In an Alien Land

“It is confusing to be in a world without her … a world I have never known.”

These words were posted by a friend who just lost her mother. They spoke directly to my heart, as I felt exactly the same way when my mother died. Your mother is the one who has been with you since conception. When she leaves, the world becomes an alien landscape until your mind and heart accept the reality of the new world that her passing creates.

This is often how we feel when a loved one dies. Losing a spouse, a child, a dear friend, a sibling, etc. can make you look around and not recognize your surroundings for a while.

We can also feel this way right after moving to a new town, losing a job, getting a divorce, watching a child go off to college, or when there is a sudden change at work. Time, support, prayers, and patience will help you adjust, but in the interim, where can you go to ground yourself?

You can go to the One who created all things.

Psalm 118 describes the joy the psalmist (possibly King David) felt when he walked through the gates of the city of Jerusalem. He had passed through an ever-changing landscape as he traveled in foreign lands during his pilgrimage. He was comforted by the unchanging nature of Jerusalem. He recounted the many things God had done for him, thanking God for answering him and for being his “saving help”:

Psalm 118 (Common English Bible)

1Open the gates of righteousness for me
    so I can come in and give thanks to the Lord!
20 This is the Lord’s gate;
    those who are righteous enter through it.

21 I thank you because you answered me,
    because you were my saving help.

The passage takes an interesting twist here. This is the Psalm that Jesus quoted in Matthew 21:42 just after he, too, had made his way into Jerusalem. It happened on the day after “Palm Sunday,” which was Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city as the Messiah. Like Jacob, Joseph, and David before him, Jesus is the “stone rejected by the builders” that has now become the “main foundation stone.”

22 The stone rejected by the builders
    is now the main foundation stone!
23 This has happened because of the Lord;
    it is astounding in our sight!
24 This is the day the Lord acted;
    we will rejoice and celebrate in it!

While offering God his praises and accolades, the psalmist suddenly shifts gears and cries out to be saved and asks for God to ensure success:

25 Lord, please save us!
    Lord, please let us succeed!

That is how loss feels at times. We are aware of our blessings, but we can suddenly become acutely aware of our loss, often without warning. That is the time to stop, breathe, and call out to God to come save you from your sorrow.

26 The one who enters in the Lord’s name is blessed;
    we bless all of you from the Lord’s house.
27 The Lord is God!
    He has shined a light on us!
So lead the festival offering with ropes
    all the way to the horns of the altar.

So when you find yourself in a foreign land, take heart. You can enter the Lord’s house in the Lord’s name and you will be blessed. There you will find comfort, familiarity, consistency, and hope. God will shine a light on your confusion and hold you until you feel better.

28 You are my God—I will give thanks to you!
    You are my God—I will lift you up high!
29 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
    because his faithful love lasts forever.

Amen, and amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord by Michelle Robertson


One of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me is they could see ”word pictures” when I read Scripture aloud. This was a tremendous blessing to me because I actually see word pictures when I read a passage. Today’s Scripture is especially good for seeing a visual as you read the words.

Our task today is to read through the ”Palm Sunday” passage and just SEE it. See the young colt. See its owner’s confusion. See the coats, the crowds, the joy, and the innocence.

See yourself standing among the revelers:

Luke 19 (Common English Bible)

28 After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

Procession into Jerusalem

29 As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” 32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.

33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. 36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.

3As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen.38 They said,

“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
    Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”

As we move toward Holy Week, it is good to imagine Jesus’ triumphal entry. All too soon we will experience his death. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Today, Jesus is king and the people rejoice! Well, most of the people:

3Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!”

40 He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”

I love Jesus’ response. YOU CAN’T STOP THIS. YOU CAN’T STOP THE JOY OF WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN SEVEN DAYS. Even the stones will shout for joy when the big one is rolled away.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. We are called to ride along with Jesus on that colt and rejoice.

Can you picture it?

Joyful Stone by Ania Flis

Finish What You Started

Do you ever struggle to finish a task? Now granted, some tasks are unfinishable. Things that can’t be finished are laundry, house cleaning, the value of pi, explaining things to a toddler, and worrying about your children. Try as you might, you will never come to a place with any of those things and say, “Yay! Glad that’s over.”

We have made it to the last week of Lent. Palm Sunday is on the horizon. Next week is Holy Week, when we will take a journey with Jesus to the cross. Everything in his life has led up to this moment and the hour is almost upon him to finish what he started. I often wonder where the world would be if he had given up and walked away at any point in these last days of his life. Even his moment of hesitation in Gethsemane ended with him continuing his work until the end.

In today’s passage, we see the beginning of the end. We join Jesus and the disciples as they make their entrance into Jerusalem.

Mark 11 (Common English Bible)

When Jesus and his followers approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus gave two disciples a task, saying to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘Its master needs it, and he will send it back right away.’”

The city was crowded with Jews from all over who had come to observe Passover. Mind you, Jesus and his friends had walked all the way there from Galilee, so it is interesting that he chooses to go the last two miles on a donkey. Do you suppose it had anything to do with the optics of that moment?

They went and found a colt tied to a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. Some people standing around said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them just what Jesus said, and they left them alone. They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes upon it, and he sat on it. 

And so our King of Kings, the Lord of Lords chooses to ride in on the colt of a donkey. The visuals of that moment are profound. He probably had to hold his feet off the ground, given the smallness of the animal. And he deliberately chose a lowly beast of burden. Does this scene suggest that within a week’s time, he himself would become a beast of burden as he takes on the weight of the sins of the world?

Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields. Those in front of him and those following were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!”

It is likely that some of the voices who hailed him as king, messiah, son of David, and healer were the same that shouted “CRUCIFY HIM” just a few days later. How fickle humanity is.

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve.

Today I invite you to contemplate the joy of this moment as the parade through Jerusalem began. This joy would eventually find its way to the empty cross and the empty tomb, praise be to God. But we all have to make our way through Good Friday before we arrive. May God grant us the same commitment that Jesus had on our behalf.

New Life by Kathy Schumacher

Hero to Zero

In an attempt to keep my content “evergreen,” I try not to reference dates. However, as a public service, I need to inform you that this Sunday is Palm Sunday. I am breaking my evergreen rule because I realize many of us have lost track of what day it is as this pandemic continues. The struggle is real, folks. Somebody mentioned that everyday feels like Saturday, with the entire household at home looking for something to do.

So let’s get ready for our virtual Palm Sunday parade. It saddens me DEEPLY that we will not gather in our sanctuaries and watch the little children process down the center aisle, waving palm branches as we sing “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to the King!” So please, if you will, get up after you read this and parade around your house in your jammies, waving your palms.

What? You don’t have any palm branches? Look at your hands. Yep. Two palms, right there. God provides!

John 21 (The Message)

1-3 When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”

4-5 This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:

Tell Zion’s daughter,
“Look, your king’s on his way,
    poised and ready, mounted
On a donkey, on a colt,
    foal of a pack animal.”

Try to imagine this scene. Jesus is at the height of his popularity, albeit fleeting. He is making a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowd is going wild….think Super Bowl Parade wild. Some understand the prophecy that is being fulfilled. Some have seen his miracles. Some remember the lunch he served on the hillside to the 5,000. Others have just come to see what the ruckus is about.

Here comes our king, riding on a donkey so small that he probably has to hold his feet up or they would drag on the road. Something is wrong with this picture.

6-9 The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

As the parade goes on, people begin to feel discomforted. The optics in front of them are not jiving with their idea of “kingship.”

10 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”

11 The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”

But does anything good ever come from Nazareth?

Palm Sunday is the beginning of the downhill slide to the crucifixion, which is less than a week away. It didn’t take long for the crowd to turn from yelling his name in praise to yelling his name as their choice over Barabbas for the death penalty. Because his crown was not bejeweled and his mode of transportation was not a great white charger, their enthusiasm for this “king” began to wane.

Instead, he rode a humble donkey to receive a crown of thorns.

We can be guilty of this as well. At the moment of our enthusiastic conversion, or after a stirring retreat, or in the passion of a high and holy experience, it is easy to wave our palms and sing Hosannas. But when illness, disaster, betrayal, or pandemics come, we can easily begin to think, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”

Resist that. Change your idea of what your king should look like. You won’t always get the answer to prayer that you are hoping for…and that is often a good thing. Worshipping the king requires trusting that he works for the good of those who love him.

What you will get is a humble savior, a crucified and risen Lord, and the king of kings. See him for what he is!

This king is the one who went from hero to zero for the sake of the world, ensuring your eternal life. God SO loved the world he sent us this only son, who took on beatings, scorn, and shame for the salvation of his people.

Hosanna, indeed!

Virtual Palm Sunday Prep Photo by Colin Snider