Mission team in Jamaica
Palm Sunday starts our Holy Week
Pastors and Churches in the midst of leadership change
During this past week… a lot of important decisions were made by the Bishop and the District Superintendents of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. All week we participated in worship together, prayed together and finally made critical decisions together concerning our pastors and churches throughout Virginia.
Most pastors will not be moving and will be offered another year to continue their ministry where they are. Using what they have learned in the past to help their congregation move toward a future filled with God’s grace.
Most churches will not be receiving a new pastor so they are challenged within their stability to look for new opportunities to be the church in the midst of a hurting world.
Some pastors will be moving to another church and will leave one ministry behind to start anew.
Some churches will be saying good-bye to one pastor and will be looking toward a new pastor and a new future.
Most pastors will be very happy about the decisions made. Some will not.
Most church members will be very happy about the decisions made. Some will not.
On a more personal level, as I drove home, I knew that overall many of our pastors and church members will be pleased.
I also knew that some of our decisions would not be popular and that a few of our pastors and church members will not be pleased.
But, I have the opportunity to see a bigger picture.
Overall, I know we made the best decisions that could be made under difficult circumstances. I will face the smiles and the tears confident that we are creating the best possible opportunities for our pastors and our churches to offer the grace of Jesus Christ to our community and to our world.
Why am I writing this?
Because this morning as I read what all of us will be using today as we prepare our churches for Palm Sunday, I saw the Scripture with new eyes. I was reading the same verses but because of what I experienced, I understood what happened in a different way.
Jesus knew what was going to happen next.
He knew that he would receive the adulation of the crowd as he rode into Jerusalem. He knew the same crowd now singing “Hosanna!” would soon be shouting, “Crucify him!”
Here is the story from the Gospel of Luke.
As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When they reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD!
Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”
But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!”
He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep. (Luke 19:36-41)
In the midst of the adulation, Jesus wept because he knew what was coming.
So, why did he do it?
Because he too, saw a bigger picture and believed in the decisions that were made. Jesus knew that Palm Sunday, the last supper, the agonizing prayer in the garden, the betrayal, the arrest, the trials, the whipping, the crown of thorns, the carrying of the cross through the city streets, the nailing of his hands and feet to the wood, the agonizing hours of not only physical pain but the emotional agony of being abandoned all leading to a seemingly senseless death.
He knew. Jesus continued to see a bigger picture.
Today, this week, I more fully understand the depth of what Jesus must have endured during the final hours of his life.
So, I now more fully understand why Jesus wept.
I also more fully understand why Jesus did it? He knew but he did it anyway.
Jesus endured the agony of the cross because he knew resurrection would not be far behind.
Seeing the bigger picture would cause Jesus to weep in the midst of Palm Sunday.
Seeing the bigger picture would allow Jesus to endure the cross on Friday.
Seeing the bigger picture allows me to celebrate the joy of pastors and churches.
Seeing the bigger picture will cause me to weep in the midst of pastors and churches who will struggle.
Here is the biggest picture of all.
In the midst of our joys and yes, our pain Jesus Christ is working miracles.
So, at times we celebrate over Palm Sunday.
At times we weep over Good Friday.
In the end, we anticipate – Easter Sunday.
Next Sunday morning, just like we do every year, we will all remember that our celebrations and our joys all serve a greater purpose.
Easter Sunday makes it all worthwhile.
Jesus knew so in the midst of the celebration, he wept.
Jesus knew so in the midst of the cross, he endured.
Jesus knew so on Easter Sunday – he arose.
This morning we sing Hosanna but we also prepare to weep.
Next Sunday we celebrate what it really means to be a Christian.
As I pray this morning, I pray as someone who sees a bigger picture.
As I pray this morning, I pray you will join me in lifting up pastors and churches as they prepare for the future.
As I pray this morning, I celebrate and weep over the decisions that were made.
As I pray this morning, I am filled with eager anticipation of the Easter that is promised for us all.
May God fill you with the power and grace of the Holy Spirit so that Palm Sunday and Good Friday all lead to a glorious Easter morning.