When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.[a]” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd[b] spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
I think the thing about God that is most amazing to me is God’s way of doing the unexpected. I mean the way God turns pain into pleasure, hurt into comfort, confusion into understanding. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says, “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” This is the God that we call Lord and Father, Mother and Friend. I believe we all can take a moment and reflect on instances when our backs were against the wall or we found ourselves at a complete loss…maybe you had thrown in the towel and was literally settling in to a bed of despair and almost as if on que here came someone, something…that spoke to that part of you just a few moments before that you thought was surely dead. And like a still beating heart life rushed in and possibilities arose. I declare unto you on today that that is God and so often it is God’s way. Seldom do we as believers get to flow from glory to glory and victory to victory without going through the challenges of an unmanageable life…You know those parts of life where we have no control, when every attempt at bringing balance and order in somehow fails and fails miserably! Well my beloved, know at those times like in the times we are living in now…you are in good company with MILLIONS.
The ground of the unexpected is how God shows Gods self as faithful and concerned about you. If at every turn it played out the way you wanted and planned then it wouldn’t be long before you would begin to think you are the master of your universe…that you are the controller of your destiny…that you are independent of God and have no need of him. But as Jesus told the disciples concerning the tied-up ass, “I have need of them.”. I believe God has need of all of us and where we were once tied all up, God is untying us OR making us available for service again.
On last week millions of people either lost their jobs or was furloughed. People who have not been without a job for 5, 10, 20, 30 years have found themselves at home feeling a great deal of fear and uncertainty about a once confident and certain future. My aunt is one of those. She had been on her job nearly 20 years and enjoys what she does. She was furloughed for the next 60 days. A great deal of uneasiness rushed in and I am certain a level of disappointment and anger but she is seeking to turn lemons into lemonade. She shared with me the other day that she has resolved to use this time to deepen her walk and spiritual connection with God by spending an hour a day in the scriptures and journaling. **So, while many are catching up on shows and binge-watching Tiger King…Mirian is desiring the greater thing. Let me say to you all….This time is purposed of Spirit. Use this time to deepen your relationship with your understanding of God, whatever that maybe. But endeavor to come out of this with SOMETHING…something that is stronger and more pronounced and for heavens sake something that is “YOURS” and not browed from some other source or some other mans or women’s opinion about God and your would be placement…GET GOD/Spirit/ Universe. Whatever vernacular is most comfortable for you…GET IT FOR YOURSELF! Then you can stand up on the ship as it rides the waves and tides of life. Hear me, we are not sinking YET we do need a SAVIOR! And I believe that the savior you need is the one that will rise up from within you. The one that has always been there…the one that granny and pawpaw talked about and sung about…the one that is only birthed in adversity and reflective living…. LORD help me…Let me get back to Mirian.
So, she is spending an hour a day in her word. She shared with me the other day that she had read Psalms 94 and after a good deal of thoughtful reflection she wondered if I would take the time to read it and share some of my thoughts on it. I laughed within myself cause I knew God is setting her up to be a more conscience reader of the Word of God and though she was looking me it is the God in her that will ultimately give her understanding and deep wisdom. When I did sit down to read the passage verse 16-19 leaped out to me. And spoke to me about the condition of the hearts and minds of men and women today.
16-19 Who stood up for me against the wicked?
Who took my side against evil workers?
If God hadn’t been there for me,
I never would have made it.
The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,”
your love, God, took hold and held me fast.
When I was upset and beside myself,
you calmed me down and cheered me up.
The question on many minds today is who will stand up for us in this time when there seems to be failure all around us. Many are fearful because we feel powerless in this moment against a government that has seemingly failed us miserably. We question the real aims of leaders and their care for the least of these. And in this sea of doubt we look to God for help, as in times past, when we did not know where to turn or what to do, we, like David, found ourselves saying, “If God had not been there for me, I never would have made it.” And in your slipping and failing God’s love took hold and held you close. My sisters and brothers please know that as in the past we have a God of the now! A God who has not miscalculated or misjudged the resources for the day. God has not shown up shorthanded or ill equipped. But God has absolutely EVERYTHING under God’s control! NOTHING is outside of God’s plan or purpose.
“When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down and cheered me up.” These words from this psalm of David encouraged my heart and from them I drew great strength and a deeper hope! GOD’s GOT THIS! And no matter what I “see” around me I “see” something deeper and more real within me…GOD IS IN CONTROL
This Palms Sunday we are not gathered in hundreds of thousands of churches all over the world singing songs of celebration and exuberance. We are not waving palm fronds and pinning palm crosses on our clothing. BUT I believe GOD! And I believe that we as Christians have the opportunity to turn inward on today and reflect deeply on the ways we have shouted hosana to the highest while our hearts have been far from him. How we have waved our palms and throughout our cloaks yet our attitudes where more likened to the cries of dark Friday when those same voices would cry Crucify Him. Beloved, if we miss this opportunity to turn our focus and true attention back to Christ then we will be a lost generation and that that should have taken a few weeks will take years. The recovery time is not in the hands of man and incentives and stimulus packages…. but it is in the hands, mouths and hearts of the saints! For “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” We must see that WE all make up the body of Christ and where we go the nation and the world goes.
Let me be clear, I am a Christian. In other words, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that he came from God and was sent to this earth as a baby born of a virgin. I believe that Jesus grow in age and knowledge and in the timing of God the Father he revealed his teachings and purpose to save the world by paying the full cost of sins debt. I believe that he, died on a cross was buried, went to hell and took the keys to life, death and the grave and then rose again from death with all power in his hands. I further believe the story did not end with his rising but that he today, right now, is sitting at the right hand of God praying, upholding and defending me and the world. BUT what I no longer believe is that my belief is the only way! I no longer have to carry the burden of saving the world over to my understanding and interpretation of scripture. I am not charged to make everyone believe as I believe because I think I have established the ONLY viable path to God. SO, I say, however you connect to God or however you express your understanding of a higher power I am asking you to “Be still and know”. Know that LOVE is the only force strong enough to fix us and to get us out of this. LOVE and LOVE alone will weather us through this time and reconnect us to the true power! Love that is not faked or falsified but real genuine love will be visible in this hour. Like a light that has been set on a hill…. Don’t listen to what “they say” look at what they do. If you can’t see the love for humanity in it then they are not of God.
To my brothers and sisters who are struggling with being in “church” on today and certainly on next Sunday—Easter Sunday, and particularly those pastors who long to gather their congregations, I say…. A true shepherd will risk his/her life for the safety of sheep. The very nature of the shepherd is to make sure the sheep are always protected in all situations. There protection outweighs finances, buildings and again, even their own wellbeing. If your shepherd is inviting you into a space that is unsafe and putting your life at risk, then I would implore you that they are not a true shepherd…they are a hirling.
Holy week is upon us. Be encouraged and lets turn our faces to the wall and pray, seek God’s face, turn from our wicked ways (repent) and sit down, in the house and watch God turn all of this around! The wealth of the wicked has been stored up for the just! And how shall we know the just? The bible says, “And the just shall live by FAITH”.
Bishop-Elect Roger Billingsley-Hayes