Described in John 12, Palm Sunday has been observed through the centuries by the faithful, marking the beginning of Holy Week on the Christian calendar. The story is wonderful and a warning at the same time. Proclaiming their support for Christ, the citizens of Jerusalem greeted Jesus on his famous ride into Jerusalem, waving palms and shouting praises before the Lord. However, many of those same citizens were probably part of the same crowd that support His crucifixion.
Palm Sunday is a good time to remember our own tendency to be inconsistent in our service of Christ. Hypocrisy and unfaithfulness is usually someone else’s problem. The television preacher exposed as a philanderer; the church member who professes devotion on Sunday, only to embrace unethical business practices during the week; or the deacon who prays for God’s blessing, while dividing a church with destructive gossip about the preacher. Those are the hypocrites.
Yet, James cautioned that teachers would face a greater judgment (James 3:1). The more we know, the more we are called to live and model before a watching world. What an awesome assignment to be a communicator of God’s Word!
It is easy to get caught up in the duties associated with our ministry — especially during a busy Easter season. Yet, I can’t think of a better time to pause and reflect, asking the Lord to search our hearts and renew our passion for Him. Lord, make us consistent, matching our words with our deeds.
Colossians 3:9 – Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.
James 5:16 – Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
It had been a fairly ordinary retreat experience. The mountain setting made it easy to reflect and evaluate my walk with God. During our final session, the leader of the retreat led about 25 of us in a time of sharing: what had God done in our lives through our study and time together?
No one said anything for a long time. Finally, one of the single women stood and moved to the front of the group. She was trembling – obviously scared and nervous about what she wanted to say. Tears welled up in her eyes as she began to speak. “I’m pregnant,” she confessed. She had been dating an unbeliever and the unthinkable had happened. After sharing her story she said, “I am so sorry everyone, please forgive me — I need you right now so much…”
Immediately one of the women spoke, “We forgive you.” The group surrounded her for prayer and encouragement. After many minutes, we sat back down. It was only the beginning of what God wanted to do that afternoon… soon someone else spoke up. Another confession was made. Then another. And another… and still another. Relationships were mended. Deep needs and fears were expressed. Wrongs were uncovered through confession, covered over with forgiveness, and then put away forever.
For almost 5 hours our group became honest with each other and before God. The sharing was discreet (no unwholesome details), but open and full. Little was held back as God’s Spirit took us to a new place of trust and oneness as the people of God. How refreshed and alive we felt when it was over!
Back in our home church the next day, worship was different. Our greetings were transformed — less casual, more personal — more like family. More like heaven. More like home. We were made for this and finally were experiencing a taste of our privilege as God’s children! It was glorious.
Twenty years later, the experience remains vivid. The Lord still whispers the fragrance of that time across my heart, “this is My church”. Church as He intends it to be.
When we hide from each other it is safe and comfortable, but it is also lonely. We are missing so much. We live in a world of people looking for a safe place to be open and honest. A place where they can be known… and still be loved. Individual spiritual growth explodes in the fertile soil of mutual love and trust. How can we help create a place like that?
- Become a truth-seeking person — pray that God will open our hearts to each other. The retreat situation described above was the result of several years of asking;
- Become a truth-keeping person — what is shared stays with you and goes no further; and
- Become a truth-telling person — when you feel led to take the risk, honestly share your weakness and need with other brothers and sisters.