Palm Sunday, Triumphalism, and Leadership

palm-sunday-jesus-christ-on-donkeyOn Palm Sunday, way back in the mid 60’s, according to the traditions of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, I became a man, with all the responsibilities to God that that carried. It was also when you traditionally got your first suit. The Sunday before was Examination Sunday, the test was verbal, in front of the congregation. This entitled me to take my First Communion on Easter Sunday, as was considered meet and right.

As always the Sanctuary was decorated in palm fronds commemorating Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Also as on all special Sundays we processed behind the Pastor and Choir up the center aisle to this, Hymn No. 1 in the old E&R Hymnal.

And so I became responsible for my own everlasting fate, which up until this time had been my parents (and Godparents) responsibility.

Palm Sunday was, of course, the most triumphant day of the Christ’s ministry. With the adoring and worshipful crowds which of course would soon demand and receive his death.

What can we learn from this? General Patton put it this way:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. . .

A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”


We know that earthly glory is fleeting, who can recite the exploits of Edward Longshanks, or Frederick Barbarossa from memory. Sure we remember some of our founders but its only been a few generations, and we have been trained (some of us anyway) pretty well.

But what is different about the Christ, other than the Resurrection that is. Like most troublemakers through the ages he died a common criminals death. Think about that for a moment. Within a week he went from the darling of the populace, to an executed criminal, that’s quite a fall, in any time or place.

The other thing is: He never forgot the mission. What thoughts must have been in his mind on that long ago Palm Sunday, knowing, as he did, the fate that awaited him. But he never flinched, only prayed that this fate might be averted. He knew, as did his disciples and followers in coming times, that there would be many martyrs, Saints of the Faith, if you will. There will be many more. Christianity, even more than the Judaism from which it sprang, is the religion of the oppressed, the underdog, the person who never got a fair shake in this world, the sovereign individual made in God’s image. All you have to do is: Remember the Mission and take care of your people. The shepherd of the flock. And that is more than most of us can do consistently, without God’s help, because it is one of the most difficult missions ever entrusted.

Do not fall into the trap of triumphalism, earthly glory leads to nothing but trouble. I think most of us know this instinctively. What is the thing we remember about George W. Bush? He had many faults, which most conservatives can recite from memory. But, and it’s a huge but, he was a humble God-fearing man. To me, that is a lot of the difference between him and Barack Obama. Obama wants lives for the acclaim of the crowd, the earthly glory, one could easily call it the cult of personality.

And so the lesson for me from this Palm Sunday is the old one that the US Air Force taught me long ago and far away:

First the Mission

Second the People

Last Yourself.

Over at Jess’s site, one of her co-authors, Fr. Malcolm has a beautiful Palm Sunday post.

ImageBoy with a donkey on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem.

John 12:9-19

9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!’
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15 ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!’
16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.*18It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’

Continue reading That first Palm Sunday.

[First published on 24 March 2013]

Lukewarm Christianity and Cul-de-Sacs

Return of the prodigal son

Return of the prodigal son (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is from an old article,  The London Times of August 2003, and Matthew Parris is an atheist but, he diagnoses exactly what is wrong with modern Christianity, and I would venture to say why so many churches (including mine) are losing membership. See what you think:

Anglican evangelicals are right. Knowingly to appoint gay bishops robs Christianity of meaning. It is time that convinced Christians stopped trying to reconcile their spiritual beliefs with the modern age and understood that if one thing comes clearly through every account we have of Jesus’s teaching, it is that His followers are not urged to accommodate themselves to their age, but to the mind of God. Christianity is not supposed to be comfortable or feel “natural”. The mind of God, contemplating the behaviour of man, is not expected to be suffused with a spirit of “whatever”. As it happens I do not believe in the mind of God. But Christians do and must strive to know more of it.Nothing they read in the Old and New Testaments gives a scintilla ofsupport to the view that the God of Israel was an inclusive God, orinclined to go with the grain of human nature; much they read suggests a righteous going against the grain.

Certainly it is true that Jesus departed from conventional Judaic teaching in the emphasis He put on forgiveness, but neither the story (for example) of the woman taken in adultery, nor the parable of the prodigal son suggest that He countenanced a continuation of the sins of either. What these stories teach is that repentance is acceptable to God however late it comes, and that the virtuous should not behave in a vindictive manner towards sinners. That is a very different thing from a shoulder-shrugging chuckle of “different strokes for different folks”.

It’s true you know, any other reading of the Bible is simply misleading at best, and it would more accurate to say false.

“Inclusive”, “moderate” or “sensible” Christianity is inching its way up a philosophical cul-de-sac. The Church stands for revealed truth and divine inspiration or it stands for nothing.Belief grounded in everyday experience alone is not belief. The attempt, sustained since the Reformation, to establish the truth of Christianity on the rock of human observation of our own natures and of the world around us runs right against what the Bible teaches from the moment Moses beheld a burning bush in the Egyptian desert to the point when Jesus rises from the dead in His sepulchre. Stripped of the supernatural, the Church is
on a losing wicket.

Even as a ten-year-old boy in Miss Silk’s Scripture class, when I heard the account of how the parting of the Red Sea could actually be explained by freak tides, and that the story of the loaves and fishes really taught us how Jesus set an example by sharing His disciples’ picnic (so everybody else shared theirs), I thought: “Don’t be silly Miss Silk! If Jesus couldn’t do miracles, why should we listen? If the bush was just burning naturally, then Moses was fooled.”

Matthew Parris – An Atheist Homosexual with a Better Understanding of Christianity than many Church leaders! | The Wee Flea.

He’s right, Christianity without God is pretty much meaningless, In a comment long ago on Jess’ Watchtower, I referred to many of our churches as “A coffee shop full of do gooders”. Now mind you, there is nothing wrong with doing good works, we are called by Christ to do so, and He gives us the grace to do so, out of our own assets, not by getting the government to steal our neighbors stuff to give to our other neighbors, minus a handling fee. But we are also called to be God-botherers and partakers in the mission.

But Christianity has always believed that “we are not of the world, although we are in the world”. I think we have had it so good for so long in the west that we have forgotten that. We think Christianity is supposed to be easy and comfortable. if it is, well, you’re not doing it right.

Something else I’ve learned on Jess’ blog is that most of us there are on our second or third church before we found one with what we were looking for. There’s another commonality amongst us: that have been there for a considerable period, we’re either hot or cold, , quite liberal or very conservative (that’s most of us). None is lukewarm.

Maybe we all read Revelations 3

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

A Law of Liberty?

English: John Henry Newman Category:Venerated ...

English: John Henry Newman Category:Venerated Catholics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We often speak here of leadership, what it is, how to do it, and such. This is another installment. But we have some underbrush to clear first.

We have often noted that Christianity is based almost entirely on ten things you must not do, we call them commandments, and we share them with Judaism. They range from worshipping false gods, murdering people, and coveting the things that are your neighbors, not to mention the one that w all had trouble with: honoring our Father and Mother. Jesus removed the yoke of the old covenant that included such things as the dietary laws, and here added only these:

Matthew 22:36-40 King James Version (KJV)

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

That’s a pretty permissive rule, isn’t it? Pretty much do what you want but do love God and do not hurt your neighbor. And then He commissioned us to share the Good News.

Matthew 28:16-20 King James Version (KJV)

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

OK, I know and you know as well that it’s not as easy as it sounds, nothing worth-while ever is, and it took literally centuries to brig the canon together (what we call the Bible) so that we wouldn’t make so many mistakes, or at least would learn from those that went before us. But compared to the value of the prize, it’s not an impossible mission either. And so we should remember that old catchphrase which will help us immensely.

  1. The Mission
  2. The People
  3. Yourself

You’ll have your priorities pretty much straight, anyway.

John Henry Newman had some thoughts about how Christ leads us as well. Like much of his work, it strikes me as absolutely true.

The Gospel is a Law of Liberty. We are treated as sons, not as servants; not subjected to a code of formal commands, but addressed as those who love GOD, and wish to please Him. When a man gives orders to those whom he thinks will mistake him, or are perverse, he speaks pointedly and explicitly; but when he gives directions to friends, he will trust much to their knowledge of his feelings and wishes, he leaves much to their discretion, and tells them not so much what he would have done in detail, as what are the objects he would have accomplished. Now this is the way CHRIST has spoken to us under the New Covenant; and apparently with this reason, to try us, whether or not we really love Him as our LORD and SAVIOUR.

A Law of Liberty? — NEWMAN LECTURES.

 

▶ Magna Carta, The 800 Year Legacy of Magna Carta

Dan Hannan was the other day, on a program on Radio 4 discussing Magna Charta legacy. It’s both good and interesting. I’m sorry it won’t embed but such is life.

▶ BBC Radio 4 – Magna Carta, The Legacy of Magna Carta.

Along that line they quoted a bit of this, and I think the whole thing is worthy.

What Say the Reeds at Runnymede?
A poem commemorating the signing of Magna Carta
Runnymede, Surrey, June 15, 1215


Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
What say the reeds at Runnymede?
The lissom reeds that give and take,
That bend so far, but never break,
They keep the sleepy Thames awake
With tales of John at Runnymede.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Oh, hear the reeds at Runnymede:
‘You musn’t sell, delay, deny,
A freeman’s right or liberty.
It wakes the stubborn Englishry,
We saw ‘em roused at Runnymede!

When through our ranks the Barons came,
With little thought of praise or blame,
But resolute to play the game,
They lumbered up to Runnymede;
And there they launched in solid line
The first attack on Right Divine,
The curt uncompromising “Sign!’
They settled John at Runnymede.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Your rights were won at Runnymede!
No freeman shall be fined or bound,
Or dispossessed of freehold ground,
Except by lawful judgment found
And passed upon him by his peers.
Forget not, after all these years,
The Charter signed at Runnymede.’

And still when mob or Monarch lays
Too rude a hand on English ways,
The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
Across the reeds at Runnymede.
And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
And crowds and priests and suchlike things,
Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
Their warning down from Runnymede!

I’d warrant it’s still true, wherever English is spoken.

Remembrance Sunday

poppy2_3001030b

Tower of London

[Many of you who read here, have become friends of ours, and so we like to tell you a bit when things happen our lives. This is one of those notes, Neo.]

This is my partner Jessica’s birthday, although we will unable to wish it to her today, let us remember the good times we have shared with her, and wish her a happy one and many more, better ones.

I have heard from her. She is recovering although it is a slow process, and she is both weak and weary. We will not see her here until at least Eastertide, I think, and perhaps not then. If you missed the story she went to the doctor for what she thought was sinusitis on 8 September and emailed me from the hospital parking lot that the doctor thought he saw another problem. Her last words to me were, “wish me luck-I need it.” Let that be a lesson to you, don’t ask me for luck. That problem turned out to be cancer, and very aggressive one at that. After two surgeries, on the first Friday in October, she received the received the last rites of her church. Those of us who love her were very close to despair, although we all put our trust in God. Nor were we disappointed, that Sunday she awoke from her coma without pain and without cancer.

But one doesn’t go through such an ordeal without re-evaluating your life, and that is part of what she is doing now. And I freely admit that I am praying (perhaps selfishly) that she will choose to return to us. That is in her hands, and God’s. Judging by how many of you are still reading her articles here, every day, many of you join with me in that prayer.

One doesn’t go through watching a dear friend, whom one loves, go though such an ordeal without effect either. I have spent most of the last two months worrying about and praying for her, and have rather shamefully neglected you. I won’t say I’m sorry, because I’m not. Jessica is the most wonderful and caring friend I’ve ever had, and the thought of losing her devastated me, and more than a few times 2 Samuel 18:33 was in my heart and prayers.

I’m going to begin trying to post again, although I’ll make no promises, it will be a day-to-day thing. And I’m going to do something that 3 months ago, I would never had considered. I am going to ask you to pray for Jessica, and for those who love her as well.

MERCIFUL God, and heavenly Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; Look with pity, we beseech thee, upon the sorrows of thy servant for whom our prayers are offered. Remember her, O Lord, in mercy; endue her soul with patience; comfort her with a sense of thy goodness; lift up thy countenance upon her, and give her peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name; We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer


In all the English speaking world, except the United States, today is Remembrance Sunday, which is more connected than you might think to the first part of this post. Jessica’s ex-husband was a serving army officer, in fact, he was in Afghanistan when I met her. And while we will celebrate those of ours on Tuesday who survived to return to us, they will commemorate those who did not.

In her post The Thin Red Line she reminded us of the other victim’s of war, saying this:

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do. There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Like Memorial Day it was instituted to remember those brave men who died in the service of their country, and like Veteran’s Day it is on 11 November, because it was instituted to commemorate the end of the Great War, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. It’s also Feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of soldiers. Like a distinguished British historian told me once, “It’s always the war to end all wars, until the next one.” I’m very afraid he was right.

But it is very proper for us as Americans to remember our cousins who died in the wars of the twentieth century, they fought at our side for the same ideals. Please join me in remembering their sacrifice.

It should also be remembered that on 17 October 1921, General Pershing presented, pursuant to a special act of Congress, the US Medal of Honor, in the name of the people of the United States, to the Unknown British Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the only time it has been awarded to a non-American in a foreign service.

Remember them

A Question in the Comments

copts-attacked1On Jessica’s post Where is Comfort, the Unit asked Jessica in comments a question.

Golly gee Ms. Hof. Thanks for comment. I wonder if you could maybe post here as to a question I still have? One of the last things Momma said to me is “the righteous suffer with the unrighteous.” I spare you (well spare myself) the details as many suffer. But her circumstance didn’t let me delve into what she knew Biblically on that.

That was 2006, she 91…me now in seventies. Thank you so much. the unit

Jess got sick before she answered it, and I think it deserves an answer. She’s far better qualified but I’ll take a shot at it.

St. Peter tells us in I Peter 3:18 that

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Which is, of course, fairly obvious, or at least we hope so, since we are all sinners, and hence unjust, and need His grace to save us.

But you and I know that sometimes it seems that we who try to do the right thing feel like we are almost oppressed in our society doesn’t it. I, like you see all the stories about Christianity being driven from public life, and all the rest, and in truth sometimes even it seems like those we love and are in the faith hurt us. And we get sick, and we suffer, even in fact as Jess herself has, and those that love her have, and it just doesn’t seem right, does it?

In many ways, I suspect a lot of it, is simply that our culture has led us to believe that we should be happy, in this life. Sometimes we are; but that’s not what Jesus promised was it? He promised that we would be persecuted in this life, and would find our happiness in the next.

But Ezekiel 21 tells us this:

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, preach against the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel; and say to the land of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I I Am against you, and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you.Because I will cut off both righteous and wicked from you, therefore My sword shall go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north,

And that is a pretty dire prophecy, I would say. Dr. John Oakes tells us here, however

When God brings physical judgment on a nation, both the godly and the

ungodly will suffer. This may seem unfair upon first consideration, but
when God judges a nation, as he surely has a right to do, the suffering of
both the good and the evil is inevitable. However, the righteous may
suffer physically, but they will not lose their place in heaven if their
heart is devoted to God. This is a general law of human existence. God
causes the rain to fall on the good and the evil. Some of the blessings of
God will fall on those who do not even acknowledge him. Sometimes, even
good people are caused to suffer because of the sins of others, but in the
end, God will reward them for their righteous life. God does not promise a
care-free life to those who turn to him.

And so it seems like in many ways, if you are righteous, you will suffer along with the unrighteous, in this world. Calamities happen to us all, just as we all get the spring rain, we also get the tornado. We are seeing plenty of that recently aren’t we, what with the Copts and the Iraqi Christians, two of the oldest of Christian communities, going back to the time of the Apostles themselves.

But, at the last we are judged individually, and that is where our reward is. In the next world, not this one. And we have to trust Him, who told us in Mathew 11:30

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

And the key here is that a yoke is used on at least two oxen, it is surely placed on us, but the other side is placed on Christ Himself, who helps us by sharing our burden.

%d bloggers like this: