Make Way For Jesus

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 11:1-11.

One of my favorite books growing up was Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. And even better than the book? The day the book came to life when my grandfather took me to visit the Peabody Hotel in Orlando.

That was a special day for many reasons. This Polk County girl was headed for the Big City. I had one-on-one time with my grandfather. And I would get to make way for ducklings.

We entered the hotel lobby and waited. And waited. And waited. I remember the elevator bell ringing. The door opened and a mother duck, followed by a dozen ducklings, filed out. The people in the busy hotel lobby parted like the waters of the sea as the ducks made their way. They crossed the lobby in pursuit of the pond adjacent to the hotel’s lanai. We followed after them – my grandfather guiding me so the ducklings would always be in view. And then *splish splish splash* the ducklings followed their mother into the water. They were onto their next adventure as my grandfather and I completed mine.

Many people waited and then watched as Jesus made his way down the Palm Sunday road into Jerusalem. Men placed their cloaks on the ground. Women sang songs. Children waved branches. And I imagine grandparents guided the younger generations so they, too, would have Jesus in their view.

This intergenerational Palm Sunday image is powerful. So often the Church – the Body of Christ – allows or elects to be silo-ed. Adults here. Youth here. Children here. At times this is good; it enables and supports age- and cognition-appropriate learning and discussion. However, at other times, it is important for the Church to be together. To share moments of worship and wonder together. To create collective memories together. To be changed by the conclusion of one adventure and to start the next together.

Holy Week at TUMC, beginning with the Easter Egg Hunt this Saturday, is full of opportunities for the generations of Christ’s Body, the Church, to be together. We will have opportunities to seek and sing, read and remember, mourn and magnify. And these opportunities will be enhanced by our being together.

This is the first year I will witness Jesus making his way through Holy Week alongside the next generation in my family. I plan to take care in guiding Joshua so he is able to keep Jesus in view. I look to our TUMC Family to take on that same commitment for all the children in our families and in our church. This is a time for us to be together. This is the time for us to make way for Jesus and witness as he begins his next adventure.

Prayer: “The people of the Hebrews with psalms before thee went; our prayer and praise and anthems before thee we present. To thee, before thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise; to thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise. Thou didst accept their praises;
accept the prayers we bring, who in all good delightest, thou good and gracious King. All glory, laud, and honor, to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.”* Amen.

*”All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” The United Methodist Hymnal 280.

 

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Community Instruction

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Timothy 2:1-7

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all (I Tim 2:5-6).

There is an abundance of theology packed into this credal statement from the Early Church.

  • There is one God
    • A statement affirming monotheism – the belief in one deity, rather than
    • Polytheism – the belief in many deities or
    • Henotheism – the belief in one deity with an allowance for other deities in a hierarchy under the lead deity.
  • One mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus
    • A statement affirming that Christ Jesus proceeded from the one God, and is of the same substance with the one God, to be the physical, tangible, living, breathing, dying, saving link between God and humanity.
    • Christ Jesus is not a separate deity under God; they are the same, just as the Holy Spirit is the same with them. Together those three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are the Trinity – One God in three persons.
    • The need for Christ Jesus to be our mediator indicates a rupture in our relationship with God. This rupture is caused by sin and we cannot fix our sickness with sin on our own. We need God’s power and God’s power is available to us in Jesus.
  • Himself human – A statement affirming the humanness of Jesus.
    • We believe that Jesus has two natures; he is fully human and fully divine.
      • As fully human Jesus is able to stand in humanity’s place and take the punishment for sin.
      • As fully divine Jesus as God incarnate can save humanity from its condemned state due to sin and break the power of sin over humanity.
    • Jesus did not ‘appear’ human or ‘appear’ divine as some speculated; he was God incarnate.
  • Gave himself as a ransom for all – A statement affirming that our sins are atoned for through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    • Through atonement we are made at one with God once again.
    • Hebrews 2:14-18 describes Jesus atoning actions writing, “Since, therefore, the children [humanity] share flesh and blood, he himself [Jesus] likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”

Most theological education took place through oral tradition in the Ancient World and in the Early Church. Much of the society had very little or no formal education; so, learning occurred through telling the same stories or lessons repeatedly to help all members of the community – children by age and children at heart – commit them to memory and behavior.

The more ‘meaty’ the statement, the more learning to be ‘digested’ and ‘converted into lived energy’ for each individual. 

The above credal statement contains 25 words. If you were to write a credal statement for your faith using only 25 words, what would your credal statement say? What concepts would you include? What teaching would you name? Spend some of your devotional time this week writing your statement and then share it with someone. 

My credal statement reads:

God created out of chaos. God created Jesus to atone the chaos. God creates out of my chaos. God forgives our chaos. We are redeemed. 

Prayer: “Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Thou art the potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still. Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Search me and try me, Savior today! Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now, as in thy presence humbly I bow.”* Amen.

“Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 382.

God In A Box

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 9:2-9

This week the Tuskawilla Community welcomes back Rev. Melissa Cooper to share with our congregation. Melissa serves as the Program Coordinator for our Conference’s Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park. She is the genius behind our Conference’s LECFamily Camps and Retreats Ministries and a visionary for cultivating intergenerational ministry cultures within churches across our Annual Conference. Melissa has recently started working with a team at Tuskawilla. She is helping us learn about and from our organic intergenerational nature as well as learn new ways to expand the intergenerational impact of our ministries.

Melissa is also one of my favorite people. Ever.

The friendship that Melissa and I share started out as a mountain top experience, plummeted into a valley, and then came back up to a middle ground where we continue to flourish in relationship, moving as life does between the mountain tops and the valleys.

We met at a conference retreat where I could talk and she could not! Melissa was training as a facilitator for this conference program and her task for that retreat was to be a silent observer – to look, to listen, to journal, and then when the conference was over, she and other trainees like her would dialogue about their experience during the training. I was a participant at this retreat, and I confess, I was not too keen on being there. And when I add “not too keen to being here” to several days of several hours of group work that is then reported back to the larger group and we do not receive a break until all the groups have reported in – oh I was all the more willing to share to move the whole conference along! So I talked quite a lot and Melissa did not…and somewhere in the midst of what I said, what she heard, and what God did in the midst of all of that, when the retreat ended Melissa made a beeline for me!

I think her first words were “Let’s be friends!” and I was like…”ummmm…okay?” We made plans to connect later that Fall. We hugged and said good bye.

Mountain top.

By the time Melissa and I got back together, I had received disappointing news about a project I had been working towards for over two years…and I was angry. I really did not feel like seeing anyone, but I keep commitments once I make them and I headed to meet Melissa for dinner. She walked in as her joyful, sassy glasses wearing self and oh, I hurricane’d all over her parade. I griped. I complained. I aimed anger at her – someone that, HELLO!, this is my first real opportunity to spend time with her! – and ate my dinner like a sullen, soaked house cat.

Poor Melissa. She was probably thinking “where’s the other girl!? I want to be her friend…get this one out of here…”

Valley. Deep, deep valley.

I remember sitting in my office a few days later wondering if I would ever hear from Melissa again when my phone buzzed. It was a text message from her. I think it said something blatantly obvious and wholly comforting, something like, “So that was a rough night, huh!?” I laughed. And texted back, “Yeah…that about sums it up.”

Out of the valley to the gift of middle ground where all people can grow. And I give thanks that our friendship continues to grow.

In the Scripture passage for this week we read about Peter’s mountain top experience with Jesus. Jesus’ transfiguration occurs. His clothes “became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them” and Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus (Mk 9:3). The persons representative of the Law, the Prophets, and Eternal Salvation are all in one place!

This mountain top experience is the complete package!

And Peter wants to stay. He wants to build tents. He wants to set up camp. But after the cloud descends and he hears “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Jesus leads Peter and the other two disciples back down the mountain (Mk 9:7). Moses and Elijah are gone. The moment is gone.

Valley. Deep, deep valley.

Jesus and his disciples return to a place of middle ground. They return to their work of continued growth in relationship with one another and service of their neighbors. They return to their ministry of healing, of teaching, and of preparing the people – preparing themselves – for Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

This middle ground is a place of growth. In a way mountain top and valley experiences are static. Not much happens there. It is in the place between where we move towards a mountain top or away from a valley or the other that we learn about ourselves, that we learn about our God, that we strengthen relationships, and that we strengthen our faith.

I give thanks for the gift of the middle ground I continue to receive in my life…and I especially give thanks that Melissa did not wash her hands of me after that awful, awful first date. She showed me grace and understanding. Jesus showed Peter grace and understanding. May these be the gifts that you share with yourself and someone else as you explore the middle ground this week.

Prayer: “Holy God, upon the mountain you revealed our Messiah, who by his death and resurrection would fulfill both the law and the prophets. By his transfiguration enlighten our path that we may dare to suffer with him in the service of humanity and so share in the everlasting glory of him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God for ever. Amen.”*

*”Transfiguration,” The United Methodist Hymnal 259.