Psalm 1
MARK 9: 30-37

September 19, 2021

Have you ever designed a map for a journey you were about to take that didn’t utilize a GPS or an online map program? Perhaps a trip to nowhere or a journey to places of great familiarity? Was it a trip you planned for an escape such as we discussed earlier this summer as a necessity in getting closer to God or was it an adventure for family and/or friends or just yourself?

We heard in our Scripture lesson about a parade of Jesus and His followers. It was not a well advertised parade and 1st century social media was not referencing where people could find this Jesus who had once again just exhibited the miraculous verification of who He was. It was a parade of His followers marked by discussion or perhaps we should say debate amongst themselves as they walked … who was the greatest? The most powerful? Most connected to Jesus? A commonplace argument amongst the Twelve throughout their time with the Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus during this particular walk down the dusty paths of the Holy Land with His disciples had once again provided a prophecy into His own future. The fulfillment of God’s promise that they could experience was right in their midst as they went along their journey.

We know the history … we know the facts … all we have to do is glance skyward in almost any community and we can see the crosses representative of God’s loving sacrifice for all of humanity. Reminders of our faith, our connection to the Holy, and the ongoing call to be faithful. Friends, do you look up as you walk? Do you notice the evidence of God’s presence and love? We shared that need this summer as one of the ways that we each can grow in our faith and our relationship with God; God who loves us and wants us to be in a relationship that in God’s opinion …. According to God’s Holy Word … should be the focus of our days.

Today’s brief passage from Mark’s Gospel reveals several important facts to us. One will become our focus over the next few weeks but the others are just as vital to our journey of faith. Jesus said, as he referenced Himself, “The Human One will be delivered into human hands and they will kill Him. Three days after He is killed, He will rise up.” Those gathered around Him didn’t understand and were not about to ask Jesus but we GET IT, don’t we church? We understand Easter … Good Friday … Maundy Thursday … Palm Sunday. We understand because as Christians these are the essential moments establishing the final covenant between God and humanity. Between God and us.

A trade-off perhaps … Jesus for our sins … Jesus dies so we don’t have to provide all sorts of animals for the altar … ALL WE NEED TO DO to verify our God-connection as we go forward each day is to believe! Our personal sacrifice that God expects in return is a mere pittance, we just have to sacrifice some of our time for worship and we have to use our abilities, our talent, our skills and our time to do the work of faith we are called to do. After all, we are smart enough and aware enough to understand the truth of James’ writing that faith without works is dead. We could go further and declare that faith without a willingness to express an ongoing real love of God and love for all neighbors perhaps was never faith to begin with.

On that Sabbath day we call Palm Sunday there were actually two parades into Jerusalem happening almost simultaneously according to history. One came from that beautiful Mediterranean shore resort called Caesarea. Entering through the western gate of the city called Gennath; it was a parade of precision and one might even say pomp and circumstance and flag waving. The other parade was more rag tag in nature. No armor-clad horses nor freshly polished uniforms no echoing of hundreds of steel soled boots on the city’s streets just a man on a donkey coming down the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley welcomed by people laying their robes on the ground before the donkey rider. They were waving palms and shouting hosanna’s loudly and enthusiastically! Their parade ended as they entered the city through the Golden Gate, closest to the temple where the city’s residents worshiped, at about the same time as the soldiers entered on the other side of the city.

Two parades … two marches tied together … forever in the annals of time. History does not report whether people cheered on the parade that returned Pontius Pilate, the fifth Governor of the Roman province of Judea, to a city he loathed but by week’s end the legions under his command would take an action during that faith-focused Passover week that changed time forever. The action of the Roman governing power to condemn an innocent man whom even Pilate said was completely innocent was cheered on by many who had the previous week been hillside waving palms participating in the parade of Jesus.

I know this church family understands what happened following that dark Friday. On the Sabbath, one week after those two parades entered the city, the women went to the tomb of the leader of the one parade. They found it empty … they were in shock and saddened but then they experienced the victory of God over human-focused power and evil. The victory in Jesus, our Savior forever. They came upon the angels of the morning to hear a message that still resonates in the hearts of people of faith. Jesus is not here. Church, “He is Risen!” <<He is risen indeed.>>

And, so the journey continues.

I mentioned that in today’s Gospel reading there was more than one message to people like us who believe. This morning the second part of Jesus message brings me back to St. Paul’s parade … our journey. Once they had entered Capernaum they found a place to rest …. Perhaps a Panera Bread Company outlet or a local diner … Jesus sat down and declared, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” And, then he found a child and hugged the child in front of His disciples and said “whoever welcomes on of these children in my name welcomes me.” The bonus line is that Jesus reminded those seeing Him with the child and all of us that when we welcome Jesus into our lives … when we do what Jesus has asked us to do … we are showing love and welcome to God.

Last week was RALLY DAY here at St. Paul’s and Elaine did an awesome job bringing a message of excitement, love, and hope. I have never understood why churches such as St. Paul’s need a RALLY DAY … a day of parading because the inferred message is that we have stopped connecting …we have stopped worshipping … we have been on a faith vacation but such is the reality of churches throughout the world and the people who make up the churches.

But, the real question I have for all of us this morning comes after the parade is over. After Rally Day concluded was your focus on how to grow this church? On the volunteer ministry team you can join to help this church take on new missions in faith? How we can make disciples for Jesus Christ together and how we can care for those who are aching and hurting and desperate in the world?

And here we are a week later and my question, my challenge to each of us is … are we rallying for God and Jesus Christ today? Did we extend invitations to families with children to increase our Sunday School attendance from 14 to perhaps 25 children? Obviously, not all the seats are filled here in the Sanctuary and our online viewers are far less than when the pandemic first started but that was the season of Easter wasn’t it when people like attending church.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to talk about the pursuit of holiness. I will use Jerry Bridges’ book, ‘The Chase,’ as a key source but after a week of peace and rest in my life I found some moments to consider Paul’s self-pronounced challenge in Philippians, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Have you considered your life using that perspective ever? Realizing you can’t change yesterday but that there is a Victory in Jesus in front of us, which means that some of us have to get back in the parade of faith lined up behind Jesus rather than being a visible element in the world’s chaotic march towards doom?

Has Christ Jesus taken hold of you? Do you want Him to? Do you want Jesus to take hold of your children? Your grandchildren? Your neighbors? Strangers? People who don’t look like you or people who don’t vote like you? Do you have that essential love of God and love of neighbors that we are called to have if …. IF WE BELIEVE in GOD … IF WE HAVE JESUS in our hearts as our SAVIOR, RABBI, and MASTER … then we are going to focus on loving God and loving neighbors.

Our new banners focus on Christian identity in love and over the next few weeks we will focus in on loving God and experiencing the holy.

You might want to write down this Scriptural reference because it will be the ground on which we will stand over the next few weeks. HEBREWS 12 verses 12 through 14. I suggest reading these verses daily from several different translations or just one because it is God’s Word for the people of God. “Take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong. Try to live in peace with everyone and seek to live a clean and holy life, for those who are not holy WILL NOT SEE THE LORD.”

There is a lot in those verses but after the parading joy of RALLY DAY …. We have a choice to make as to how we align our lives. After the PALM SUNDAY parades the people of Jerusalem had a choice to make and many found comfort in the chanting crowds led by the evil powers in their world CRUCIFY HIM CRUCIFY HIM but some realized that they had witnessed God’s love through His Son Jesus Christ.

Your life … my life … if we live our lives in faith those who follow us and notice us will have a better opportunity not to stumble and fall in line with the world but to become strong. [1]We have a responsibility to live in the knowledge that God has called us to a new way of life.” And, after all the flashy and fun parades are over we have a responsibility to live out that life.

Our Psalm of the day taught us … “The truly happy person doesn’t follow wicked advise and doesn’t stand on the road of sinners. Instead of doing those things, these persons love the Lord’s instruction, and they recite God’s instruction day and night. They are like a tree replanted by streams of water which bears fruit at just the right time.”

Friends, if you have been hanging out on the road of sinners finding comfort in the world. If you have waved banners and flags honoring humans while neglecting God … now is the right time … today is the opportune time … put the past behind and move forward towards the ultimate victory in Jesus. Become the person in your circle of family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who loves God, loves all of your neighbors, is refreshed in faith, and living a life that bears the fruit just at these right times when the world needs people like you and me bold enough to make God first in our lives.

Remember … open your Bibles this week … every day … and include Hebrews 12: 12-14 as part of your daily devotion focusing in on how you can get a new grip on your faith walk. We don’t need a flashy parade to walk in the light of Jesus Christ!


[1] THE CHASE by Jerry Bridges published by NavPress

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