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Archive for March, 2010

“People still love Jesus for what they want him to do for them, not necessarily what his heavenly Father sent him to Earth to do.”
— Marv Knox, “Baptist Standard

Here’s a Palm Sunday reflection that Marv Knox, the excellent editor of the Baptist Standard, wrote back in 2003. And thanks to L.K. — from whom we posted a prior Palm Sunday reflection this morning, for bringing it to us:
(Art by Jan Richardson; see more at her blog The Painted Prayerbook.)

April 7, 2003
Palm Sunday crowd got words right, meaning wrong
___If you love irony, Palm Sunday’s for you.

___This coming Sunday, one week before Easter, Christians around the globe will remember Jesus’ short trip from Bethany to Jerusalem five days before his crucifixion.

___We call it Palm Sunday because of what happened during that trip. The scene crystallized in my mind when I was no more than 5 or 6. Our Sunday School teacher held up a painting of Jesus riding bareback on a colt. What caught my eye were all the other people. I loved how happy they looked as they worshipped Jesus. They lined both sides of the trail ahead of him. Faces radiant, they laid palm branches–symbols of military victory–in the road to make the passage smoother for the Lord.

___Their expectant words, echoing Psalm 118, have reverberated down through the generations: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

___For centuries, Christians have called this trip Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. To the contrary, it was a parade of pain. Only Luke records that Jesus wept when the journey ended. Not because the party was over, but because the people just didn’t get it. “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace,” the Lord said, “but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

___No, they didn’t know what would bring them peace. How could all those people be so nearly right and so completely wrong?

___On the surface–the view from that Sunday School painting for children–Palm Sunday seems wonderful. A smiling, cheering throng lining the road as Jesus journeys to Jerusalem. They shout words we know to be true: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” That’s our Savior they’re talking about. We know he not only “comes in the name of the Lord” but is indeed Lord. We know he not only is “King of Israel” but King of all creation. We wish we could’ve been there, to join that happy crowd, to glimpse Jesus.

___But those palm fronds give away the bitter, ironic truth. Sure, the crowd cut them down and laid them in the road to smooth his path. But they might as well have thrown stones at his pony, for all the good they did him.

___The palm branches signaled their expectation of a military victory. Here they were, captive in their own homeland. Foreign soldiers ordered and organized their society. The boot of Rome crushed their necks. These people came out to cheer for Jesus, the miracle-working rabbi from Nazareth, because they wanted him to overthrow their oppressors. They expected Jesus to lead an uprising of military and political liberation, not to lay down his life as a spiritual sacrifice for Romans as well as Jews.

___The Palm Sunday crowd loved Jesus for what they expected him to be, not for what he was. That “love” evaporated between Sunday morning, when he rode into Jerusalem, and Thursday night, when the Roman and Jewish leaders collaborated to try him for treason. Even his hand-picked followers, who had spent three years watching him perform miracles and listening to him teach, fled in fear.

___Vanity tempts us to judge them harshly. We know “the rest of the story”–yes, he died on a Roman cross later that week, but he arose from the grave the following Sunday and defeated death, offering eternal life to all who will believe in him. So, we condemn their hard-hearted spiritual blindness. We can’t understand why they couldn’t get it.

___Ironically, not all that much has changed in 2,000 years. People still love Jesus for what they want him to do for them, not necessarily what his heavenly Father sent him to Earth to do, which was to offer spiritual healing to all people, eternal life to “whosoever will” embrace him in faith.

___Like the crowd who lined the road from Bethany to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, we’re tempted to succumb to the selfish chromosome in our human DNA. We want to turn Jesus into a national mascot, a denominational totem, a personal genie. Like they did so long ago, we still project our desire upon God’s will and proclaim it to be the truth. But if they were wrong, we might be too.

___Put it this way: How often have you heard someone claim to know the absolute “will of the Lord” when that divine will didn’t also happen to be in the best interest of the one making the proclamation? That may run true to human nature, but it runs counter to the spirit of Christ. Yet we live in an age when everyone from politicians to pundits to preachers claims holy sanction for personal agendas.

___This Palm Sunday, we need to remember the crowd that lined Jesus’ path. We need to remember the palm branches and allow them to remind us how little that crowd understood Jesus’ mission, how wrong they were. But rather than look back in smug satisfaction, we need to pray for humility and ask God to grant us vision to superimpose God’s will for our lives and this world over our own selfish desires.

___Pastor/preacher/professor Fred Craddock warns against making Palm Sunday a “false Easter.” We’ll have time for celebrating Jesus’ resurrection a week later. Palm Sunday remains part of Lent, a season of repentance. May we ask God to forgive us for projecting our will upon his and to help us live in humility before him and with others.

–Marv Knox

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ART by PIETRO LORENZETTI

The Messiah was supposed to go gunning into Jerusalem on a big white steed waving a killer sword–or something like that. The expectation and anticipation of the Messiah was of one who would kick rears and take the names of the oppressors.

Instead, Jesus — the guy who rose up from birth in a barn and a nowhere village– who was born to a humble little teen mom and a humble carpenter — comes ambling into town on a humble colt.

Go figure this guy Jesus, always turning our expectations of him upside down.

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Illustration by German artist Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1794-1872.

Our sometimes co-contributor and research assistant here at JFJ.com, the mystic, contemplative Christian L.K., sent along these thoughts last night about what Palm Sunday means to her:

To me, Palm Sunday is the saddest Sunday of the year. I usually can’t get through the service without crying. I know most people think of it as a glorious triumphant day, but about 10 years ago, when I was reading John, it knocked the breath out of me when I realized that Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to him that week and that these same people who were praising him would be calling for his death in just a few days. Yet he looked straight ahead and went willingly forward.

And while all four gospels record this event, only Luke 19 tells about how Jesus wept as he looked upon Jerusalem on this day:

41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

So please understand why I don’t want to happily march around with palm fronds today and shout “Hosanna.’ It’s so very painful to be reminded that I am still very much a member of that crowd. My mouth praises him while my actions so often deny him.

I love this day. I cherish this day. But this day is the day that my heart begins to break and will continue to break as this week goes on. This day is testimony to the fact that Jesus went lovingly and willingly to his death, for me and for all.

He did not deserve what he endured. We do not deserve what he endured for us.

Jesus wept, but not for himself. He was weeping for all of them and for all of us who will not see what will bring us peace.

The peace that surpasses all understanding, our Lord Jesus the Christ

.

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In the photo: somebody’s idea of sexy boots?

Somebody named Donnie–and you know who you are, Nurse Donnie–asked me why I never play any U2 here and I retorted, “Cause they’re a second-rate band?”
Kidding.
Here’s your U2, people, with intro vid from Letterman.

(For Nurse Donnnie, by request)

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Excerpts from an article in Friday’s Dallas News. More of the article at the top right widget to your right on this blog page (Special postings) under title “Docs on reform law.”

Texan-led doctor group kept health care bill alive
By DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News
dmichaels@dallasnews.com
WASHINGTON – At any point in the yearlong odyssey that yielded the health care law that passed this week, physicians could have overwhelmed the effort with opposition.
The traditionally conservative American Medical Association helped kill President Bill Clinton’s health care effort in the 1990s. Three decades earlier, it opposed Medicare as “the beginning of socialized medicine.”
But this time, the nation’s largest physicians’ organization was loyal to the overhaul, helping to keep nervous Democrats behind the historic and controversial legislation. At the helm of the opinionated doctors’ group: J. James Rohack, a Texas cardiologist who decided long ago that the country’s inefficient health care system couldn’t fix itself.
“It was going to require a federal intervention to balance the market and make it a better system,” Rohack said in an interview this week. “At the end of the day, Congress took a step in the right direction. But it’s not the final step.”
Rohack, whose tenure as AMA president coincided with the overhaul effort, didn’t get everything his members wanted. Some critics, particularly Republicans, say he’ll go to the next impassioned AMA meeting without much to show for his long and stressful year as the group’s leader.
For instance, the law doesn’t repeal a formula that annually threatens to slash Medicare payments to doctors. Rohack said last year that permanent repeal was necessary to persuade physicians to fully support the legislation.
“Doctors are the ones who really have kind of an empty briefcase right now,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, an obstetrician and AMA member who has known Rohack for years.
“The insurance companies, for all the drubbing they’ve taken from the Democrats, they are in pretty darn good shape right now,” Burgess said. “Their stock was through the roof the day after we passed this bill.”

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — From the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew

“Blessed are the poor . . .” — from Luke

God interrupts the status quo to show us the good life that God wants to give us. God’s economy is hidden much of the time—maybe most of the time. Our churches and our families are not, for the most part, shining lights when it comes to eternal investments. When we look to our fellow believers for good news, we often meet disappointment.

When it comes to money, for example, we often deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve figured out a formula for getting God to pour out blessings. In Jesus’ day, scholars studied the scriptures carefully and tried to figure out what they needed to do to gain God’s favor. They knew the scriptures said there was a way that leads to blessings and a way that leads to curses. More than anything they wanted to be blessed, and they knew that God’s blessing was a material reality.

So, rather than trust that God had already blessed them with all they needed, these leaders turned God’s covenant promises into a system for getting ahead. Folks who succeeded were blessed, while those down on their luck—the sick, the lame, the demon-possessed—were cursed. Everyone knew that this was how the system worked.

Contrast this system with the message of the Sermon on the Mount. In the crowd are “people . . . with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed.” Jesus has in front of him everyone who, according to the religious system of his day, is cursed. Here are all the losers, anxious for Jesus to let them in on the secret. Jesus does what no religious teacher had ever done before: he calls them blessed.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . . the meek . . . those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Jesus doesn’t whisper, “Hey listen, here’s the secret. Do this and you’ll be blessed.” Instead, he says to this ragtag bunch, “You are already blessed.” Jesus offers his most important teaching to people who’ve failed at religion. He seems to have hope that they are the ones who will get what he is saying.

from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s book God’s Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel.
He lives with his family at Rutba House, a new monastic community in Durham, North Carolina.

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ULTRA COOL BONNIE RAITT

Yes, jitterbuggers–we got “Miss Bonnie,” as Norah Jones calls Bonnie Raitt, who’s a class act and as versatile a blues musician as you’ll find. Here she is with various artists in vids old and new. . . . Starting with some serious Devil’s Music. . . . But we also have her doing the sweet “Tennessee Waltz” with Norah Jones if that runs more to your taste.
I wonder if Miss Bonnie is seeing anybody, BTW. I’d carry her guitar anywhere.

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