“…..after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:35-38)
When we read this passage, we can imagine the excitement and joy the people felt during this triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The feelings of celebration and anticipation are palpable in the words Luke uses to describe the scene. Yet, only Jesus was aware of the fulfillment of God’s plan that was about to occur.
During this season of Lent, we are called to prayer and reflection on the totality of God’s plans for our lives and our world. The good times and the bad. During one of my secular management jobs, we had an important guiding philosophy – when everything in the business is going well, it’s the job of senior management to say, “Watch out, there are challenges on the horizon.” And when it looks like everything is going terribly, it is the job of senior management to say, “Don’t worry, better things are in our future.” In this way, we helped our company make sustained progress while protecting against the risk of missing a potential threat or being overwhelmed by the challenges we faced.
Similarly, in our life as Christians, we are called always to remember God’s plan for us. To anticipate the trajectory of our lives whether we are rejoicing in the pageantry of Palm Sunday or the somber remembrance of Maundy Thursday. As we sing loud “Hosannas,” we are to remember the coming crucifixion and as we contemplate the cross to remember the resurrection.
There are so many things that break our heart: an increasingly divided culture, young internet heroes that have thousands of followers and no true friends, parts of our world where declaring oneself as a Christian is still a life threating act of faith and the most materially comfortable society in the history of the world that still has the highest rates of depression, addiction, and mental illness ever known. Similarly, there are great reasons for rejoicing: new worshiping congregations in our midst, revitalized ministry initiatives, and daily evidence of the impact that the word of God has in the lives of individuals in our communities and around the world.
We live in a world that is ever more in need of the message of love and hope Jesus Christ provides. At the same time, we see declining affiliation with many Christian faith traditions. I am convinced these seemingly contradictory trends are calling us to new ways to minister to a world in distress. As a result, we face many more opportunities for ministry than challenges.
During this Lenten season, I have given up being consumed by the negatives or overjoyed by the positives. Instead, I have recommitted myself to attempt discernment of God’s will in all that confronts and confounds us, both the joys and sorrows. This goal is a lot harder than I would have thought. As Paul said in his letter to the Philippians,” Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14)
During this season, I pray we will all lean forward into the new possibilities that lay ahead of us, remain open to whatever God has in store for us and our worshiping communities, and that we claim renewed energy to achieve God’s plans and that we anticipate fulfillment of those plans in ways we cannot imagine.