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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Palm Sunday

March 16, 2008 was Palm Sunday, that Sunday one week before Easter on which the church has traditionally celebrated the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. For Year A (for those not familiar with the Lectionary, there is a 3 year cycle of scripture readings labeled Year A, B, and C.) in the Revised Common Lectionary, Matthew 21:1-11 is the Gospel passage that tells the story of this event.

However, I would like to focus on the Psalm reading for the day: Psalm 118:1-2,19-29.

This Psalm begins and ends with the same ascription of Thanksgiving:

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 118:1

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 118:29

Within this Psalm we find the verse that gives us the clue to the reason this passage was selected as a Palm Sunday reading. Verse 26a states: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

But within this text, we find hints also of the sacrifice that is to come:

- For thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. (vs. 21)

- The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. (vs. 22)

- Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord. (vs. 25) This appears to be the translation of the Hebrew "Hosanna" - yasha` 'anna' (from the BlueLetterBible).

- Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. (vs. 27)

And, in the midst of this Psalm of praise and salvation, we find a very familiar text: This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (vs. 24)

So, we find this Palm Sunday is a day of joy and gladness - a day of celebration and a day of looking forward both to the sacrifice of Christ for our salvation that would occur just a few days later and to the day when Christ appears again in glory and power, when once again He will be hailed as king - King of kings and Lord of lords.

* * * * * * *

On this Palm Sunday, I had the privilege of leading the Adult Choir of First Baptist Church, Jefferson, Georgia in three anthems - a mini-musical of sorts. First and most related to the Palm Sunday gospel text we sang the traditional anthem "The Palms" by Faure and arranged by Dudley Buck. Secondly, we recognized the significance of this day as Passion Sunday (hopefully my next posting) by singing the much loved anthem "Written in Red," introduced by reading John 3:16-17. Finally, we closed this portion of the service by reading Psalm 24:7-10 that begins: Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in, folowed by the anthem "Crown Him." I was very proud of the choir and their presentation of this portion of the gospel/good news story.

May we find ourselves always blessing our Lord for the great things He has done for us.

In Christ,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Good ... and Behind

It is Easter Sunday and I feel I must wish my readers a Happy, Joyous Easter before it passes.

Of course I am behind on my posting, but I do still hope to comment on this past week - Holy Week. It has been a very full week and many wonderful things happened, especially with the choir (this is Music Musings!).

One of my greatest joys is to announce the good news on Easter and I again had that opportunity in our sunrise service this morning. So, one more time before this day comes to an end:

Christ is risen! - He is risen indeed!

And that dear reader is VERY GOOD NEWS!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Train Whistle

Imagine you are standing at the station amid the hustle and bustle and then your ears catch a faint sound - are you sure - can it be? Yes, there it is again and clearer than before. You know the train is almost there because you can hear the whistle.

With the text for this past Sunday (again my apologies), we hear the whistle that alerts us that we are almost to the celebration of Christ's death and resurrection. With a different analogy, it is a preview of things to come.

Psalm 130 tells us that there is forgiveness and hope.

A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
(Psa 130:1-8)

You did notice the similar analogy of the watchman waiting for the dawn!

Then in the Old Testament passage of Ezekiel 37:1-14, we have the familiar passage of the dry bones being brought back to life. If there is hope for bones, there is certainly hope for us. This is matched with the Epistle reading from Romans 8:6-11 where we read that it is the Spirit who gives life.

And finally, the Gospel reading of John 11:1-45 gives us the grand preview with the story of the raising of Lazarus - the dead brought back to life - the look ahead to the resurrection of Christ and then through Him our own resurrection from the death of sin and our entrance into eternal life.

* * * * * * *

This Sunday, our pastor, Cary Hilliard was back from his trip to Israel, and in keeping with our Lenten theme - deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me - he brought a message on "setting your face to Jerusalem" from Luke 9:51 entitled "A Pilgrim's Progress."

Again, we find that look ahead, that feeling of anticipatiton about what is to occur.

The choir sang a wonderful anthem, "Even the Heavens Are Weeping" by Joseph M. Martin that emphasized both in the text and the music the emotional impact of Christ's sacrifice for us.

* * * * * * *

May God bless as we set our faces toward Jerusalem anticipating the great revelation of God's grace, mercy, and love demonstrated through the cross and the empty tomb.


Monday, March 3, 2008

The Light of Hope

As I read through the passages for the 4th Sunday in Lent, as always I look for a connecting theme. On first reading there did not seem to be a unifying thread in the readings, but then I realized that each of the passages deals with the hope that there is light in the darkness.

Lent is a time of reflection, a time to recognize our sinfulness and our need for a Savior and here about half way through this season, hope is introduced. It really is a good time for this to appear as we might possibly, if we are honest with ourselves, begin to foster despair.

The Old Testament reading of 1 Samuel 16:1-13 is about the selection of David as the next king of Israel. In those dark, early days of Israel when God had removed His Spirit from King Saul, Samuel is sent to find and anoint a young man who would be a man after God's own heart. A man who would lead Israel into its brightest days. A man who would be the ancestor, by human descent, of our Lord Jesus - the very Light of lights in our sin darkened world.

Psalm 23, although primarily about the Lord being our shepherd includes the passage about God's presence as we go through that dark valley of the shadow of death and the hope that is ours eternally as we deal in the presence of God forever.

The Gospel passage, John 9:1-41, tells us about the man born blind. Jesus gave him sight, taking away the darkness of his world, causing great consternation for the religious leaders of the day, especially when Jesus declared that they themselves were blind because they would not see. This scripture also contains one of the great I AM statements of Christ: I am the Light of the world!

Paul, in the Epistle reading of Ephesians 5:8-14, writes about Christians, once in the darkness of sin, are now light in the Lord and need to walk as children of light having no fellowship with the world of darkness, but reproving it instead. He issues the call: awake, rise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

On this 4th Sunday, the choir sang (apologies for the tardiness of this article) an arrangement of a "chorus" from just a few years ago, "Here I Am to Worship." I selected this anthem for this time because of "the bridge" - "I never knew how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross." As we consider the First Baptist Church, Jefferson Lenten theme: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ, we have to recognize that we could never die for our own sins and satisfy the righteousness of God. The cost for our sin was not our own death, but the death of Christ who took our sin upon Himself as He hung on the cross and died.

Christ is not the light at the end of our tunnel - He is the Light in our tunnel. The hope that He offers in our darkness is such that our only real response is to put aside our self, take up our cross - our means of death, and follow Him regardless of the road or the destination - in this we find ourselves worshipping Him.


As our pastor is away completing his trip to Israel, once again Dr. Todd Wilson is our guest preacher. His sermon, "A Disciple or Just One of the Crowd" based on the texts from Matthew 8:18-22 ("I will follow, but ...) and Matthew 13:24-30 (tares sown among wheat) also reinforces the need to examine ourselves - am I truly a disciple (have I denied my self, taken up my cross, following Jesus) or am I just one of the "fickle" crowd who come for any number of reasons.


Despair because of our sin?

No. Christ is our Light; He is our Hope. Let us follow Him as His disciples.