Tag Archives: worship

Palm Sunday, Church Blindness, and a King on a Donkey.

palmsundayadChurches can be fairly intimidating places, especially if you’ve never been before.  Some of us have been going to church a long time, and have developed a sort of “church blindness” that makes us oblivious to the things we enjoy and do every week.  We know when to stand, and when to sit.  We know the music.  We know what communion is and how it goes every time. We even know that it’s ok to have a fussy kid or that the world doesn’t end if someone spills a coffee.  But these are the things that can grip a visitor with anxiety.

Now imagine with me, that you walk into a church for the first time in a long time, or for the first time ever.  You mustered up enough courage to go somewhere new, somewhere you don’t quite understand, somewhere maybe you don’t fit in.  You are greeted by someone kind and warm at the door, they point you towards an auditorium so you can find a seat, and as you enter through the doors someone passes you a palm branch and says “Welcome to Palm Sunday”.  Say what now? What the heck is Palm Sunday and what are you supposed to do with this thing? What have you gotten yourself into.  Now your worried about what to do with this branch, and thinking of all the Sundays you could have chosen to go to church, you chose one where they pass out leaves.

Palm Sunday is a celebration that happens every year one week before Easter.  It’s a day where churches all of over the world celebrate Jesus and his life that lead him to the cross.  It is inspired by the account of Jesus entering the City of Jerusalem the week that he would be taken into custody, killed on a cross, and finally raised to life.

It’s a story of a hot and sweaty day, with Jesus riding on the back of a donkey approaching the city (Matthew 21).  As he gets closer there’s a buzz, an excitement growing as people begin to realize who Jesus is.  So they roll out the red carpet.  They use anything they can find, anything they have to lay down in his path.  Some people use the clothes off their backs, and others run and grab branches off the trees and lay it the path of Jesus.  It was a spontaneous moment of incredible worship as the crowd began to shout “Hosanna” which is a word of praise and adoration.

There is a lot that can be taken from the story, and a lot of reasons why the global church celebrates this moment in time.  At Fort City Church we love this story because it carries a message that applies to both the seasoned church goer and the first time visitor.  That when Jesus comes into your life, he doesn’t expect from you what he deserves. All the gold and silver in the world isn’t enough to match hisworth.  But instead he expects from you what you have to give, whether you think its enough or not.  Even if it’s a simple palm branch laid at the feet of a King.

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A Broken Hallelujah

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Two years ago, my wife and I began the process of adopting a little boy from Africa.  We’ve nicknamed him KJ, and he is beautiful.  He’s not home with us yet, but not a moment goes by, where our thoughts are not on him and bringing him home as fast as we can.  Each night when we put our 4 year old Justice to sleep, we finish our prayers with “…and please bring KJ home soon”.  If it only were that simple.

International adoption is a very complicated thing.  There are lawyers, social workers, judges, and government offices from two countries involved.  Aside from the paperwork and the actual process of adoption, it would seem we have hit every conceivable road block on our way to this point.  From simple spelling errors in legal documents, to serious issues dealing with government court systems.  Add on top of that, KJ getting malaria and on another occasion having to have surgery to remove his tonsils.  This road has not been smooth and straight.  My wife has been brought to tears more often then she deserves.  One time Adrien was having a hard time, and as a few tears rolled down her face, Justice looked up from his toys and asked “Is mommy crying because of KJ?” I told him yes.  Slapping his knee he said “Man that baby is hard to get!” He sure is Justice. 

The financial burden of this process has been easily overshadowed by the emotional cost of the highs and lows.  Last Friday we received some more bad news, worse news then we have gotten before.  KJs government has decided to suspend all adoptions for up to 12 months, to investigate if they are going to continue allowing international adoptions to occur.

Hearing that news was like getting kicked in the gut.  Instantly demoralizing.  I was angry.  Not again, not another hurdle.  We have come too far, invested too much for this to happen.    I wanted to blame someone, find someone to hate on.   To be real honest, I wanted to break something.

Those feelings were quickly interrupted by a moment of clarity.  A realization whole week before this news, God had been preparing me to hear it.  I had been getting songs together for that Sunday’s worship service, and spending time praying and reading the bible, and the theme that had been developing for the worship service, was to pray for faith. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 

Hebrews 12:1-3

God wasn’t telling me that everything was going to work out the way I wanted.  He wasn’t showing me that my emotional needs were the most important thing.   It was the opposite.  That it’s not about me at all.  That however this stuff pans out, I need to put my faith in him.  I went on to lead worship that Sunday, shared my story, and as a result experienced the most honest and heartfelt worship I’ve had in a long time.

There’s a passage of scripture in 2 Samuel 24, where David is wanting to build an altar for God.  He offers to purchase the land and materials from a man, who in reply tells David to take it all for free, no cost.  It’s what David said next, that caught me off guard.

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

David was unwilling to go before his God, with an offering he had not earned.  David knew something about worship, something that can be hard to find sometimes in our highly produced, often consumer driven worship services.  That the best worship, has a cost.

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