Change is difficult for many of us. We don’t like it because it disrupts our settled rhythms of life and causes us to have to renegotiate our commitments and our ways of being.

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It’s Holy Saturday. Our congregation has already gathered for worship on Maundy Thursday, where we reflected on Christ as our newer and greater Passover, and Good Friday where we entered into the darkness of Christ’s death.Today, we will not gather. Today is silent saturday–a day for waiting in the darkness, hoping that God will be true to his promises to us: that Christ will rise again from the dead and put away sin and death.

In many ways there’s a metaphorical connection between this day, this silent saturday, and our life in Christ today. On Holy Saturday we find ourselves looking back at Christ’s passion and death and then forward to anticipate his resurrection. Our Christian life today is lived between Christ’s ascension and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and the second advent of Our Lord when the victory achieved at Calvary will be fully brought into effect in every realm of existence.

Until then, we wait. Come Lord Jesus!

Going Deeper | “If Any Want to Become My Followers…” | Lent [3/28-9] | John 12:12—16

By Anna Moseley Gissing

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Scripture Reading

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So 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!”

14 Jesus 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!”

16 His 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.

John 12:12-16 NRSV

Prayer of Confession

God, gracious and forbearing:  We remember with sorrow how people hailed and welcomed your Son on the day we have come to call Palm Sunday, and how so many of the same people were there again, just a few days later, shouting, “Crucify Him!”  We confess that we feel a guilty, uneasy kinship with these people.  We, too, lack solid, well-thought-out foundational principles against which to test the latest fads or siren calls.  We, too, switch our votes in whatever direction self-interest seems to dictate, in order to stay popular or safe.  Remind us, O God, of the courage of Jesus, who set his face steadfastly toward Jerusalem, even though he knew the fate that awaited him there.  For his sake, grant us renewal of your offer of mercy, unearned and undated, in Christ’s name we pray.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  1. Why is Jesus coming to Jerusalem? What is the response of the crowd to his arrival? Why do we call this day Palm Sunday?
  1. How do you imagine the disciples felt about getting the donkey? Are there requests that Jesus is making of you that you don’t understand? How might you respond?
  1. Do you think it’s easier to believe in Jesus today than it would have been if you were alive during his earthly mission? Why or why not?
  1. Do you resonate with the disciples whose understanding is routinely incomplete? In what ways?
  1. When have you realized that God was at work behind the scenes in ways you didn’t understand at the time?
  1. How can you be faithful now in the “muddy middle” when you aren’t sure what God is doing? What is one action you could take?

Prayer

Hosanna! Blessed are you, Lord Jesus. You are the King of Israel and the King of the world. And you have come to save us. May we not turn our backs on you as the crowd did just a few days after they welcomed you as King. Reveal to us our own fickleness and our own incomplete understanding. Make known to us the ways we have missed you and misunderstood you. Remind us of the ways you are at work behind the scenes of our lives. Remind us that you, our Master, know what you are doing. During this Holy Week, help us to be faithful even though we don’t understand fully. Lead us into your love as we head towards Good Friday. Amen.

Originally posted on Jeff Gissing:

Prayer is at the heart of the Christian life. It is one of the “means of grace,” the ways that God strengthens our faith and enables us to live faithfully in a fallen world. If you’re not praying then you’re not growing as a disciple.

Consider what the Westminster Larger Catechism tells us about the role of prayer in the life of the believer:

Q. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to His church the benefits of his mediation?

A. The outward and ordinary means of grace…are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

Westminster Larger Catechism, Q/A 54

Prayer is one of the conduits through which God’s grace pours into our lives. Charles Spurgeon said of prayer,

“I would sooner see you eloquent with God than with men. Prayer links us to…

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This pastoral letter from the Fellowship Community (formerly the Fellowship of Presbyterians)–of which First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is a member–aptly summarizes my response to the recent redefinition of marriage by the PC (USA).

It is humbling and chastening to be a evangelical minister in the PC (USA) at the present moment.

Pray for us.

-Jeff

——

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have reached a moment of change in the PC(USA) which some celebrate and others mourn. The redefinition of marriage has been approved by a majority of the presbyteries. Beginning in June, the Directory for Worship will now permit the marriage of two people of the same gender. This change is both profound and expected.

By approving this change we are disregarding the clear teaching of Scripture, the wisdom of those who have lived and died for the faith before us, and the continuing consensus of the contemporary church around the world. To do this is both disobedient and unwise. We know this particular change was intended by its proponents to extend the grace and the good news of Jesus Christ, and to further the witness of his Kingdom. We believe it accomplishes neither. Our objection to the passage of this redefinition is no way anti-gay. Our concern is that the church is capitulating to the culture and, in doing so, is misrepresenting Scripture.

We reaffirm that the language of this amendment does not require participation in services of marriage with which we disagree. It remains up to each Session and Teaching Elder to determine what is and is not faithful for themselves and for their congregation.

We continue to face great challenges to our witness as a denomination and, more importantly, to our personal faithfulness. It is not enough for us to simply be for or against something. We who believe this change in the definition of marriage does not extend the grace and good news of Jesus Christ, nor further the witness of the Kingdom must now ask: What would, and how can we accomplish this?

Many of our neighbors do not know the Savior. Will we find a way to build relationships with them and introduce them to Jesus without reinterpreting biblical teaching? We believe, by God’s grace, we can. But we must be committed to listening carefully and without judgment to their questions and their needs, and to responding with sincerity and with humility as those who have experienced the forgiveness and persistent grace of Jesus.

Our culture is marked by increasing hopelessness and isolation, yet we who follow Jesus are being nurtured daily in the community of the Trinity. Can we find a way to extend this community without compromising its foundational teachings? We believe, by Gods’ grace, we can. But we must be willing to go to the darkest and loneliest places with the compassion, conviction, and hope of the gospel we profess.

Joining in God’s mission in this culture and leading others in this time of profound change is difficult. Yet God has called and equipped us for his mission. Accepting that call—growing in Christ’s likeness, living by God’s Word, and joining in God’s mission in the world—cannot be done alone. You are not alone. We have created The Fellowship Community to offer encouragement and accountability; spurring one another on to the type of love and good works that will fulfill our mutual calling.

Find more resources and encouragement at through our website, and join us at First Presbyterian Church San Diego August 18-20 and in our regional conversations for a first-hand experience of Community.