“Restoration”


This was the back page for the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for Sunday, March 18, 2018, the 5th Sunday in Lent (Year B).


While working on my doctorate, I learned the intricacies of word processing (first with Word Perfect and then with Word).  The first thing that I learned was the need to save my material and to do it often (we will save that thought for another day).

Then I learned Control-Z, the ability to undo whatever it was that I just did.  If I deleted something by mistake, then Ctrl-Z would allow me to recover the data quickly.

But, as much as we wish there was such a key, there is no Ctrl-Z key for life.  We don’t get many opportunities to “undo” something when it was a mistake.  And if you cannot fix something, where is the hope?

Perhaps the greatest single aspect of the Gospel message that Jesus brought to the people was that there was hope, that life was worth it.  But this is not automatic; we must repent of our past life.

The Season of Lent is that opportunity to restore our lives and begin anew.

~~ Tony Mitchell

“This Is the Time”


Here is the message that I gave for the 5th Sunday in Lent, April 9, 2000, at Walker Valley (NY) UMC. The Scriptures for this Sunday were Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34, Hebrews 5: 5 – 10, and John 12: 20 – 33.

The Old Testament reading for today speaks of the covenant that God will make with his people. The main difference between this covenant and the others before it are that God initiates it. In doing so, God is assuring its effectiveness. This is also the prophecy that predicts Jesus’ birth and ministry.

And as Jesus pointed out to his disciples in the Gospel reading for today, the time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. The time has come to set the covenant into action.

Like all the covenants of the Old Testament, this is an agreement between two parties, In this case the two parties are God and us. As Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading for today, if the covenant is to be fulfilled, we must follow Him. In verses 25 and 26, Jesus points out that

“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father, will honor. (John 12: 25 – 26)

When I got home Wednesday, Ann told me that I had received a note from my mother telling me of the death of someone. At first, I could not identify who the person was and initially thought it was one of the older members of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church. But when I read the article that my mom sent, I realized that it was a classmate of mine from high school who had died rather unexpectedly.

I do not grieve for the loss of this friend of mine from thirty years ago. I know that she led a good life and it was a life in Christ so I do not worry. But death has a way of making us think about our lives and about what Jesus asks us to do in giving up our life.

Only very late do we learn the price of the risk of believing, because only very late do we face up to the idea of death.

This is what is difficult: believing truly means dying. Dying to everything: to our reasoning, to our plans, to our past, to our childhood dreams, to our attachment to earth, and sometimes even to the sunlight, as at the moment of our physical death.

That is why faith is so difficult. It is so difficult to hear from Jesus a cry of anguish for us and our difficulties in believing, “Oh, if only you could believe!”

Because not even he can take our place in the leap of Faith; it is up to us. It is like dying! It is up to us, and no one is able to take our place.

This mature act of faith is terribly, uniquely personal. Its risk involves us down to the core. (From The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto)

The phrase that Jesus used, “loves his life”, describes those who serve only themselves. Shortly after he spoke these words, he gave his disciples the opportunity to identify this problem in their own lives. This was when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples prior to the Feast of the Passover. The phrase “hates his life” involves serving Christ. Each believer must establish his or her own priorities. We cannot give ourselves fully to a life on earth and yet be committed to the life that is to come. To follow Christ is to follow Jesus example of self-sacrifice when He, the teacher, washed the feet of His disciples. Jesus set the example of “hating” His life in this world so that He could accomplish eternal purposes.

The world needs more than the secret holiness of individual awareness. It needs more than sacred sentiments and good intentions. God asks for the heart because He needs the lives. It is by lives that the world will be redeemed, by lives that beat in concordance with God, by deed that outbeat the finite charity of the human heart.

Man’s power of action is less vague than his power of intention. And an action has intrinsic meaning; its value to the world is independent of what it means to the person performing it. The act of giving food to a helpless child is meaningful regardless of whether or not the moral intention is present. God asks for the heart, and we must spell our answer in terms of deeds.

It would be a device of conceit, if not presumption, to insist that purity of heart is the exclusive test of piety. Perfect purity is something we rarely know how to obtain or how to retain. No one can claim to have purged all the dross even from his finest desire. The self is finite, but selfishness is infinite. God asks for the heart, but the heart is oppressed with uncertainty in its own twilight. God asks for faith, and the heart is not sure of its own faith. It is good that there is a dawn of decision for the sight of the heart; deeds to objectify faith, definite forms to verify belief.

The heart is often a lonely voice in the marketplace of living. Man may entertain lofty ideals and behave like the ass that, as the saying goes, “carries gold and eats thistles.” The problem of the soul is how to live nobly in an animal environment; how to persuade and train the tongue and the senses to behave in agreement with the insights of the soul.

The integrity of life is not exclusively a thing of the heart; it implies more than consciousness of the moral law. The innermost chamber must be guarded at the uttermost outposts. Religion is not the same as spiritualism; what man does in his concrete, physical existence is directly relevant to the divine. Spirituality is the goal, not the way of man. In this world music is played on physical instruments, and to the Jew the mitsvot are the instruments on which the holy is carried out. If man were only mind, worship in thought would be the form in which to commune with God. But man is body and soul, and his goal is to live that both “his heart and his flesh should sing to the living God..” (From God in Search of Man by Abraham Joseph Heschel)

That is why we find it so hard to give up everything and to follow Jesus. But if we are to be successful in the coming years, if we are to be His servants, then we need to understand this point. Too often, evangelism is presented as simply bringing people to Christ. Evangelism is about breaking down the barriers that mankind has erected over the years. It is about overcoming prejudice, poverty, political irresponsibility, and international tribalism. Yes, evangelism means to bring people to Christ. That will always be the first and most important part of the job. But we must also be aware that a call for a decision for Christ must be related to a call for a decision in Christ, a call to show Christ working in this world.

The events of the last week reminded me of what the Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes 3.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to rend, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8)

There is a time and a season for everything. And for us this day, the time is now.

There is a time to be born, a time to die. As it turns out, Sunday, April 30th, when we celebrate the baptism of four children, will also be the day that every United Methodist Church celebrates each heritage. Normally, Heritage Sunday would be celebrated on April 23rd, the day in 1968 when the Methodist Church united with the Evangelical United Brethren Church. But with Easter on the 23rd this year, the celebration of our heritage will be celebrated on the 30th. And what better way to celebrate such a heritage than to baptize those four children and bring new members into the church.

This is also a time to build up. I received a note from Reverend Winkleblack telling me that Walker Valley United Methodist Church will receive the $22,000 that it requested. The good news is that $4,000 will be in the form of a grant, meaning that the total loan will only be $18,000. That is why the Finance Committee will be meeting on April 30th. Though the Trustees will undertake the majority of the work being covered by this loan, having this loan means that we can do other things as well. And those we must make the appropriate plans through the Finance Committee.

The prophet Zechariah wrote,

“The Lord of Hosts says, ‘Get on with the job and finish it! You have been listening long enough! For since you began laying the foundation of the Temple, the prophets have been telling you about the blessings that await you when it’s finished. Before the work began there were no jobs, no wages, no security; if you left the city, there was no assurance you would ever return, for crime was rampant. But it is all so different now! For I am sowing peace and prosperity among you. Your crops will prosper; the grapevines will be weighted down with fruit; the ground will be fertile, with plenty of rain; all these blessings will be given to the people left in the land. ‘May you be as poor as Judah,’ the heathen used to say to those they cursed! But no longer! For now ‘Judah’ is a word of blessing, not a curse. ‘May you be as prosperous and happy as Judah is,’ they’ll say. So don’t be afraid or discouraged! Get on with the rebuilding the Temple! If you do, I will certainly bless you.” (Zechariah 8: 1 – 14)

God, through Zechariah, speaks of a great future, one that renews the covenant that God made through the prophet Jeremiah. Our celebration of communion this day marks our acceptance of that same covenant, the one that Christ offered to us so many years ago. As he told his disciples, as we drink from the cup, we drink of the new covenant. This is the time that we begin this new covenant. It is a time to celebrate those being born; it is a time to mourn the passing of those who died. It is a time to build up; it is a time to break down. It is a time to accept Christ in our hearts and by our acts and actions show others the presence of Christ in this world. Christ’s actions were to move us forward, to a better life. It is up to us at this time to close the covenant.

Is the Church Old or Out of date?


Here are my thoughts for the 5th Sunday in Lent, 29 March 2009.  The Scriptures for this Sunday are Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34, Hebrews 5: 5 – 10, and John 12: 20 – 33.

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There are two thoughts behind the title to this message. One is in response to what many non-churched say is the problem with the church today; the other is about the attitudes of many people in the church today. The latter reason for this message may have a lot to do with the former reason.

I know that one day I will get old, if I am not already that way now. But the problem is that I don’t know what old really is. Is it when my bones ache and I creak when I walk? Is it when what’s left of my hair turns gray and then white? If that’s the case, I have been old for several years now.

Do you have to be technological “hip” to be young? Are you automatically “old” if you don’t keep up with the technology of the moment? I don’t twitter (I am not even sure that I could twitter because I don’t think I have the right type of cell phone to do such things) and I don’t text message my friends; I was never an aficionado of instant messaging. Does that make me old? I don’t take photos with my cell phone nor do I gather information from the web on my phone; it isn’t that I couldn’t do it but that my cell phone doesn’t have those capabilities.

We live in a technologically-dominated society, a society in which you have to have the newest gadgets and be hip to the latest and newest changes. We are quick to label someone as out of touch if they don’t have the latest gimmick or aren’t a member of the latest social group. And our churches, no matter the denomination, are quick to incorporate these new changes into their worship services.

But is the utilization of the latest technology really a statement of youth and vigor or just an attempt to market the church in a day and time of mass-marketing. How effective are such techniques when the people to whom such appeals are directed are hip to the message and the moment? Do we think that if we portray the church as young and vibrant we will actually get people to see that we are?

Or is old a matter of what you think? Can it be that there are people who are young, according to the calendar, but old in the mind, set in their ways and not willing to change? Can it be that there are people who defy the calendar and are young in heart and mind and soul?

We all know that the primary concern in churches today is the declining membership of many long-time established churches and many of those churches look at the churches which are growing and wonder why? I don’t think it has anything to do with the age of the church itself, the building in which the congregation meets or the calendar age of the congregation that meets in the church building. Nor do I think that this problem has anything to do with whether or not the church is up to date with technology or music or worship styles. Rather, I think it is that many members, no matter how young or old they might be in terms of the calendar, are old when it comes to their ways. And this “oldness” makes it very difficult for them to make the change or accept the change that is needed for a church to adapt to the needs of the community in which it was first set.

Should churches change with the times and the needs of the community? The answer, of course, is most definitely. But the changes cannot be simply because it is the thing to do; the change must reflect the ability of the church to present a timeless message in a manner more appropriate to the time. By the same token, any opposition to change which parallels “that’s they way we have always done it and others are going to have to adapt to what we do” simply shows what amounts to a closed mind.

What the prophet Jeremiah expresses in the Old Testament reading for today should be the basis for any change undertaken by a church. In announcing a new covenant, Jeremiah is pointing out that there needs to be a new thinking, a new way of seeing things.

If you spend all of your life doing things a particular way, you are not likely to seek new ideas or new ways. If you are part of a system that has done things consistently the same year after year and you have to wait “your turn” before you get to do anything, you are not likely to be ready for change when the next generation wants to do something. It is very easy to fall into a pattern, a pattern that runs counter to the very essence of the Gospel and the words of Christ.

We hear the words of the writer of Hebrews who speaks of Christ’s submission to God and how He learned obedience through submission. We somehow think that submission to the system and maintenance of the old ways is what we are supposed to do. We know that Abraham obeyed God when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. But Abraham didn’t challenge God as to why he should do this.

To challenge God is not wrong, if we are to ask what comes next. Abraham trusted in God to provide what God said He would provide. But to challenge God is not to go against God. We are reminded that Job did not accept the given answer that he had done something terrible and only wanted an explanation for his misfortune.

What we are supposed to do is give ourselves to Christ, not to the system. As Jesus pointed out to the Greeks, if a grain of wheat is to bear fruit, it must first die. Those who seek salvation will only find that salvation if they give up their old lives and begin anew. Our world can quickly become a world in which we grow old when we are not willing to give

The problem is that we think we know the ways of God; we think that we can tell people exactly what God wants us to do. The problem is, as Isaiah pointed out in Isaiah 55 8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (New International Version) or “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree (from The Message).

And if we think that obedience to the system is obedience to God, we no longer have a living relationship with God. And without that living relationship, it will be very difficult to even contemplate new ideas or new ways.

The new covenant was the foundation for a new relationship and with the new relationship had to be a new way of thinking. You could no longer rely on adherence to the Law as a guarantee for salvation. The call through Lent has been to repent, to change one’s life and begin anew.

To see the church in terms of the present system is to see an organization and its people growing old and losing its touch with the world. The church is old simply because it has been around for two thousand years.

But the word of the Gospel is not out-of-date; it can be if we are not willing to cast aside our lives in the system and in the world and accept the new relationship established by Christ. The call of Lent is to repent and begin anew.

A Different Place and a Different Time


This is the message that I presented at Tompkins Corners UMC for the 5th Sunday in Lent, 30 March 2003.  The Scriptures for this Sunday are Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34, Hebrews 5: 5 – 10, and John 12: 20 – 33.

I have a note that says this is supposed to be the 4th Sunday in Lent but the scripture readings are for the 5th Sunday.  Since I have a message listed for the 4th Sunday in this sequence, I think that I have the date for this message wrong; it should be 6 April 2003.

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The scriptures for the last few weeks have spoken of the covenants God has made with us. God made covenants with us through Noah following the flood, Abraham following his move to the Promised Land and reaffirmed when he was tested at Mount Moriah and then finally Moses during the Exodus. The old covenants demanded adherence to regulations that the people were unable to keep. Above all other commandments, the people were commanded to love and serve God and abandon all other others. This they did not do. The history of Israel as the chosen people is permeated with idolatrous activity, only occasionally broken by periods of true faithfulness to God. The people seemed incapable of acting in sustained obedience.

As I look at what is happening around us, I have to wonder if we are not repeating some of the same mistakes. After all, we presume to be God’s people, our politicians regularly invoke God’s blessing on our actions. But our actions show that our beliefs are only momentary and only when it is convenient for us. In a world in which we have been commanded by God through Christ to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, comfort the needy and lift up the oppressed, it seems that we are more concerned with our own self interests than the needs of others. And I am not speaking of the nation as a whole but as a nation of collective individuals.

We seem more interested in what we have now and protecting it than we are in insuring that we have a future. I fear that our actions today, if continued, will destroy any hopes for the future.

Just as in Jesus’ day, those who have power use it for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of all. Just as in Jesus’ day, many of today’s spiritual leaders interpret the scriptures so as to enhance their own positions and power. What I fear is that the religious leaders who dominate the world viewpoint today have done more to drive people away from Christ than to bring them to Him.

These same individuals tell us that the Bible’s words are fixed in meaning and it is a meaning that only they and a select few others can understand. But this view is contradicted by the fact that the words that they say are fixed are written in English so that we can read them. But the English was translated from Latin and the Latin was translated from the Greek and the Greek was translated from the Aramaic, which leads me to wonder just exactly what were the actual words in the first place. We are presented in the world today with a view of Christians who claim Biblical justification for opposing abortion yet seem to almost worship warfare when it is done in the name of God. It is not the words of the Bible which we should be looking at but rather the thought and context of the words.

We must look around us and we must look at ourselves. Are we doing what is required of us or is what we are doing what we think is required? Is our God something “out there” in the great beyond or is He part of our daily life? I wish that today’s reading had included the 11th verse of the 5th chapter of Hebrews, because it goes a long way to explaining who we are and what we have become.

After explaining who Jesus was and why his mission to mankind was so important, the writers of Hebrews chastise us, adding that there was much to say about Jesus’ priesthood but that the readers would not understand because they had become dull of hearing. In this case, the word “dull” means “sluggish” and implies that the readers were not quick to accept God and had grown even lazy in their faith. Thus understanding the truth as presented to them through Jesus would be difficult.

The writer or writers of Hebrews point out that Jesus did not make Himself the Chief Priest but rather that God called him to the office. But this calling, which allows Jesus to be the mediator between God and us forever, required that Jesus experience all that a person goes through in life. Through His life on earth, He came to know and understand how difficult it is to obey God completely and that the attractions of temptations can lead one away from God. But he continued in obedience to God. In doing so, in carrying out God’s plan for Him, Jesus was better able to understand our weaknesses and thus intercede before God in our behalf.

Each of those covenants was made with mankind in general, speaking to the responsibilities of the nations. In each of these covenants, corporate responsibility was emphasized in legal and moral matters, though individual accountability was not overlooked. Now, in Jeremiah, focus is placed on the responsibility of the individual for his or her own iniquities.

The call to the ministry given to the early disciples and to us today is one that calls us to make a choice. It is a choice between what we have done and what we can do. We must now answer for what we have done, both good and bad. Jesus challenges us to make a choice between the life we have lived and the life we are going to live. “Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12: 25)  In those words, Jesus speaks of the future for all that would hear his words. Those that love their own life serve only themselves and would lose their life and all that they had gained. Those who hate their life saw life in a different view, choosing to serve God. Each one of us, hearing the words of Jesus, must decide what our priorities are to be. We cannot give ourselves fully to this life and be committed to the life that will come.

That is the most difficult decision that we will ever have to make. No decision that we make will ever come close to matching the one that comes when we decide whether or not to follow Christ. And the longer we wait, the harder it becomes.

When Abraham was first a father, God commanded that he take his son Isaac to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him. Abraham had committed himself by covenant to be obedient to the Lord and had consecrated his son Isaac to the Lord. The Lord put his servant’s faith and loyalty to the supreme test, thereby instructing Abraham, Isaac, and their descendants as to the kind of total consecration the Lord’s covenant requires. The test also foreshadowed the perfect consecration in sacrifice that another offspring of Abraham would undergo in order to wholly consecrate Abraham and his spiritual descendants to God and to fulfill the covenant promises. The other offspring was, of course, Jesus and the sacrifice was to be on Calvary. Abraham’s devotion is paralleled by God’s love to us through Christ as related by the Gospel reading from last week, John 3: 16.

But we are not called to make such an ultimate sacrifice for it has been done for us. We are called, however, to sacrifice what we feel is the most important parts of our life for a life in Christ and for Christ. And if we cannot distinguish between what is of this earth and what is of Heaven, then I fear we will not have understood what the coming days, beginning with next Sunday, are all about.

There were those who heard the words of Jesus and left at that time, for they were not willing to sacrifice their lives in order to insure the future. There were those who left when Jesus died on the cross that Friday evening because death was death and there is no tomorrow. But the empty tomb shows that death is not the final statement and that there is hope for tomorrow.

The hope for tomorrow lies in what is done, individually and collectively, today. The church must model a new paradigm of possibilities, not simply a restatement of current thoughts and processes. It has been said that Sundays are for the seeker, for the person seeking a refuge in a world of despair and darkness. And when they come to a church, they should find a revitalized people celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ through community, prayer, and song. What they should not find is a place that mimics society. Because society places more importance on performance than it does substance and where actions contradict the words spoken. “If one thing has become clear in this global society’s advanced age, typical ‘religion’ has become like some kind of college football frenzy, with cheerleaders in all quarters screaming ‘Hooray for our side!’ and with many wolves wearing sheep’s’ uniforms.

Ross Werland wrote in a Chicago Tribune article,

“Most of the major religions are taking one heck of a beating in public relations at the moment, yet spiritual giants inhabit all of them. These people are the ones who daily defer their own wants and needs to help others find their own spiritual bounty.

The real power in churches and synagogues and mosques and temples is the honest-to-God believer whose religion is this simple: love, not hate. (Ross Werland, Chicago Tribune, December 29, 2002)

You can hope that it will be a different time or a different place when you have to make the decision that will change your life. You can try to put off this decision. But that can never be the case. Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” Those who put off making the decision to follow Christ, trusting in their own judgement of life and putting their faith and assurance in the material gains found in this world will quickly find that time runs quicker than they can control.

There can never be another time or a different place in which to find Christ and the hope for tomorrow. Jesus came and died so that we would know that God is a part of our lives, here and now. You are here right now and that is all that is needed. And that is the challenge for today.

 


Are You Ready?


Here are my thoughts for this, the 5th Sunday in Lent.
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The opening lines of the Old Testament reading tell us that the “days are coming.” Now, if you are a “true believer” in the End Times, you think that these are those days. But I have to wonder. Is it possible that these will be the days when our failings and the consequences of our actions will be called to task?

I noticed in one of the news magazines last year a note about the need to improve mathematics and science education in this country. The problem is that this is not a new problem but a problem that has been a part of our society for almost fifty years. In November, 2007, we will remember the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. And perhaps we will remember the cry that came about that science and mathematics education was failing.

Much money was put into upgrading those processes back then but after the successes of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the money started to trickle out and less concern was made about the nature of education, be it mathematics, science or otherwise.

Then in the middle 1980’s, there was again a large cry about the failings of our educational processes, especially in science and mathematics. And studies were made and papers were published that outlined what made good programs and what needed to be done to insure that science and mathematics were not forgotten in the process of learning.

So, to hear that our science and mathematics education programs need to be revitalized and examined tells me that we have forgotten what we have already learned but not implemented. It tells me that any program that we have needs to be considered from the long-term and not the short, something this country has a hard time doing.

We have also forgotten, if we ever learned, that terrorism can never be fought with violence. We have forgotten that unless the sources of terrorism, poverty, sickness, and oppression, are removed, we will never remove terrorism. And we must have failed to realize that removing the sources of terrorism are the same goals that Jesus had when he established his ministry and set forth the basic tenets of the Gospel.

Did not Jesus say that it was His goal to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and free the oppressed? Did not Jesus go out of his way to make sure that the forgotten individuals of society were remembered? Why is it that this country, which calls itself a Christian nation, and the politicians that lead this country, who have allied themselves with the conservative and fundamentalist aspects of Christianity, can’t seem to remember this?

Congress is in the process of passing legislation that would make it illegal for anyone of us to assist someone who is in this country illegally. And it is my understanding that this includes those times when we assist without knowing the immigration status of those individuals. We are to ask if they are properly documented before giving a cup of water or a crust of bread to a hungry and thirsty individual. As others have noted, the very nature of the act would put the Good Samaritan in jail were he to perform the same acts today as he did 2000 years ago. Much of what Jesus said and did is also considered illegal.

Congress has also passed a budget that cuts food programs, housing programs, and aid to the least of this country. But it continues to yield to the rich and the powerful and it continues to fund a war that should never have been fought for reasons that have more to do with personal gain than the preservation of freedom and nothing to do with removing oppression. We have set forth a new version of oppression, both here in this country and abroad, in the name of freedom and democracy. Where is Christ in these acts, passed by men who claim allegiance to Christ? Why are not those who claim to be God’s messenger in this world, those who preach a gospel of prosperity and wealth, of fundamental beliefs in the Bible, not among the loudest when it comes to pointing out the inequities of life in today’s society?

Can it be that these are the days that Jeremiah is speaking about? Can it be that these are the days in which God will call us to account for our actions and our beliefs? The covenants that God made with Noah, Abraham, and Moses were covenants made with nations, not individuals. But the New Covenant of which Jeremiah speaks is a covenant that God makes with each one of us, individually.

So, it is our actions, not the actions of our country or our leaders that are called into account. We are the ones who have heard the call of Jesus but ignored it. We have allowed our own self-interests to dictate the nature of society. We think that we are the ones who have not allowed the law to be written on our hearts, as Jeremiah proclaims. We claim to follow Christ but if we are to follow Christ we must serve Him. And we cannot serve Him if we ignore the least of our society; we cannot serve Him if we seek war and violence, if we seek to oppress others.

In those days before the entry into Jerusalem, people sought Jesus and He did not turn them away. How can we turn people away when they seek a new and better life? In those days before the entry into Jerusalem, Jesus prayed and gave comfort to those who sought Him. How can we not do the same in this day?

One week from today, the crowds will line the road into Jerusalem and cheer the entrance of the new king. But they will forget, just as so many people have done today, where the kingdom of this new king will be. The same people will stand outside the balcony of the governor’s palace and demand that Christ be crucified so that the self-interests of the powers of society can be maintained. Those who called for the crucifixion of Christ out of their own self-interests or because of a blind obedience to an earthly political power will quickly find that their kingdom will not last.

Those who sought the crucifixion of Christ will find the tomb empty and they will be afraid. For they know that the days have come and their actions will be called to task.

Each one of us has two weeks to get ready for that moment. Each one of us has two weeks to prepare for that moment in which our actions, our thoughts, and all that we have done will be called to task. But, we also have two weeks to get ready and to open our hearts and acknowledge that because the tomb is empty our lives begin anew. There is that moment when God says to each one of us, “I sent my Son to die on the cross so that you may live. I sent my Son to take away your sins and I will forgive you for all time.”

These are the days. Are you ready?

“Are You Ready?” by Bob Dylan — http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/ready.html