Sermon in a Nutshell: Ephesians 1:1-2

Aside

Sermon in a Nutshell

I love listening to expository messages. I love the process of working my way through one book of the Bible allowing the words to saturate my being. When my hubby is preaching through a series, I find myself at mid-week going back to my notes and trying to remember the points from the previous week. This habit led me to consider a new blog series: Sermon in a Nutshell.

This week, I have also thrown in a playlist I created to accompany the first chapter of Ephesians. I am a bit eclectic…I like new music sprinkled in with a few familiar songs, so I hope you enjoy (see the playlist at the end)!

Ephesians Header

April 19, 2020 Sermon

#1: The Scriptures reveal the mysteries of Christ.

  • Ephesians was a circular letter sent to a church at Ephesus and then delivered to other first-century churches. It is intended for our benefit.
  • It matters a great deal who wrote the letter of Ephesians: his integrity, his trustworthiness, his reason for writing.

Does the author of Ephesians have ethos (credibility)? Yes!

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God. (Eph. 1:1)

  • He is an apostle of Jesus Christ: An apostle is one who is “sent,” carrying the idea of an ambassador of some kind, specifically he is one who represents Jesus Christ and speaks for Jesus. He is a special agent for Christ, bringing his message to these churches.
  • He is an apostle by the will of God: God chose him for this role. He is not a self-appointed apostle, but one God has sent. God appointed him. God commissioned him to this ministry.

What is Paul doing in Ephesians?

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs,  members of the same body,  and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Eph. 3:1-6)

Paul’s hope in this letter is for his readers to receive this revelation in order to have real knowledge of God (the greatest mystery of the universe) and in turn, delight in the goodness of God.

#2: The Scriptures reveal the mystery of you.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:2)

Paul is writing to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus. Suddenly, we feel out of place in this conversation. Ever been there?

  • Saints means holy ones (those made holy and righteous in Christ), those who are set apart for God’s service.
  • Our faithfulness is in Christ Jesus, not in ourselves. We have nothing to boast in.

We need to operate from a place of humility and confidence, walking as children, not as strangers. Everything has been given to us. You belong here. You belong before your Father and that’s what Ephesians is helping people understand. Gentiles belong. We are one in Christ (Eph. 3:6; 4:4-6).

#3: The Scriptures reveal the mystery of Love.

Grace and peace

This letter itself is a means of grace and peace and those who receive it in faith will experience this reality.

The revealing of Christ is an act of love.
When lovers come together over time, they reveal their hearts to each other which is an act of love.

We know of God’s love by the cross.

We know of the cross through the Scriptures.

YouTube and Spotify Playlist for Ephesians: Chapter 1

 

Stations of the Cross: 7

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The Final Station

Station 7: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Mark 15: 33-39

The Death of Jesus

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son[i] of God!”

It was dark in the middle of the day. It seemed that the heavens and the earth were grieving, telling us that something was horribly wrong. And yet some still seemed to mock. Or did they really expect some final miracle to save You?

Jesus, You cried out in lament from the Psalms and anyone could hear and know that it was the cry of human pain and desolation. Here, where they often only saw You as God, You revealed Your true humanity. Most everyone had forsaken You, and in Your pain the emotion escaped in a cry of abandonment. Yet, it was a prayer, a cry from human lips to a God who hears such cries.

Finally, it was over. You were dead. What had we done?

The earth shook. The curtain in the temple was torn right down the middle. The Holy of Holies was exposed for all to see. What did it mean? Who were you? Even the Romans then thought You were the son of God. But You were dead. It was too late. What had we done?

Yet You never stopped loving me even in death. Had I been there, would I have wished I had shown more of my love for You while you were yet alive?

You died because of human sin, because of me.

Yet we know sin was never going to have the final word. God can still redeem the worst that human beings can do. But Your death? I wonder if they thought, “What could come of this?” “What could God do with such a final ending?”

They hoped, and waited . . . ..

We now hope and wait for You to come again.

Prayer: O Lord, I cannot comprehend the depth and breadth of Your love. There are not enough words in all languages together to describe what Your love means to me. May my love for You and my love for all Your children in some way reflect Your love. Let this dark night become fertile soil for growth in Your love and for our growth as a community of Faith. May You use this night to teach us how to love You and to love others the way You have loved us. O Lord, we long for newness, for hope, for renewal, for life where there is now death. Out of this darkness bring to us the light of a new dawn. O Lord, have mercy on us.

Song of Worship: Your Great Name

Lost are saved, find their way, at the sound of Your great name
All condemned, feel no shame, at the sound of Your great name
Every fear, has no place, at the sound of Your great name
The enemy, he has to leave, at the sound of Your great name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and man
You are high and lifted up, that all the world will praise Your great name
All the weak, find their strength, at the sound of Your great name
Hungry souls, receive grace, at the sound of Your great name
The fatherless, they find their rest, at the sound of Your great name
Sick are healed, and the dead are raised, at the sound of Your great name
Jesus, worthy is the lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and man
You are high and lifted up, that all the world will praise Your great name
Oh, Your great name
Redeemer, my healer, almighty
My Savior, Defender, You are my King
Redeemer, my healer, almighty
My Savior, Defender, You are my King
Jesus, the name of Jesus
You are high and lifted up and all the world will praise Your great name
Slain for us, son of God and man
You are high and lifted up, that all the world will praise Your great name
Your great name
*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 6

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Station 6: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Mark 15:23-32

The Crucifixion

23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour[d] when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.[e] 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

Jesus, I do not want to see this.  Yet I force myself to watch in my mind’s eye. I hear the sharp crack of hammer against nail and shudder. It sounds so final. Is it over? Did all those wonderful lessons you taught by the seaside mean anything?

You spoke of being a light to the world, but it seems that darkness is winning.

How they mocked you! You said you could rebuild the temple in three days. Surely anyone with the power to raise the dead could deal with broken stones. But it was not the stones in the temple that mattered to you, was it? Your greater concern was how we relate to you and to one another. You want us to know the power of living love. Was love stronger than the evil that surrounded you?

I want to rage at the injustice of it all.

The cruelty of the Romans. The hypocrisy of the High Priest and religious leaders. The cowardice of the disciples. The treachery of Judas.  The fickleness of the crowds. Why didn’t they remember you spoke of loving one another, of bearing the burdens of others, even of loving our enemies? They should have known better, they should have listened and learned.

And yet, would I have done differently?

Is the guilt just of those who drove the nails and the rest of us are innocent? Or is it human sin that drove the nails? My sin. The old American spiritual asks the question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” I want to deny it. I want to pretend that it is someone else’s guilt, someone else’s sin.

But I was there. It was I who drove the nails.

Prayer: O Lord, remind me of the deathly cost of sin. Forgive me for those things I have done that are displeasing to you. Forgive me for not allowing you to deal with the darkness that I harbor in the hidden recesses of my heart. Forgive me for fooling myself into believing that I am more righteous than I am, that I am better than others, and that I have no need to repent. Forgive me for those things I should have done, but found excuses not to do. O Lord, make me better than I am, transform me into what I can be by your grace.

Song of Worship: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross with Here I Am to Worship

Jesus, keep me near the Cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all — a healing stream —
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning Star
Shed its beams around me.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
Near the cross! I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 5

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Station 5: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

John 19: 23-24

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things.

Jesus, I want to follow you on this journey. But I cannot bear to watch this in my mind. I want to turn away as I think about You being humiliated.

You came into this world amid celebration and anticipation.

Angels sang in the heavens to celebrate Your birth. As a child, Magi from the East paid homage to You as to a king. The people followed You by the thousands as You taught on the hillsides of Galilee. They wanted to make You king! Just a few days before this event, the crowds followed You in the streets of Jerusalem singing praises to God: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Yet in this moment in Scripture, You were forced to suffer the worst of human indignity. You stood alone as the soldiers stripped from You the last thing that You possessed, and played games to see who would claim it.

Just the day before, You removed Your cloak and laid it aside to wash Your disciples’ feet. You called them to follow Your example as a symbol of humility and service to others.  And then there You were, allowing others to strip You of Your clothes. You allowed them to publically disgrace and ridicule You.

You were left with nothing, not even human decency.

You were still trying to teach us something about what it means to serve others. Your surrender to such degradation a model for how we are to live in the world as Your followers. I don’t like such an idea. I would rather have walked with You into Jerusalem with the praise of the people ringing in my ears than to risk such humiliation. But this is really what it means to be a follower.

I must lay aside everything and risk this kind of degradation.

That is exactly what you did.

Prayer: O Lord, forgive me for wanting to take the path of glory and reward. Forgive me for my selfishness that wants to serve you in easy ways and seeks the reward of others’ praise.  Lord, teach me the humility of spirit that replaces self-centeredness with a sacrificial spirit. Make me vulnerable so that I may follow your example. Help me see those around me who are in need. Give me the courage to lay aside the things that I use to hide from their need, and find ways to minister to others as you have shown us.

Song of Worship: Glorious God / Good, Good Father

Today, I wanted to worship with a choir of voices. The following are clips from a PreTeen Camp this past summer at East Texas Baptist Encampment. Sing along with the children as you can. Their voices speak to the eternal nature of the gospel, raising up a new generation to sing to Him and sing about His glory. He is worthy to be praised forever.

 

You poured out the water

Raised up the mountains

Imagined the heavens

I can’t even fathom how good You are

How good You are

 

With one single motion

You wrote every birdsong

Composed my emotion

I can’t even fathom how good You are

How good You are

 

Glorious, Glorious God

Wonderful Maker

I’ll sing with the stars and praise

My Creator

O Glorious, Glorious God

O Glorious, Glorious God

 

And it was good

For God is good

And it was good

For You are good

 

*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 4

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Station 4: Jesus Speaks to the Women

Luke 23: 27-31 (ESV)

The Crucifixion

27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

As Christ struggled along the road toward that awful place of death, He saw a group of women among the crowd following Him, already grieving at His impending death. He had heard this wailing many times before at funerals and tragic events. But now, they mourned for Him.

Christ had always shown equal compassion to women He had encountered across the years. He had always seemed to understand the unique burdens that women bore in a world and a culture that pushed them to the margins of society. So here, as He bore the most unimaginable pain of body and heart, He stopped to speak to them.

Christ was about to die, and yet He was more concerned with others than with His own suffering and death.

But His words were strange and seemed out of place on this road of sorrow. They had a prophetic ring to them as if He was still trying to tell people something important they could not quite grasp, or that perhaps they did not really want to hear. Christ spoke of even darker days, of far worse things to come upon the people. How could things get worse?

Jesus often spoke of repentance, calling the people to turn from their wicked ways and accept the coming of the Kingdom of God. Many times He criticized the religious leaders and those who thought themselves righteous, warning they would bring destruction upon the people and the land. Don’t you remember that once Christ even spoke of the destruction of the temple? But no one really believed that was going to happen. God had always been with them, and surely Jesus would not let such a terrible thing happen to His people.

There Christ was on the path of sorrow stumbling toward His death.  No one had thought that would happen either. Maybe Christ understood more than we had realized. Maybe He saw something the people had refused to believe. Maybe they were not as righteous as they had thought. Maybe they rejected repentance, not because they did not need it, but because they needed it more than they dared admit.

Was that what Christ meant by these strange words? Was it possible that His death was only the beginning of things for which to weep? Was it possible that the people’s refusal to repent and change the way they lived caused these beginnings of sorrow? Was their own sin and refusal to confess really the reason Christ was on that path?

I would like to think that I would have repented.

I would like to think I might have confessed my sins and stood righteous before God. I would have rather played the part of the righteous follower. I would rather have wept for you, Jesus. I do not want to weep for myself and the pain I bring to others because of my failures and sin. Yet, how long has it been since I have shed tears for my own failures, for my own sins?

Have I really been honest enough with God about who I am?

Prayer: O Lord, forgive my unwillingness to repent, to confess all that I am before you.  Help me go beyond the repentance mouthed in words of false piety, to sweep away all the facades of who I try so hard to be before others, and recall who I really am inside. Help me once again stand before God with a bare and open heart. Help me not just to repent in words, but to put that repentance into action in everything I am and do. O Lord, give me the gift of tears to weep for my own failures, for my sins, for the pain I bring to others, and to live the fruits of repentance. How great are You Lord, that you would forgive me.

Song of Worship: Great Are You Lord

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only
And all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord
*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 3

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STATION 3: SIMON HELPS CARRY THE CROSS

MARK 15:21

The Crucifixion

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

I can only imagine the awful weight of the cross Christ carried. Not only does the weight of beams of wood press down, but also the burden He carried for those whom He loved.  Christ came and offered them life, and yet they returned only death.

Can you imagine Christ falling from the crushing weight of pain and grief? I don’t know how many times He stumbled, but His physical strength had to be failing.  The soldiers must have recognized this as well because they forced a man from the crowd to help Him carry the cross the rest of the way to the place where He would be crucified. The man of Cyrene was just a bystander passing through on his way into town from the countryside.  And yet he bore the weight of the cross to save Christ’s strength.

I would like to think that if I had been there I would have rushed from the crowd and volunteered to carry that cross.

But would I have had the courage to face the Roman soldiers and risk being forced to join you on a cross? Would I have really been so eager to share your cross if it meant that I might have to die on one as well? Would I have been willing to risk everything to ease your suffering for a few moments?

I can already hear myself and my own selfish reasons for choosing to stay in the crows. I have my own crosses already…I have as much as I can bear without taking on the added burdens of others…What would people think of me if I were seen consorting with criminals and enemies of Rome in such a public spectacle?

What would I have done? Truly? I probably would have tried to become invisible in the crowd. And when the soldiers were looking around for someone to press into service, I would likely have looked away and pretended not to notice what was happening.

Sounds like me.

It is easy to pretend not to see the needs, the grief, and the suffering around me every day. It is easy to pretend not to hear the cries for help that come in many forms from those among whom I walk every day. It is easy to convince myself that I am too busy, or too tired, or have too much on my plate already to get involved in the lives of others.

And yet, I remember something that Christ said. Something about taking up my own cross and following Him. He said something about becoming a servant of all, of putting myself last and others first. Is this what it means to be a servant? Jesus, are you showing me what it means to be that kind of servant. Is this man from Cyrene modeling for me the path of discipleship?

Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone
And there’s a cross for me.

Prayer: O Lord, forgive me for becoming so preoccupied with myself that I have become deaf and blind to the grief and suffering of those around me. Forgive me for my indifference. Constantly remind me that I cannot love you without loving others as well. Help me always remember that to be a follower of yours means that I share in the burdens of others. Lord, show me someone whose cross I may help carry. Give us hearts of servants.

Song of Worship: Hearts of Servants

 

Jesus, You are
Jesus, You were
Jesus, You will always be

A perfect servant to us
A perfect servant to death
Even death on a cross

Give us a picture of Your face
Show us the measure of Your grace
Reveal the love of the Father

Put within us tenderness
Release from us all selfishness
We’ll consider them better

We are Yours
Give us hearts of servants

 

*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 2

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STATION 2: JESUS ACCEPTED HIS CROSS

MATTHEW 27:27-31 & JOHN 19:17 (ESV)

Jesus Is Mocked

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion

17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.

I have several rose bushes in my yard beginning their journey back to bloom this Spring. Every pruning season, and despite my layers of gloves, I walk away with pricks and scrapes from their thorns. To think of Jesus, a crown of thorns on His head, I cringe at the pain. I cringe at the wounds.

But I am wounded far more deeply at the humiliation and degradation you suffered.

You came as a King that shepherds, one who takes responsibility for the care of your sheep. Your principles are faithfulness, justice, and righteousness (Isa. 11:3-4). that the very thing you came to offer us as a gift becomes a source of ridicule.  The crowds thought of a King in terms of military and earthly power.  But you came as a King who shepherds his people, who heals and teaches and loves through service, whose principles are faithfulness, justice, and righteousness (Isa 11:3-4). And yet, the people were not ready for that kind of King.

How did they miss who You are? I would like to think that I would not have missed seeing You are the King of King and Lord of Lords, one who has come to bring salvation, not military conquest. I would like to think I would not have missed following your call to live in a Kingdom of peace and love for one another.

But would I? Would I have been willing to yield my ideas of what the Kingdom should look like for the role of a servant? Would I so willingly have given up my human preoccupation with power and control?

Would I have accepted a different kind of crown than I was expecting?

You accepted the Cross in the midst of such mockery. You could have refused. What more could they have done to you? Yet you began this journey knowing full well where it will lead. I hear no words of complaint, no protestations of innocence, no cursing the injustice. And yet I am so prone to complain and whine about the most trivial things. Sometimes the things I face are more than trivial. Sometimes the troubles of life bear down on me. But I so easily fall into self-pity. I too often assume that I am the only one who bears a cross, or that my cross is larger and heavier than any others.

People all around me bear far more than I must bear. You accepted your cross without self-pity.

Will I follow your example?

Prayer: O Lord, forgive me for forgetting that in my weakness I am driven to trust in you and that in such trust my weakness becomes your strength. Forgive my attitudes of self-pity that make me more repulsive than loving. I do not ask for crosses to bear. But when they come, give me the strength to bear them as one who follows your example. You are my priceless treasure.

Song of Worship: Jesus, Priceless Treasure

 

Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me.
Long my heart hath panted,
Till it almost fainted,
Thirsting after Thee.
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb,
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Ask for naught beside Thee.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me
While I sing of peace.
God’s great pow’r guards every hour;
Earth and all its depths adore Him,
Silent bow before Him.

Hence, all earthly treasure!
Jesus is my pleasure;
Jesus is my choice.
Hence, all empty glory!
What to me thy story
Told with tempting voice?
Pain or loss or shame or cross
Sinful life, thy bonds I sever,
Leave thee now forever.

Hence, all thought of sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whate’er we here must bear,
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!

 

*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Stations of the Cross: 1

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Station 1: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die

Matthew 27 (ESV)

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves…26b and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.”

These verses have always bothered me. Why didn’t Jesus speak up? I wish He would have told them who He was. I wish He would have confronted the crowds…had a moment. Where were all those that could have spoken on His behalf? Were they there? Why didn’t anyone stand up for Him? Where were those He had healed from leprosy and blindness? Where were those who were fed with bread and fish on the mountainside?

In terms of humanity, Pilate was the powerful one and Jesus was the weak one. And yet, in light of the Kingdom, Pilate was never in control of anything, really. Pilate could not make Christ confess. Pilate could not find the courage to do what was right.

The powerful are not always the most courageous.

Have you ever been alone? Have you ever wished you could speak up and have made things right? Have you ever been falsely accused and felt the stab of betrayal? Have you been treated unfairly by someone in a place of power?

Perhaps you were the one who stood silently by and watched the innocent be condemned. Perhaps you did not speak up for others who needed a voice. I have been there and watched from a distance. Where was my courage?

Lord, forgive me for my silence.

I am quick to judge Pilate. Yet, have I ever given in to pressure from others? Have I ever chosen the easy path over the right path?

Prayer: Jesus, I see in your silence the quiet strength that reveals peace and resolve.  O Lord, help me deal with the unfairness of life without becoming critical of others.  Help me to be sensitive to the pain and feelings of others.  Give me the courage to do what is right without being swayed by the demands of others. Lead me to the cross.

Song of Worship: Lead Me to the Cross

Savior I come
Quiet my soul, remember
Redemption’s hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross
You were as I
Tempted and trialed
Human
The word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you’re risen
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross
*Portions of the text have been adapted from public domain guides from across multiple denominations.

Why the Stations of the Cross?

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stations

This week I invite you to join me and walk through an adapted version of “The Stations of the Cross”. What is it?

The Stations of the Cross is the liturgical practice of studying selected events in the final hours of Jesus’ life as a structure for prayer and meditation. It is also known as the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross. These events encompass Jesus’ journey carrying his cross from the Hall of Pilate to the site of his execution on Golgotha (Calvary).

Early Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem retraced the route of Jesus as he carried the cross. Pilgrims began their journey at the place that originally housed Pilate’s Judgment Hall, now incorporated into the Ecce Homo Convent. It concluded at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher that marks the traditional site of Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus.

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Church of the Holy Sepulcher

By the sixteenth century, the route this pilgrimage took through Jerusalem came to be called the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow. Along the Way, certain points on the journey (stations) were associated with specific events recounted (or implied) in the Gospel accounts.

This act, or journey, has been preserved through the centuries, albeit the journey is taken different within different denominations. Its origins in pilgrimage, however, provide the shape and content of the practice. The Via Dolorosa and the Stations of the Cross are still a popular pilgrimage destination in Jerusalem. Each year during Lent and especially on Good Friday, thousands of Christians retrace the route of Jesus through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, many carrying small or large wooden crosses. Via-Dolorosa

This week, I am taking myself through the Stations of the Cross as an immersive experience in prayer and meditation. Though it will not be a physical walk through the streets of Jerusalem (how awesome would that be?!!), I hope to trace the steps of Jesus, and while thinking on His final hours physically here on earth, set apart time to honor and worship the Savior, repenting of my own sins at every step. The stations will be posted every day this week, with a few days having more than one station.

I hope you will join me.

O Death

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Death puts life in the right perspective. Death puts the important things front and center. Death brings celebration of life and more importantly, a longing for the life to come. Death ignites purpose and passion to keep the main thing the main thing.

My Pa’s earthly body fully stopped working a week ago. His earthly life was intricately entwined with God’s purposes and fulfilled in part through my Gan’s wisdom, diligence, persistence, and unwavering devotion for her family. They were a pair.

Both educators, their influence is astounding and overwhelming. But their influence in the lives of coworkers and students cannot be compared to their influence in our immediate family. That’s where influence often begins. Family.

Death does its best to snuff out purpose and legacy while boasting of finality. Death knows we struggle with our mortality. Death knows we can drown in fear and anxiety about our own deaths and the deaths of those we love.

But in Christ, we grieve with hope. We steal back what Death tried to steal. Death failed.

“Jesus rose and sank you to the grave. And in resurrection, I refuse to fear you. O Death you died and I’m alive instead.”

Don’t wait to grab hold of the hope promised in Christ. Death waits for all of us. It is coming. But we need not fear. We need to believe. Believe Christ is who He says He is. Believe He came for you. Loves you. Died for you and took your punishment. Believe in Jesus. Not a list of rules. Not a system. A person. The Son of God.

Christ brings purpose contradicting the empty threats of Death. Christ makes the present matter for the future. Death dies and we live on forever.

“Kill my body you could, but still I live on forever. And when I should breathe no more, louder than I’ll sing. For Death you are the wide door to where I’ll live on forever in the presence of my Savior.”

What would my Pa want you to know? He would want you to know what you see isn’t all there is to this life. He would want you to believe in the One who provided the Way.

O Death, where’s your boast?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IivyjgI026s&feature=share