Palm Sunday – Seeking the Kingdom

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(Photo taken by me @ Graveyard Fields, NC – June, 2015)

Luke 17: 20-21…”Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ “

I have always loved Palm Sunday. I love the spirit, and I’ve written about it plenty over the years. Though Jesus understands what he’s riding into, the people don’t, and they are so overjoyed to see the humble king riding his donkey into “the kingdom.” The greatest parade in world history. It wouldn’t take long for the crowd to begin to turn, once they figured out what they thought they wanted wasn’t going to happen. We know the rest.

Do you understand the mystery of the kingdom of God? If so, please reply with full explanation, because the rest of us are dying to grasp how to get there. It is “in your midst,” Christ tells us. While on the surface I do understand the concept, spiritually, the divide of the dimensions is a wall that few penetrate. I had a friend ask me yesterday, as we talked about the woes of the world and the influences of society, how do we teach the kingdom (goodness) to our kids? My reply was listing the fruits of the Spirit. All those things that flow from the Holy Spirit living within us. Jesus in our hearts. That’s the kingdom in this dimension as far as I can understand it. And that’s where we (Christians) are to live. If only we could let go of what we know and see. For me, that’s the biggest stumbling block of full transformation. It’s everyone’s stumbling block to full transformation.

C.S. Lewis, in his work, “The Weight of Glory,” dives into this subject. He writes…

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Lewis cuts right to the matter. “Desires not too strong, but too weak.” “Half-hearted creatures.” “Fooling about with drink and sex and ambition.” “Ignorant child in a slum.” Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday bringing the covenant of “infinite joy,” and days later the ignorant children are choosing the thug criminal, Barabbas, to be set free over Christ. Because they couldn’t see with their spiritual eyes who they were looking at, and they certainly couldn’t see past their too weak desires. They wanted their earthly king. NOW. They wanted the Romans gone. NOW. Completely missing the “staggering rewards” Jesus had promised. Blind to it all.

I submit that we are not one bit different, and place us in front of Pilate in 2017 given the same choice, we, too, would overwhelmingly choose Barabbas. Because we are ignorant slum children that can’t see beyond our current circumstances. I understand that’s harsh, but can it be denied?

What are you holding onto that prevents you from existing in the kingdom right now? On this Palm Sunday, and during Holy Week as we lead up to the Cross, that would be an excellent question to stew on as we consider all these things. I will be. Why are my desires too weak? Why am I fooling about with this or that, when I could be there? The Spirit given to me knows only one direction, and to there is where it is always leading. The only thing preventing that – is me.

Tomorrow on Palm Sunday as you smile and enjoy the spirit of the day…Consider these things. Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom!

Gary Abernathy

Feeling Ever So Tiny

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1 Samuel 17: 41-47…”Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was a little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!’ David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.’ “

I’ve recently returned from a great adventure in England and Scotland. My feet strolled the streets royalty have criss crossed, and my heart soared at magnificent works of architecture and achievement, done by human hands for the glory of our God. The origins of Western Civilization rushed at me around every turn, and God’s presence walked beside me on every path. The souls of great humans gone before stared at me from their tombs and haunts, and the ghosts of the lost who took the wrong paths poked at me from their dark spaces beyond my meager present. It was a daily exercise in being overwhelmed.

How puny a creation I must be to even dare to set foot in the works of the greats? Their massive presence filling up the space inside the walls of a structure such as Westminster Abbey. Darwin at my feet, scoffing at the joke that I am, while Chaucer tweaks me to my left getting the inside joke of the hat I brought along with the image of his chanticleer. T.S. Eliot, from his tomb, surely sensing what an idiot I found myself to be, sending my eyes to words of his that read…”Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” I went too far. Way too far. So did David in the scripture above, as the giant Philistine warrior stood disgusted he would even dare to speak. I was in so over my head in the United Kingdom words cannot describe.

Intellectuals greeted me and engaged me. In London, I strolled the city with a man with more knowledge in the dust of his jacket than I possess in my entire lifetime. In Edinburgh, Scotland, I walked with a woman owning a doctorate in Scottish History and specializing in the Christian heritage of the land. Cambridge paired me with an elderly woman so intensely steeped in the Christian heritage of the highest schools of learning on earth, that I barely dared to breathe a word in response so as not to give away my shame of ignorance. Even my restaurant manager in Cambridge, at a lovely place named, The Varsity, possessed a brain so far exceeding my own as he told me stories of the ties between Cambridge and Jerusalem, that I began to wish I had never met him…so maybe, I wouldn’t feel as stupidly tiny as I felt at that moment in front of his establishment.

I am but a speck of dirt in God’s creation.

Or as it is said in the Sayings of Agur in the 30th Proverb, “Surely I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.”

But as with Agur, I know where to find these things. I know to whom Greatness is reserved. I know His Son. He intercedes for me. He sends me. He gives me purpose. He uses me. He loves me. David, too, was a puny speck of dirt. These things do not matter. God matters.

In the picture above, I was strolling the “Path of Scholars” in Cambridge, England. C.S. Lewis, in poor health during his 9 years as a resident fellow at Magdalene College, would walk the same path. Many great names did the same, easing their souls, finding inspiration for great works and important studies. And there I was…the stupid speck of dirt…having the gall to walk the same path. All of us feel tiny in life sometimes. This is a good thing. I wholly believe God had many purposes for sending me there, and that one of them was the continuing process of destroying what was once a large and flourishing ego of self. Thank you, Lord. Continue to purge me and refill me.

Are you feeling small in this world? Invisible? Afraid to speak because your ignorance will show? Know that there is a God. He will deliver you. Transform you. Love you. Call out…
Gary Abernathy