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The story of Palm Sunday, following the chronology of John’s gospel, records Jesus’ entering into Jerusalem, the Holy City, city of prophets and kings, site of God’s temple, just before Jesus’ passion and death.

Crowds excited by the news of Lazarus raised from the dead welcomed him. Some were natives of Jerusalem, some pilgrims for the Passover from other parts of the world, some his disciples now convinced of his extraordinary power. Most misunderstood him still.

“God save the Son of David!” they cried, casting coats and palm branches before him as he approached the city gates. They wanted a new David to breathe life into their nation. Wearing David’s mantle he could liberate them this Passover, the feast of Jewish liberation.

John’s gospel records that Jesus rejected the call to be their warrior king. Mounting a young donkey, he rode into Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy of Zephaniah: “Fear not, Daughter of Sion, your king is coming, mounted on a donkey’s colt.”

Not a fearsome warrior, he was the humble king the prophet described. In Jerusalem he would open his arms to the poor outcasts of the world.

“At the time his disciples did not understand this…” John concludes.

Prayer:

And do we yet understand,

Lord Jesus,

as the year go by

and we hear the story again?

Can a poor man on a donkey

dying like a slave

succeed?

We like success so much,

the kind you feel and touch

and put your hands on

right away.

What success

can anyone find

in a Cross?

Or is there success

in faithfulness?

When you can say:

“Your will be done!”

“Father, forgive them.”

Like the two from Emmaus

we hope for easy gain.

Come walk at our side,

and tell us what matters most,

O Lord.

Based on Meditations and Prayers by Victor Hoagland, C.P.

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Finding A Resurrection Faith

by John van de Laar © 2010 Sacredise

This article was written for the South African Methodist Newspaper – The New Dimension – and will appear in its April issue.

Are you a risk-taker or a “play-it-safe”er? Does your faith lead you into risky, transforming encounters with the Risen Christ, or into safe, predictable sameness? In an interview, author Len Sweet reflected on the risky business of travelling to church, often in cars or taxis moving at a hundred kilometres an hour, with little more than a few feet between us and the other vehicles. But, when we arrive at church, we play it safe, resisting anything unpredictable or challenging. It’s like we trust the other drivers on the road, Sweet says, more than we trust God’s Spirit in our worship.

Yet, the Bible calls for a different church. The writer to the Hebrews, teaching about faith and judgement, offers these words: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Our worship is intended to do just this – each week we gather and place ourselves into the hands of the Living God, inviting God to do with us as God desires. As the writer Annie Dillard said, if we really understood what we are doing in church, we would hand out crash helmets at the door!

It’s important that we embrace this fearful unpredictability in our worship, and not resist it. Life is not safe. It is challenging, painful, unpredictable, glorious and surprising, and a safe faith can never sustain us through it. Rather, we need a faith that strengthens us and empowers us to enter fully into life’s glorious mystery.

Where is such a faith to be found? We find it when we encounter the resurrected Christ. This is not always a comforting experience – as we read the Gospels we discover that the disciples were often afraid when faced with the Risen Jesus. But it offers life that even death cannot quench.

If we are to follow Christ into adventurous faith, we need at least two things. The first is to believe, not just in our heads, but with our whole lives, that Jesus really is a tomb-breaker. We say the words “Christ is risen” so easily, but it’s a frightening proclamation. Resurrection means that we lose control. All the rules change, death is no longer the end, and we are no longer able to predict where life may lead us. We are faced with a God who refuses to remain buried in tombs – or even in our little boxes of law, doctrine, habit or preference.

If we are to embrace the tomb-breaking God, then we must also embrace a life of constant learning. This is the second thing we need. In the resurrection encounters Jesus does not make it easy for his followers. It’s like a game of “hide and seek” with Jesus constantly appearing in different places and ways. The disciples have to let go of what they think they know, and adopt the humility of children, becoming students of the Resurrected One. This learning never ended for them, and it can never end for us.

So, as we worship in the glory of resurrection, let’s resist the temptation to make church a “safe” place. Let’s allow the creativity and the Spirit of God to surprise and disturb us. Let’s open our hearts and minds to new ways of learning from the Risen Christ. And let’s be a people who are driven by worship out of the safety of our buildings and into all the places in our world where resurrection is so desperately needed.

http://tinyurl.com/ylqsh59    

(Link to author, John van de Laar’s blog)

As many of my friends and followers of this blog may be aware, I am contemplating a massive change in my life, a change that will put me “on the road again” to missionary ministry. In my early adulthood, I had the wondrous privilege of being a missionary in Bolivia and Argentina, but since 1988, my life has been lived in the U.S. In the next few weeks, I will come to a final conclusion and decision about my life in the near future… will I continue to live and work in the United States, or move my “tent” to Panama? Where and how is the Spirit of God moving me?

The strangeness of my world is the very real possibility that once again, I will live my life with and in Christ in the context of a Latin American country and culture. In many ways, I have lived in “tents” so long that I don’t have a permanent place of belonging. The nomadic existence I have experienced seemingly all my life has often perplexed me, haunted me, and challenged me. It has left me feeling rootless and homeless.

Jesus too was homeless. He too experienced life with the sense of homelessness, saying in Matthew 8 and Luke 9, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus wanted his followers, and he wants me today, to understand that to follow him means to experience change. Sometimes this means a painful break with the way things have always been. Such a break “can lead to a renewal of the ability to sense the wind of the Spirit, and a renewal of a living and dynamic relationship with our God. . . In the Christian community, the power to change, to make a break with the past, comes from the Holy Spirit. The activity of the Holy Spirit is not the preservation of the status quo, but newness, change, vitality and transformation. This power enables us to be what God wants us to be. Through the Spirit, we see where changes need to be made; through the Spirit we receive the power to make those changes. The call of the gospel is to ‘live the future,’ as painful as it is to let the past go.” (p. 25, The Road Home)

So, my question is, how do I hold my tent down when I’m feeling the strong gale winds of change assail me. How do I cope with the looming, changing direction of my life?

My fearful self, my “I’d rather nothing change too much”-self, my “lack of faith”-self says, “Lord, put down the stakes. Stake down my tent here, Lord, where I am, and let me encounter a new way to serve you right here. I don’t really want to experience more change.” But deep in my heart, I hear the Spirit say, “Away… upward, glide with the wind! I’ll keep you safe on the winds of change, and bring your tent down to a new space to breathe my presence and feel my protection. You will not only remain alive in the midst of change; you will be fulfilled by it.”

“Change is only a moment’s pain between familiarity and familiarity” writes author Sara Covin Juengst. Although the changes that God allows in our lives may be painful, may even be seemingly tragic, the pain does not last. And his loves holds us and keeps us safe during the transitions between “the old securities to which we want to cling and the new freedoms that will become familiar through the gift of grace. The gift of grace enables us (me) to see change as a positive happening, to accept and even cherish it.” (p. 38, The Road Home)

Lord, as I wander
on the road again,
as I am swept up by the
winds of change,
watch over me, You who
blow over me.
Guide me as I pitch
my tent; make clear
the steps I take.
Bring me to my journey’s end
with the stakes of my tent
driven deep into your ever-faithful
heart of love.

(Brief quotations from The Road Home: Images for the Spiritual Journey; Sarah Covin Juengst)

The story of the banquet is found in Luke 14:7-11. Jesus attends a Sabbath feast and notices how everyone comes into the room jockeying for the most honored seats. He warns them not to. Better to take the last place and be invited up, rather than presume the honored one and have to be moved down. He finishes with one of his favorite lines, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Whenever we set ourselves to be honored above others, or promote our own influence, people only become a tool to our own ends and real life and real love cease. They came into the party with their eyes glued on the head-table.

Who wouldn’t? Banquets are designed to draw attention to the front of the room and celebrate the most-honored guests. And few people walk in without wishing they could have that place of honor so that others would know how important they are.

I don’t think Jesus’ point was to take the last place as a way to get to what you think is first place. Maybe his point was that the last place in a room is really the best place to enjoy him and love others in a way that is meaningful and transforming.

I don’t know of a story that better answers all of our how-to questions. How do I find relationship, fellowship, or an outlet for my creative expression? Instead of looking for what we don’t have, Luke 14 invites us into the space of responding to God’s working right where we are. Rather than having to make something happen by our own wisdom or ingenuity, the path to God’s life comes by loving the people he has already put before us, applying our gifts to their needs. I’m convinced that will create opportunity enough for whatever God wants to give us and what he desires us to share with us.

(Excerpts from “How Do I…” Article in BodyLife newsletter, March 2010, by Wayne Jacobsen)

Attitude Of Service

To be an inspirational leader, you must adopt an attitude of service toward those you lead. This requires laying aside selfish interests to add value to another person. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” When you serve, you awaken something magnetic inside of you. People are drawn to follow you because they know you’ll find ways to make them better.

Affirmation

To inspire means to have a positive view of others. If we’re not careful, we become fault-finders, magnifying the flaws in everyone around us. Instead, leaders should emulate gold prospectors—always on the lookout for potential gold mines. When they find traces of ore, prospectors assume there’s a rich vein to unearth, and they start digging. Likewise, leaders ought to search for the best traits within a person and commit to uncovering them. Focusing on a person’s strengths inspires them by promoting confidence, growth, and success.

Attentiveness

Great inspirers know the desires of those they lead. As much as people respect the knowledge and ability of their leaders, these are secondary concerns for them. They don’t care how much their leaders know until they know how much their leaders care. When leaders attend to the deeply felt needs of their team, the determination and commitment of each team member skyrockets.

Availability

Leaders inspire by intentionally investing time in the people they lead. They make themselves available. People cannot be nurtured from a distance or by infrequent spurts of attention. They need a leader to spend time with them—planned time, not just a conversation in passing.

In our fast-paced and demanding world, time is a leader’s most precious commodity. While it feels costly to give up, nothing communicates you value a person more than the gift of your time. Also investing time to develop others has a way of reaping dividends. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Authenticity

To inspire, leaders have to be genuine. Followers want to believe in and trust their leaders. However, when leaders break promises or fail to honor commitments, they reveal themselves as being inauthentic, and lose credibility. Trust rests upon a foundation of authenticity. To gain trust, a leader must consistently align words and deeds, while showing a degree of transparency.

Summary:   Inspiring is more of a process than an event. It’s more than a brilliant speech; it’s cultivating habits of brilliance that manifest themselves daily.

Adapted from John Maxwell’s “5 Attributes of an Inspirational Leader”

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