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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On the Way to Dinner

Palm Sunday is a wonderful/horrible day. How are we to preach this text when it is a very typical best of times and worst of times? We celebrate Jesus riding on a donkey and being welcomed by the crowds and then quickly turn to a gruesome betrayal. Weird as it may sound, this reminds me greatly of my experience this past weekend.

I attended a junior high youth conference. How in the world you might ask does this relate to Palm Sunday? The youth are having a wonderful time and are also being pushed and challenged in their faith discussions during such a conference. They are enjoying themselves in a retreat setting and can leave the cares of the world behind. Often times, they are rejoicing and spending time with dear friends who they will not see regularly outside of such retreats. For many it is a mountaintop experienced that they wish to hang onto.

Much like disciples who want to build tents on the mountaintop and reside there forever on the right and left hand of Jesus, the youth want to grab the good and freeze frame. Can't we just stay here? Can't it always be like this? No!

First, if it were always like that, then it would cease to be a mountaintop experience. Second, if we freeze and grab onto a moment so strongly we are idolizing that instead of the movement of the Holy Spirit that made 'that' special to begin with! Don't get me wrong, those moments are dear and are to be remembered and set aside to look back upon when we need rejuvenating or when we want to remember how we got to this point in our journey.

Yet, if we don't finish the meal and let our plate be taken away, how can we get to dessert? Sometimes I feel like I would rather just eat appetizers forever because those are my favorites, yet if I just stop there, I miss the meat and the sweet treat at the end. Not to reduce the passion story to a cliché about dinner, but the meat of the story is the resurrection.

To move on to what God has in store for us and to sometimes get to the more important parts, we must let go of the current mountaintop. Sometimes that seems like a great descent into a very unwelcoming valley. But we can be assured that the darkest valley and the biggest sacrifice has already been made on our behalf. This is a time to remember a bittersweet last dinner with humans whose faith wasn't enough.

Remember how much Jesus loved and was willing to undertake for us, take hope and step out in faith. For youth, that could mean venturing into the next big step of moving to the next level of education - journeying into the unknown. For us it could mean the next step in a career or a new volunteer task or even a big move. And, often it means leaving behind some of our beloved friends, not looking forward to the traditional retreat or times together that may have become a yearly ritual.

And yet, God has great things in store. God continues to feed us. If we stop with the small bites that seem so delectable, we miss the next thing god has in store. Our hearts are big enough to welcome in new friends while holding a special place for the existing ones. The Holy Spirit travels with us as we move down from those high moments into the unknown. The journey is not always easy,  but it is the path to growing closer to God. Trust in God when things seem hopeless and be ready to take that next step. Remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us but also celebrate that what comes next is even more amazing.

Shalom!