It is finished.

I’m terrified. I can’t breathe.  It’s not supposed to end like this.

Oh no, they’re going to kill him.  No, they’re not.  He’s the Lord. He will stop this any minute.

I can’t breathe.  I shouldn’t be here. What if they see me?

No, no, no, I can’t be afraid now. I need to be here to support my Lord.

Am I hidden? They can’t see me, can they? Maybe I’ll just move over here.

Help me, God.  No, I can’t pray for help because I’m here and I’m hiding.  I should go closer and support my Lord.

He needs to start the revolution.  Surely, He’s going to start it any time now.  Just come down off the cross.  Come down. Come down. Come down.  

I’m terrified.  I need to hide.  Why isn’t he coming down?  All those miracles, I know I saw them.

What is wrong with him? What is wrong with me? Why did I believe him?  I think he’s dying. 

Come down, come down.  I need to breathe.

The crowd is yelling for Him to come down from the cross.  I’m not yelling.  I’m trying to hide, but Lord, yes, please come down.  Prove yourself.  I don’t really believe you right now.  You need to come down.  This is not what I expected.

He’s forgiving them.  What? No.  Don’t do that. That’s not how we start a revolution.  But He did preach forgiveness.  But, I didn’t think he meant this.  No. No. No.

Just breathe.  Stay hidden. I think the crowd is looking at me.  Can they tell how I feel? Do they think I believe him?  Let me back up a little bit. Try to blend in.

I believed Him.  He raised Lazarus.  He did.  Everyone said He did.  We all saw it.  Any minute now, he’s going to come down.  He’s going to stop this.  He’s not going to die.  It’s not going to end this way.

I need to calm down.  People will notice me.  

He just said, “It is finished.” 

No, it can’t be.

No, no, no.  This is not the end.  Jesus, don’t do this. You can’tdo this.  

He’s going to come down from the cross.  He’s going to come down. He’s going to come down.

No…….no………….no,  It is finished.  He is dead.

— Marilyn Shepard

It is finished.

The Emotions of Holy Week

This is an exciting time albeit rife with mixed emotions! Palm Sunday and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, only five days before his arrest, was one of great celebration and fanfare for his followers and for those who were energized as pilgrims poured into the city for Passover. We read from scripture and celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but we know that darkness would soon follow the Hosannas.

The events of that week might be mentioned only in passing if not for Jesus’ resurrection the morning following the Sabbath.  The empty tomb and Jesus resurrected is the promise of hope for all people. It embodies all that God’s love, mercy and grace encompass. However, the joyful celebration of Palm Sunday and the hope and joy of the Resurrection are in stark contrast to the days in between.

Personally, I would like to avoid thinking too much about the pain and suffering Jesus experienced and jump from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection, but, it is in reading, reflecting and meditating on the events of Holy Week that the depth of Jesus’ sacrificial love is understood more fully. Jesus willingly entered Jerusalem knowing how the events of that week would ultimately end. Yet, he willingly faced them, even the cross. 

Our journey through Lent, Walking with God,  becomes more intense as we journey through the events of Holy Week, but we know the rest of the story; a story of God’s unconditional and sacrificial love.

— Tim Kelley

The Emotions of Holy Week

A poem for Lent

A martyr hung just down the road
A place not far from calvary
No crowd was there to see them die
No words of theirs recorded
But like as not they hung there
Upon a cross of wood
And felt the midday sun go dark
As our savior’s life was fading
I know not to what God they swore
What creed they knew if any
For many met their fate back then
And many more would follow
So many lives laid low
I fear that we will never know
How many unknown saviors died
To bear our sins forgotten

— Ian Philps

A poem for Lent

Walking with God: Matthew 6: 1, 5, 7-8

Matthew 6: 1, 5, 7-8 (NRSV) “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward…When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

With all of the recent furor over Bible-signing in South Alabama, I’m somehow taken back to my boyhood.

In 1962, my Dad invited a fellow Louisville Seminary student, a Japanese man named Minoru Shimizu, to speak at our little church outside Bardstown, Kentucky.

“Only two decades ago, we were mortal enemies,” he said. “But today, we are brethren together in the love of Christ.”

Not only was I, a 9-yr old boy, completely taken by his message of humility, grace, and forgiveness (only 17 yrs after WWII), but I treasure the fact that he also signed the inside cover of my Bible and wrote John 3:16 in Japanese.

I have no idea what happened to it, but I would give so very much to have THAT Bible again!

O Divine Creator,
Help me to remember today who is God, and who isn’t.  Help me to remember that the road of grace is sometimes fraught with difficulty and pain, but leads to a destination of peace and joy in my heart, as long as I remember and practice your own lessons of humility and forgiveness. 

— Tim Banks

Walking with God: Matthew 6: 1, 5, 7-8

Walking with God Through Holy Week

How do we open our eyes to see God to experience the Divine around us, especially through our everyday lives?  This is the question we have posed and focused on during our Lenten Journey – Walking with God.  My prayer is that as you have walked, you have experienced God in new ways and have drawn closer to the living God. As we enter Holy Week, we do so expectantly.  Holy Week offers us an ability to move from a day-to-day experience with God to one marked by Jesus’ journey to the cross.

What if we started each day this week declaring, “Today, I expect to see God.”, what would we encounter?  The Bible is filled with reminders and calls to remember God’s presence. Why? I believe we need reminders – we are busy, forgetful, finite beings. Often, we can only absorb what is right in front of us and our lives can become so full, we forget to pause.  We forget to actively recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit around us.  Stopping – physically and mentally; centering ourselves is an important process to aligning our lives to the work of the Holy Spirit.  There are moments in our lives where we feel the presence of God.  These “God or holy moments” are critical milestones in our walk with God. They signify not only the presence of God, but God’s active love.  Holy Week offers us a unique time to experience God and to create moments to directly seek the presence of God.  

Yesterday, we celebrated the hosanna moment of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Although the crowd didn’t fully know Jesus, they were moved.  They were changed as they experienced the presence of the Messiah as he entered the city.  Yet many didn’t recognize him fully as the Messiah.  Rather, they wanted the freedom from an earthly, powerful king to change and improve their lives.  As we reflect on Jesus’ entry, we see Jesus not as an earthly king of power and prestige but a heavenly king bringing mercy, grace and love to a hurting and yearning world.  Jesus is the Emmanuel – “God with us” – which we seek to experience and know as we journey this week.

Throughout this Holy Week, our opportunity is to stop and center ourselves to the movements of the Holy Spirit as we too journey with Jesus on the walk toward the cross.  As we reflect on Jesus’ time in Jerusalem and the celebration of Passover, to Maundy Thursday as he spends his last servant days with his disciples, to the darkness of Good Friday, and finally the resurrection joy of Easter morning, we have many opportunities to pause and to absorb the love and the sacrifice of Jesus’ journey. As we journey this week, as you walk with God, stop the busyness of your life and seek to experience God.  Begin each day with the prayer, “show me,” seeking to fully experience the Jesus who walked the pathway to the Cross.  Expect to see God this week and be changed. 

— Rusty Bennett

Walking with God Through Holy Week

Light of Life

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

In June, 1995, my husband Steven started Medical school after 18 years active duty service in the army, most of it in special operations as a green beret. The prior year, we’d made the decision that I would leave my position with IBM because the travel had finally become too much with little children and Steve being constantly away. The medical school decision was a joint one after much prayer on my part, giving lot of consideration to risking a steady career, income and security to pursue a lifelong dream. There were many conversations with fellow army wives, who were very discouraging. Their perspectives were, he’s two years from full retirement, “Don’t be foolish…Wait!”

Steve and I now call that 12 years of education, training and 4 family moves our “journey of poverty.” With each relocation, I would find and accept a position with a local non profit. This provided minimum income, but more importantly I would negotiate extra vacation days, which were needed to have more time with our young children. After about 4 months into medical school, I realized we were running a monthly deficit that I could not cover, so he renegotiated with the medical school that he had to work. They created a position in the emergency room and he worked every weekend until he graduated. Our big date was me bringing food from Taco Bell for us to eat together during his break on Saturday nights.

There were so many times during those years, that our finances were still so challenging and we did not want to burden our parents since this was our decision to take such a dramatic life change. At one point, I actually, had to turn in one of our cars, because we were behind on the payments and we couldn’t keep them up. Steve continued to do what he had to do and every day, I would pray that I would just be able to keep things together until the medical school graduation!

Today, Steve has retired from UAB after being the Director of the Burn Service and I run a small business that I love. As I reflect back on those days, I am AMAZED at how scary things were for me as the money and house manager of our little family. At the same time, I remember all of the little churches that I joined with every move, singing in the choir, making my small donations, staying on my knees and how the church family relationships helped remind me of the light in my life that would see me through. I have never been a verbose Christian. But, I always hope that how I conduct myself, how I face a challenge, how I treat other people, show that I follow Jesus and have His light in my life.

— Valerie Thomas

Light of Life

Walking with God: Judges 9:7-15

Judges 9:7-15 from The Message: “Listen to me, leaders of Shechem.  And let God listen to you! The trees set out one day to anoint a king for themselves. They said to “Olive Tree, Rule over us.” But Olive Tree told them, “Am I no longer good for making oil that gives glory to gods and men, and to be demoted to waving over trees?” 10-11  The trees then said to Fig Tree,“You come and rule over us.” But Fig Tree said to them, “Am I no longer good for making sweets, My mouthwatering sweet fruits, and to be demoted to waving over trees?” 12-13  The trees then said to Vine, “You come and rule over us.” But Vine said to them, “Am I no longer good for making wine, Wine that cheers gods and men, and to be demoted to waving over trees?” 14-15  All the trees then said to Tumbleweed, “You come and reign over us.” But Tumbleweed said to the trees: “If you’re serious about making me your king, Come and find shelter in my shade. But if not, let fire shoot from Tumbleweed and burn down the cedars of Lebanon!”

I read each of the three optional scriptures associated with the date I was assigned to write a devotional. I couldn’t find anything inspirational associated with the Lenten season in any of the three texts. I decided to
think about them for awhile before I decided which option to choose.

Finally the Judges scripture was the one I decided to explore. I’ve always liked literature which uses Anthropomorphism, which is the “attribution of human traits, emotions or intentions to non-human entities.” The reference noted anthropomorphism is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.

As a child I “anthromorphized” my stuffed animals. Some of us treat our pets like children. (Which I must say is a good thing!) Aesop’s fables and cartoons and fairy tales, and movies as well as other literature often use this method of telling stories.

In this scripture the tree-people were looking for a king. This fable (similar to a parable) is the first story of this type in the Bible. I read several commentaries which presented complicated explanations of this fable including associations with Biblical history of various countries and kings. I’m sure they are accurate and historical.

But to me, it seems the story could also be simplified. The Olive tree, the Fig tree and the Vine did not want to be king. They all seemed to think becoming king would be a demotion and maybe too much work. They thought what they were doing was much more important. None of them wanted the job. They banded together to ask Tumbleweed to be their king. It seems they thought Tumbleweed was otherwise useless. Each of the others had better things to do than be the ruler.

But once Tumbleweed got the power, he set conditions . He even threatened to burn the cedars of Lebanon!! Was Tumbleweed the best choice? Were the trees careless in their choice of leadership? If we are lazy in the decisions regarding leadership, do we have grounds to complain about the type of leadership we receive? Are we too busy making oil, and sweets and wine to take responsibility for the quality of our leadership? Do we participate in the decisions made in our church and community? If we have leadership roles, do we make good decisions and “work well with others”?

Of course I may be all wrong concerning this interpretation. Maybe I’ll get an easier scripture for Advent?

Dear God, Help us to find the role we are meant to fill in our community, our church, our family and in our personal lives. And help us to serve the way we should. Amen

Darlene Green

Walking with God: Judges 9:7-15