Palm Sunday Meditation

I’ve heard the Palm Sunday scripture each year since I started Sunday School. As a child waving that giant fan like branch felt like a huge celebration. When I followed my friends down the church aisle, all those adults staring at me dampened the party somewhat, but certainly didn’t ruin it for me. I remember imagining I was there with Jesus, skipping along beside the donkey. The coming events of Holy week didn’t even register on my radar. I skipped passed Good Friday right on to Easter Sunday. I didn’t think about the significance of the parade or who might be watching.
            As an adult I want to understand more about this story. I want to find the relevance it has for me as an individual and for our world today. One way of doing that is to place myself in the story, but this time as an adult. I invite you to join me in this process. Therefore, I offer you my guided meditation. Open your Bible to Matthew 21:1-11 . Read through the story you find there. When you’ve finished reading, turn to the meditation below. Take some time to answer each question as thoroughly and honestly  as you can.
Sit back and take several deep breaths to help you relax. In your mind’s eye see the scene. You’re right outside the Golden Gates that mark the entrance to Jerusalem. The setting sun shines directly on those gates nearly blinding you, when you look back to the city. It’s hot and dry. There’s not much grass in this dry land. A growing crowd is lining both sides of the road and still more people are poring through the gates. People are jostling one another, excited because Jesus, the great teacher and healer is coming. You’ve found a good spot in the crowd. What thoughts are floating through your mind? Are you happy to be there? Are you anxious to see Jesus? How do you feel about him? Is he a hero or an enemy?
            As you peer down the road you see them coming, men, women, a few children their sandals kicking up dust in the dry air. One man is riding, the donkey just a little small, so his long legs drag in the dust.
The stranger standing next to you points and yells, “There he is.”
Your eyes follow the line of his pointing finger. You ask, “On the donkey, is that Jesus on the donkey.”
            The stranger nods. As they approach people around you cut palms from the trees and wave them. A chant rises from the watchers. “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna, to the son of David.” Are you joining them or standing back and just watching?
            A victorious king rides a donkey as he returns to his city. What victory is Jesus celebrating?
            The little party passes directly in front of you. Your eyes are drawn to Jesus. He turns his head. Your eyes meet and hold their gaze.
            What message are you receiving from Jesus? What would you like to tell him?
The moment is fleeting. He smiles and turns to someone else. In minutes the parade is over. Did you wave your flag?
As you watch the little band of people pass through the gates, you realize the sun has dropped even lower. They disappear from view. How are you feeling now? What will you tell your friends about this encounter?

Wasted Time

When I was a child, my father chided me about wasting time. “Put that book down,” he would say. “Do something useful.” That admonition still resonates in my life. In fact, I find satisfaction in filling up those little squares in my day-timer. My life has purpose when I’m busy. I do my best to stop and listen when someone comes to me with concerns. I try to visit shut-ins and friends. When someone is needed for a task, I volunteer. My family knows that I can be depended on to come in an emergency. I try to use the gifts God has given me to spread God’s Word of love. I have often declared, “Come judgment day, God will have a long list of my failures, but at least God will know that I didn’t waste God’s precious gift of time.”
Lately, I’ve had some second thoughts about my use of time. Maybe God has the following questions for me and for all of us:
 “How much time do you set aside for caring for yourself? That amazing body I created for you needs sleep, exercise, fun.
 “How much time do you waste worrying about things that never happened, or things you can’t change? Do you trust me?”
“How much time do you waste complaining about your problems, lamenting about what you don’t have or can’t do? Do you ever count your blessings?”
“When you do rest, do you fill your mind with kind, loving and peaceful thoughts? Think about the books you read, movies you see, video games you play. Do you waste your moments of rest?”
Maybe God is saying, “I give you twenty-four precious hours. Yes, you care for others, but yourself? I’m not so sure. Seems like there’s been time wasted there. You’ve got a few days, months, years left, make some changes, now. Remember you are valuable. Use your time wisely.
“For God created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139: 13-14)

Lent

A friend of mine has been looking for work. The process is slow, and depressing. With each disappointment, frustration and fear mounted. Job hunting is tough. In January, she greeted me with a smile on her face and determination in her soul. “I’ve decided to use this miserable limbo time to care for myself,” she said. “I’ve joined a gym. I’ve met with my trainer and laid out a program of diet and exercise to strengthen my body. Being unemployed I can exercise every day. After two weeks, I’m feeling much better. My spirits have lifted. I have more energy. I’ve added prayer to the program so my hope has returned. I’ve decided to trust God with my future. I’m using this time to prepare. I’ll be ready for the job when it comes.
During the season of Lent, Christians set aside forty days leading up to Easter to care for our souls. Like my friend, we join the program. We spend time talking with God our trainer. We look at our lives, the times we’ve hurt others, the unnecessary luxuries we enjoyed while others went hungry, the things we intended to do but didn’t. Beginning with the service of ashes, we’re marked with the sign of Christ’s cross, a symbol of our repentance. As we journey through those forty days, the program can involve giving up something that we particularly like, not to punish ourselves but to help us focus on giving up our selfish ways. The days lengthen. The light and warmth of spring warms our souls. As we slowly accept God’s forgiveness, our minds clear, our guilt recedes. We’re on the road of thanksgiving. By the time we get to Easter, and the joy of the resurrection we’re ready to celebrate. Our faith is stronger, we’ve begun a new way of living.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  (Matthew 6:22-23 NKJV)

World Day of Prayer

Almost two weeks ago Christians around the world gathered to pray for justice and forgiveness in the human family. We name this day “The World Day of Prayer.” Starting at sunrise in the far east, and ending at sunset in the far west, regardless of our skin colour, nationality or economic status, we come together with one request for God. Please, empower us, teach us, show us how to live together in love and justice.

As I prayed in Dunsford with people from the three churches of our area, I pictured a huge tidal wave of love, thousands of stories high, rising out of the ocean of humanity, bringing with it a desire for peace and justice in our hurting world.

Can you see it? Can you feel it? Just as the wave at a baseball game picks up and blasts the stadium with excitement and energy, so also does this worldwide wave of prayer, blast the world with mercy and love. It is good that we do this every year. We need to remember that we are called to pray for peace and justice, not just on the first Friday of March, but every day of the year. I invite you to join the wave. Pray for unity and healing in our world. Turn on the power of prayer.

Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.