More thoughts on the road to the Cross. The encounters Jesus had (actually during the crucifixion!) at Calvary were very brief and very powerful. The following is a quote from Fulton Sheen on the exchange between Jesus and the thief on the cross beside him.
"A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life; a man without possessions asked a poor man for a kingdom.…In the divine plan it was a thief who was the escort of the King of kings into paradise. If our Lord had come merely as a teacher, the thief would never have asked for forgiveness. But since the thief’s request touched the reason of his coming to earth, namely, to save souls, the thief heard the immediate answer. “I promise thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). It was the thief’s last prayer, perhaps even his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything, and found everything. When even the disciples were doubting and only one was present at the cross, the thief owned and acknowledged him as Savior."
Take a moment to think about the day you were baptized as a follower of Jesus. Do you remember the words of commitment? Were you aware of their significance for your life's path? In this excerpt, William Willimon connects the baptism of Jesus to his road to the Cross.
"To be baptized “into Christ” and “in the name of Christ” means to be incorporated into the way of life which characterized his life, the life of the empty one, the servant, the humble one, the obedient one, obedient even unto death (Phil. 2:6–11). That day at the Jordan, knee deep in cold water, with old John drenching him, the Anointed One began his journey down the via crucis. His baptism intimated where he would finally end. His whole life was caught up in this single sign. Our baptism does the same."
If the cold of winter is getting to you, maybe the following quote from G.K. Chesterton will bring a little spring to your day.
As the Grandpa to three little ones, I smiled as I pictured God in this way:
"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
- G.K. Chesterton
Let's always try to be faithful in prayer, even if things are hard and your circumstances appear bleak. I read this recently from Eugene Peterson: "History is lubricated by tears. Prayer, maybe most prayer, is accompanied by tears. All these tears are gathered up and absorbed in the tears of Jesus (Luke 19:41)."
On this date in 1536 Menno Simons left the Roman Catholic church to join the Anabaptists. He eventually became a leader in their midst.
For me as an English Canadian with British roots, to carry the name Mennonite speaks nothing of ancestry or culture. It represents a Christian faith heritage of following Jesus with conviction, seeking to embody the Good News as children of light.
I wonder how many of our members have read any of Menno's writings.
Gratitude is something that can be elusive sometimes, so we need to simply make it a regular part of our prayer and daily mindset.
I found these words from Henri Nouwen to be encouraging:
"To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.…Let us not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God."
Today let us rejoice in our redeeming God.
We live in a world that believes in self-actualization: that your life's goal is to discover the 'real you' on the inside and let that pure 'human spirit' shine for all to see.
The reality is that in sin we are broken and need saving and redeeming.
English journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, stated that “the depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality, but at the same time most intellectually resisted fact.”
Only Jesus can take brokenness and make it whole, make it free, and make it beautiful.
We often hear how hard it can be to respond with forgiveness when wronged. Yet we are called to it nonetheless. What we don't hear about as often is the power that lies within this act of forgiveness. The triumph of Jesus over evil is shared with us as we forgive others as we have been forgiven by God.
The following was found written on a wrapping paper at Ravensbruck concentration camp in WW2:
"Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness."
Here are some wise words from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His words, originally spoken 150 years ago, are very applicable today.
“We wrestle not with flesh and blood. Christians are not at war with any people who walk the earth. We are at war with infidelity, but the infidel people we love and pray for; we are at war with heresy, but we have no enmity against heretics; we are opposed to, and cry war to the death with, everything that opposes God and his truth, but towards every human being we would still endeavor to carry out the holy maxim, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The Christian soldier has no gun and no sword, for Christians do not fight with flesh and blood. It is with “spiritual wickedness in high places” that we fight, and with other principalities and powers than with those that sit on thrones and hold scepters in their hands."
The following quote is from Jean Vanier, a great Canadian Christian leader from times past who exemplified compassion and service in the name of Christ.
"Welcoming is not just something that happens as people cross the threshold. It is an attitude; it is the constant openness of the heart; it is saying to people every morning and at every moment, “come in”; it is giving them space; it is listening to them attentively. To welcome means listening a great deal to people and then discerning the truth with them."
Let us keep this spirit of welcome alive in us day to day.
Pastor Ward Parkinson