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Living Easter Influentially

Any change we wish to see in the world begins in our own hearts and lives. And of course, the only people we can change is ourselves. If we are faithful to our own beliefs, ethics, and morals, then that is what influences the people and the world around us. This is one of the ways that we live Easter, by enacting our faith with compassion and humility. Jesus lived his life by enacting his teaching through healing and standing up for those in the margins. This is how he gained followers and why the message of the Gospel was accepted far and wide as “good news.” Living like Jesus by showing our beliefs through our works influences people more than Bible-thumping ever has.

When we live with great compassion and love, when we stand up against injustice, when we forgive and seek to be forgiven, when we exhibit patience, when we listen, when we hold those who weep, when we serve without string attached, and others see these actions, we have influence. Our friends, family, people at work and school, the people at church see how we conduct our lives and interact with others. How we treat the people on the street who ask for money means something. How we treat our waiters and waitresses means something. How we treat the employees we supervise means something. How treat people in traffic, at the gym, at the grocery store, at the drive-thru all mean something. How we treat children means something. How we treat animals means something. How we treat the earth means something. How we treat prisoners means something. How we treat the elderly means something. How we treat people with disabilities means something. How we treat people who don’t speak English in America means something. How we treat people with a different skin tone means something. How we treat people who express gender and sexuality differently than us means something. It’s an opportunity to be kind and to do good. It shows what’s in our heart, and what our character is made of. Even if it doesn’t seem like much change is happening around us, we should be relentless in our love. Other people, those in our circle of influence, take notice.

Briefly, I want to speak about one of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans. She passed away on May 4, 2019 at the age of 37. Too young. She left behind a husband, a 3 year old, and a 1 year old. Her writing has influenced me, healed me, taught me, and made me laugh. She used her voice to influence those around her, and then gained a platform to influence thousands of others. She enacted her words by using her platform to stand up against racism, sexism, abuse, sexual assault, homophobia, transphobia, healthcare, child care, poverty, and all forms of injustice. She promoted other women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color by attracting audiences, stepping back, and letting them speak. She used her privilege to share their work so that their voices could gain attraction. She truly lived Easter influentially, as Christ did. I have grieved her passing, although I didn’t know her personally, and I remain so grateful for her writing and her example.

As Eastertide comes to an end and we look forward to ascension and Pentecost, I hope we will continue living in victory, in hope, and in resilience. Easter is more than just a day. It is a calling, it is our life commitment.

Acts 16:9-15
During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Living Easter Politically

In Easter living, we recognize that Jesus was a political (not partisan) figure. Jesus spoke up for human rights by healing the sick, protecting the vulnerable, and giving dignity to outcasts. He challenged the people in power who oppressed the people in the margins. The kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed belongs to peacemakers, the grieving, the meek, the poor in spirit, those who fight for righteousness, not the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the complacent. This kingdom needs our voice to fight for love, equality, peace, justice, kindness, and compassion, to lay down our power so that the power is shared among all people. Here are ways we can take political action in the United States and across the globe.

 

Register to Vote

The biggest reason we end up in crisis and with legislation that doesn’t represent our beliefs is because we don’t vote! Millenials, we especially need to do better! It’s our civic duty to show up and vote, even if not all of our candidates are ideal. We get better candidates by being more active voters! See the above link to see what is required for voter registration in your state. Get registered early! And vote in all your elections. All are important. See the link below to see what elections are happening near you soon. I can’t stress enough how it important it is to show up and VOTE!

Upcoming Elections

Doctors Without Borders

Everyone deserves medical care, and around the world there are famines, civil wars, and natural disasters where people need medical care. Doctors Without Borders responds to these emergencies to help the injured and the sick. This is a form of peacemaking when we respond to these disasters, and your donation can truly help people in war-torn countries.

Amnesty International

Disappearances, armed conflict, detention, death penalty, torture, indigenous people, and numerous other worldwide causes are all part of the human rights that Amnesty International fights for. When journalists go missing, when LGTBQ+ people are imprisoned, when people are kidnapped in civil wars Amnesty has petitions, lobbyists, and protesters ready to fight for human rights. You can donate, volunteer, and sign dozens of petitions to help people to be treated humanely in the face of injustice and death.

Write and Call

What would you like to see in America right now? Affordable health care? Immigration reform? Living wages? Rights, protections, and equality for women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, immigration, and all people who are oppressed? Legislation to fight the housing crisis? Ending gun violence? Better benefits for veterans? Your elected officials are there to represent your concerns within the government. So put them to work! Send emails and give them a call regarding your concerns. If you’re like me and you freeze up on the phone, go ahead and write a short script. Be polite. Introduce yourself, and let them know the issue you’re calling about. Tell them how you would like them to vote and take action on the matter, and thank them for their time. Your voice makes a difference! This is how our leaders know what their people are thinking.  Use the link above to find the contact information of your elected officials.

Revelation 21:1-6
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

Living Easter Nationally

The pain of the world can be overwhelming. The suffering can seem to be a little too much. As we are considering how to live Easter, I offer some organizations that work for social justice in our nation. I don’t think Jesus expects us to be able to do everything, fix everything, and be everything all the time. So instead I have gathered causes that are important to me and that are important to our nation as a small list here. We are living a resurrected life, knowing that Jesus has victory over pain, evil, and death. Instead of getting overwhelmed (which I am prone to do) it’s good to just take a breath. Any type of volunteering or donation helps. We can pick one thing to focus on at a time and do our best. Maybe this list will help you pick one thing to focus on for now; maybe it will inspire you to research other causes that are important to you. We’re in this together; I don’t have it all figured out. I just keep trying to learn, to grow, and to do my best to shine God’s love in the world. When I fail, I own it, I ask forgiveness, and I try to do better. In the resurrected life we are allowed to be imperfect and to still do good.

 

For national impact on LGBTQ+ issues, here are a couple great organizations to donate time and money to:

Human Rights Campaign

This is a great organization that advocates for rights and protection of LGBTQ+ people on legislative matters. You can also be a local advocate in your community.

The Trevor Project

This organization advocates for LGBTQ+ youth, who are at a high risk of homelessness and suicide. They offer chatting and texting services for LGBTQ+ youth to reach out to in crisis. You can volunteer to be a crisis counselor.

Mental Health:

These organizations support mental health and mental illness. It’s important to break the stigma around mental illness so that all people receive the support and treatment they need. Seeking help and support is not a weakness; we all need help when we’re struggling. Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis test line help when you’re feeling suicidal or having an anxiety attack or in a depression spiral. National Alliance of Mental Illness offers crisis help as well as advocacy for public policies to support mental health and they educate society on mental illness. You can volunteer to be crisis counselors to help others.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Crisis Textline

National Alliance of Mental Illness

Ending Gun Violence:

Both of these organizations are working together state by state to rally for common sense gun laws to reduce gun violence and public shootings across the nation. In 2016 I heard Lucy McBath speak about her advocacy against gun violence since losing her son, Jordan Davis, to a racist man’s anger in 2012. Now she serves as Georgia’s 6th district congressional leader. Hearing her pain and her passion for common sense gun laws deeply moved me. She represents organizations like these, and they are really making efforts to make America safer.

Everytown

Moms Demand Action

Chronic illnesses:

ALS Association

American Cancer Society

St. Jude’s

Alzheimer’s Association

Equality of all people:

Black Lives Matter

It is important for people like me, who have white privilege, to step back, to listen, and to heed the words of those who are not being treated with equality and regard for human dignity. Black Lives Matter provides a platform for black voices to speak to their experiences and seeks equality.

National Immigrant Justice Center

Southern Poverty Law Center

Immigrant Families Together

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services

Immigrants are not criminals. Undocumented immigrants are people. Asylum seekers are within their right. We need laws the help and protect immigrants, and we need legislation to reform our immigration policies. Families should not be ripped apart. We need to treat people who want to enter our country as if their lives don’t matter or as if they are a threat to us. We desperately need to do better. Immigrant Justice Center, Refugee and Immigrant Center, and Southern Poverty Law Center offer pro bono services to immigrant families. Immigrant Families Together help pay for bonds for families, offer legal representations, helping families in detention, and supporting them after release.

Veterans:

According to http://www.metro.us, “According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were 40,056 homeless veterans living in the U.S. in a single night in January 2017, which was a little more than nine percent of all homeless adults. The study shows that three out of five homeless military veterans were housed in emergency shelters or transitional housing facilities, while two out of five were living in places “not suitable for human habitation.” ”

As someone who has worked with veterans struggling with homelessness, it’s shameful how many don’t have access to benefits. Here are numerous organizations to visit to donate to:

Wounded Warrior Project

List of Military Organizations

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Living Easter Locally

I got behind on my Easter blogging. A number of good things have been happening in my personal life. Also, this last week I have had some strong feelings about the death of one of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans. I will write more about that in a couple weeks. So I will be posting two blogs this week to make up for last week.

As we continue in our pursuit of living into the victory and resurrection of the Eastertide, I am continuing my series in how we make change around us. This change to be compassionate, empathetic, and justice-seeking is how we are called to live in God’s Kingdom as per Jesus’ example. Last week I shared a few small, easy ways to make change in our communities. This week I will talk about how we can volunteer our time and donate our money in local endeavors. Change starts here at home in our own communities. It expands out nationally and then through the whole world. I am going to share some organizations here in the south (where I am from) that I believe are incredible organizations. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, just a few organizations that I know of personally. I have worked with them or know others who have, and so I trust them to be valid and effective. For those who may be reading this post and aren’t in the south, then I encourage you to use this list to inspire you to seek organizations like these in your own communities.

Tennessee:

Coalition for Kids

This is a nonprofit I worked with for a semester in Johnson City, TN that offers a free after school program for kids to receive tutoring on their homework. For kids who have parents that work late, there is an extended program where we provide food, games, and other fun activities to supervise kids until their parents can come pick them up or they are taken home on the bus.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Raised as a Tennessean, it’s mandatory that I love Dolly Parton, even if I’m not a country music fan. Dolly is loved by both liberal and conservative alike, and she cares deeply about the people of the Smokies. The Imagination Library began as a literacy project for children in Sevier County (her home county) for children to receive free books from birth until they reach school age. This is now both a national and international program, and continues to promote literacy and imagination in young children regardless of  household income.

Memphis Youth Mission

This is a Presbyterian mission that works with local organizations to meet the needs of the local area. They offer mission trips for youth to immerse themselves in the local culture and to serve the immediate needs of the people they are building relationships with. What the mission groups do will depend upon the needs of the organizations. These missions go beyond just doing something nice for a community, and actually changing and growing according to the community’s needs in that moment.

North Carolina:

Asheville Youth Mission and Raleigh Youth Mission

See above to Memphis Youth Mission.

South Carolina:

Thornwell Children’s Home

Based in Clinton, SC Thornwell serves SC, GA, and FL through foster care and families in need. It is a Presbyterian organization, so a number of churches that I have worked for financially support this nonprofit that continues to grow and help children and families.

Georgia:

Code Out

A friend of mine from seminary, Hannah Hill, began this nonprofit just a couple years ago. They have recently begun classes for women who are incarcerated to teach them how to code; this is an extremely lucrative skill set that enables women to have a marketable ability to help them find work once they are released from prison. I am a monthly contributor, and this new nonprofit can use any and all support.

Central Outreach and Advocacy Center

I spent a semester interning here as my chaplaincy training for seminary, and it truly opened my eyes to homelessness and poverty. The OAC helps to provide ID cards, birth certificates, and other important documentation to people experiencing homelessness. Without these documents it is nearly impossible to secure housing, food, and employment. There is also a job readiness program called Main Frame, which helps people learn computer skills and build their resumes for free.

Love Beyond Walls

I do not personally know Terence Lester, but he attends the church of one of my professors from seminary. Rev. Dr. Ralph Watkins is the pastor at Wheat Street Baptist and he is also a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, and he shared about Terence Lester’s walking (yes, walking) journey from Atlanta to Memphis to raise awareness about poverty. I was stunned at his commitment, and found out about his nonprofit Love Beyond Walls. Terence has been moved to help to homeless population in Atlanta, so much so that he intentionally lived on the streets for a time to understand the demographic he wanted to serve. This nonprofit provides food, water, shelter, grooming, clothes, laundry services, and so much more.

Florida:

Halifax Urban Ministries

This is a great organization I served food with a few times the serves the local area through hot meals, food pantries, homelessness prevention programs, and programs to help shelter people who are transitioning out of homelessness.

Multiple States:

DOOR

DOOR serves much more than the south: Atlanta, Miami Chicago, Denver, LA. Similar to the youth missions above, this is a mission that works with the local organizations to fill needs within the city they serve. They offer youth mission trips as well as year long residencies for people who want to work with inner city organizations the meet various needs specific to the people in the community.

Passport-MissionBASE

I took a youth group to Birmingham through Passport a few years ago, and I was so impressed with how we served the community while also learning about the history of the city. Following the trend with the other missions above, Passport works with local organizations to meet immediate needs. Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, DC, and many other cities are served through this program.

Appalachian Service Project

ASP serves TN, VA, WV, KY, and NC through their mission to repair homes in rural Appalachia. I took a youth group and we worked with a contractor to build a room add-on for a family who had a baby. Some groups patch roofs, others build ramps. Depending on the need of the family, the groups work with a leader who helps them repair parts of their homes.

 

Any of the projects would greatly benefit from your time and money. Any help and aid truly impacts the local community and makes a difference for your neighbors. Again, if these services are not close to you, research what ministries, nonprofits, and charities are making a difference in your local community, and offer your services there, whenever you can. Even if it’s just helping prepare and serve meal once a month, that’s a person fed that day. Do what you can, where you can, with what you can. Next week we’ll talk about large-scale, national programs that would benefit from donations.

John 21:12-19

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Published Sermons!

I am sharing to let everyone know that I have published a book of sermons! “Who May Dwell on Your Holy Hill?” is the first in what I hope to be a long, fruitful, life-giving career in writing and publishing. For anyone who has enjoyed my blogs, I think you will enjoy my sermons as well. They can be used for devotionals (they aren’t too long!) or for other preachers looking for sermon illustrations or for anyone who simply enjoys scripture, theological reflection, and stories. And please feel free to share with your friends! You can order my book here:

Parson’s Porch

Living Easter

Easter is not over, it’s just entering its second week. It’s really easy to slip out of Lent, a time of discipline and fasting, celebrate the holiday of Easter and then move on. Especially after more shootings in California and Baltimore, Jesus’ victory over death seems to lose its savor. But as Atlanta Terence Lester based activist explains, when nothing seems to change around us, then we have to change our selves and our own communities. Our actions seem small, but they are a start. If more and more people were to be encouraged to be brave enough to keep trying, then change would be evident. This is how we live into the resurrection and keep the celebration going. This is how we live into the kingdom of God that Jesus spent all of his time telling us about. During the weeks of Easter leading to Pentecost, a time in the church when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit with tongues of fire, I will be sharing practices I have adopted and other practices that can be used for change around us. This week I am sharing small, easy, practical things we can do in our every day life.

flight landscape nature sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  1. I don’t always have cash on me, and when I do it’s for a specific reason, so I can’t really afford to give it away. So when I am approached by people who are looking for money I try to carry something else on me instead: I carry a small water bottle and a snack, like a pack of crackers and a granola bar, so I can offer them something. Often people could use some sustenance. If they don’t want it, they don’t have to take it and I can wish them a good day. A compassionate interaction, even if our help is limited, can really change how we as a society see and treat people who are in need of help.
  2. Keep your change! At the end of the year you can roll it up, put it in the bank, and cut a check to donate it as a gift to a charity of your choice. Or my denomination has an initiative known as “10 cents a meal” (can also be known as “Pennies for Hunger or “Cents-ability”) where every 10 cents buys a meal for a person in need. People in our churches save their change each month to bring it to church to donate.
  3. It you have a few extra bucks to spend at the store and you’re tempted to get some canned food, first do a few minutes of research. First, find out what charities, shelters, kitchens, and other nonprofits are local to you. Second, go to their website and find out what they are specifically looking for. Often places like these are looking for feminine products, underwear, baby wipes, and socks. Find out their specific needs and try to fill those instead of giving cans of green beans and corn. Only donate those food items if a food pantry specifically asks for them.

These suggestions are just a small start! I am trying out all of them, especially the first one. If you think of something helpful, share it with others! Just make sure that you’ve done your research and that these acts are going to be helpful and not just seem helpful to make us feel good. It’s about making change, not a pat on our back for doing something. Next week I will talk about volunteering time. Let’s keep the resurrection victory moving in our daily lives this Eastertide.

Revelation 1:4-8
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Easter Prayer

 

Burst forth Christ Jesus! Just as you burst forth from the tomb on resurrection day so long ago, burst forth in our spirits renewing us to overcome the hold of death and decay. Just as the sun rays spill over the horizon on this new day, let your love spill out of our hearts over the world so that all may know that your goodness overcomes all evil. Just as the flower buds pop open, let our minds pop open to your divine mystery and the vastness of your kingdom. Just as the spring rains shower our thirsty soil, let your justice shower over the righteous and the unrighteous. Just as the temperatures warm the air around us, help us to share the warmth of inclusion that is your call to discipleship. Just as the grass grows lush and green around us, help us to grow as new creation while the old passes away. Just as the slumbering creatures awaken to stir the wild around us, help us to awaken so that we might do your work of loving the least of these. Just as the breeze sings through the trees and the rocks shout beneath the cascades of the waterfall, we sing your praises and shout in rejoicing. Burst forth Christ Jesus! Burst forth in our daily lives as the living God with us, reminding us that we have been set free from death because you are our victor over the grave. Amen.

Holy Saturday

John 19:38-42
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Remember Jesus.

Remember the 3 historically black Seventh District Churches in Louisiana.

Remember Notre-Dame.

Remember the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Remember Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, NZ.

Remember the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Remember the people at the Mexico/American border.

Remember the separated immigrant families.

Remember the DACA recipients.

Remember Flint, Michigan.

Remember the people of color who are raising their voices against unjust killings, the broken justice system, the suppression of voters, gentrification, privilege, and equality.

Remember those in prison and those that our justice system fails.

Remember Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook, and all others. Too many others.

Remember those who died by suicide.

Remember those with us now struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.

Remember the homeless, the impoverished, the unemployed, and underemployed.

Remember those who are constantly displaced by the affordable housing crisis.

Remember the LGBTQ+ community who are excluded from the military, adoption processes, and other discriminatory, violent acts.

Remember the rejected LGBTQ+ youth without support, families, or homes.

Remember the people who are living with, speaking up about, and fighting back against all forms of abuse.

Remember the women who are pounding against the glass ceiling.

Remember Venezuela.

Remember Northern Ireland.

Remember Yemen.

Remember Nigeria.

Remember Ukraine.

Remember our warming, suffering planet.

Remember these so that you might remember Jesus.

Good Friday

Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest…  I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

 

I once wrote an exegesis paper on Matthew 27 where I got called out for not commenting on Jesus referencing Psalm 22. Oops. This was an important lesson for me to learn about viewing events in scripture in a greater context. We often talk about how Jesus felt abandoned and was showing his “humanity” in this moment of crucifixion when he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” However, if we look deeper, it’s more of a prophetic moment. The original Psalm chooses to allow trust to overpower the feelings of abandonment, having faith in God’s deliverance and that the poor will be satisfied. This is a Psalm of overcoming. Jesus was not crying out in defeat, but knowing that this moment was not the end.

This was a hint to those around him: God will overcome. A warning to those in power, an encouragement for all who fear. Unfortunately, the disciples had fled and weren’t there to pick up on the hope that Jesus was speaking. On Good (holy, pious) Friday let us dare to bear witness to the pain, and choosing to engage in the hope. Let us not flee or turn away, but stay present, keep working, and keep hoping in deliverance.

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

On Maundy Thursday we think about the Last Supper and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. The Gospel of John is the text for today alongside of this Exodus passage. According to John the last supper wasn’t exactly a Passover meal, but just before the festival of Passover. So let us look at what is happening before the Passover is instituted and what the time before Passover might indicate.

God was about to change the lives of the Israelites who’d been enslaved for hundreds of years. God was going to pass through the land, claiming the lives of the firstborn in Egypt. This would be the breakthrough to liberate God’s people, and they had to be ready to move. Loins girded, sandals strapped, staff in hand, eat and run. It’s a time of anticipation, preparation, obedience, action, and trust in God. A new day, a new life, a new era is coming, and this time before Passover is the time to get ready.

In this time now, just before Passover, Jesus is gathering his friends and preparing them for his departure. Jesus girds himself with a towel. Instead of having the disciples have their sandals on, they are taken off so Jesus can wash their feet. They’re not on the run, but instead sit together with Jesus as he gives final thoughts and teachings. It’s a time of confusion, tension, and betrayal. A new day, a new life, and a new era is coming, and this time before Passover is the time to get ready.

On Maundy Thursday when we celebrate community meals, foot washing, and communion, let’s lean into this sacred time before the big event, the big holiday. In this moment let us prepare for what God is about to do in our lives, in our communities, in our churches, and in the world. Let us be vigilant to the movement of the Holy Spirit who might ask us to do weird, unprecedented things like putting lamb’s blood on the doorpost, or bending to wash feet. What seems strange now may be made clear soon. Take a breath in this uncomfortable pause to take a leap of faith and trust that something new is around the corner.