Monday, February 22, 2010

The Last Supper

During the six Sundays in Lent I am going to be focused on some significant moments in the last 24 hours of Jesus' life. The main question I want to wrestle with is what it would have been like to be a follower of Jesus during those final hours? And I think there are two ways to look at this question. First you could look for what that moment was like as it actually occurred. However, you could also think about how that event would have changed in your mind looking back, after Jesus was raised from the dead.
The first event that the final 24 hours of Jesus' life was the Last Supper (Mark 14:12-25). Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Passover. This was a tradition of remembering the deliverance from slavery in Egypt for the people of Israel. They celebrated this meal every year. The disciples may have just been going through the motions until Jesus changed the tradition and took bread, blessed it and broke it. He gave it to them saying it represented his body. Next he took a cup and blessed it and gave it to each of them. He said this wine represented his blood of the covenant. At this meal we also know Jesus washed his disciples feet as a symbol of his servanthood to them. He also informed them that he would be betrayed by one of them and Peter would deny him.
For me this would have been a lot to take in. I think in the moment I would have been trying to figure things out. I do not think it would have made a lot of sense to me, but I also would have thought it was meaningful. I enjoy it when people take something I think I have figured out and then they make me think a little more. By changing what the disciples were used to Jesus challenged them to open their hearts and minds and to look past what they already thought they knew.
If I were looking back after Jesus' resurrection, I think I would have really treasured the Last Supper. I would have felt like Jesus was drawing strength from having his closest friends surround him as he faced his final hours. And I would probably have never have let that sacred time escape my memory.
What about you? What would you have thought or felt if you were present for the Last Supper?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Get Ready

First I want to praise God for the youth who led worship yesterday. You did a wonderful job at offering a worship service that did touch many lives. I had many people make positive comments to me. So great job!
I think God was leading our youth to help all of us get ready for Lent which begins with Ash Wednesday this week. Then starting next Sunday we will be focusing during Lent on the last 24 hours of Jesus' life. There is a video introducing this series on our church webpage. During the six Sundays of Lent we will remember the Last Supper, Jesus' prayer in the garden, Jesus' time being tried and tortured, and finally the crucifixion. All of this is to get us ready for a wonderful celebration of Easter.
If we want a joyous Easter we need to get ready by remembering what Jesus went through to get there. Jesus did not just have a nice wonderful life on earth and rise to heaven. He had a life of wonderful ministry, but also difficulty, temptation, and suffering. When we better understand what Jesus went through for us, we become ready to celebrate Easter more fully. My hope is also that we do not just celebrate Easter on that one Sunday a year we call Easter, but that each and every day becomes an "Easter" for us, as we rise each day to praise and serve God.
So I hope you will join me over these next six weeks of Lent and then the grand celebration of Easter. My hope is to reconnect with Jesus' last hours that we might experience God's work in those moments and what God is doing today. Get ready because God has big plans for this Lent.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Mission is Here and There

Yesterday the coordinator for disaster relief who has organized much of the ministry for the United Methodist Church following the Floods of 2008 in Cedar Rapids spoke to our congregation. She shared many wonderful stories of how God has worked to help people, not only get back into their homes, but to move their lives in a positive direction. I felt it was very encouraging that God is still working in disaster areas.
She encouraged us as we plan to go for a day of work in March to help with flood recovery. There will be plenty of ministry work to be done and I know we have many gifted people that will be able to go and offer their service, whether that is making cookies, decorating cards, or putting up drywall.
She also reminded us that the ministry of service can be done to touch lives right here at home. We can go to Cedar Rapids to serve, but there is plenty to do here as well. We can serve an elderly person that needs some muscle to fix something. We can serve a parent of a teenager by listening to their frustrations. We can serve someone new to the community by inviting them to coffee. We can serve people right here in our midst.
So, I too encourage you to serve. The mission of service will take you great places, but it is also always around you waiting here at home. I encourage my congregation to get ready to serve as we move into Lent. As a part of our 24 Hours that Changed the World series where we will focus on the last 24 hours of Jesus' life, we will also be challenged to offer 2,400 (twenty-four hundred) hours of service. This service can be here or there, it can be anywhere, as long as you are offering your time and energy to serve others as you serve the Lord.
If you are looking forward to this and want to share ideas of where to serve please post a comment to this blog. You might be doing some unique service that others may want to join. Or you may have an idea of how to get someone else involved in service that is not currently doing something. We all have something to offer and we just need to find the right place to offer our gifts.
Go and serve the Lord, here and there.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Primary Faith Giver

I found an interesting piece of Cain's story in Genesis 4:17. After Cain has murdered his brother Abel and become a wanderer he tries to settle down. He has a son, Enoch and then builds a city for him. There is not much more said in the scripture about this piece of the story, but my mind begins to wonder why he built a city for his son?
That is a pretty nice gift to give your child. There is no way my kids will receive a city from me. Not that I don't want to give them one. I mean I want to give them the world, but I just can't. Where I finally felt this question lead me to was that Cain, the wanderer, did not want his son to be a wanderer. He wanted more for his son, then what he had. So he built his son a city so that he will always have a place to stay and he won't have to wander. I think that makes sense and a reasonable person might do the same thing.
However since I know Cain's story (Genesis 4:1-16) I know he is not a wanderer because he did not have a city or home of his own. He did have a place to live until he made some bad choices and was cursed by God to become a wanderer. He murdered his brother, lied to God and was sent from God's presence. He was a wanderer because his relationship with God and others had been broken. He seems to think building a city will fix this problem.
As parents we do often want to give our children what we did not have. We want to fix the problems of our childhood by giving our children all the things we never had. I do not think this is completely a bad thing, but I sometimes doubt that is the appropriate way to solve the issues we are trying to solve. Cain tried to solve a spiritual issue with a physical gift. Instead of trying to solve a spiritual issue with a spiritual gift. What if instead of a city he had built his son a sanctuary? What if he gave his son a place to build a good relationship with God and maybe even to mend his broken relationship.
As parents, I believe we can really bless our children by giving them a gift we have in our relationship with God. Of course, we cannot just hand them this gift, but we can pass it on to them by living our faith in front of them. We can pass it on by reading the Bible with them, asking questions about what God is doing in this world, and letting them know why we love and serve God. If our faith is important to us, it can become important to them.
As parents you should be the primary faith giver to your children. The church can help, but it is up to you to live it each day.
We are now finishing our series on parenting, but keep talking with others about raising our children and be encouraged that God has called you to raise your children. Let me know if you have questions of how to pass on your faith more effectively or any other parenting questions. I know the task is not easy, but through Christ we can do all things.