6th Sunday of Lent: The Triumphal Entry/La Entrada Triunfal

By Annette Pacheco

Based on Mark 11:1-11.

Palm Sunday Procession, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54312 [retrieved February 24, 2015]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johndonaghy/3415402416/.

Palm Sunday Procession, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://bit.ly/1w86hr7 [retrieved February 24, 2015]. Original source: http://bit.ly/1wkBtcG.

Today we celebrate the day called “Palm Sunday,” the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem one week prior to his crucifixion and death. Why this is called “Palm Sunday?” Because according to the Gospel of John the crowds in Jerusalem came out to greet Jesus carrying palm branches, which they either waved or strewed in his path.

In the ensuing days, Jesus did cleanse the Temple, but he didn’t raise a finger against the Romans. In fact, he didn’t even raise his voice against them. By Friday, enough of the multitude were sufficiently disenchanted with Jesus that the Temple priesthood who had engineered his arrest and delivered him to the Romans on the treasonous charge of claiming to be “King of the Jews” were able to turn them against him. And now they chanted not cries of “Hosanna!” but “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And so to the cross he went, to die as he knew he must.

The crucifixion of Jesus was not an accident that befell him unawares while visiting Jerusalem. Rather Jesus understood and embraced his calling to undergo so excruciating a death. In fact he deliberately provoked the events that would lead to his execution. He understood himself to be the Shepherd-King prophesied by Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9) and openly assumed this role in his provocative triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Throughout the process he displayed his foreknowledge of the events of his passion: the finding of the donkey, the arrangements for his last Passover Supper in the upper room, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s three-fold denial, the disciples deserting him, his deliverance to the Gentiles, his scourging, humiliation, and execution. He announced all these things in advance. He thereby showed himself to be Lord over history.

Jesus doesn’t always meet our expectations. Jesus was radically different than our expectations. As Zechariah had prophesied he came humbly and bringing peace. The Kingdom of God which he preached and inaugurated was not an earthly, political kingdom, but the rule of God in the hearts of people who know and serve him. But this was not the kingdom which the people expected or wanted, and so they rejected Jesus as their Lord.

In our Christian lives, as we grow older we all encounter situations in which God does not fulfill our expectations. And the temptation in all these situations is to bail out of what the Christian faith teaches and to do things your own way. You give up confidence in Gods’ love for you and no longer trust God. When God doesn’t live up to our expectations, then we reject God and do things the way we think they should be done or dislike God for not giving us what we want. Jesus is Lord. He’s under no obligation to live up to your expectations. Many of us seem to think that if Christ doesn’t fit our expectations, then we’ll just reject him as the crowds in Jerusalem did. But Christ is Lord, and he doesn’t have to fit our expectations of him.

We must tailor our expectations to what God decrees, not try to tailor God to fit our expectations. Christ is Lord, and he knows what is best. If we try to make him fit our expectations, what is acceptable to us, or else we will reject him, then that is the path to self-destruction. We must not be like the people in Jerusalem, who hailed Christ as their king, just so long as he fit their image of what a king should be. Let us rather acknowledge him truly as our King, our Lord, our Sovereign, and receive from his hand whatever he decrees.

La Entrada Triunfal (Marcos 11:1-11)

Hoy celebramos el día llamado Domingo de Ramos, el día de la entrada triunfal de Jesús en Jerusalén una semana antes de su crucifixión y muerte. Si alguno de nosotros se pregunta por qué se le llama Domingo de Ramos, es porque según el evangelio de Juan, la muchedumbre de Jerusalén salió al encuentro de Jesús llevando estas ramas, que movían en el aire y tendían en su camino, según entraba en la ciudad.

En los días siguientes, Jesús sí purificó el templo, pero ni siquiera levantó un dedo contra los romanos, de hecho, ni siquiera levanto la voz contra ellos. Para el viernes, sabiendo que la multitud estaba lo suficientemente desencantada con Jesús, el sacerdocio del templo que había organizado su arresto, y entregado a los romanos bajo los cargos de ser el rey de los judíos, pudo volverlos contra Jesús. Y ahora no dicen gritos de ¡Hosanna!, sino ¡crucificadle!, ¡crucificadle!, y así fue a la cruz, a morir como Él sabía que debía hacer.

La crucifixión de Jesús no fue un accidente que cogió a Jesús desprevenido cuando estaba visitando Jerusalén, sino que Jesús entendió y abrazó su vocación de pasar por una muerte tan insoportable. De hecho, Él deliberadamente provocó los sucesos que conducirían a su ejecución. Él se veía a sí mismo como el rey Pastor profetizado por Zacarías (Zacarías 9:9), y abiertamente asumió ese rol en su provocativa entrada triunfal en la ciudad. Durante todo el proceso, el mostró su presciencia de los eventos de su pasión: el encuentro del asno, los arreglos para su ultima cena de Pascua en la habitación superior, la traición de Judas, las 3 negaciones de Pedro, el abandono de sus discípulos, su entrega a los gentiles, su humillación su ejecución… el anunció todas estas cosas con anticipación. Y por lo tanto, con ello se mostró como Señor de la Historia.

Jesús no siempre cumple con nuestras expectativas. Pero Jesús era radicalmente diferente a sus expectativas. Como Zacarías había profetizado, llegó humilde, y trayendo la paz. El reino de Dios que Él predicó e inauguró no era un reinado político terrenal, sino más bien el gobierno de Dios en los corazones de los hombres y mujeres que le conocen y le sirven. Pero este no era el reinado que la gente quería o esperaba, y así, rechazaron a Jesús como su Señor.

En nuestras vidas cristianas, según crecemos todos encontraremos situaciones en las que Dios no cumple con nuestras expectativas. Y la tentación en todas estas situaciones es “rescatarnos” de lo que enseña la fe cristiana y tratar de hacer las cosas a nuestra propia manera. Guardas rencor y amargura ante las oportunidades perdidas, pierdes la confianza en el amor de Dios por ti y ya no confías en Él. He visto ocurrir este tipo de cosas una vez y otra en las vidas de amigos cristianos. Cuando Dios no cumple nuestras expectativas, apartamos a Dios y hacemos las cosas del modo que creemos que deben hacerse, o nos sentimos resentidos con Él por no darnos lo que pensamos que merecemos. Y en lo que quiero insistir en este momento, Jesús es Señor. Él no tiene obligación alguna de responder a nuestras expectativas, Él es el Señor.

Si Cristo no se ajusta a nuestras expectativas, entonces simplemente le rechazamos, como la multitud en Jerusalén. Pero Cristo es el Señor y no tiene por qué encajar en nuestras expectativas. Debemos ajustar nuestras expectativas a lo que Dios decreta, y no ajustar a Dios a nuestras expectativas. Cristo es el Señor, y Él sabe lo que es mejor. Reconozcamos a Cristo realmente como nuestro Rey, nuestro Señor, nuestro Soberano, y recibamos de su mano, su propósito.

Annette PachecoAnnette Pacheco, from Yauco, Puerto Rico, serves as national treasurer for American Baptist Women’s Ministries. A member of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Yauco, Annette was born in Detroit, Michigan, raised in Puerto Rico, and was married in Boston, Massachusetts; she and her family moved back to Puerto Rico in 1993. She is an active leader in her church, enjoys working with the church’s youth, and has served as treasurer in wider arenas of Baptist work in Puerto Rico.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent: A Repentant Heart Receives Victory

By Chantá Barrett

Based on Psalm 51:1-12.

Meu Coracao/My Heart, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54138 [retrieved January 28, 2015]. Original source: Amanda Vivan, Flickr Creative Commons.

Meu Coracao/My Heart, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54138 [retrieved January 28, 2015]. Original source: Amanda Vivan, Flickr Creative Commons.

A repentant heart receives victory. This is a simplistic statement that holds a profound truth. What truth, might you ask? It is the truth that there is a victory that is received by a person who humbles themselves and repents; repents of their sinful acts, whether it be in word, thought, or deed. When one repents they have received victory over their sinful nature in that area. I know you’re probably saying to yourself that you need to see evidence of this in the Bible. Okay, then, let’s take a journey to the book of Psalms, visit the fifty-first chapter, and chat with the first twelve verses.

So that we can more easily relate to what the verses have to say, I’ll share a little background on this text. King David was the most powerful man in Israel at this time and the prophet Nathan had just called David out on David’s sinful behavior. Nathan used an allegory to highlight the despicable actions of a selfish, self-centered, greedy individual. When the king became completely outraged with full disdain for this person in the story, and wanted to take vengeance on him for what he had done, Nathan pointed out that the person in the story was none other than the king himself.

You see, King David had lusted after and coveted the wife of another man. He then sent for her, committed adultery with her, had her husband killed, and took her to be his wife (2 Samuel 11 and 12). Some scholars say that Psalm 51 was written by David after Nathan reproved him.

In these twelve verses, David begs God for mercy, asks to be cleansed, and admits his sin. David recognizes God’s sovereignty and acknowledges that God knew better. David is cognizant of the fact that if God cleanses him, David will be free from the filth of his sin; David goes a step further and requests that God give him a willing spirit to not return to the sin.

We can all stand to take a page from the king’s playbook when we are called on our sin. David did not compound his many sins with more sin by being prideful. He didn’t cloak his guilt with denial or take offense with Nathan or Nathan’s message. I wonder how many of us, when faced with our own failures, are as strong and as honest as David? How many of us immediately accept the indictment of our actions and throw ourselves on the mercy of God’s court? To borrow a phrase from my pastor, “If I were to take my halo off,” I would concede that my repentance is not always immediate. With David, however, it was.

King David did suffer consequences for his actions. Just as God spoke through the prophet, there was always death and fighting among David’s children. David himself was publicly humiliated by his own son sleeping with David’s wives. Yet David was restored and to this day is remembered as the most loved king of Israel. He had a repentant heart and he received the victory.

This post is part of a Lenten series. To read other posts in the series, click on the word “Lent” in the list on the right, under “Find Posts About….”

Chantá BarrettChanta Barrett is serving as an intern in American Baptist Women’s Ministries for the 2014-2015 academic year. A member and ministry leader at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chantá is in her second year of studies at Palmer Theological Seminary, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Chantá is also founder of LACAA’S LLC, a Christian organization that writes, directs, and produces Christian productions through theatrical plays, videos, television, and films.

Fourth Sunday of Lent: More Like Christ = Sacrifice

By Jenn Leneus

Based on Ephesians 2:1-10.

Saving grace to all humankind, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54882 [retrieved February 24, 2015]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/reabhecc/5422927891/.

Saving grace to all humankind, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://bit.ly/1DkLV32 [retrieved February 24, 2015]. Original source: http://bit.ly/17Tjqyg.

Lent is a time people usually put aside to start a new habit, break an old habit, build will power, and deepen their relationship with Christ. During Christ’s 40-day fast, he sacrificed his hunger and thirst to edify us. At that time people were sinful and turning away from God and his ways. But God in sovereignty and in loving kindness saw fit to send his only son to die for us and offer us a salvation we can not find on the clearance racks at Walmart. We didn’t do anything to deserve this kind of love. It wasn’t our righteous ways (God wouldn’t sacrifice
God’s son if we were doing good), it wasn’t the fancy things we wore (God wants to be our only God). But God foresaw our destruction and wanted to give us another chance at heaven; after all; God did make heaven for us.

During this Lenten season, I pray that you seek to show someone the love of Christ, whether they deserve it or not. Mark 12:30 tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our neighbor may be an atheist, does that mean we love them any less?? Allow the spirit of God to lead you into loving those who aren’t in your normal “love” circle. Let’s also appreciate and thank God for alove that’s beyond our comprehension. So many of us are lacking the love of Christ, but we paint a smile on our face and go about our day. During this Lenten season, reach out and love someone; make them feel as special as God created us to be.

This post is part of a Lenten series. To read other posts in the series, click on the word “Lent” in the list on the right, under “Find Posts About….”

Jenn LeneusJennifer Leneus, LPN, serves as the coordinator of Young Adult Women’s Ministries with American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Third Sunday of Lent: Staying Focused

By Bonnie Higgins

Greco, 1541?-1614. Christ Expelling the Money Changers in the Temple, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48047 [retrieved January 28, 2015]. Original source: www.yorckproject.de.

Greco, 1541?-1614. Christ Expelling the Money Changers in the Temple, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48047 [retrieved January 28, 2015]. Original source: http://www.yorckproject.de.

As we come to the third week of Lent, we are reminded that Lent is a time to focus on our relationship with God. It is a time to cleanse and enrich our bodies for the goodness that God has prepared us for.

One way is through prayer. In John 2:13-22 we read the story in which Jesus went to the temple courts to worship and found merchants selling cattle, sheep and doves, sold to be used as ritual sacrifices in the temple, while others were sitting at tables exchanging money. The merchants were profiting from those who were coming to worship. Jesus grew very angry and, by flipping their tables over and telling them to leave, cleared the temple of all of these merchants and money changers. In the version of the same story that we find in Matthew 21:13, Jesus says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.’” Jesus was upset to find the merchants exploiting the needs of the people who were coming to worship in his house of prayer.

How many times have we gone to church and not focused on why we are there? We need to remember that we go to church freely to worship and praise our risen Savior. It’s not just a social hour: We should be going to church to praise and worship God. When we enter the church building, we need to focus on our relationship with God and to focus on God’s Word. As we sit in our pews, we should all be in prayer to have God open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to feel. We are there to see, hear, and feel God within us, to have that relationship that only God can provide. We hear God speaking to us in the quiet time of reflection; We pray to give thanks, to praise, and to speak the desires of our hearts to God. We can’t hear what God is telling us if we are consumed with other things on our minds.

To focus more completely on God, find a place that is quiet: maybe your closet at home or your bedroom—anywhere that you can stop and focus on talking to God one-on-one with no interruptions. Prayer is our communication with God; God wants to hear from us daily. During this season, if you don’t already have a time set apart for prayer, find the time in your schedule to pray. Most of us find the time to make sure we exercise, work, time to go out with friends, and so forth, but we don’t necessarily have in our schedules a time for one-on-one time with God. Lent is a time for us to sacrifice something in our lives for God: let it be the sacrifice of time from our lives to be in contact with God, and may we continue in this intentional communication after Lent is over.

As we go through this season of Lent, we need to remember the sacrifice that God made for each of us, God sent Jesus Christ to die for us. We need to be in prayer to praise and thank God for remembering us on the cross.

This post is part of a Lenten series. To read other posts in the series, click on the word “Lent” in the list on the right, under “Find Posts About….”

Bonnie HigginsBonnie Higgins serves as coordinator of the Eastern Section on the national board of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, and leads the Public Relations team. A member of Sidney Second Baptist Church, Sidney, Maine, Bonnie particularly enjoys volunteering in her region’s camping ministries. Bonnie is mother of three children and grandmother to two.

 

Second Sunday of Lent: Words Spoken and Live Out

By Mary Etta Copeland

Based on Mark 8:31-38.

Photo by Mary Etta Copeland, 2014.

Photo by Mary Etta Copeland, 2014.

As we continue our journey through Lent, we find the words of Jesus just as meaningful today as to the early disciples 2,000 years ago. Like those in Christ’s inner circle how easy it becomes for us to interpret words and teachings according to our own likings, making God’s message say what we want it to say! And in our own self-righteousness, do we ever find ourselves looking judgmentally at the audacity of Peter rebuking Jesus…failing to recognize that this action is repeated as we fail to follow God’s will and calling on our own lives? Recognizing the powerful message as our Lord called Peter “Satan,” do we also see the possibility of our actions putting us in position for Christ to label us likewise?

In our 21st century living, are we putting the things of God first in our lives, trusting even when understanding may be lacking; or are the important aspects of our living those of the world? Are we failing to answer “yes” to God’s call on our lives in our ministries? Could there be areas in which we deny the Lordship of God in our lives, such as in material possessions, our use of time, our relationships, our decisions, our commitments?

We’re told if we lose our lives we will save them, while trying to save them brings loss. Sound paradoxical? Maybe, but how incredible to experience life when we make this illogical choice.

As Christians, we need to consistently be open to the voice of God in the myriad of ways communication may come. Early one morning, traveling the interstate, I saw a most unusual sight. In the eastern sky, rows of billowing clouds like ocean waves, pink from the rising sun, began forming with activity so forceful I pulled over to take a picture just before its fading, thinking perhaps this was Christ’s return! The finale was a clearly formed cross, and as I shared this later while preparing for our Christmas service, all were in agreement of its message. The rest of the story: three hours later our son-in-law was lying on the ground, fallen from the ladder while hanging Christmas lights, and suffering multiple broken bones and other injuries. In preparation for facing this, God had spoken through a moving picture, communicating through a visible cross that “I am in the world and all is, and will be, well!”

Recently, I broke my arm. While running errands, I entered a Wal-Mart with my fractured arm in a sling. The words from a very young greeter were, “I’m praying that arm will be better every day,” bringing a huge look of surprise on my face. As we later thanked him, he held out the cross that was hanging around his neck and stated simply, “That’s what I do!”

As Christians, in humble yet bold confidence, may what we do reflect to a world needing assurance of God’s living presence the words of the cross and the reality of a loving, risen Savior!

This post is part of a Lenten series. To read other posts in the series, click on the word “Lent” in the list on the right, under “Find Posts About….”

Mary Etta CopelandAn American Baptist for nearly seven decades, Mary Etta has served with her pastor husband Richard at De Soto Baptist Church in De Soto, Kansas, for 48 years.  In addition to serving as president of AB Women’s Ministries of the Central Region, she’s also in her 48th year teaching Choral Music at the high school level.  Her passion is in leading women’s retreats, especially on the subjects of prayer and spiritual gifts.