Saturday, March 27, 2010

Home Movies and A Procession of Importance

Watching old home movies can be a hoot, especially if the amateur moviemaker was as technologically challenged as my father. We have reams of family memories on film, but you have to know the people well to figure out who they are. "Oh look, that's Mom's knee ... isn't it?" "And Ron's feet. I'm sure those are Ron's feet!"

When my parents made a trip to San Francisco, the camera went along. A few weeks later the rest of the family enjoyed seeing China Town - superimposed over an inverted Golden Gate Bridge. It was a little blurry, but no one seemed to mind.

On one occasion my father relinquished his camera to my eldest brother. He was somewhat better at capturing the significant events of our lives on film. In fact, the footage he took on the main street of our hometown, one day in the mid 1960's, could be called a classic. It's a bit bouncy, but that was because Ron was running as he filmed. It's a bit blurry, but that's because the vehicle he was filming wouldn't slow down. In spite of these disadvantages, my brother managed to capture a brief picture of Queen Elizabeth II, waving to a large crowd.

Well, okay, the film isn't really a classic, but somehow it does capture the wild enthusiasm of the people. We see them leaning forward, smiling, hands upraised, eager to dispense their praise as the procession flows by. Somehow that blurred, bouncy film makes you lean forward eagerly too, straining for a brief glimpse of that person of importance.

Such was the atmosphere surrounding the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowd leaned in, chanting their praise, waving their palm branches, laying them at the feet of their hero. "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they cried, "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:1-11). If we had been among them, we would have been chanting and waving palm branches too. This was indeed a man of importance, they said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

A few days later they crucified Him. When He rode into Jerusalem they thought He might take over the city, or set himself up as a King, or at the very least, lead a revolt. Instead, He allowed himself to be arrested. He allowed the hated Romans to beat Him and execute Him. And He did nothing to save Himself. So those who had leaned in close with praises on their lips now spat on Him and demanded his death.

If we had been among them, we probably would have done the same. But His mercy and grace is poured out on us anyway, as it was on those who were there that day. The procession Jesus led into the city looked like a triumph and His death looked like a defeat. In reality, His death was His victory. In reality, His death was our victory.

"Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Good Company

Both young men must have thought their lives were over. Taken into a country of foreigners where they were sold into slavery, they must have despaired of ever seeing their families and homelands again. They had to adapt to a new culture, learn a new language and suffer the humiliations of slavery. They must have believed God had abandoned them. But God does not abandon his people. These two young men, one who lived hundreds of years before Christ, the other hundreds of years after, would change the course of history. God gave their lives a purpose and meaning that could only have come through the struggles they endured.

Joseph, son of Jacob, father of the Hebrew nation, was responsible for saving not only the people of Egypt from starvation, but his own family, and therefore the Hebrew nation as well. And Patricius, a sixteen-year-old Briton who would become known as Patrick of Ireland, was the first to take the message of Christ to that nation, the very country where he had been enslaved.

There is another man whose life took a turn for the worse. He was in the prime of
his life. He had a huge following among common people and those of influence. It looked like he was going to take the nation by storm. But then he took his friends aside one day and told them he was going to die, and very soon. He told them be would suffer indignities and be treated like a criminal. He told them it would look like utter defeat. But God does not abandon His people. That young man’s name was Jesus.

As with the stories of Joseph and Patrick, God had a purpose for the suffering Jesus endured. It was a purpose that would change the history, not just of a nation, but of mankind. The suffering and death of Christ freed us all from slavery, slavery that was meant to separated us forever from our Father. But God’s purpose could not be thwarted. Through the death of Jesus, His will was accomplished. We were reunited with our true family, reinstated in our true country. What looked like defeat was in reality complete victory.

There are times in all our lives when it appears God has abandoned us. We see the horrors of wars and famines raging all over our world. We experience the loss of loved ones to the plagues of cancer and other diseases that seem to be out of control. We cry out at the injustices that happen every day.

But God has not abandoned us. He will bring all things to completion in His time and according to His purposes. Therefore we can stand in good company, with Joseph, Patrick and Jesus, and repeat the words of Paul, “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him, for that day.” (2Timothy 1:12)