Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email, provide your email address.
“All glory, laud and honor to thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring!”
-Refrain from All Glory, Laud, and Honor
The hymn, All Glory, Laud, and Honor, is a well-known Palm Sunday hymn, and one that we’ll be singing together this coming Sunday online and at the Drive-in service. We sing it on Palm Sunday as we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem. The text to this hymn and the music go back farther than you might think.
The melody is originally a Lutheran hymn, composed in 1613, and was originally a hymn for the dying. The melody had nothing to do with Palm Sunday or the text we now associate with this melody, but Bach used the melody in some of his religious works, including the St John Passion. The text for this hymn was written in 820! It’s old as dirt! The text was composed in Latin specifically for Palm Sunday and it had no less than 39 verses. Can you even imagine a hymn with 39 verses? We’d need a much bigger hymnal if all of our hymns had so many verses!
Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday, which leads us to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. We Presbyterians celebrate both Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem and the start of Holy Week. Without dwelling on the Passion, we go from Hosanna to Hallelujah, but we miss the really important stuff in the middle. We may almost rationalize the crucifixion as something that bad people did – we wouldn’t have been with the crowd. But, I wonder if we act in ways that are more like those shouting for crucifixion than we’d like to admit.
Ghandi is often quoted with saying, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” and this is something to ponder as we head into Holy Week. None of us is perfect, but if we’re honest with ourselves, there are parts of our lives where we don’t act very Christ-like. Do we welcome Jesus into our lives with joy only to then turn around and act in a way that is contrary to God’s love? As we approach Passiontide, ponder on what sets you apart from the crowd, and what makes you an accomplice with them.
Prayer for Today
God of Peace, we want to worship you with honor, yet we unknowingly cast you aside. We want to skip over the uncomfortable parts of our existence, and rush to the happy sounds of Easter. But we’re not there yet. Silence our hearts and center our minds on you in the challenging week ahead. Amen.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
I recently had the opportunity to get a vaccination and was so thankful. Many of my colleagues who work as hospital and hospice chaplains got theirs as a part of their job. While my job often takes me to hospitals and I work with first responders, those activities are not every day for me. However, as I recently got asked to do volunteer chaplaincy with the fire department, they wanted all of us to get vaccinated for our work with other first responders.
My only physical side effect was a sore arm and some fatigue. The side effect I had not anticipated was a new sense of freedom. Freedom from the fear of contracting the virus and playing my part to eradicate the virus and reduce the likelihood it would be contracted by my family and friends. And I began thinking about the many verses in the Epistles that frame Christian freedom as the freedom to serve. Even with a mask and careful practices, could I do more now? Could I begin to volunteer with folks in need? Schedule some future youth events indoor in anticipation of their vaccinations too? Plan summer trips? Mission trips?
Perhaps you’ve recently gotten vaccinated or you’re scheduled. Are you feeling a new sense of freedom? How will you use that freedom? We all miss restaurants and family gatherings, small groups and worship, and those are slowly returning. But, as you begin to fill your schedule, how will you fill it?
I’m reminded of the professor who placed a large glass vase on his desk. He filled it first with large rocks, which he said were the most important things in life - family, friends, work, worship, volunteering. Is it full? Yes, they said. Then marbles - sleep and exercise and good food. Now, is it full? Yes! It’s full now. Then he poured in sand - movies and tv, hobbies, entertainment, etc. Now it’s full. Then he poured in a cup of coffee... there’s always room for coffee with a friend in need. We’ve had a year where we couldn’t do everything. Now we can do more. We have the freedom to choose. Will we fill the time with sand or place our rocks in first? Let’s place a few rocks together and use our new freedom to serve.
Prayer for Today
Lord, as I gain freedom, help me use it to serve those most in need. Amen.
Then he [Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
-- Luke 9:23, NIV
In the church or liturgical year, we call this coming Sunday “Palm” or “Passion” Sunday. It marks the beginning of Holy Week. While Holy Week begins on a positive note, with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and people waving palm branches, we need to remember that later on that week things will not go well for Jesus. His approval rating will drop dramatically. As one person put it, “The cheers will turn to jeers.” In a few short days Jesus will find himself standing before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate with the crowds no longer shouting, “Hosanna!” but, “Crucify him!” Perhaps if we were a part of that crowd shouting, “Crucify him!” we might be doing the same thing because “Everybody’s doing it.” But does that really make it okay – to do something because “Everybody’s doing it”?
There was an article in The New York Times about moral choices some persons have made -- choices that seem to go against their ethical framework. In the article, Stanford professor Dr. Albert Bandura identified eight mechanisms that people use to rationalize immoral behavior. For example, sometimes we say things like, “We were just carrying out orders.” We may even dehumanize the person we are mistreating, or we might “blame the victim by saying, “they were asking for it.”
However, one of the eight mechanisms is what he calls “diffusion of responsibility.” He describes it as “shifting the responsibility for a transgression with others who took part, or who played indirect roles.” In other words, saying, “Everyone was doing it.” It is sometimes how we rationalize being part of a crowd, but does it make it okay simply because everyone is doing it?
Probably one of the hardest things we will ever have to do is to go against the crowd and take a stand for what is right – even if the crowd around us does not. Maybe that is one of the ways we take up our cross daily as followers of Christ. Join us this Sunday as we hear about someone who literally carried the cross of Christ.
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for Jesus, who took a stand for us all on the cross in order that we might find new life. Help us to take up the daily crosses and do the right thing, even if it is hard. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.