Monday, April 6, 2020

April 5 morning

PALM SUNDAY:  I believe this is the fourth LIVEStream Calvary service due to COVID-19. How weird it is NOT to be in church on Palm Sunday watching the little children parade down the aisles waving their palm branches and singing! Having said that, though, it was still a very wonderful service and I need to record my sermon notes right here so that I won't forget what was taught.
 This first picture (above) is a screen shot of our LiveStream to show everyone what Calvary looks like with no one in the pews. Some funny person(s) decorated the seats so that pastor could preach to someone. Ha!

Psalm 118 was read in it's entirety, a beautiful Psalm of praise. We always begin with beautiful songs of praise, which I love. After our singing, Jim asked if we would go and find our favorite piece of clothing, bring it to the room and hold on to it during our teaching time. Our text today was from Matthew 21:1-11, the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem 2000+ years ago. I've been there and seen that road! So as the teaching progressed, I could picture in my head (obviously NOT exactly as it was 2000 years ago) the walls of Jerusalem and the valley between it and Olivet.

Usually on Palm Sunday, we think of PALMS! But today, Jim had us direct our thoughts to CLOTHING because although the people were waving palm branches and proclaiming loud Hosannas, they were doing something else too!

Jim took us back to 2 Kings 9 when Elisha's assistant anointed Jehu the next king of Israel--it's such an interesting and intriguing passage! The anointing was done in secret, you see, and Jehu was commander of wicked King Ahab's army ... but Jehu's men saw the prophet take Jehu aside and asked: "Hey! What did that crazy man want with you?" (I'm paraphrasing!) Jehu wasn't going to tell them--but they insisted. Jehu said: "Here is what he told me: 'This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.'" And then listen to what happened next: They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, "Jehu is king!" Spreading their clothing under Jehu signified SUBMISSION and LOYALTY.

The Palm Sunday passage we read in Matthew 21 tells us that there were many people surrounding Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, riding on that little donkey. This fulfilled the prophesy from Zechariah 9:9 "Say to the Daughter of Zio, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" Some people were just observing. But others worshiped Jesus by doing this (verse 8) -- they spread their cloaks on the road while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 
 Jim turned our attention to the piece of clothing we had chosen as our favorite. WHY was this my favorite piece of clothing? What did it say about me? I chose my JEAN JACKET that I wear 3 out of 4 seasons and I've had it for years. What does this jacket say about me? Well, it's comfortable! It's simple (I'm kind of a minimalist), it's casual, it's practical (it goes with everything), and it reminds me of my youth when JEANS meant everything about identity and inclusion (but that's a long story) ... besides it's my MIDDLE name for pity's sake!

CLOTHING REPRESENTS US -- that's the point, you see. In the Bible, when something terrible happened--say some calamity befell the people because of their sin--what did they do to show their sorrow? They took OFF their clothes and put on UGLY and uncomfortable sackcloth to show their repentance. These clothes that were laid before Jesus on the road were PART of them and it symbolizing the giving of themselves to Jesus in submission and honor.

 As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, there were CROWDS and CROWDS of people. Some were coming from inside the city, and others were following behind Jesus. They were shouting: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" They were worshiping Jesus as the anointed KING. Some were there just watching and not at all participating: verse 10 of Matthew 21 .. "Who is this?" they asked. Perhaps they asked out of cynicism and hatred even. But the answer was given by the worshiping folk ... "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee." Palm Sunday presents an obvious choice--is Jesus KING or not?

Pastor then brought us to 2020, this very Sunday. Because of COVID-19, we are in ISOLATION for the most part. He showed us pictures of the streets of Jerusalem that are EMPTY and pictures of NYC that are EMPTY, and all around the world the busy places are EMPTY of people.

Pastor then took us to Matthew 23. Jesus is talking to the religious leaders and other unbelieving people and this is what he says in v37-38. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you 


For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

Then pastor defined that word DESOLATE from the Greek. And this is what it means: "Pertaining to being in a state of ISOLATION or ABANDONMENT." Wow. 2020. The COVID-19 virus. Quaranteen world-wide. EMPTY. WOW.
Then we read from Revelation 21.1-8 about The NEW Jerusalem coming down from heaven "prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." I love this next verse: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be WITH THEM and be their God." It goes on to say that all tears will be wiped away. "No more death or mourning or crying or pain." Everything will be made new. We will not be ALONE.


What a RELIEF, what JOY.

It's been a full two weeks now that I have been "cut off" from my family, from normal everyday life. Pastor wanted us to think about the very tiny taste we are getting of DESOLATION. Because the passage in Revelation 21 also tells what will happen to the unbelieving. They will NOT be gathered to God but will be CAST AWAY from Him forever. Nothing could be more tragic than that.

We were asked, then, what choice had we made--Is Jesus KING or not? It's a choice all of us have to make. We were asked to take that favorite piece of clothing and just lay it down before our screens and proclaim Jesus as King to honor, obey, and worship every day of our lives.

We ended with our benediction from Titus 2.  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to ALL PEOPLE. It teaches us to say "NO" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own [his treasured possession], eager to do what is good.

As a believer, I have this promise: "Never will I leave you, NEVER will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13.5) So we say with confidence, "The LORD is my helper; I will NOT be afraid." (verse 6). 

The weirdness and aloneness of this quarantine is pretty devastating and difficult. I have found myself very UP and very DOWN because of all of the uncertainty ahead. But I have not been abandoned. No, not even for one second. He has not forsaken me and He never will. Thank you, Lord. Help me in my rollercoaster of emotions to BELIEVE that You love us and will take care of us.

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