More: Holy Tuesday

What more do we need to do for God?

I think most of us live a minimalist lifestyle with God.  He’s in a neat little corner, tucked away, with a bit of brightness, brought out only when we need him.

There He is, over there.  See Him?  He’s for Sunday.

No.  No, no, no.  He’s for every day.

Because we can never predict when we will need Him.  Because the truth is, we need Him every day.

Holy Tuesday

Handy Wikipedia tells me that most churches which celebrate Easter—.

I’m stopping, right here.  Most churches.  Most! Why not ALL of them?  Why are some churches neglecting this most important series of days in the life of the church?  In the life of Christ?  In THEIR lives?

Most churches that celebrate the Holy Week before Easter present Christ’s predictions about His death and resurrection.

Is it not important that Christ knows that His sacrifice is quickly approaching?  It should be. His sacrifice elevates us to Heaven.

More Lent on Holy Tuesday

Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, is a time of prayer and fasting as we focus upon Christ’s life.  His words, His teachings, His miracles, His choices:  never forget that everything Christ did for us is a choice.

He chose to come to Earth.  He chose to live a life that we can try to follow.  He chose to sacrifice Himself for us.  He chose to welcome us to His kingdom of Heaven.

In our Lenten prayers and fastings, we are supposed to sacrifice.  Food, items, time, thoughts, deeds, all of these should lead us to God.

We give up chocolate and think that it’s the same as the stripes on His back.

We give up time by attending a couple of services and think it’s the same as His crown of thorns.

Or we restrict our thoughts during Lent:  I won’t gossip or gripe.

Or we donate an item of clothing for every day of Lent.

Good for us.  But what we do is nothing when compared to what Christ did for us.

More Holy

We cannot predict what tomorrow holds.  We cannot even predict what the next minute holds.

We can trust.  We live on that trust.

Christ knew what would happen to him.  He knew His betrayer.  He knew His denier.  He knew each soul that spoke against him, each mind that turned him over to Pontius Pilate.  He stood before the crowd that shouted for Barabbas, and He knew how each one had previously viewed Him when he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

He knew and remained holy, for He is the embodiment of holy.

Our poor efforts do not measure up when matched to Him.

What more can we do to be more holy?

We can love.  For loving causes more love.  An unending cup, much like the widow’s pot of oil

“With the door shut the widow took her own pot of oil and started to fill the empty pots, and as she measured out the oil it miraculously multiplied, as did the water turned to wine (John 2:1-12). When all the borrowed vessels were filled, the excited yet grateful widow said to her eldest son, “Bring me yet a vessel,” but sorrowfully he replied, “There is not a vessel more.” Then comes the suggestive phrase, And the oil stayed. God never allows His provision to run to waste.”

Das Wunder Oel, one of the many story-telling tiles at Zion Lutheran Church in Baltimore, MD

More and More

When we open our lives to God, He provides, more and more, an unending cup.  When we sacrifice to Him, he still provides, more and more.

Sacrificing to God is not an emptying of ourselves, but a filling where we are empty.  He gives us, more and more.

And the best thing that He gives is Love.

More: Monday before Easter

This week is one of the oldest celebrations of the Christian church.

Holy Week, the days before Easter, began to be commemorated before 100 years passed after Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.[1]

Holy Monday / Holy Tuesday / Spy Wednesday and the Tenebrae / Maundy Thursday / Good Friday / Black Saturday.  These six days between Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, which we call Palm Sunday, and his Resurrection on Easter juxtapose grief with elation, torture with dancing, cries of “It is finished” with “Hallelujah!”

Monday and More

When I was growing up, my church didn’t make note of Holy Week except as a lead up to Easter.

We received a special Easter sermon, but we were more concerned with our new Easter clothes than anything else. I remember white gloves and stiff petticoats, ruffled anklets and black patent leather shoes.

That’s me with my big brother and big sister.

I don’t remember church events around Easter that weren’t earthly:  Easter egg hunts hardly acknowledge the opening of the tomb, do they?

There should have been More.

Holy Monday

On Holy Monday, many churches observe the anointing of Christ with oil at Bethany.  The scourging of the money-lenders from the churches may also have occurred on this date.

Most modern paintings and captions on old artwork say “cleansing” rather than “scourging”.  This is not a case when less is more.

Scourging requires anger.  Christ became angry at the people who turned the church into a money-making scheme.  People could not reach God unless they passed the money-lenders.

Christ drove them from the temple.

Theodour Rombouts, 17th century (and thus in public domain) Source: Wikipedia :: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleansing_of_the_Temple

Making Monday More

What often drives us away from Christ?

Money. Material possessions. Sins we hold as dearly as gold coins.

What battles do churches often have?  Usually, money is involved.

People refuse to tithe, or they don’t tithe what they should.  People begrudge the money that other people are making, never seeing the work that the other people are doing and have done in preparation.  They focus on the money spent and never see the cost in their own lives.

As you go through Holy Monday and the rest of this week, consider scourging what separates you from God and His great community.


[1] I nearly said “death and Resurrection”.  How easily one word can trip us up!  Christ did not die, not in the sense that you and I die.

More: Change Your Life

Changing churches will change your life.

Wanting More

I grew up in one of those stripped-down Protestant churches that barely, barely noticed the church year.  We had Easter—which was usually a competition to see who brought the most family members.  (Yes, I know.  I thought that promotion inappropriate, too.)  I wanted more.

Christmas was a potluck, one of many potlucks at that church, with gifts for the children and the poor. (I don’t remember a red-dressed Santa when I grew up, but they had added him by the time I was a young adult.)  Everyone went home with a paper grocery bag of fresh fruits and unshelled nuts and red-striped mints.  (Yes, I know.  I thought we should have had a little caroling, at least.)  I wanted more.

I used to sit in that church and stare at the bare walls and plain windows (changed for “art” glass in later years), and I wished for more. 

  • Every service was three hymns. 
  • During one of those first hymns, the tithe was taken, and everyone was reverently silent as we gave our donations to the church. 
  • Following those hymns was the choir special, sometimes followed by another special (a soloist or a duet or a trio).
  • Every sermon was thirty minutes, more or less.  God forbid we went past noon and interfered with people getting to local restaurants.
  • The service ended with the altar call, however many verses of an appropriate hymn were needed, then a prayer by a deacon so the minister could hurry to the church doors and greet everyone as they left.  (Isn’t that strange?  Greeting people as they depart.  Surely that’s the wrong way around?)

Seeking More

As a young adult, I visited a local church in a different denomination and was impressed by their banners on the wall.  I still remember two of those banners:  one had flames emblematic of the Holy Spirit;  another had a lamb with a cross.  That church recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed at every Sunday service.  That was more.

I began to look at other denominations.  What did they have that I had always longed for?

My search took me through other denominations and religions.  One thing remained constant:  my belief :: my faith in Christ Jesus, my awe of God, a need for the Holy Spirit.

I argued that worship should occur in God’s realm, out in His nature, not in a man-constructed building.  I still believe that, but I have now admitted that my argument was merely a convenient excuse to sleep in on Sunday.

If I need to sleep in, I should take a nap.

I complained about the church being filled with hypocrites.  You know what? Church is the best place for hypocrites.  They need to come closer to God, don’t they?

Where else will sinners be surrounded by people filled with God’s love than at church?

I became frustrated with church politics and churches being hijacked by political agendas and churches that let corruption rise up and churches that shun and churches that close doors and close the Lord’s table and dozens of things.

But we “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

There, that’s out of the way.

Finding More

A couple of years ago, after many years of seeking, I participated in something I have never done before:  a Palm Sunday celebration designed to commemorate the Palm Sunday of Christ.  “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.”  In that packed church, palms were everywhere, waving above heads, lifted high, twirled about.

We sang “Hosanna (Praise is Rising)”, that wonderful song at this link

All my life I’ve heard of Palm Sunday.  It was a passing notice in churches I once attended.  The minister would sometimes preach about tithing, so appropriate with the tax deadline looming near.

Not.

Today, with this, this waving of palms, this celebration of hearts turning to God, this onset of Holy Week, one of the oldest festivals of the Christian Church, this is MORE.

Holy Week

Holy Week is the culmination of Lent, 40 days of fasting and prayer and focusing on the events of Christ’s life on earth.

Each day of Holy Week is designed to guide us to thinking about Christ’s sacrifice for us, lowly sinners, God made man in order to bring us into relationship with Him.

And Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday.

Knowing what awaits Him, Christ enters Jerusalem.  The fickle people celebrate this great man whom they think is no more than a prophet with special gifts of healing.  The power-hungry leadership rubs their hands together as they think, ‘Now we can trap him,’ and never know that His sacrifice is a willing one.

Come with me on my journey to share the MORE of the two weeks surrounding Easter.

For when we see Him, we find strength to face the day. (a slight alteration to the lyrics of Brendan Brown and Paul Beloche)

Poetry Mirrors Life

When the world appears to be crashing down, when we’re going down the drain, it helps—truly!—to realize that others have survived trials and troubles. Poetry can help, especially since Poetry Mirrors Life.

That’s the lesson in today’s post about “Paper Cup”, penned by Jimmy Webb of the 5th Dimension.

A Bit on Background

On 3/25, in the post about Dolly Parton’s “Wildflowers”, I noted the 4 Requirements of Song. Poetry has a role to play in our daily lives ~ it’s not just pretty words.

  • 1] Poetry should speak clearly
  • and 2] from the heart.
  • Music-driven poetry should also provide 3] strong lines that catch our imagination
  • and 4] powerful imagery that helps us visualize the situations.

When a poem achieves these 4 requirements, it echoes to our souls. The reason: Poetry mirrors life in its intensity. Other types of communications—essays, films, novels, blog posts—struggle to reach into their audience’s hearts.

Jimmy Webb’s 1967 “Paper Cup” fulfills these 4 requirements—and also resonates with the current situation.

Lyrics are here and the peppy video is here!

Strong Lines

The extended metaphor in Webb’s poem presents a narrowed little world into which we cage ourselves.

This world satisfies us with a shower stall, running water, a den, and refrigerated air, bland walls that make our lives easy.

Then Webb turns this life around with its bleached, waxed-paper world. We may think we’re in the catbird’s seat, but one day we’re “going down the drain” and won’t care. When trials and troubles hit so hard, we sink into apathy. We deadened ourselves to reality so we can “feel no pain”.

Only through this apathy can we say “life is kind of / groovy in the gutter”.

Powerful Imagery

Webb tells us that such an apathetic life has no purpose. We are living “without a rudder”. We follow the currents of life and never stop to consider what we want. More importantly, we don’t consider what truth is.

The crowd declares what is popular and “hot”. We follow, rat-like, behind the pied piper crowd into a maze that will devour us.

Heart-felt Speech

In the film The Matrix, we saw characters awakened to the myriad things that the mass crowd pummels us with in order to keep us distracted. Our focus is forced onto the temporary and earthly things. Drugs, paychecks, sex, blingy rat-race materialism, crime, taxes, insurance—these things are what we worry about instead of the IDEAS and SOULS we should care about.

Webb is preaching to us, much as Tyler Perry does with his Madea films.

Webb tells us that we may claim freedom, we may shout “freedom”, but all those material possessions and other addictions just put us in a bland round cage. We are “always looking up” since our lives are nothing extraordinary.

Politics of Poetry that Mirrors Life

As Percy Bysshe Shelley said, “Poetry is a mirror” reflecting life. By presenting life, it “awaken[s] and enlarge[s] the mind … a 1,000 un-apprehended combinations of thought.” (from “A Defence of Poetry”)

As Shelley tells us, Poetry Mirrors Life.

Webb wants us to reflect on what we think life should be by comprehending how bleached-out and bland such a life is. This is the same point in Dolly Parton’s “lost in a crowd” Wildflowers, with people too afraid to pursue their goals. In “Paper Cup”, Webb reminds us that a boring constricted life focused on things is no more than living in a gutter.

A better world is available to us. Webb points out the problems of merely existing in a mundane world, with distractors that keep us on the rat-race wheel.

Ha! The wheel in the rat’s cage can be turned sideways to be a round cup that imprisons us. At least the rat can look through his bars.

Parton’s “Wildflowers” tells us how we can escape that “common and close” existence. Never forget that we must uproot ourselves from gardens where we will wither and hitch a ride with the wind.

Webb uses Poetry to mirror Life. He tells us that we have to escape the apathetic life and pursue our goals with passion.

No matter what, we take action to achieve.

Coming Up

On the 15th, more Politics of Poetry as we look at Joni Mitchell’s call of personal change before we can achieve social change.

And from today, the 5th until the 19th, we have the MORE blogs celebrating Easter, running from Palm Sunday to Bright Sunday. Join us!