Living the Gospel – April 5, 2020

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Today we begin Holy Week, a day of fleeting triumph when Jesus enters the great city of Jerusalem. Next Sunday is another day of triumph, but this one is a lasting triumph. In between is a mixture of joy and pain, of sorrow and fear. We sometimes wish life was a bowl of cherries, but we know only too well that reality is often, for many, the exact opposite. It’s easy to be a Christian and to love God when things are going well with us. On a warm, spring day we might spontaneously say ‘thank you’ to God for what He has done for us. As the poet Robert Browning wrote: “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world”. Of course when things start to go wrong when we or a loved one gets sick, if we lose a job, if we have family or work problems or during a critical period such as the current corona-virus pandemic, we cry out to God for help. This can bring us comfort for a while, but then sometimes it seems that God is not answering our prayers; we become impatient, despondent and may even lose faith in Him.

In a sense we are like the crowds in Jerusalem during Jesus’ last week. On Palm Sunday Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph. The crowds cry “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They are ready for Jesus to drive the Romans out of Jerusalem and inaugurate the Messianic kingdom. The crowds expect some earthshaking event is going to happen. But then Jesus preaches and teaches as usual. He is not driving the Romans out and bringing in the kingdom. The crowds are disappointed and begin to turn against Him. Then Jesus is arrested, tried, beaten and mocked.

There is truth in the old adage, “No cross, no crown.” Suffering is a necessary part of life if we are to become the persons God meant us to be. Suffering matures us into the fullness of being true followers of Christ. The type of suffering – the cross of our lives – is not what matters, but how we react to it——- In this current Pandemic, we have seen such amazing acts of love performed in our community. Families are making casseroles; children who can’t attend school are making sandwiches and all are taken to our local homeless mission here in Winter Haven in order to feed the hungry. Neighbors are picking up groceries for each other; one of our neighbors traveled throughout our park on his golf cart with bottled water and extra toilet paper for anyone in need. Several of our neighbors are holding church service in their campers in groups of 4, and afterward they pick-up breakfast at the local restaurants to support them.

Jesus took his cross and embraced it because it was his Father’s will for our salvation. Holy Week should remind us that suffering is a journey with a goal, not a winding road that leads to nowhere. The end of the journey is resurrection and new life for all eternity. The way to that new life is through the cross and tomb. It is the road that Jesus traveled. And he accompanies us along the way today – and every day of our lives.

Sylvia Bates