothing else, Occupy Wall Street has created comedy gold:

As thousands have gathered in Lower Manhattan, passionately expressing their deep discontent with the status quo, we have taken note of these protests.  And we have asked ourselves this question:
How can we make money off them?
The answer is the newly launched Goldman Sachs Global Rage Fund, whose investment objective is to monetize the Occupy Wall Street protests as they spread around the world.

Capitalism is indeed the engine of our great wealth, and free markets are the best system to bring prosperity to our country.  Yet, if we look at the growing divide between the richest Americans and the working poor, we have to ask ourselves, are the working poor being treated fairly in our society?

"The workman is worthy of his wages" says the Bible, and the scriptures are very, very clear that employers should be fair in paying their workers, and should not exploit them.  At the very least, we need to ask ourselves the question "Is prosperity being divided, or is all of it going unfairly to a few?"

Whether you like it or not, we live in a society that was collectively built. The JP Morgans and Warren Buffets created a lot of affluence, but our society was built by a lot of regular, working-class people. Consider this excerpt from the bio of the most recent recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award our nation can offer to those soldiers who exhibit selfless courage in the face of danger:

When President Barack Obama's staff called Meyer to set up a time for the President to inform him that his case for the Medal of Honor had been approved, Meyer was working at his construction job and asked if they could please call him back when he was on his lunch break, which they later did. Dakota then returned to work.

I have great respect for Warren Buffet and his accomplishments, but no one will convince me that he's done more for our country than Sergeant Meyer. Here's a man who not only rushed headlong into enemy fire to rescue his countrymen (members of our society) but now works building the structures that house our society.

Mr. Buffet has had the opportunity to create his immense wealth because of the sweat and blood of many other Americans. Many people have died defending our free markets, people from every social class. Men and women like Sergeant Meyer risk their lives for our freedom.  Policemen guard the streets that Mr. Buffet walks. Firemen protect his buildings. They are paid by his taxes for their services, but they devote their lives to our society.

If you want to operate in our society, respect the society and be willing to pay the cost of doing business here. Every hand that contributes to the building of it should be able to enjoy the fruit of it. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Life Well Lived

All my thirty-something friends are now forty-something friends.  It’s a time when men do crazy things like grow a pony tail, buy a motorcycle, or get that risqué tattoo they’ve always wanted.  As I’ve considered my own mid-lifeness over the last few years, I realize that we’re looking at our lives and wondering if we’ve really lived them.  There’s a difference between being alive, and really living.  The first is passive -breathing air, eating food, yelling at the television on Saturdays.  The second is active, and that means discovering our purpose in life and living it to the fullest.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

God created each of us for something great.  He gave us passions, desires, and talents to aid us in achieving His great purpose.  It’s not the same for everyone.  In fact it’s very individual.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God has a Master plan, and we are offered a place in that.  Even if we reject God, we cannot thwart his plan.  All we can do is rob ourselves of the joy of being the person we were created to be.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Everyone has a different role in the unfolding saga of our world.  Not everyone is a preacher or teacher.  Not everyone travels to foregin lands to share the Gospel.  Not everyone is a leader, Elder, or Deacon -nor should they be. 

God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

Everyone matters.  Everyone has a part to play.  No one person gets all the credit.

My mother spent many years teaching a children’s Sunday School class.  A lot of people would smile and say “Oh, that’s nice.”  When you look at her class, in an ordinary country Church, you see that it has produced extraordinary fruit -preachers, teachers, missionaries, children who have grown up and spread the Gospel in many places.  Her part made a difference.

I recently was able to witness the harvest, as an Iraqi friend gave his life to Jesus.  There’s no greater thrill than welcoming a new brother or sister into the family.  Yet, I don’t get credit for that.  Others planted.  Others watered.  Others tended.  God brought the harvest.  Another of my friends is interested in Jesus, but nowhere near ready to make any decisions about him.  I’m just tilling the ground.  Others will plant, water, tend, and eventually God will bring fruit in his life.  I pray this for him.

One thing about the forties is that people are often in a rut by now.  We get children, bills, mortgages, entangled relationships -many things that make us feel trapped.  A new morotcycle won’t fix that.  The solution for that is deciding not to live another day wasted.  It’s a commitment to find God’s purpose in our lives, and live for that.

You contain the seed of greatness, placed in you by your creator in the womb.  Where we are right now, in our families and communities, we can find God’s purpose in our lives.  Don’t waste another day wandering aimlessly.  Be the Dad who raises godly children.  Be the woman who comforts the hurting.  Be the faithful encourager of broken spirits.  Be the person who prays faithfully, gives generously, and serves diligently.

It takes more than a decision to commit.  Those fail every year after January first.  It takes life change.  It takes surrendering to God, the maker of our lives and purposes.  It means following Jesus wherever he leads, finding the Holy Spirit at work and joining that.

That is the substance of a life well lived.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A "Flypaper" Ministry

I had a fantastic experience last night at "Best of the Blessed," an annual fundraiser for the Christian Women's Job Corps of Guntersville.  I've attended it every year since it began, and this year my dear brother Mark Brickey was kind enough to invite me to join him at a table sponsored by Sand Mountain Toyota.  The event was hosted by the Church at Lake Guntersville, which has been blessed to do this each year.

If you've never been to this event, make sure you get a ticket next year.  If you're a married man, it makes a fantastic date for your wife -unless your wife is like mine and insists on working.  Of course, having such a wife is a great blessing itself.

 The food was good, as it always has been.  This year they raised the bar by serving on real China, though the settings have always been classy.  The musical talent was diverse and entertaining.  A group from Sweet Home Baptist did a fine job opening, followed by the Church of Christ Chorale -a very talented group.  The First Baptist Pickers did a set of songs that reminded me of my younger days in an old Country Church.

The man whole really set the bar, though, was Zac Hicks.  The boy has talent.  He played acoustical guitar, but used a looping box that allowed him to accompany himself in an ever growing arrangement that ended in a crescendo of sound.  He was literally a one man band, and a very good one.  He even managed to make "Old MacDonald" sound good in an impromptu composition.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Nothing, however, compared to the main event.  Two of the ladies gave their testimonies about how CWJC had "lifted their heads."  Every year we get to hear about the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in this ministry.  Women turn their backs on lives of poverty, drug abuse, crime, abuse, and a whole host of evils.  They choose to follow Jesus Christ and be changed by him.  The two ladies this year both told of how God had brought them out of sin and broken homes, and restored their families.

I had a chance to meet one of the ladies who graduated several years ago when I first served on the Board of Directors.  She and her husband, both strong believers in Jesus, were led by the Lord to sponsor a table for $1,000.  She is now serving as a leader and mentor to other women through CWJC.  Truly God has lifted her up and made her a woman of strength and character.

Someone asked me what keeps drawing people to CWJC, and I answered that the ministry is like flypaper.  Once you touch it you're stuck, there's no getting away.  The work of the Holy Spirit, when it is obvious like this, is not something you can walk away from.  I'm already thinking ahead to a group of women coming to Beirut to set up the first CWJC in Lebanon.  Wouldn't that be great?

My hat is off to Site Coordinator Shelia Banks, who is stealing all the crowns in Glory, and to the many volunteers and leaders who serve in CWJC.  Brenda Hicks has been as blessing there, as she is with everything she touches.  Thank you all for your obedience.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Travel light, Christian

[Jesus] sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic." (Luke 9:2-5)

 What an odd set of instructions for Jesus to give his 12 disciples as he sent them out to spread the Gospel.  He could have told them not to pack a bunch of junk, but this was even more emphatic.  "Take nothing," he said.  Naturally I did a word study on this to better understand it, and "take nothing" actually means "take nothing."  Having failed to dilute this seemingly strange commandment to the 12, I now have to try to understand why such a bold instruction was made.

This is the same Jesus who said "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  He was referring to our needs such as food and clothing.  If I need a staff, I'll find one.  I don't need a bag, because it is used to carry things I don't need.  I don't need to carry extra money, God will provide what I need as the need arises.  I don't need an extra tunic, I can clean this one as I go.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Johnson, who was then Pastor of First Baptist Church in Albertville.  He has since moved on to Boone's Chapel, and the great folks at FBC have another fantastic Pastor, Chris Johnson (oddly, no relation).  FBC Albertville one of the largest congregations in our County.

As Pastor of FBC Albertville,  Mike Johnson lived in a trailer.  Now, it was a nice trailer, but nonetheless his home was brought in on wheels.  It wasn't a salary issue.  Mike is also a successful business man and could have afforded to live in just about any house in town.

Mike chose to live in a trailer, he said, so that if God called him to do so, he could follow right then.

That hit me like a ton of bricks because I am in exactly the opposite situation.  My wife and I own a large poultry farm, a fairly large home, and a mortgage to go with the whole thing.  My chicken contract and mortgage contract are obligations that I must in good faith keep.  While we've never lived extravagantly, we are definitely tied down to the farm.  I should not be.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.

Did you read that, fellow Christian?  "At once" they left their nets.  It was two years ago when Kim and I agreed on God's call in our lives, to go to Lebanon.  Unfortunately, we have a mortgage on our nets, and as the Bible says "the borrower is servant to the lender."  I have to sell my boat and my nets to pay off my mortgage.  I've compared selling a chicken farm to wrestling an octopus.  When you pry a few tentacles off, there's always another one to grab you.

The problem is not what we have, it's whether it has us.  Mike Johnson is not a poor man, but he is a man who is ready to follow God's calling "at once."  I want to be like that.  This has been a painful lesson in some ways, knowing I should be doing something else, but being unable to do it "at once."  I know that God will work out the timing according to his will, but I haven't worked out my part according to his will.

No more debt, or contract entanglements, will keep me from being able to follow God's will in my life.  This is my last round wrestling the octopus.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Leviticus 19:33  Don't mistreat any foreigners who live in your land.  Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. 

So often we forget the simple lessons of God's Word, and get caught up in our own idea of wisdom.  Such is the case with the way the people of Alabama, and our government, are treating illegal aliens.  In order to understand the application of this part of God's Law, we must first understand the principle of Two Kingdoms.

John 18:36  Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

The central message of Jesus was the Kingdom of God.  Many of his most famous parables begin with "The Kingdom of God is like..."  Yet, no matter how much he preached and taught about the Kingdom of God, he couldn't get people to let go of the kingdom of this world.  There's a reason that the kingdom of this world is so alluring, so powerful.  It is the kingdom of Satan himself.

1 John 5:19  We are certain that we come from God and that the rest of the world is under the power of the devil.

But Jesus came to rescue us from the "Prince of this World".  He came to show us a better Kingdom, a kingdom based on his Laws, not the laws of man.  As we live in this world, there will always be a tension between the Law of God and the law of man.

John 12:31  Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.

So, where does our allegiance lie?  When those Kingdoms collide, how does a believer respond to that?  We cannot expect the government to respond in a Christ-like manner, but shouldn't that be our response as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, citizens of his Kingdom?  He bought our citizenship with his own blood.  Why, then, do so many Christians put their allegiance in the law of man?

Leviticus 19:33  Don't mistreat any foreigners who live in your land.  Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

God's Kingdom knows no boundaries of citizenship or nation.  Lines drawn on the ground by men can never be the basis for how we respond to those in need.  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are taught that our neighbor is the person we find in need.  We are to love that person without regard to legal documentation.  They are to be treated just as we treat citizens.  Any other response is disobedience to God's Law.

If you, Christian, spend more time worrying about deporting illegal immigrants than you spend sharing the Gospel with immigrants, loving them as yourself, to which Kingdom do you belong?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

John, Beloved of Jesus -an Easter Message

Good morning, Haney's Chapel, I have good news for you. Jesus is alive! I saw it myself! I have a message to share with you this morning that will change your life, a story about Jesus. Your pastor asked me to come and share my story with you. I know that you’ll all be glad of a break from his preaching.

I was fishing when I met Jesus. My brother James and I had put in our fishing boat and were cleaning our nets. I heard our partner Simon Peter calling to us from out in the lake, telling us to come out and fish. I thought he was nuts, but we went out and caught so many fish that the boat almost sank. It was the catch of a lifetime, but that was nothing compared to the man in the boat with Peter.

He didn’t look like much, really. I’ve seen pictures of him in your Churches looking all handsome and well groomed. He didn’t look like that. He was… swarthier, more… wild in a way. You wouldn’t think anything special about him just to look at him.

But when he spoke, I was awestruck. His voice had power, his words were.. words of life. I can remember what he told us when we got off the boats. “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”

I dropped everything and followed him. You would have, too. He was just that way.

There are so many things I could tell you about him, many stories, but I’ll tell you this one that swells my heart every time I think of it.

We were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths. Jesus had gone to the outer courts of the Temple one morning to teach the people. Some Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery. They asked Jesus whether she should be stoned as the law commanded.

I was afraid for Jesus, because if he said yes, then the Romans might arrest him for causing trouble, since the Romans didn’t allow us to stone people. If he said no, then the people would think he feared the Romans more than God. I wondered what he would say.

Like he always did, Jesus chose another option, a better answer. He told the men standing there that the one without sin should cast the first stone.

All of them walked away. I would have. You would have. Jesus was the only one worthy to throw a stone. It was his right to throw it. But, he chose mercy. That was his heart. He didn’t deny sin. He didn’t deny the law. But, he loved mercy and he loved merciful hearts.

She deserved to die, sure, but so do I. So do you. But his last words to her were “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” He loved people, and he hated what sin did to hurt them.

He talked about love all the time, especially that last week. I can remember him over and over again saying that the one who loves him is the one who obeys him.

A new command I give you” He said. “Love one another. You have to love each other just like I’ve loved you. People will know that you really are following me if you love each other.”

He didn’t just talk about love, he lived love. I remember the time when Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you want to do it, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I want to,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Jesus was my best friend. He taught me about how to really love people like a brother. What I learned from him was this” Loving other people doesn’t have anything to do with other people. It’s about me and God. If I love God, I’ll love the people he loves.

Have you ever been around someone who knew that he was about to die? When people know it’s coming, they spend their last precious minutes talking about important things. I remember the Passover with Jesus, the night that he was betrayed. He talked about a lot of important things, mostly about love.

He wanted us to remember his teachings and obey them. He said “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” I didn’t think about it until later, but he was telling me that I’m at home obeying his commandments. When I’m not obeying him, I’m like someone who has run away from home.

Jesus told us that he was going away to make a place for us, and that he’d come back again and take us to be with him. It was scary to think of being without Jesus after spending three years of my life with him. He comforted us with a promise . “I will not leave you as orphans;” he said, “I will come to you.”

But that wasn’t his greatest promise. The best was yet to come. He promised us a Counselor, a spirit of truth that would speak the words of Jesus to us. I didn’t understand what it meant when he said it, but he was talking about the Holy Spirit. The Counselor, The Holy Spirit, came to us at Pentecost, after Jesus had gone to the Father. Now my heart, and the hearts of all believers, are the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus walked among men a few at a time, but his Holy Spirit dwells everywhere at once in the hearts of his children.

He prayed for us, that God would watch over us. That prayer helped me through some hard times. I thought about it often when I was exiled on the Isle of Patmos. I thought about it when Peter was crucified. God has removed the sting and fear of death. He has brought meaning to death. I’m ready for it when it comes.

Jesus prayed for you, too. The prayer meant so much to me that I wrote it down in my Gospel that I wrote to the Churches. I want to read it to you.

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Unity. Love. Remember this, Haney’s Chapel. When Jesus prayed for you, he didn’t pray for better music, or a bigger building. He didn’t pray for more activities. He didn’t pray for good preaching. Maybe he should have… He prayed for unity and love. Count yourself rich when you are rich in unity and love. First Methodist has a daycare, but Jesus didn’t pray for that. First Baptist has a bus, but Jesus didn’t pray for that. Unity and love. Hold onto those things with all your might, because they are dear to the heart of Jesus. That was his prayer for you on the night he went to die.

I’ll never forget the arrest in the garden. Jesus had been praying, and the traitor Judas brought some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They told him that they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus said “I AM”. They fell backwards at the power of the name. He spoke it to Moses through the burning bush, and it spoke it in the garden that night. It was then that I understood, he’d had his eye on the cross the whole time.

He didn’t go with them because he had to go. He could have wiped them out with just a thought. In fact, he could have stopped willing them to exist, and they would have disappeared. His divine will holds all of creation in existence, and he kept them alive even as they carried him off to die.

He had some sham trials, none of them done according to the law. No one could find anything that he had done wrong, but finally they accused him of blasphemy for telling them the truth. They took him to Pilate to be executed, but Pilate found him innocent. Pilate would have released him, but God’s will was for Jesus to die. For me. For you.

You see, it was the Passover season when Jesus died. We remember the blood of the lamb that saved us from death. Jesus is the lamb of God, the passover lamb, and his blood saves us from sin and death. Rivers of blood of goats and rams flowed across the altar at the Temple, and yet the law was never fulfilled. Jesus did it once for all of us, and his blood was spilled one time to set all of us free.

Jesus carried his cross up to the hill of the Skull to be crucified. It’s a long and painful story, but you can read it in Mark and Matthew’s Gospels, or the Gospel written by Peter’s disciple -the historian Luke.

I brought his mother Mary to the cross. He gave her into my care. What an honor it was for him to trust me with that. I hope that I can always do my best for the people that he loves and places in my care. I hope that you will, too.

I’ve told you this story so that I can tell you the ending. Joseph of Arimathea took him down from the cross just before sunset when the Sabbath began, and buried him in his own tomb. The religious leaders were suspicious and had guards posted to make sure that none of us bothered the tomb. If they had known how scattered and confused we were, they probably wouldn’t have bothered. His death was hard for all of us. We didn’t think it would really happen.

After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women went to the tomb. They were going to ask permission to finish his burial preparations. Joseph had been in a hurry on Friday and wasn’t able to put on enough wrappings and salts. She came running to Peter and me and told us that the tomb was open. She thought that the Romans or the religious leaders had moved his body.

Both of us ran to the tomb. I got there just ahead of Peter and looked inside. I saw his burial wrappings lying on the floor, but I didn’t go inside. I didn’t know what it meant. Peter was always a bit bolder than the rest of us, he ran inside and found the burial cloth folded up on the table. Who would steal a body and fold up the cloth? It was like a bed that was made in the morning when person wakes up. I went in after Peter and looked around. It was hard to believe, but Jesus was gone. Peter and I went back home, and we talked about it the whole way back, but we couldn’t figure out who would have done it.

Mary, bless her, came running along later and told us that she had seen Jesus. Her story was strange, but then all of this was strange. She had seen an angel and spoke to Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him at first. Mary said that he looked different somehow, but couldn’t explain it, but she knew his voice. When she said that I thought of what he said about being a good shepherd, and that his sheep know his voice.

Do you know his voice? If he spoke to you, would you know it was him? Are you his sheep? Or are you just hanging with the flock?

I knew that something great was happening, but I didn’t know what. Some of the others didn’t know whether to believe Mary, but then Monday evening it happened. We were hiding for fear of being arrested, and he came to us. The Lord was risen! Mary knew it on Sunday, perhaps her faith was stronger, but now all of us knew it. We could all have celebrated the first Easter if we had placed enough faith in him, but Mary celebrated it alone.

He sent us out, and breathed the Holy Spirit on us. I saw him again a few times before he went up to heaven. He wanted to encourage us, to empower us to go. That’s why I’m here. He sent me to tell you this story, and the Good News. Your sins were placed on him at the cross. Your death was on him in the grave. Your eternal life begins when you accept the risen Lord. Listen to his voice, and follow him. He is risen, Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hosanna, a Palm Sunday Sermon

This is a Sermon I gave several years ago on Palm Sunday. I'd like to share it with you as we go into Holy Week together, anticipating the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Hopefully by now all of you have a palm frond in your hand. If you don’t there should be a few more available. We’re going to use this in today’s interactive sermon, so keep it handy.

A little boy named Bobby was sick one day and couldn’t go to Church. When his family got home, they all had palm fronds. When he asked his sister what it was all about, she said “All the people laid these down in front of Jesus when he rode in on a donkey.” He frowned and said “Just great, the one Sunday that I miss Church, and Jesus shows up! Did he give out donkey rides?”

I believe that Jesus is here among us today, and I believe that he is still worthy of our worship. I want to share first with you the story of Palm Sunday as it is written in John chapter twelve. You can turn in your Bible to read the passage.

Jesus had come into the city to celebrate the Passover. This was a great holy day among the Jewish people to commemorate their deliverance from the death angel sent by God to kill the firstborn of Egypt. Jesus spent the last week of his life in the city of Jerusalem in the time leading up to the Passover feast.

News of his coming had spread among the people, and a great multitude gathered at the gates of Jerusalem to honor and welcome him. Jesus sent some of his disciples to get a donkey so that he could ride it into the city. This was an ancient sign of a King coming in peace.

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Blessed is the King of Israel!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

The people of Israel welcomed Jesus as their King! It wouldn’t last, mind you, but for this one moment Jesus got the welcome that was his. I’d like for us to give him that welcome today. Would each of you please take out your Baptist Hymnal and turn to number 682? I grew up in an independent Presbyterian Church where there were no responsive readings, but I’ve grown to like the idea. These in the Baptist Hymnal are especially good because they are scriptural, and they talk about important doctrines of our Baptist faith. I’ll read the parts in normal print, and then we’ll all read the parts in bold print together.

[Responsive Reading on the Triumphal Entry]

Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is our King!

I’d like for us to look at who Jesus was today, and I’d like for us to worship him together. Today’s sermon is going to be interactive. You keep your palm frond ready. Whenever you hear me say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” I want you to wave that palm frond and say “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.” “Hosanna” literally means “save us” but it is used as a form of praise to the one who can save. Effectively it means “You can save us.”

The waving of the palm fronds originated at the Jewish feast of the booths. This was a feast to celebrate the harvest. It was one of three feasts that Jewish men were required to observe in Jerusalem by God. The people would wave the fronds as Psalms 113 through 118 were recited. I’d like to start off by reading Psalm 113 and then finishing with Psalm 118. While both of them are praises to the Lord, Psalm 118 points us directly toward Jesus.

When I say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” you’ll say what?

[“Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.”]

Psalm 113

1 Praise the LORD.

Praise, O servants of the LORD,

praise the name of the LORD.

2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,

both now and forevermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,

the name of the LORD is to be praised.

4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,

his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God,

the One who sits enthroned on high,

6 who stoops down to look

on the heavens and the earth?

7 He raises the poor from the dust

and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

8 he seats them with princes,

with the princes of their people.

9 He settles the barren woman in her home

as a happy mother of children.

Praise the LORD.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Psalm 118

22 The stone the builders rejected

has become the capstone;

23 the LORD has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 O LORD, save us;

O LORD, grant us success.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.

From the house of the LORD we bless you.

27 The LORD is God,

and he has made his light shine upon us.

With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession

up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks;

you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

his love endures forever.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD

Let’s talk some more about Jesus.

Romans 5

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He died for our sins! When no one else would care about us, he gave it all for us. We don’t deserve anything but the punishment for our sin. But Praise God he took that away from us on the cross and gave us a new life! Thanks to Jesus you can live free from guilt and condemnation. That’s worth some praise!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

1 Peter 1

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,

He defeated death! When this life is over, death is not the end. We have eternal life in the presence of God because death has no hold on us. Praise God, we have an eternal life –an inheritance that will never spoil or fade. That’s worth some praise!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Revelation 22

12“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

He is coming again for us! When the dark powers of the world are ready to defeat God’s people, all hope is not lost. Praise God, Jesus is coming again! This time he won’t be born in a barn and laid in a feed trough. He won’t be spit upon, beaten and cursed. He won’t be shamed and crucified. He is coming again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! That’s worth some praise!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Matthew 23

37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

I want you to spend this week thinking about what Jesus Christ has done in your life. Do you have something to praise him for? Has he done something powerful in your life? If you can’t think of anything to praise him for, get something! Don’t waste another day wondering what life could be like. Ask Jesus today to give you new life, and something worth some praise!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!