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An Urgent Message by Angie Fuller

I’ve never had to say goodbye to a loved one knowing we’d never see each other again on earth. People who’ve experienced final goodbyes say these moments can be equally difficult and divine. There is peace in savoring memories and shared presence, yet also an urgency to convey significant messages. I have said goodbye to loved ones, however, before extended and distant absences. After the harried, detailed days leading up to these goodbyes, the final moments hold a similar urgency to focus only on what is imperative.

Jesus sensed urgency on His last evening with His dearest friends. Although He would spend 40 more days with them after His resurrection, so much would change between now and then. In a way, this was it. His time on earth was almost over. He “eagerly desired” (Luke 22:15) to share this evening’s experience with them because He desperately wanted them to GET IT – to fully understand what was most important: “how wide and long and high and deep” His love is (Eph. 3:18).

The new command Jesus gave His beloved followers on this evening was to love others “as He had loved them.” (John 13:34) Although He’d shown them what this meant on countless occasions over the last three years, He used this evening to emphasize the INTIMACY involved in loving the way He does. Notice… They all reclined together at the table – literally leaning on each other. He transformed a Jewish ritual, the Passover meal, with symbolism that would draw them close to Him after He was physically absent. He dipped His bread in the same bowl with the one who would betray Him. He listened as His friends openly expressed emotions raw with confusion, devotion, and fear. He vulnerably removed His outer garment. One by one He cradled their filthy feet in His hands over a basin and tenderly rinsed them clean. Afterward, He asked his dearest friends to remain close to Him in the garden. He achingly poured out honest emotions to His Father. And less than 24 unspeakable hours later, with the weight of the world’s sin on Him, He would painfully utter clear instructions of care for His earthly mother.

Intimacy was certainly not new in God’s story of love. God literally WALKED WITH Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God DWELT with the Israelites in the desert through cloud and fire. God sent Jesus to grow up and LIVE AMONG both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus TOUCHED the unclean and unlovable. God SACRIFICED His only Son to save each of us from sin and death. God’s Spirit is WITHIN us to comfort, guide, and empower us.

As we participate in God’s love story, Jesus begs us to love others intimately. This is challenging! It requires focus in a world that divides our attention. It means we must be deliberate in a world of carelessness. It takes time in a world that causes us to hurry. It leads us to feel uncomfortable, awkward and inconvenienced.

How can I be more sensitive to others’ needs and emotions? Or be more vulnerable with my own?

When can I offer a touch, a smile, or kind words to someone who is unnoticed, excluded, filthy, or misunderstood?

Who needs to hear me say “I accept you” or “I forgive you” through my actions or words?

What is keeping me from becoming more intimate with God? What can I do to address these excuses?

Even if I feel digitally connected to countless people, is it at the expense of intentional presence and intimacy with my loved ones? What can I do in the next few days to make positive changes?

Jesus’ message is just as urgent today as it was to His first followers: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35) As Christians who bear His name, all that we do must convey His message of intimate love.

at Thursday, March 29, 2018
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Let Ordinary Things Become Extraordinary by Hanni Guinn

Last week my family watched the movie “Coco.” It’s an animated story about a boy named Miguel, and his family—his parents, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother.  Many of us grew up knowing our grandparents, and there may even be a few who were lucky enough to know a great-grandparent. But a great-great-grandparent? How many of us could name a family member from four generations ago, let alone know any details about their life? Miguel could. His family, who lives in Mexico, has passed along the story from generation to generation. One of the ways they have preserved these memories is through the tradition of the Day of the Dead when ancestors are remembered through ofrendas or altars with photos and other mementos and offerings.   Through this ritual, memories and stories are preserved and shared with new generations.  This ritual provides a connection between Miguel and the great-great-grandparents that he never knew and gives him a way to remember them.  It is important that their story not be forgotten.

In Mark 14:12-26, we read the story of the Last Supper. Jesus and his friends gather to share a meal in observance of Passover. They were remembering the story of their ancestors, the Hebrews, and their liberation from Egypt. At the end of the meal, Jesus takes the bread, breaks it, and says “Take, this is my body.”  He then takes a cup of wine, gives thanks, gives it to his friends, and says “This is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” And in Luke’s version of the story, Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Do this in remembrance of me. Keep the memory of me, and this night, alive. Pass it down through the generations. Tell my story. Remember me. 

Rituals are a way of remembering. Ordinary things—sharing bread, drinking from a cup—become extraordinary when we remember why we are doing them. None of us were with Jesus and his disciples that night. But we’ve heard the story. The memories have been passed down. And when we participate in the ritual of the Lord’s Supper, it connects us to those who were with Jesus at the table two thousand years ago. 

So this week, as we go through the rituals of Holy Week, let ordinary things become extraordinary. Let us remember. 
at Wednesday, March 28, 2018
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Don't Skip Friday, by Jason Edwards

This is a Holy Week reflection I wrote a few years ago (when Jackson was 5) that Baptist News Global also published the following year. Have a meaningful Holy Week, friends.






“Yes, Jackson?”

“Is it Sunday yet?”

“No, Jackson, it’s not Sunday.”

*Slightly agitated* “Yes, Daddy, it’s Sunday. It is Sunday!”

“Huh?” *processing* Oh. I guess I made a mistake.

It happened only a day before. In an attempt to give our 5-year-old something to look forward to, I informed him that after only three more Sundays, we’d be taking a trip to visit his grandparents in Texas. That was a mistake. It was a mistake to give our 5-year-old that much advanced notice. We are trying to teach delayed gratification, but three weeks of at-ease grandparent anticipation may be pushing it.

“May” may be a slight understatement.

Because instead of Sunday becoming a nice benchmark for each waiting week, Sunday became every day. My wife loved me for that. Loved me because almost every day between mentioning the promised land of grandparents and the day we left to see them, Jackson asked hopefully (assertively?) if today was Sunday. And if it wasn’t, disappointment ensued.

Because Jackson only wanted it to be Sunday.

Because Jackson only wanted it to be the Sunday.

And because Jackson didn’t understand why we couldn’t simply skip every other day to get there.

We’re like this too. We’d like to skip the waiting, skip the wanting, skip struggling; skip the suffering. If it were up to us, we’d skip through life, stopping only when the ground beneath our feet feels immediately strong enough to hold our hopes and support our dreams.

But life’s not like that. And, by the way, the gospel isn’t like that either.

This sometimes gets masked by the way we choose to worship. I often hear people tell me that they come to church to “feel better” or “uplifted.” “I want to hear or experience something that helps me get through the week ahead,” they say. And I get that. I want that too.


When I hear that, it’s almost always from someone who’s looking for their weekly injection of joy. There’s a large place for this. As a rule, we should practice praise more often than we do.


There’s also a large need for places where we can gather together and be real. Places where we live our waiting, intentionally. Places where we name our wanting, honestly. Places where sit with our struggles, corporately. Places where we acknowledge that in between promise and fulfillment there is suffering.

Denying our need for these places denies the nuances of our humanity. Denying our need for these places in worship makes the church into a place that cannot hold the nuances of our humanity.


If a community of faith cannot handle the nuances of our humanity, then how will any of us ever find something (or someone) there that can truly help us get through the week? Not just some weeks. All of them.

I’m reminded of these applicable words on friendship from Henri Nouwen:

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

At her best, the Church ought to offer us this kind of friendship.

Most churches ought to be at their best this week. This week ought to hold all of that nuance together. This is Holy Week, and there is much more hiding in Holy Week than the eggs we hope to find on Sunday.

Holy Week is full of dark drama. If you were in a worship service last Sunday, you’ve already marched into this week Palms waving. Jesus, sitting atop his low horse has moved into Jerusalem with triumphant shouts ringing in his ears. If you were looking for an injection or two of joy this week you probably got one Sunday. It might have even been enough to get you through the week.

It might. But given the week ahead that would be a little strange. Because it wasn’t enough for Jesus.

No, Jesus also had this strange and memorable meal with his closest friends on Thursday, punctuated by him washing their feet like a lowly slave. In the midst of it all, one of his best friends betrayed him. On this side of things that may seem almost trivial.

Of course it was. The betrayal of good friends is always trivial.

After that he prayed himself into a sweaty mess, was taken away by the authorities, put on trial, convicted, beaten to a pulp, executed like a common criminal, stuck with a spear to make sure he was dead, and finally, tucked away in a tomb so that he and his legacy could complete the process of decay.

All of this happened before Sunday.

All of this needed to happen before Sunday.

And, I think, all of us still need this to happen before Sunday.

We need a gospel that can hold our unrealistic expectations on Palm Sunday, and our feelings of fear and betrayal on Thursday. We need a gospel that sits honestly with us in our suffering on Friday, and silently with us in our depression on Saturday. We need a gospel full of hope for our living, breathing humanity, a gospel that understands that try as we might, none us has figured out how to successfully skip from Sunday to Sunday.

We can’t skip over the difficult relationships. We can’t skip over the unexpected diagnosis. We can’t skip over the pain, the poverty, the professional disappointments, the miscarriages, the misunderstandings, the despair, the depression, the trials or the tragedies. We can’t skip over them. When hate claims lives around the world, it has become all too clear that we cannot skip over them. We can’t, and it’s dishonest and dishonoring to pretend like we can. We can’t skip from Sunday to Sunday.

And neither could Jesus.

To be sure, without the hope of Sunday, Friday would mean nothing. Without the hope of Sunday the gospel would have decayed into the dusty corners of Jesus’ borrowed tomb. But with Sunday coming, there’s gospel in Friday too.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that we have a high priest in Jesus who can more than handle our suffering, more than heal our suffering; he can empathize with it. And he can because he has fully experienced the frail and fragile nuances of our humanity. This is good news. This is the gospel too.

So, of course, if you want, you can easily move straight on from palm waving to Jesus raising. But if you do, you may miss part of the gospel. And right now, it may be the part you need the most.

“May” may be a slight understatement.

So please, don’t skip Friday.
Posted by Jason Edwards at Monday, March 26, 2018
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