It’s heartbreaking to view the news reports of flooding in Louisiana. I’ve been on several mission trips following floods, and the damage is devastating. People return to their homes to find everything destroyed. I’m grateful to be part of a denomination that responds to such disasters through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Thanks to all who contributed last Sunday to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, supporting the basic administrative costs of UMCOR. Lent is a time to give. You can still make a donation to One Great Hour of Sharing or to Stop Hunger Now (or both), and plan to be part of the meal packing on the evening of March 20 for Stop Hunger Now.
Last Sunday we heard Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind…..” We affirmed in the baptismal liturgy at 8:40 that we surround each other “with a community of love and forgiveness.” We shared the love of Christ through baptism at 8:40, and in all services we shared that love in the bread and cup of communion. It doesn’t get much better than that!
This Sunday we move ever closer to the high point of our Christian year. Our “Pilgrimage With Paul” takes us to Jerusalem, arrest, Caesarea by the Sea, and then on the perilous voyage to Rome, where his life probably ended. We’ll hear the “Philippians hymn” that Paul no doubt was quoting, with its emphasis on Jesus’ humbling himself to take on the cross. (Philippians 2:1-11)
Over these next two weeks we will move ever closer to Good Friday, when Jesus died on that cruel cross on the hill known as Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. As we make our pilgrimage toward the empty tomb of Easter, we cannot avoid Good Friday…..as we prepare for the celebration of new life, abundant life, eternal life, we must go first to the cross.
Paul himself bore his own cross, metaphorically speaking at least, as he suffered great consequences for his faithfulness to Christ. The hymn asks, “Must Jesus bear the cross alone?” and the answer is, of course, we are all called to take up our own crosses and follow him. These days ahead remind us that we cannot skip, bypass, or ignore Good Friday and the cross, but we must travel there before we move on to Easter. I hope you’ll continue the pilgrimage with us this Sunday, next Sunday when we move from waving palms to the story of Jesus’ passion, then through the carefully planned events and experiences of Holy Week, all designed to help us make the pilgrimage in ways that will deepen and strengthen our faith.
So, hope to see you Sunday. Invite a friend. Call someone who you’ve been missing in worship and tell them you miss then. That’s part of what it means to be a community of faith.