An Outward Expression of an Inward Reality.

Luke 19:41-44, Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

An outward expression of an inward reality.

Jesus’ tears are an outward expression of an inward reality.  An inward reality that anxiously awaits the coming Kingdom; one that is simultaneously here and still to come.

An inward reality that grieves brokenness in the world; brokenness that is simultaneously here and still to come.

An inward reality that is omnipotent, sovereign and good amidst inadequacy, confusion & darkness.

These statements are true about the passage from Luke 19; I think they are just as true about today as they were back then.

We are constantly waiting for the second coming- the New Jerusalem.  At the same time, we can do nothing but be present in our current situations and circumstances.

This Monday of Holy Week, we are waiting for the Easter Celebration- the Ressurection.  At the same time, we can do nothing but be present in our current situations and circumstances.

This Monday, I invite each of us to read and re-read this passage from Luke three times.  Each time, I would ask you to imagine Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and over our whole world today.   I invite you to join in on the weeping in your own frailty, in full dependence on God, our Creator.

In God’s mercy,

Pastor Joel

Missing Community

“I Thank My God every time I remember you” Paul writes to the Philippian church from far away. It doesn’t take much these days to feel those words, deeply, as we spend time close yet separated, not together. We are beginning to realize the treasure we have and often take for granted in the church, in the spiritual community. What follows below is a wonderful word from Royce Eckhardt expressing the longing to be together again. To that I say, “Amen! May it be soon!”

                                            Missing the Community of Faith

I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.
All who follow Jesus all around the world, yes, we’re the church together.
The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,
The church is not a resting place, the church is a people!
Richard Avery and Donald Marsh © 1972, Hope Publishing Co.

I’m unapologetically a church person. This old ark has been my entire life. I’ve been a loyal attender, a staff musician, a worshiper, a volunteer. Church is a place where the great passages of life are celebrated, a place for solace and comfort in times of trouble. Church is where I belong. Now, because of the great plague, I can’t go
to church, and I miss it terribly. Yes, there are many worship services that are streamed Sunday mornings or available by podcasts. It is the best we can do, given the social restrictions that are imposed for our and society’s benefit. But Sunday
mornings at home, lounging in my pajamas, munching on toast and sipping coffee, instead of getting dressed for church, make me uneasy. Yes, I can hear the scriptures read and the prayers said and helpful sermons preached on television. Our pastors faithfully provide pastoral care and help keep us connected throughout the
week, but by phone, remotely. But something is clearly missing.
It is the community! It is people. Communal prayers, communal singing, communally hearing God’s Word, communally partaking of the bread and cup—doing these together is powerful! Perhaps church time had become a routine; Sunday mornings were on automatic pilot. What we may have taken for granted is now missing for a time, and we begin to perceive how much of our lives is centered on that weekly gathering.

“We are the church together!”
It seems very difficult to be a Christian by oneself—that the essence of the Christian faith is community. The New Testament speaks of the Christian faith in plural terms, rather than singular. The Lord’s Prayer begins,
“ Our Father…” not my Father. “Give us this day …Forgive us our debts… Lead us not into temptation.” Even Jesus required at least two or three as assurance for his presence (Matthew 18:20) .

Being a Christian is a team sport, if you will. We do not follow Christ as lone individuals but as part of a faith community. Christ ministered not alone, but with a band of disciples. After Jesus chose the disciples, we read in Luke 10:1 that seventy more were appointed and were sent out in pairs of two to the towns that our Lord
instructed them to visit. The crucial pronoun throughout the New Testament is “we” rather than “I.” The truth is that we need each other—the sharing of gifts, the bearing of burdens, the mutual support and encouragement that nourishes us. The apostle Paul writes, “ For as in one body, we are many members—so we, who are many, are one body in Christ and individually members one o f another . Love one another with
mutual affection…rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep…live in harmony with one another …in so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all others” ( Romans 12: 5, 10, 16). We now live in isolation because we must, but we feel the loss of community. Some day, when the plague subsides, we can return to our spiritual home and our fellowship. I eagerly look forward to seeing you all again:
in corporate worship, in fellowship—with donut holes.
–Royce Eckhardt

Praying Without Words

Romans 8:24-26, “For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Recently when I have sat down with a cup of coffee to pray in my morning devotions, it has been harder for me to find the words I want to say.  Sometimes  I don’t even feel clear on what people or situations to pray for.

Even right now, I don’t know what words to type in this blog post with as much clarity as I have in the past.  Maybe it’s being tired.  Maybe it’s all the unknowns.  Maybe it’s because I have my Master’s in Divinity, not Journalism.

But through it all, I have been clinging to the above passage in Romans.  I have been praying that the Spirit intercedes in my life, in our lives, in the world in ways I cannot ask or imagine.

Now more than ever, I am aware of my humanity- my human limits.  We are aware of our frailty and shortcomings.  I wish that all could be right in the world; sadly, I am increasingly aware of how hard things are right now for all.

There are hopes that my heart longs for that are not here.  The reality is I’m not good at waiting.  I’m not good at being still.

I have learned this clearly through yoga.  When I first started taking classes, I became restless in every pose; I could not slow my body and mind down.  I have gotten better over time, but it is still very difficult.

When it comes to the fruits of the spirit, I like to focus on gentleness, kindness, and peace- things that come more naturally to me.  Patience though.  That one is much more difficult for me.  I can imagine it’s difficult for all of us these days.

My prayer for us today is that we would welcome patience in our lives more today.  Patience with the world, with people, with ourselves.  That we would embrace stillness in weakness, in silence, in suffering.  And we would cling to hope in the good, the bad & everything in between.

Blessings, Pastor Joel