Friday, April 28, 2023

National Superhero Day 2023

"And there came a day unlike any other..."

Today is National Superhero Day.  Created by Marvel Comics in 1995, it has become a day to celebrate our favorite heroes, both real and imagined.  As a life-long comic book fan, this makes today pretty special.

I still love superhero stories.  I love their power to convey simple and complex morality tales.  A place to retreat where we know that good will always triumph over evil.  No matter how dark it looks, no matter how much has been lost, right will prevail.

Superheroes are our modern myths.  They provide ideals that we aspire to and convey larger than life stories of struggle, triumph, perseverance, and hope.  Like any good science fiction, they are allegories through which the pressing issues of our times can be explored (Watergate in the original Secret Empire in Captain America, racism in Weird Fantasy #18 by EC Comics).

Plus, comics have an unlimited budget.  Movies are just now catching up, but comics can still beat them in terms of mind-blowing visuals.

And the end of the day, superheroes entertain me and inspire me.  I've read many bad ones, and I've read many excellent ones.  Those that have stuck with me throughout my life.  I've cut back on the number that I read and I am definitely enjoying being able to have them on a tablet (though I do miss the tactile feel of holding a comic book).  But I keep coming back and am so glad my kids are picking up that love.  The girl especially is a fan of Tiny Titans and graphic novels.

I love that pop culture is just now starting to catch up with these myths.  If you had told me at 13 that there would be a different comic book inspired superhero television show on nearly every night of the week, that Marvel would be on track to release 35 big budget tentpoles for which it had creative control, that Comiccon would be as big of a pop-culture event as it has morphed into, I wouldn't have believed you.  It's a great time to be a fan.

It's also a great time to recognize the heroes around us.  The first responders that put their lives on the line for us and those that have increasingly difficult jobs with the pandemic and the civil unrest that have emerged.  The people that we have relied on for strength just to get through these trying times.  

If you can say thank you to someone, it's time to do so.

So enjoy this superhero day.  Read a comic, watch a great superhero movie or show.  And thank someone who is being a hero each and every day.


Thursday, April 27, 2023

The King of Calypso

Some music comes in and out of your life.  And some tunes and performers remain a constant companion.

When the name Harry Belafonte comes up, I think everyone's head goes to Beetlejuice and the Banana Boat Song and Jump in the Line.  

I, instead, think back to hearing Schrodinger's Cat sing Jump in the Line a cappella on the steps of the Tower at UT.  I think of Mom coming back from a cruise to Jamaica trying to identify a tune she heard on steel drums, but not exactly sure what it was.  We all thought of Jump in the Line, repeatedly, but that didn't seem to be it.  Until years later she heard Jump in the Line and said "that's it."

I think of Jude becoming obsessed with the greatest hits of Harry Belafonte.  Hearing repeated lines of Mama Look-A Boo Boo, "my daddy can't be ugly so."  Or getting Jude to record Turn the World Around for a Mother's Day present.

I think of Belafonte's episode of The Muppet Show, which we've watched repeatedly.  I know the gags by heart now.  Including the all times when Fozzie is off beat.

Belafonte's music is a joy to hear.  It's music he feels passionate about and it shows.  It's his formative music, the songs he learned by heart from a young age and then reinterpreted through his masterful skill.  It's been wonderful to discover his broader discography over the past couple of years, as he has quickly become perhaps our family's favorite artist as a whole.

Belafonte's life is also something to admire.  Wonderful film performances in Bright Road, Carmen Jones, and The World, The Flesh, and the Devil.  A masterful film noir in Odds Against Tomorrow.   His roles were influenced by his activism, stretching the portrayal of African Americans on film, moving beyond the stereotypical roles that they had previously been sidelined to.  He was a pioneer in that regard, right alongside his close friend Sydney Poitier.  Belafonte took that same stance in politics, marrying pop culture and politics.  He was an ardent supporter and active participant in the Civil Rights Movement, even bailing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. out of Birmingham jail.   He modeled this activism after that of his mentor, Paul Robeson, and carried it with him through his life.

Harry Belafonte has left an indelible impression on my family and this world through song, through film, and through his life.  He will be greatly missed.  

Belafonte passed away on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, from congestive heart failure.  He was 96.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Happy Birthday PapaRock 2023!

A happy, happy birthday to the best father, best grandfather, the best mentor anyone could ask for.  The hardest part of the move has been in not being there for celebrations, but we make the most of it when we can.  We hope you enjoy your day to fullest!   

I've taken, over the past couple of years, to using an older colloquialism for birthday greetings - Many happy returns of the day!  I love the sentiment of it.  Not only wishing that the person would have a great day, but that it would occur over and over and over again. 

We love you and can't wait to see you soon! May the blessings of this day spill over, and over, and over again.

Happy birthday, Dad!  May it be so great you attract bonus grands like above. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

A Prayer in Spring

April is National Poetry Month, so it seems a bit appropriate to add an additional bit of poetry to the blog.  I try for once a month, but here, we'll add at least one additional poem.  To celebrate spring, and April, I thought I would share another poem from my favorite American poet, Robert Frost.

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Earth Day 2023

Today is Earth Day.  The first celebrations took place in two thousand colleges and universities, primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States.  It now is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes.  According to Hays, Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year."

Hays created Earth Day in response to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which spewed more than three million gallons of oil, resulting in an 800 square-mile oil slick he viewed by plane.  The day is to demonstrate our commitment to environmental protection.  Our commitment to be good stewards of the Earth.

Through the pandemic, we saw the impact that we can make in that regard.  How our actions (or in this case inaction) can impact the world around us.  And improve things for the better.

While we were in quarantine, we saw truly remarkable reports of environmental improvement around the world.  Our Earth is getting wilder - and cleaner.  Compared to the previous five years, March 2020 air pollution was down 46% in Paris, 35% in Bengaluru, India, 38% in Sydney, 29% in Los Angeles, 26% in Rio de Janeiro and 9% in Durban, South Africa, NASA measurements show.  Smog stopped choking New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, and Indians had views of the skyline that they have not seen before.  Nitrogen dioxide pollution in the US northeast was down 30%.

The Earth improved because we were not out in it.  Think about that for a while.

Our challenge this year is whether we can continue to improve things for the better, or whether, in our haste to return things back to "normal" we have gone back to our past of taking the earth for granted.  Can we bring the positive aspects of going back to normal - human interaction, social gatherings, smiles and hugs - while also keeping the aspects that have had such a positive impact on the environment around us?

On this Earth Day, we should remember that we can make a difference.  We're seeing it all around us in this time.  What kind of difference we make when this is over is up to us.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Eid al-Fitr 2023

Tonight marks the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, a feast to mark the end of Ramadan, the month long period of reflection, fasting, prayer, and introspection for the Muslim faith.  Eid al-Fitr translates to the feast of breaking the fast.  The celebration can last, depending on countyr, from one to three days, and there is a focus on the feast, prayer, and on charity.

To any readers who may be observing Eid this year, Eid Mubarak. May this be a time of blessing for you and yours.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again

Sunday evening, April 16, 2023, the curtain rose and fell on The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for the final time.   The show ran for 35 years and nearly 14,000 performances, making it the longest running show in Broadway history by about 3,000 performances.  Its absence will leave a massive hole in the theater district, for both patrons and performers alike, particularly the large orchestra which accompanied the show every night.

I can't begin to pinpoint where my fascination with The Phantom of the Opera began.  This wasn't a show where I heard the music and fell in love with it, nor was it one where I saw the show regionally or on television before being able to attend a performance.  I think it largely came down to that iconic mask.

Regardless, when I finally got a trip to New York for my senior year gift,   was at the top of my list of go see.  And the Broadway performance was everything you could have wanted.  A gorgeous theater designed to look like the Grand Guignols of old.  A chandelier that really could hang over the audience.  And an impeccable cast.  

I was hooked.

I've seen the touring performance.  Got absorbed into the music of the sequel Love Never Dies, and sat through the film version of that fiasco.  I've got the signed poster, the sheet music, and the cds.  I've got a phantom mask.  One day, I'll get to sing Music of the Night in some capacity.

The show was ravishing in how it overwhelmed you and enveloped you, particularly when it was staged in the right environment.  It's not my favorite musical, but it's close.

So, I'm a little sad to see those footlights dim.  Hopefully a new version will tour and breathe a fresh life into the show once again.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Superman's 85

Superman turns 85 today, marking the anniversary of the publication of Action Comics #1 on April 18, 1938.  The series has been rebooted, the costume has changed and changed back, and Superman has died and come back (a few times), but the first superhero is still being published monthly and still fighting the never ending battle.

And boy do we still need him.

Think about it.  Everything Superman stands for seems to be under attack.

"To best be in a position to use his amazing powers in a never-ending battle for truth and justice, Superman has assumed the disguise of Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper."

The American Way was later added to Superman's fight, making the better-known phrase "Truth, Justice, and the American Way."

But what is truth when unpopular realities can be dismissed as "fake news" or a documented record can simply be denied?  When the images we see must be evaluated for their level of manipulation?  When scripted dramas are passed off as reality television?  What is truth when feelings and opinions matter more than facts?

What is justice when it seems to be applied unevenly at best?  When the color of ones skin can be the difference in a business meeting in a coffee shop and an arrest at a coffee shop or between life and death in a traffic stop?  When antisemitic, white power, and alt-right groups are on the rise?  When the gender pay gap still exists?  When affluenza is a recognized condition?  What is justice if it is not blind?

What does the American Way mean anymore?  Especially when our country is as fractured as it is.

Sadly, even the "reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper" part is going away in our society.

Superman has always existed to be our ideal.  The hero of heroes.  The greatest.  He has been a social-justice warrior before the term ever existed (look back to those initial comics where he was beating up slum lords and corrupt business men).  The Blue Boy Scout.  A father figure figuratively and literally.  The leader of gods and men.

He has been portrayed as a Messiah figure of late, though that is a little misguided in my opinion.  He is much more of a representation of Moses, the leader-deliverer.  A child sent away in a vessel, raised by adopted parents who discovers his heritage and becomes a leader and inspiration.  An important distinction given the heritage of Siegel and Shuster, two Jewish kids growing up in the Depression, with a war raging in Europe.  Into these dark times, these two guys created a beacon of hope.  A strong man who could stop all the bullies and protect the little guy.

Over time, Superman's character continued to solidify.  Powers and weaknesses came and went; some of them very, very strange.  But the core of the character remained.  Superman is honest, fair, and decent.  He is a paragon of virtue who knows and does what is right.  He is the strongest one there is, but uses that strength to protect only, not to intimidate or bully.  Strength with responsibility.

And through the years, we have seen him bubble to the surface when he is needed.  Christopher Reeves fully embodying the character more than any other actor, making us "believe a man could fly."  More than any actor, Christopher Reeve gave the character a lightness, a comfort in his own skin than shone brightly through the screen.  The movies may be a little corny and only two of the four really work, but there is no denying the sincerity of the portrayal that would define the character.

It's that character we need again.  Not the struggling, near-objectivist protagonist present in the more recent Warner Brothers films.  

We need that paragon, that beacon of hope to inspire us again.  The example that causes us to find a better way.  That figure that causes us to lift our heads and look...

Up in the Sky!

Saturday, April 15, 2023

To The Bride and Groom

Today we are attending my cousin Sadie's wedding.  It's wonderful to see the two of them together, to know that they have each found someone who complements each other so well. To celebrate such a union, to celebrate two that God has brought together, and who are taking this commitment with the perspective that is appropriate, that is worth celebrating.  

To Robert and Sadie Bennett, may the two of you be blessed with many happy years ahead. May you be a wonderful reflection of a deep and abiding love. May your love be a witness and example to others. May you make choices that always bring you closer together. May each day be brighter than the previous.

Congratulations and God bless!

Friday, April 14, 2023

Youth and Age


"In my youth the heart of dawn was in my heart, and the songs of April were in my ears.

But my soul was sad unto death, and I knew not why.  Even unto this day I know not why I was sad.

But now, though I am with eventide, my heart is still veiling dawn,

And though I am with autumn, my ears still echo the songs of spring.

But my sadness has turned into awe, and I stand in the presence of life and life's daily miracles.

The difference between my youth which was my spring, and these forty years, and they are my autumn, is the very difference that exists between flower and fruit.

A flower is forever swayed with the wind and knows not why and wherefore.

But the fruit overladen with the honey of summer, knows that it is one of life's home-comings, as a poet when his song is sung knows sweet content,

Though life has been bitter upon his lips.

In my youth I longed for the unknown, and for the unknown I am still longing.

But in the days of my youth longing embraced necessity that knows naught of patience.

Today I long not less, but my longing is friendly with patience, and even waiting.

And I know that all this desire that moves within me is one of those laws that turns universes around one another in quiet ecstasy, in swift passion which your eyes deem stillness, and your mind a mystery.

And in my youth I loved beauty and abhorred ugliness, for beauty was to me a world separated from all other worlds.

But now that the gracious years have lifted the veil of picking-and-choosing from over my eyes, I know that all I have deemed ugly in what I see and hear, is but a blinder upon my eyes, and wool in my ears;

And that our sense, like our neighbors, hate what they do not understand.

And in my youth I loved the fragrance of flowers and their color.

Now I know that their thorns are their innocent protection, and if it were not for that innocence they would disappear forevermore.

And in my youth, of all seasons I hated winter, for I said in my aloneness, 'Winter is a thief who robs the earth of her sun-woven garment, and suffers her to stand naked in the wind.'

But now I know that in winter there is re-birth and renewal, and that the wind tears the old raiment to cloak her with a new raiment woven by the spring.

And in my youth I would gaze upon the sun of the day and the stars of the night, saying in my secret, 'How small am i, and how small a circle my dream makes.'

But today when I stand before the sun or the starts I cry, 'The sun is close to me, and the stars are upon me;' for all the distances of my youth have turned into the nearness of age;

And the great aloneness which knows not what is far and what is near, nor what is small nor great, has turned into a vision that weighs not nor does it measure.

In my youth I was but the slave of the high tide and the ebb tide of the sea, and the prisoner of half moons and full moons.

Today I stand at this shore and I rise not nor do I go down.

Even my roots once every twenty-eight days would seek the heart of the earth.

And on the twenty-ninth day they would rise toward the throne of the sky.

And on that very day the rivers in my veins would stop for a moment, and then would run again to the sea.

Yes, in my youth I was a thing, sad and yielding, and all the seasons played with me and laughed in their hearts.

And life took a fancy to me and kissed my young lips, and slapped my cheeks.

Today I play with the seasons.  And I steal a kiss from life's lips ere she kisses my lips.

And I even hold here hands playfully that she may not strike my cheek.

In my youth I was sad indeed, and all things seemed dark and distant.

Today, all is radiant and near, and for this I would live my youth and the pain of my youth, again and yet again."

Youth and Age, Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

A Reminder

It's probably a good time to give the periodic reminder about the blog.

First, I want to thank you all for your readership and your kind words.  I remain humbled by the response.  To everyone who has let me know you are reading, ever liked a post, or commented, thank you.  It is appreciated more than you could know.  To those of you who read in silence, thank you as well.

I would also like to use this time to post a reminder of the blog rules, and to provide advance warning.  There will be blogs that will either make you mad or will upset you or challenge your position on a particular topic.  The blog is my personal writing exercise and soap box, so it will reflect my biases and my contrarian streak.  I will also likely question things that many people believe are and should be settled.  I am open to civil discourse on almost any topic.

Finally, I wanted to pass along a reminder that I have an email subscription option on the page.  With that, you'll receive an email link each time a new post is added.  There is also an RSS feed option, in case anyone prefers that method.

Further, an update of the reminders previously posted:

  1. This blog represents largely a writing exercise and an outlet for me to get thoughts out of my head.  It contains my opinion on variety of issues from serious to silly and is filtered through my experiences, biases, etc.
  2. I promise, I will post on topics that are so niche-focused, so utterly nerdy that anyone but me is going to be bored to tears.  I try to keep those to only once or twice a week and to rotate through a variety of topics throughout the week to keep it interesting.  I use the labels so that you can screen out certain topics if you want to.
  3. I will post things that you will disagree with and that will potentially make you upset.  I know I am more liberal than the majority of my audience.  Probably regarding doctrine and politics both.  These are both topics I'm going to write on from time to time.  I personally favor moderation and lean center-left, but will post on a variety of viewpoints from center-right to hard left (maybe even hard right in a few instances).
  4. I am going to be harder on Republicans than I am on Democrats.  While I am not a fan of many politicians of many different political parties, I am growing to despise what the Republican party is becoming.  And I reserve the sharpest criticism for them due to one fact above all: the perverse mixture of politics and religion that Republicans promote. Because they purport to hold themselves out as the Christian party, I'm going to hold them to that impossible standard.  
  5. I am likewise harder on churches and Christians than I am on non-believers.  Those who profess to believe have identified themselves as recognizing a higher standard.  To put it simply, "we should know and act better."  And do so based on a reading of the entire Bible.  Sadly, we all too often fall far short of this.  While I do want to extend grace to those that slip, when errors occur as abuses of power in the church  or in ways that belittle the faith they claim to hold, I will be discussing it. 
  6. I'm generally more interested in questions than concrete answers.  I think we as a collective are less curious than we should be and settle for comfortable answers when we should still be asking harder, more difficult questions.  
  7. I am completely open to disagreement and debate. Honest and open dialogue is the only way we can move forward in any civilized society.  However, I have a few ground rules for debate:
  • I will not tolerate name calling or muckraking.  When the thread resorts to calling each other racists, "liberal snowflakes," "libtards," or four-letter words, I will shut it down.  Likewise, I'm not going to let stereotypes and sweeping generalities go unchallenged.  All liberals do not want the destruction of our country, all conservatives are not bigots, etc.
  • I hope for discussion that will foster conversation, not end it.  So I expect more than "guns don't kill people, people kill people" in a discussion on gun control, for example.  I will not let those conversation-enders stand unchallenged.
  • Compromise is not a dirty word.  And likewise, I do hope people change their mind from time to time based on what they learn. Including me.
  • I follow this hierarchy for the value of information: facts, then informed opinions, then general opinions.  Saying "that's just my opinion" is going to get nowhere with me if it is not supported by the facts.
As always, thank you for reading!

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Al Jaffee


The world is a little dimmer now, as we lost perhaps the greatest cartoonist yesterday.  Al Jaffee, Mad Magazine satirist and pioneer passed away yesterday at the age of 102.  Officially, the longest working career in comics, Jaffee's influence has spanned over seven decades.

Most known for the Mad Magazine staple, the Fold-In, the back page illustration where folding together the right and left sides would create a new image, Jaffee's wit continued to shine through.  From April 1964 to April 2013, Jaffee's work appeared in all but one issue of Mad Magazine, and Jaffee remained an active contributor until his official retirement in 2020 at the age of 99.  His last fold-in appeared in the August 2020 issue, a tribute to him, the "All" Jaffee issue.

Jaffee's work and list is a tribute to the idea that, while you may age, you never have to grow "old."  That is, you do not have to lose your child-like wonder and humor.  As Jaffee stated in a 2010 interview, "Serious people my age are dead."

While Jaffee will be missed, his work continues to live on.  Time to crack open an old Mad issue, and smile once again.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Beyond Easter 2023 - Resurrected Monday

Easter is now officially over.

The question is, what now?

The Resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.  If Christ is not resurrected, then what hope do we have.

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith.  In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God.  For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men."
1 Corinthians 15: 12-18

The greatest hope of the Resurrection is not that Jesus was raised once.  It's that He remains alive.  He is alive and omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  He is alive and at the right hand of the Father.  He is alive and reigning on high.

And that is something we can and should celebrate each and every day of the year!

For too many people, Easter is the one time of year that the Resurrection is given any thought.  It may be one of only a couple of times the enter the church, likely as a responsibility to family.  It's the only time they hear the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.  And with the Monday after Easter, everything is back to normal.  Easter is over.  The obligations are complete.  Reality sets back in.

Sadly, I think this is the case for far too many Christians as well.  

Oh, they can quote the verses.  They sing "My Redeemer Lives," "He Lives," and "Resurrecting."  They are in services every week, and they would say they believe every word of the Easter story.  They believe in Jesus' death and literal resurrection.

They just don't live like it.

For far too many Christians, the Resurrection is brought out at Easter and then celebrated, but then Jesus is put back in the tomb or back on the cross.

Others may only be celebrating this one time a year; gathering with family for the annual obligation.  Without being able to gather this year, what happened to that obligation?  Did many still view a service out of habit?

Jesus on the cross is marketable.  It's fashionable.  It can be worn on t-shirts and jewelry.  It can be put on Bible covers, hung on walls, and be used as an easily recognizable symbol.  And when Jesus remains on the cross, when he remains a savior that died for our sins, then we have been saved and our present obligation ends.  Likewise, with Jesus in the tomb.

The resurrection is something different.  If Jesus not just rose again, but is alive today, then we have obligations to him.  We have to recognize him as Lord.  As the ruling King of Kings.  And we have to live accordingly.  Jesus as Lord requires more of us.

"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you."
2 Corinthians 4: 5-12

Leaving Jesus in the tomb or on the cross misses out on the power that He can demonstrate in our daily lives.  On the mission that He has for us today.  Now.  On the blessings, the comfort, and the LIFE that only He can provide.

This seems to be a great part of why the early church did not use the iconography of the crucifix.  The cross was too recent, too painful, perhaps too close to the reality of what the crucifix did.  It was seen as the instrument of torture that it was.  

Instead, the imagery was focused on the Good Shepherd.  Jesus with a lamb resting across his shoulders.  Jesus with the shepherd's crook.  

And to me, that really re-centers the focus of the Christian life.  Don't get me wrong, the crucifix is still powerful imagery and represents the greatest victory that we have.  There is, however, also a tendency to treat it as a one-time historical event, both in the life of Christ and in our lives.  It's too easy for us to leave Christ on the cross.  To stop at our salvation and not pursue sanctification - to just get "fire insurance" and that's it.  To treat Jesus as just Savior and not Lord.

Focusing on the Good Shepherd reminds us that He is still watching over us.  He is still guiding us and protecting us.  And that we are still required to be listening for His voice.  To follow His voice and His voice alone.  To go where the shepherd guides us and to graze there.   To lie down in good pastures, to drink still waters, to graze along the Paths of Righteousness.

It reminds us that the Good Shepherd is and should be a part of our daily lives. 

So don't let your celebrating end.  Don't let Easter be the end of your remembrance and celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.  Don't keep Jesus in the tomb.

He's alive!


Now let's live like it on more than just Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Easter 2023 - Resurrection Sunday

"Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.  Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen!  Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'"

Luke 24:1-7

Today marks the greatest celebration of the Christian life.  The greatest news that could be shared.  He is not among the dead.  He's alive!  He's alive!  He's alive and I'm forgiven, Heaven's gates are open wide!

We have hope because He has won the victory over death and the grave.  No matter how dark Friday was, no matter how difficult the waiting on Saturday, it's Sunday and Christ is victorious!

May the joy and grace of the Easter season be on you and your family!  If you do not know the reason why we celebrate, I pray you find yourself surrounded with friends who exemplify the good news and are overjoyed to share. There are plenty of online opportunities today to join a celebration.

God’s blessings on you today and continuing through this year.

"And the morning that You rose
All of heaven held its breath
Till that stone was moved for good
For the Lamb had conquered death

And the dead rose from their tombs
And the angels stood in awe
For the souls of all who’d come
To the Father are restored

And the Church of Christ was born
Then the Spirit lit the flame
Now this gospel truth of old
Shall not kneel shall not faint

By His blood and in His Name
In His freedom I am free
For the love of Jesus Christ
Who has resurrected me

Praise the Father
Praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, three in one
God of glory, Majesty
Praise forever to the King of Kings"

Words and Music by Jason Ingram, Brooke Ligertwood & Scott Ligertwood
© 2019 Hillsong Music Publishing CCLI: 7127647

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Holy Week 2023 - Holy Saturday

Here the whole world (stars, water, air, and field, and forest, as they were reflected in a single mind) like cast off clothes was left behind in ashes, yet with hopes that, in lenten lands, hereafter may resume them on Easter Day.
-  C.S. Lewis - 

Holy Saturday reflects on an interesting period of time in human history.  The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  That period between death and resurrection.  The period between the event that causes suffering and the event that brings deliverance.  The eternity between sorrow and joy.

In the Easter week, Friday is definitely a difficult day.  It's the infliction of pain.  It's the day where the death occurs, the suffering is inflicted.

But to me, Saturday, that next day has to be the worst.  It's that period of waiting.  Of reality setting in.  The shock wears off, and everything is real.

On Friday, they were experiencing everything as it was happening, perhaps holding out hope for a miracle to completely change their circumstances that day.  Perhaps in complete shock through the whole experience.

Saturday is the day everything sharpens.  Jesus died.  And for all the disciples know, he is not coming back.  It's that period we all find ourselves in, where all we can do is just wait in our suffering.  And I do not know about you, but I'm terrible at waiting.  I want solutions. I want action.  I want to change things, now.   And the fact always remains that you cannot rush this time.

Saturday is when grief begins.  

The good news is that we know it does end.  It does get better.  "Every storm eventually runs out of rain."  Especially, for those that follow the Way, for those truly living the life He has called us to, we know the end.  Even if we do not see the victory here, we know who holds it in His hand.

It's Holy Saturday.  But Easter is Coming!

Today Thou dost keep holy the seventh day,
Which Thou has blessed of old by resting from Thy works.
Thou bringest all things into being and Thou makest all things new,
Observing the Sabbathh rest, my Saviour, and restoring strength.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Holy Week 2023 - Good Friday

"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
The Burial of Jesus

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.  It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23: 44b-56

Today, for those of faith, represents the darkest day in human history.  The day where it seemed all hope died.  Good Friday remembers the day when Jesus Christ, Son of God, was crucified by the Roman government and died a criminal's death.

He suffered through the mockery of a trial, in which the prosecution presented trumped up charges to a judge who found no fault but still sided with the mob and gave into their demands.  He was beaten, tortured, and jeered.  Stripped and dressed in a costume designed to mock the charges against him.  He was forced to carry the beam of his cross in a walk of shame through the city where the same people who cheered his arrival now gawked at the parade of criminals as they worked their way to the site of their execution.  He was then nailed to that beam, in both his hands and feet, raised between two criminals and left to die.

Crucifixion was one of the most cruel forms of death that humans have ever created.  It was public and designed to dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating similar crimes.  Victims were sometimes left on display after death as a warning to any other potential criminals.  The death it provided was particularly slow and painful, leading to the term excruciating, or literally "out of crucifying."  The person executed was usually attached to the cross by a range of methods including rope and nails.  The executed could be tied to the cross such that the ropes would cut into his skin.  To support the weight of a body, nails would be driven into the arm just above the wrist, between the two bones of the forearm.  Nails would also be driven into the feet, also to support the weight of the body, usually without the foot-rest or the seat that is placed on our decorative crosses.  The entire weight of the body would be placed on those nails as the body would continue to pull downward in gravity, keeping the person in continual pain.

When the whole body weight was supported by stretched out arms, nailed to that cross, the typical cause of death was asphyxiation.  The executed would have severe difficulty inhaling and would have to draw themselves up by the arms, leading to exhaustion and pain at the nail sites.  This process could be sped up by the soldiers breaking the condemned's legs, preventing them from pushing up, leaving them to die choking for air.  The executed could further suffer cardiac rupture, heart failure, hypovolemic shock, sepsis, acidosis, arrhythmia, and pulmonary embolism.  The scourging before the crucifixion would exacerbate the potential for sepsis.  Add in dehydration and you have a slow, agonizing death on display for all to see.

And Jesus willingly chose that path.  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, willingly going to cross to redeem his creation.

To his followers, this day marked a feeling of hopelessness.  It was the day hope died.  Their hope in change for the future.  The possible hope for revolution.  They saw everything they had hoped for vanishing in an instant.

For Jesus, this was also an unprecedented day.  The day when Jesus, the pure, spotless lamb would bear the sins of the world, past, present, and future.  It would be the one time Jesus was completely separated from His Father.  Where God would turn His back on him, for he could not see his son stained with sin.  Eloi; Eloi; Lama; Sabachtha.  My God; My God; Why have you forsaken me?

The first time Jesus experienced despair.

Many of us today on this Good Friday might be experiencing despair.  Might be feeling hopeless.  The physical isolation.  The loss of a job.  The loss of income.  This might indeed be the darkest night.

But we - we know dawn is coming.  We celebrate that Friday is not the end of the story.  Things may look at their absolute darkest, but morning is coming.  Friday may be death, but Sunday is resurrection.

No matter the outlook, it gets better.

It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!

Praise the Lord!

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.
He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the Heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Chris.
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Holy Week 2023 - Maundy Thursday

"On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Matthew 26:17-30

Today marks Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday.  The fifth day of Holy Week, it is truly a day of remembrance.  Remembering Jesus' service.  The way he prepared for his sacrifice.

By washing his disciples feet.

By breaking bread and sharing wine.

In service and in fellowship, with those closest to him.

We still love to gather. To enjoy a meal together and to break bread.  Servants' hearts long to get back out and be a blessing to those around them, helping in any way they can.

Remember this feeling.

Just before the darkest hour of his life, Jesus valued service and fellowship above all.  He spent time with those closest to him and showed them how much he cared for them by stooping down and washing their feet.  He took care of his friends.  And what he asked of them, was to remember him.

To remember him when they drank.  To remember him when they ate.  To remember him when they were gathered together.

That's our duty today.  To remember Him.  To remember His sacrifice.  Partake in your own Lord's Supper at home.  Do it in remembrance of Him.

And then, serve in every way you can.  Serve in your local church body.  Serve remotely and virtually.  Put that remembrance into action.  Follow his new commandment, from which we get the word "maundy" (mandatum).

Make the day count.  In remembrance of Him.

Of Thy Mystical supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither will I give Thee a kiss like Judas.  But like the Thief will I confess Thee:  Remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Holy Week 2023 - Spy Wednesday

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman?  For she has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?”  And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Matthew 26:6-16

Today marks Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday.  The point in the Holy Week that really begins the transition from Triumphal Entry to betrayal, torture, and death.  The events of the day reflect two disparate treatments of Jesus: lavish praise and betrayal.  Two responses to Jesus we still see today, the differences being quite literally night and day.

The passages for today open with Jesus at the home of Simon, identified as a leper.  Likely someone who has previously been healed by Jesus.  It is into this scene a woman enters, bringing an alabaster jar containing spikenard, a very expensive perfume or essential oil.  The alabaster jar in itself is significant.  It was an expensive jar to hold an expensive oil.  It was special to signify the special contents inside.  And it had to be broken and cracked to pour out the contents inside.  This woman took probably the most precious thing that she had and poured it out to anoint Jesus's head and feet.  Lavishly adoring him.  Her praise, her love literally spilling out because she had been forgiven.

And in response, what do we see?  The disciples quarreling because of her lavishness.  Because the gift could have been put to better use.  Because the money could have been spent "better" in their estimation.

How often do we do this?  How often does our inner voice question the extravagance of someone else's worship?  Of someone else's gift giving?  While I'm not calling for us to put aside all scrutiny, perhaps we should start from a place of granting the benefit of the doubt more often.  To start from a place where we assume the best intentions of other people more often than not.

By night, we see Jesus's greatest betrayal, when Judas decides and confronts the chief priests to discuss handing Jesus over to them.  Selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.  We can debate Judas's motives, whether he was a zealot trying to force Jesus into action or whether he fully believed Jesus had become too dangerous to allow him to continue his ministry.  Either way in Judas, we see that it is possible to be so close to the truth and completely miss the point.  Judas had the best pastor, the best teacher, the best leader, the wisest and best friend, and an incredible small group of friends to help provide guidance, but still ended up betraying Jesus.  

Our reflection for today should be how often we miss the point.  How often we are in it for our own motives, our own pursuits, our own desires?  Where is our heart at? Are we disappointed because following Jesus hasn't turned out exactly how we wanted it, how we had planned it?  We may not rise to the level of turning Jesus over to be killed, but we still betray him with our own desires.  Remember, by the end of the week, all of the disciples will desert Jesus in one way or another.

Where are you this holy week?  Are you one lavishing praise on Jesus today?  Are you questioning someone else's motives?  Or are you pushing your agenda through your Christian life?

Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts through which thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Holy Week 2023 - Holy Tuesday

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.  As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.  But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him.’  Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’  And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.  Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Matthew 25:1-13


Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life I this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  Now is my soul troubled And what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”  Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”  The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered.  Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”  Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.  So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever.  How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up?  Who is this Son of Man?  So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer.  Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.  The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.

John 12:20-36


After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit , and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.  One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.  So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”  Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread hen I have dipped it.”  So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him.  Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.  Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.  So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out.  And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.  Little children, yet a little while I am with you.  You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’  A new commandment I give to you, that you loved one another:  Just as I have loved you, you are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”  Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.”  Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?  Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times.

John 13:21-38

After the cleansing of the temple, and the questioning by the chief priests and elders, Jesus spent a substantial portion of his time in the Holy Week preparing his followers for the events that would occur at the end of the week.  Liturgy for this Holy Tuesday, depending on your orthodoxy, focuses on the parables of the Ten Virgins and Ten Talents in the Gospel of Matthew, or Jesus predicting his death and betrayal in the Gospel of John.  Both offer insight into Jesus’s care for his disciples and us.

The parables of the Ten Virgins and Ten Talents come as part of a longer sermon that Jesus delivers to his disciples from the Mount of Olives.  Following the events of cleansing the temple and Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple, Jesus retired to the Mount of Olives.  Matthew recounts that as he sat there, the disciples came to him privately to ask for more information about when the destruction would occur.  Jesus then began to outline most of the things that we look for as signs of the end times (ones we often erroneously attribute to Revelation).  At the end of his description of the signs, he then reminds us that none will know the day or the hour but the Father himself. 


After this passage, he then goes into the parable of the Ten Virgins, comparing five wise virgins and five foolish virgins at the time of the bridegroom’s coming. In Jewish society, a wedding was a lot more involved than we think of today and did involve an element of surprise and preparedness.  A father would typically chose a bride for his son and would seek the bride’s consent.  If the consent was obtained, the father of the groom would negotiate a bridal price with the father of the bride.  When that was agreed upon, the marriage contract would be signed and a glass of wine would be shared to seal the contract.  At this point, there was a legal bond between the bride and groom, but they would not yet live together.  The bride would receive gifts to remind her of the love her bridegroom had for her, while he returned to his father’s house to prepare a place for her, literally building on to his father’s home and adding a room for them to inhabit.  Once the bridal chamber was completed, then the son, the groom would wait for his father’s permission to go and get his bride.  The groom never knew the day or the time.  And the bride especially never knew the time or the hour.  Both had to remain prepared.  The groom to go and get his bride and the bride for the groom to arrive.   The groom would have an escort that would proceed him, trumpeting the groom’s arrival in the middle of the night.  The bride absolutely had to be aware and alert.  Bag packed and ready to go, with enough oil to keep her lamp lit.

This is the background upon which Jesus provides the parable of the Ten Virgins.  He is the bridegroom who is waiting to come get his bride the church.  We, the church, have to be ready and alert for his return, to go with him.  Likewise, the parable of the Ten Talents reminds us of being faithful with the provisions that he has given us here on earth.  We cannot just sit on our hands, put our heads in the sand, and shut ourselves in the church away from society and wait for Jesus to return.  We have an active responsibility while we live to be about the Father’s business and invest the talents that he has given us well.

He reiterates this same idea in the beginning passage of John, with the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.  While this gets a little ahead of our timeline for Jesus’s week, it still proves a great parallel to the parables in Matthew.  To me, the interesting verse in this section is verse 36, urging them to stay connected with him while he still lives.  “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.”  He knows how little time he has left with them, and he wants them to maximize it.  To make the most of it.  Because it sets the stage for what he does next.

He reveals who will betray him and who will deny him.  To the group, he makes the pronouncement that one of them will betray him.  He’s just told them to stay in the light and now he is showing how one is going to choose darkness.  I love Peter and John’s back and forth.  “You ask him,” “No, you ask him.”  It humanizes the disciples in a way that we often forget.  Jesus makes an explosive statement, and they just have to know.  And though they hear, it is interesting that they don’t seem to pay attention to Judas’s actions following.  They would know he is the betrayer, but they don’t seem too concerned about it.

Likewise, Jesus will curb Peter’s bravado by revealing that Peter himself will deny him.  Jesus is speaking of his death, and Peter is just self-assured that he would go to death for Jesus in that moment.  And in the right circumstances, Peter might have.  Had it been in “glorious” battle, Peter might have fought to the death to protect Jesus, to fight alongside Jesus, to honor him.  But Peter wasn’t expecting Jesus to surrender, and he wasn’t prepared to die in such a way as that.

The beauty of both revelations is contained in the new command that Jesus gives.  Love one another.  That is how we will be known – by our love.  In the revelation to Peter, Jesus still gives Peter hope.  He tells him, even though Peter cannot follow now, he will follow in the future.  Despite the denial, despite the shame that will come from that, Jesus’s message to Peter in that moment still says, “I love you and I won’t give up on you.”  He’s showing that even though he will deny, Peter will still follow Jesus.

So what do we take from all this.  I believe it is simple, and it’s the message that Jesus was trying to convey to his disciples.  It’s still relevant to us today.  

There will come a time when all of this will be over.  No one will know exactly when it’s going to come, but it will come.  So be ready.  Don’t just bunker down and seclude yourself to wait until it comes.  You have to be out investing in and doing the work I created you for.  But be ready.  

And the best way you can do that, it to love each other.

God, may we live up to that.


Almighty, everlasting God, grant us so perfectly to follow the passion of our Lord, that we may obtain the help and pardon of his all-sufficient grace; through him who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end.  Amen.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Holy Week 2023 - Holy Monday

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.  Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

Matthew 21:12-27

On the first day after Jesus's triumphal entry, we have a couple of interesting events:  the cursing of the fig tree and Jesus cleansing of the temple.  The combination of the two events, leads then to the chief priests and elders questioning of Jesus's authority.  

The events are interesting because of their intertwined nature.  The fig tree was a symbol of Israel as seen in the works of Hosea and Jeremiah, and the age of the Messiah is seen as one where everyone would sit under their own fig tree without fear in Micah.  The cursing of the barren fig tree is seen as being directed at the Jewish people who have refused to accept their Messiah.

And so our question in this story, is are we part of those that are still refusing to accept?  Would we be part of the ones cursed for our continued lack of reception?

With the cleansing of the Temple, the sellers and money changers had set up in the area reserved for those outside the faith to come to temple.  They were literally blocking the access of non-Jews to the temple of the Lord.  The area was filled with livestock and merchants and money changers.  Selling animals and wares necessary for the sacrifice, and then exchanging money into the accepted currencies for paying taxes.  This was making worship a business for the faithful and blocking the seeking to be able to come in.  

My favorite detail in this story in found in the gospel of John, where it states that he took the time to braid a whip and then cleared the temple.  I think I've often heard it portrayed as an almost impulsive act, one where Jesus saw what the Temple had become, particularly at this time where there would be hundreds of thousands there to worship at such a great festival, that he then started flipping tables.  But with the single statement that he braided a whip, it indicates that this was not due to an overcoming of emotion, but a premeditated act.  It was deliberate and purposeful.  It was to cleanse his father's house.

How often are we trying to set up the tables that the Lord has already flipped over?  How many of your churches have spaces of commerce inside them?  Are they remaining a service or are they overwhelming the space?

In particular to the cleansing of the Temple, we see the chief priests and the elders question Jesus's authority for his actions.  We see that in some way, the cleansing of the Temple is likely the catalyst for the events that will occur later in the week.  Jesus sidesteps their question beautifully as he has done before, but their inner monologue reveals the fear of the crowd he has gathered.

Jesus knew this, he knew this event might be the catalyst for all of the suffering that he would endure, and he did it anyway.

I pray that we can cleanse out the parts of our "religion" that are incompatible with the Gospel.  The traditions we hold onto as if they are essential.  The tables we've set up in the temple.  I pray in this Holy Week, we can experience that cleansing and start this resurrection season renewed.

Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God, that we, who are in so many occasions of adversity, by reason of or frailty are found wanting, may yet, through the passion and intercession of thine only begotten Son, be continually refreshed; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.