Following Through Jerusalem

Psalm 25.15-18
My eyes are ever on the Lord,
   for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
   for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
   and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
   and take away all my sins.

Reflection: Following Through Jerusalem
By John Tillman

During his dramatic entrance to Jerusalem, Jesus allowed himself to be worshiped (Even by those he knew would turn against him in a few days). When Jesus entered the Temple, he violently disrupted an economic center of oppression and made room for more foreigners to enter the outer court of the Temple. Matthew’s account adds that afterward, the blind and the lame, who would not have been permitted to enter the Temple, came to Jesus there and he healed them. These actions undermined the religious leaders’ superiority, threatened their wealth, and countermanded their teachings on the nature of sin.

Jesus represented a direct threat to their power structure and their methods of retaining power and control. So the religious leaders, instead of being ready to listen, ready to rejoice, and ready to accept the freedom and healing Jesus was bringing, were ready to challenge him.

The challenges of the religious leaders were meticulously designed logical traps. They were loaded, hot-button political questions, intended to turn the crowds against Jesus. Jesus answered every one of them masterfully.

To say his answers were skillful implies some level of craft or deceit. That’s what we expect from those answering tricky questions. But it was Christ’s undeniable truthfulness and solid basis in scripture that forced even those opposing him to publicly admit he answered well. Scripture says he “silenced” his opponents.

In our social media, drama-driven world, we often long for someone to silence our critics and win our battles. We equate winning arguments with advancing the kingdom.

But we need to remember that Jesus didn’t ride into Jerusalem to shame his enemies, but to be shamed on the cross. He didn’t come to slaughter his enemies, but to be slaughtered.

The crowds and outward successes of Christ’s entry to Jerusalem may have given his disciples a wrong impression of Christ’s true mission.

When Jesus calls us to follow him, it isn’t just to follow him to sit on some Heavenly throne. James and John longed to sit there, but Jesus knew they didn’t understand what they asked for. The path leading to glory with Christ is the path leading through suffering to death.

If we desire to rise with him, we must expect to suffer with him, and be prepared to die with him.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
…For with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light.
Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, and your favor to those who are true of heart. — Psalm 36.9-10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 20 (Listen – 4:18) 
Psalm 25 (Listen – 2:18)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about The Context of The Widow’s Mite
Can we learn to live like the widow? Are we able to live in faith, despite our systematic victimization, despite our poverty, and despite the existence of corruption?

Read more about Where is the Love?
John’s account of the cleansing of the Temple is the most violent, showing Jesus making a weapon and wielding it. It’s probably why we don’t read it as often. It’s unsettling to see Jesus this way.

Who is this King of Glory?

Psalm 24.8
Who is this King of glory?

From John:
First, we look at a few verses from our Leviticus reading that bear special reflection on “Tax Day” in the United States.

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. Do not steal. Do not lie…Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights… — Leviticus 9-11, 35-36

Reflection: Who is this King of glory?
By John Tillman

Today, as American citizens prepare to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” on “Tax Day,” the calendar of the church, marks the week that Jesus began to walk resolutely into the teeth of the Roman Empire. That’s the part we don’t like. We like the triumphal entry and the triumphal resurrection. The middle bits are like verses of a hymn that we too often skip.

On Palm Sunday churches around the world remembered the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Many in the Jerusalem crowd must have had the ending stanzas of David’s 24th psalm in mind:

Lift up your heads, you gates;
   be lifted up, you ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?

But Jesus was not the king they were expecting. And Jesus is not the king we often wish for either.

Some want a glorious warrior-king to defeat the foreigners and rule though vengeance and retribution. These believers want the second-coming of David the giant-killer on a horse, not the first coming of God’s suffering servant on a donkey.

Some expect a liberating mage, with heavenly signs, miracles, blessings, and plagues to confound and punish their oppressors and bless and free the downtrodden. They look for a second Moses, a liberator and lawgiver, not the Lamb of God who comes to be imprisoned, cursed, and slain.

As we follow Jesus through Jerusalem this week, may we not misunderstand him or mistake him for someone else. Let us have eyes to see what many wished to see before us, and ears to hear what many wished to hear. May we let go of our heroic versions of kings and watch the lamb of God, ride his borrowed donkey, straight to his borrowed tomb.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be upon your people! — 3.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 19 (Listen – 4:39) 
Psalm 23-24 (Listen – 2:03)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Face Like Flint :: A Guided Prayer
When Jesus set his face like flint, determined to go to Jerusalem, the disciples expected a fight. Many of them seemed to expect to win. In what ways are we willing to accept victory with Christ but not suffering?

Read more about The Untied Donkey
In the ancient world donkeys were used for ceremonial purposes. Whereas horses were symbols of war, donkeys were symbols of peace and often used to enact treaties.

Humbled by the Heavens :: A Guided Prayer

Psalm 19.1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Reflection: Humbled by the Heavens :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

In our world many have a temporal superiority complex that author, Michael Crichton described as being a “temporal provincial.” These are those who think or behave as if their position in the present automatically proves them more intelligent, more capable, more resourceful, and more “human” than those who lived in prior ages. One of the side effects of evolutionary thought is falling into the trap of believing that modernity is automatically an upgrade.

Clothed in our modern superiority, we often look down at ancient peoples, thinking that they looked up at the sky and fell into religion through ignorance and scientific ineptitude. But as the scientific tools at our disposal give us greater levels of information, we remain stunned into awe at the size and scope of what we still don’t know.

As the world gazes in wonder at evidence of black holes that New York Times writer, Dennis Overbye called, “the image of the unobservable,” David’s ancient psalm tells us where to learn about our “unobservable” God—in the heavens. This weekend, reflect and pray through David’s psalm extolling the undeniable, wordless speech of God through the wonder of his creation that we, like David, can see with our naked eyes, if we will but open them.

Humbled by the Heavens

The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.

God, we stand in awe on our tiny planet.

You have placed us here among deserts, seas, and mountains that seem incredibly vast, yet they are just imperceptible ridges on the tiny ball of our planet.

And, in the vast darkness of space, our tiny blue dot of light seems so insignificant compared to the other great lights of the sky that you have created.

Thank you for heavens that humble us, Lord.

Without words, let us hear your glory, see your law, experience your touch and your love.

Yet you gave us more than wordless wonder, Lord. You send your Word, your Son, Jesus, to clarify your commands and enlighten our understanding.

The commands of the Lord are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.

Give our eyes your light. Give our actions your powerful love. Give our words your persuasive persistence and care. Make us instruments through which the world can see your magnificent presence.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Everyone will stand in awe and declare God’s deeds; they will recognize his works. — Psalm 64.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 16 (Listen – 5:36)
Psalm 19 (Listen – 1:52)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 17 (Listen – 2:39) Psalm 20-21 (Listen – 2:37)
Leviticus 18 (Listen – 3:46) Psalm 22 (Listen – 3:49)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about The Materialist Cosmos :: Throwback Thursday
If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. The whole of life is something much more grey, narrow, and trivial than many separate aspects of it.

Read more about In The Face of Wonder :: A Guided Prayer
The freedom the world seeks is freedom to dominate, dictate, and destroy. This freedom is a lie that seeks power and blessing for ourselves.
May we seek instead the freedom to serve, to create, and to restore. We can do this only in your power and through your Holy Spirit.

Three Armies of Sin :: Throwback Thursday

Psalm 18.3, 16-17
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
   and I have been saved from my enemies.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
   he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
   from my foes, who were too strong for me.

From John:
Using the example of the psalms, including today’s psalm of David, Martin Luther emphasizes that without calling on the name of God in faith, we stand surrounded by the armies of sin, without hope of victory.

We often think of David as a heroic performer of great deeds of good works, but David recognized that he was overmatched when it came to sin and did not rely on his own strength. In our modern, humanistic age, there are messages all around us of the power of our good works. We can do it. We can save. We can learn. We can fly.

As Christians, we confess our feet are earth bound but, through Christ, we know our feet will one day do better than fly. We will tread the City of God.

Reflection: Three Armies of Sin :: Throwback Thursday
By Martin Luther

Sin has hemmed us in with three strong, mighty armies.

The first is our own flesh, the second the world, the third the evil spirit, by which three we are without ceasing oppressed and troubled; whereby God gives us occasion to do good works without ceasing, namely, to fight with these enemies and sins.

The flesh seeks pleasure and peace, the world seeks riches, favor, power and honor, the evil spirit seeks pride, glory, that a man be well thought of, and other men be despised. And these three are all so powerful that each one of them is alone sufficient to fight a man, and yet there is no way we can overcome them, except only by calling upon the holy Name of God in a firm faith.

As Solomon says, in Proverbs 18, “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is set aloft.” And David, in Psalm 116, “I will drink the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord.” Again, in Psalm 18: “I will call upon the Lord with praise: so shall I be saved from all mine enemies.”

These works and the power of God’s Name have become unknown to us, because we are not accustomed to it, and have never seriously fought with sins, and have not needed His Name, because we are trained only in our self devised works, which we were able to do with our own powers.

*From A Treatise on Good Works, 1520

Prayer: The Greeting
Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born, from age to age you are God. — Psalm 90.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 15 (Listen – 4:59)
Psalm 18 (Listen – 5:47)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Steeped In Sin
Sin is not just some bad things that we sometimes do. Sinful actions are “sins” but sin is more than actions. It is a condition. Sin is pervasive. It seeps into every crack and corner of our souls.

Read more about Taking Sin Seriously
The grace Jesus offers is so costly that the powerful drop their stones and walk away from it. They cannot bear the cost to their pride. The lustful won’t look at it. It is too costly to give up their lusts.

What David Longed For

Psalm 17.14-15
By your hand save me from such people, Lord,
   from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
   may their children gorge themselves on it,
   and may there be leftovers for their little ones.
I will be vindicated and will see your face;
   when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Reflection: What David Longed For
By John Tillman

Today’s psalm of David gives us a famous and oft repeated idea, that we are the apple of God’s eye and are precious to him. It also gives us one of the texts that show us that the concept of resurrection was not an idea that developed in the first century.

Many of the most important voices of the Old Testament such as David and Isaiah gave clear and unambiguous testimony that they looked forward to a day when they, after death would see God.

David as a psalmist opens up all of his fears, desires, and longings to God. He shows us, perhaps more than any other Old Testament writer what a passionate, and intimate relationship with God can look like. And he shows us clearly that he expects this relationship to continue after death.

David makes a contrast between the evildoers whose satisfaction is found in this life, and himself. David testifies that his only satisfaction is in knowing that he will be in the presence of God.

In so many ways, what David longed for after death, we have access to now. We have many advantages over David.

David was unable to read of Jesus as we are. Yet how often do we read of him?

David was unable to know of Christ’s saving work on the cross. He thanked God for salvation and forgiveness while worshiping with ceremonial signs of lambs and blood that pointed to Christ, but were powerless to save. Yet how many times do we fail to kneel, thankful for the sacrifice made for us by our High Priest?

David was close to God and sensitive to his Spirit. Multiple times the Bible tells us the Spirit of God “came on” David and others in the Old Testament. David would be astounded that the Holy Spirit has indeed been poured out on all flesh. Yet how often do we seek to soak in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit?

This Lenten season we have focused heavily on our sins and their effects. May we spend time in the final weeks of Lent, seeking renewal, redemption, and revival.

In preparation for the joy of his resurrection, may we seek to resurrect our awe and wonder at the wonderful gift of his presence and as David says, may we “see your face’’ and “be satisfied.”

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?  — Psalm 42.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 14 (Listen – 8:11)
Psalm 17 (Listen – 1:58)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Last Priest Standing
Jesus’ high priestly ministry on our behalf is perpetual, never-ending. If we could grasp the full ramifications of this reality, it would radically impact our daily lives.

Read more about Christ: Temple, River, and City
Christ is our river, flowing as the Holy Spirit into our lives…His river-like spirit brings life to what is dead and healing to what is sickened by the waste products of our sins’ industrious and destructive revolution.

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