Seven Last Words with Reflective Texts

Seven Last WordsGood Friday Seven Last Words Service with Reflective Texts

I know this is out of order since we are in the Season of Easter but I wanted to post this in case you were interested in the poetry and essays we paired with the seven last words!

The First Word: Father Forgive them for they know not what they do

Luke 23:26-28, 32-34
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

A reading from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you’ve ever really forgiven somebody, forgiven some real wrong, all forgiveness is suffering. If you say I forgave and I didn’t suffer, it wasn’t really that serious a wrong. But if you have ever really, truly been wronged, and you have forgiven it, then you have suffered. Because all forgiveness is a form of suffering. If someone has wronged you deeply, there is an indelible sense of debt, an injustice, a feeling you can’t just shrug off. And once you sense this deep injustice, this debt, there are only two things you can do. One is you can make the perpetrator pay—you can find ways to make the perpetrator suffer and pay down the debt, or Two you can forgive.

Prayer: As you forgave those who harmed you, and those who silently watched, help us to suffer forgiveness for one another. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Extinguish the 1st Candle

The Second Word: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Luke 23:35-43

And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Lignum Vitae, a poem by Bernard Fyles

What wood is this?

Olive or oak, cedar or pine?
Unsuited for the cabinet makers’ art
Unfit for turning, inlay, elegance,
too warped for any honest use,
door frame or ladder or carrier’s cart.

What wood is this?

Sold cheap to minimize the grower’s loss.
Too many knots, too twisted,
no good except for firewood or a cross.

What wood is this?

Rough joints, rope lashings,
hold it together for the task ahead,
and the carpenter’s hands
that might have shaped it
as they shaped the world
are made to drag it through the streets instead.

What wood is this?
It is the wood of death,
the wood of life.

Prayer: As you offered words of promise to the criminal, may we also hear you offer words of promise to us. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Extinguish the 2nd Candle

Third Word: Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother!

John 19:25b-27
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

A Reading from, Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love by Sister Ilia Delio

Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! I wonder how many of us look on the cross as the “mirror of eternity”—a reflection of eternity in the crucified Christ. We rarely think of eternity hanging on a cross unless of course we understand that eternity is God, God is love and God’s love is expressed in the crucified Christ. God is revealed as all-embracing, out-pouring love in the figure of the crucified Christ [in whom] we see a reflection of the eternal God who is the fullness of love. Gazing on the crucified Christ as a way of encountering God can be difficult because we are not attracted to crucified bodies or suffering humanity. To gaze on the crucified Christ is an embrace of the heart—a desire to allow the otherness of God’s love into our lives. It is difficult to see another person’s suffering, if we have not come to terms with our own suffering which opens us to receive the blessing and presence of God.

Prayer: As you helped Mary, your mother and John, your friend, remain in the embrace of your heart, help us to experience your love in suffering. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Extinguishing the 3rd Candle

The Fourth Word: My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Mark 15:33-35
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land[a] until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E′lo-i, E′lo-i, la′ma sabach-tha′ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Eli′jah.”

Lead, a poem by Mary Oliver

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing.,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

Prayer: As you cried out to God in anguish, help us to cry out to you, trusting you hear, and understand. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Extinguishing the 4th Candle

The Fifth Word: I thirst

John 19:28-29
After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.

A reading from, Mother Theresa’s Devotion to the Thirst of Jesus by Edward Sri

In the chapel of the Missionaries of Charity—the order founded by Mother Theresa, there’s a crucifix with the words, “I THIRST” painted in bold black letters next to it. Mother Theresa said these words, “I thirst,” were a constant reminder of the purpose of the Missionaries of Charity. "We have these words in every chapel of the Missionaries of Charity to remind us what Missionaries of Charity are here for: to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls, for love, for kindness, for compassion, for delicate love."

Ever since her call to serve the poorest of the poor in 1946, Mother Teresa insisted that the Missionaries of Charity were founded "to satiate the thirst of Jesus," and she included this statement in the founding Rules for the new religious order: "The General End of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls."
Mother Theresa says, “Why does Jesus say ‘I Thirst’? What does it mean? 'I Thirst' is something much deeper than just Jesus saying 'I love you.' Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you — you can't begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.”

What specifically is Jesus thirsting for in us? He longs for our love — our attention, our ardent devotion, the total entrusting of our lives to Him. At this most difficult time He proclaimed, 'I thirst.' And people thought He was thirsty in an ordinary way and they gave Him vinegar straight away; but it was not for that thirst; it was for our love, our affection, that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His passion. He used, 'I thirst,' instead of 'Give Me your love'. . . 'I thirst.' Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you.”

Prayer: As you thirst for our love, our attention, our ardent devotion, help us to quench your thirst with our lives, with our total trust, with our intimate attachment to you. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Extinguishing the 5th Candle

The Sixth Word: It is finished

John 19:30
When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

A poem by Frederick William Faber, 1849

O come and mourn with me awhile;
O come ye to the Savior's side;
O come, together let us mourn;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

Have we no tears to shed for him,
while soldiers scoff and foes deride?
Ah! look how patiently he hangs;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

How fast his hands and feet are nailed;
his blessed tongue with thirst is tied,
his failing eyes are blind with blood:
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

His mother cannot reach his face;
she stands in helplessness beside;
her heart is martyred with her Son's:
Jesus, our Love, is Crucified.

Seven times seven he spoke, seven words of love;
and all three hours his silence cried
for mercy on the souls of men;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

O break, O break, hard heart of mine!
Thy weak self-love and guilty pride
his Pilate and his Judas were:
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

A broken heart, a fount of tears,
ask, and they will not be denied;
a broken heart love's cradle is:
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

O love of God! O sin of man!
In this dread act your strength is tried;
and victory remains with love;
for he, our Love, is crucified.

Prayer: As you finished the demands of holy love--a body broken, a soul crucified—help us to find our wholeness in you. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Extinguishing the 6th Candle

The Seventh Word: Father into thy hands I commend my spirit!

Luke 23:44-46
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Prayer: As you enter the realm of death, may we trust that you usher into the realm of life. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Extinguishing the 7th Candle

Closing Prayer: Lord, Open Unto Me, A Prayer by Howard Thurman

Open unto me — light for my darkness.
Open unto me — courage for my fear.
Open unto me — hope for my despair.
Open unto me — peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me — joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me — strength for my weakness.
Open unto me — wisdom for my confusion.
Open unto me — forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me — love for my hates.
Open unto me — thy Self for myself.
Lord, Lord, open unto me! Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

 

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Easter Sermon

Easter SermonA sermon preached for the Resurrection of our Lord on April 21, 2019 on Luke 24:1-12 and Acts 10:34-43 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary and the other women leave as the barely lights the eastern sky. Jesus was buried on Friday just before the Sabbath began, so there was no time to properly bathe and anoint his body for burial. As soon as it was light, they set off to do women’s work—to wash, and bathe and bless Jesus body and as they would do so, to grieve, to remember, tell stories. As they would bind his body, they would begin to bind their hearts, and each other’s to deal with this tragedy and loss.

But as they arrive at the tomb, there is no work for them to do. The stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty; they are expecting the stench of death, and all they smell is the dawn of a new day, and the mineral of an empty rock. Two angels dazzle them and ask them the oddest question, “why do you seek the living among the dead?” Of course, they were not looking for the living among the dead—they were the living looking for the dead. But, it’s wonderful isn’t it? That angels reinterpret their intention, as if to say that any of us who are looking for Jesus are not seeking an old dead faith but are really searching for the living risen Christ among us.

“He is not here,” they say. “He has risen. Remember how he told you that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and to be crucified and on the third day rise again.”

Remember what Jesus said. Remember what Jesus did. Remember your time with Jesus. Remember. Trust today because you remember what Jesus did for you yesterday, and last week, and last year. The whole Bible is written really to help us remember what God has done before, so we can love and seek and pray to Jesus today.

Even though they are terrified, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary and the other women begin to remember what Jesus said, and it all starts to make sense—Jesus had talked about dying and rising again! Jesus’ body is gone, dazzling men are here—it’s all happening just as Jesus said!
They returned from the empty tomb and the angel visitation excited to tell the incredible news that all was not lost! They will help the rest of the disciples remember what Jesus said—and proclaim it has come true! The resurrection is now!

But the disciples and all the other followers of Jesus do not remember, and they do not believe the women’s testimony. Don’t you find it interesting that the women, who are terrified, believe the angel visitors, but the disciples do not believe the women? (I’ll let you think about that for a minute).

Their words seemed to the disciples an idle tale. But “idle tale” is not the best translation for that word. “Idle tale” makes it sound like the women were gossiping, but the original Greek word is much harsher than that. The disciples thought the women were “delirious,” or spouting “garbage.” It’s very dismissive.

Perhaps you have had this experience at one time or another in your life—of being dismissed, like you’re crazy, treated as if you are disposable and unimportant. It must have been an awful feeling for Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary and the other women—to have this amazing, transcendent, spiritual experience, this realization of Jesus’ resurrection after death, remembering everything he had said, and this cosmic convergence of the real meaning of his ministry, this moment of everything falling into place and making sense.

And then to share it with their closest friends—their tightest community—only to be treated like garbage.

It’s heart-breaking in our day and age, when we still hear about people being treated this way. About a month ago, a man stopped by the church wanting to talk with the pastor and looking for help. He had a real family crisis on his hands and I gave him some referrals, what help I could, including a few Hunger Helper lunches, I prayed with him, and then I told him, “you can’t deal with this alone, so I would love for you to come to worship so you can be a part of a Christian community.” He started to tear up and was surprised I invited him to church. He told me when he asked to talk to the pastor at another church, he was told to leave or they would call police— he was treated like he was crazy, or a criminal for being in need.

In my first congregation, there was a mother and son who came to worship from the neighborhood. Ella was limited intellectually, and her son, Alex had down syndrome. They just loved walking to church and being part of the community. After a time, they joined the choir. Sadly, some of the choir members started to complain because they thought Ella and Alex would ruin their anthems. They didn’t ruin anything, but none-the-less, they were viewed as disposable. God bless the choir director, MaryAnn, who would have none of that, and included Alex and Ella in the choir.

Peter preaches to this very point in our Acts reading as he comes to truly understand that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.” No one is disposable. No one is garbage. It’s 2,000 years later and the entire Christian world is still working at living out the radical inclusion that Jesus embodied in his life, that his risen Spirit empowers in his resurrection, and that was preached in the earliest days of the church.

God calls us to live this Easter reality today, becoming a community that shows no partiality. There are still many people our society and the church treats as disposable, who need to experience a God who loves them and a community who welcomes them. If you have ever been dismissed or mistreated, you know how important it is to carry out the mission of sharing the unequivocal love of God in a radically inclusive community.

Who is it in your neighborhood, school, workplace, on your commute, or where you shop that society dismisses as unimportant? God calls us to embrace the discomfort of welcoming and listening to those at the margins. God calls us to give these sisters and brothers time, space and community in which to rise with Christ into the fullness of who God made them to be. In the first century, it started with listening to the testimony, wisdom, and experience of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary and the other women. Peter finally decided to check out the empty tomb himself, and the others eventually believed the women. Thank goodness Peter and the other disciples started to listen to the women, or the good news might not have made it all the way to us today!

In fact, building an Easter community that shows no partiality is what it means to be named St. Luke’s. Remember that Luke, more than the other evangelist, shows us the Jesus who was always reaching out to those at the margins—the sinners, the cheats, untouchables, the sick, the demon-possessed, the blind, and the poor—those society dismissed as delirious, outcast, and social garbage.

Of course, a resurrection community in Jesus’ name, called St. Luke’s would include every last one of God’s great diversity people—no matter who they are—amazingly, including YOU! Believing that Jesus died and rose for YOU—no matter what—is the first act of faith that enables you to welcome others, expanding our diversity and making a radically inclusive Easter community a reality. 

There’s a dazzling table set by our risen Lord and your name is written a piece of bread and a cup of forgiveness. You are included, you are valued, you are loved, you are matter to God and to this community. Receive the grace of the risen Jesus for you and remember to go from here to seek out those at the margins. Show no partiality and participate with Jesus in living the Easter community. All are welcome! Alleluia!

 Image: Empty Tomb by renowned Christian artist, He Qi

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Can We Bear This Much Love?

footwashingMaundy Thursday Reflection on John 13:1-17, 31b-35 for a service of foot washing, Holy Communion and stripping of the altar, St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

I remember when I was in middle school and I first heard the popular saying, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

It was the first time I began to understand that real love was not about possession, but rather about freedom.

If there was ever a night for Jesus to give up on love as freedom and engage in a little love as possession, I think the night before he died would have been a good choice. It would have been understandable if Jesus would have put the screws down on the disciples a little harder and said,

“Look, I’m going to die tomorrow, and I need you to show up. I have given you my heart and soul, my prayers, my healing, my time, everything I’ve got. Now it’s all coming to an end tomorrow and the political and religious leaders are going to have my head. I need to know that you are with me. Peter, are you in? Matthew are you in? James and John, can I count on you? Philip and Andrew, will you be there for me? Bartholomew and Thaddeus, can I count on you? Thomas and James, and all the rest, are you in?”

But Jesus does not do it, does he? Instead he instructs them to love one another as he loves them, and he demonstrates what this love looks like as he wraps a towel around his waist and washes their feet.

The funny thing is, their feet were already clean, actually. They probably washed them before they came into the house for supper. The roads were dusty, and their sandals were open, and nobody wanted all that dirt tracked into the house, so feet were washed upon entering, much like taking off our shoes at the door. Foot washing was usually done by a servant and if there wasn’t one, the woman of the household. In addition to an act of cleanliness, it was also an act of hospitality, warmth and welcome, especially after hard work or a long journey.

Because their feet were already clean, Jesus washes their feet, not to get the dust off, but as an act of love. He gets down on his knees, taking the form of a slave or serving them a like woman—talk about bending social and gender roles! Jesus offers hospitality and love, warmth and welcome, acceptance and relationship, as their time together comes to a close, shifting social and gender roles to demonstrate that true love is a life of service, regardless of what social norms might dictate.

What is even more surprising than Jesus behaving like a slave or a woman to demonstrate true love, is that Jesus washes feet that will run away and leave him; he washes feet that will deny him; he washes feet that will betray him. Jesus knows these feet will all abandon him in some way, and he washes them anyway.

Judas allows Jesus to wash his feet, and then he leaves and goes into the night—he has turned toward evil. This is the worst betrayal of all—it wasn’t turning Jesus over to the chief priests (which we will hear at the end of our service), but the worst betrayal in John's Gospel, is abandoning the relationship with Jesus. Judas is struggling with all kinds of things—fear, turmoil, greed—and in that suffering he turns away from Jesus.

But there is Jesus, on his knees, rinsing and rubbing 24 feet, 120 toes—all feet that will flee and leave him to journey to the cross alone.

“If you love something, set it free…” Jesus loves the disciples enough to wash their dirty souls and let them go… We all have the freedom to walk away.

The disciples will walk away from the relationship, but Jesus will not. When they are ready to return to him, he will be there. It may not be until Easter morn, but Jesus will always show up.

Can we bear to receive that much love? Can we sit still and have our feet washed, knowing we have failed Jesus, and will fail him again—not because we are bad people, but because, like the disciples, we are human—and still, Jesus is going to show up and love us, and kneel at our feet, with warmth, love and welcome, and get the towel and water and say, “I love you. I am here, and will always be here—even when you walk away, I will be here when you come back.”

Can we kneel at the railing and open our hands, knowing we have walked away and may walk away again—not because we are bad people, but because, like the disciples, we are human—and still Jesus is still going to show up with joy, and love us with abandon, and feed us with forgiveness and say, “you are precious to me, and honored, and I love you.”

Jesus is not going to betray, abandon, or deny his relationship with you, no matter who you are, what you’ve done, what you’ve thought, how weak your faith is, or whether or not you deserve it.

You can always come back. No matter what, you belong to Jesus.

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Parades of Honor, Shame, and Paradise

Parades of Honor Shame and ParadiseA reflection for Palm/Passion Sunday after the congregational reading of the passion story in Luke 22:14-23:56 on April 14, 2019 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

Our story today began with a parade of Jesus’ triumph. His followers who travelled with him from Bethany and Galilee, witnesses and recipients of his healing, hailed him as their king and Lord. A triumphal entry into the city is the greatest tribute accorded anyone in a culture where honor and shame, even more than money, were the greatest personal currency.

It did not take long, however, for those accolades to threaten the powers that be, who wanted such tributes sung about them, rather than some upstart rabbi from the backwaters of Galilee. If that continued, what would happen to the religious leaders? To their authority? To their power?

The religious and political leaders were afraid of losing—losing honor and power, so much so, they kicked it into high hear to get rid of Jesus. They set out to re-balance the honor-shame scale by shaming Jesus in the most extreme way. If the greatest honor is triumphal parade, the greatest shame is the criminal’s procession, carrying his own cross to his death. Two kinds of parades—one giving the greatest honor, one filled with most shame.

When the triumphal parade with palms and honor on Sunday turned into the parade of cross-carrying shame on Friday, the reversal was so successful that even those who loved and followed Jesus were affected by it. Like the leaders, they all became afraid of losing something as the story played out.

Judas was afraid of not having enough money. Peter was afraid of losing his life—of being treated the way Jesus was. James and John, the sons of thunder were probably tired of losing face—of being mocked and ridiculed—and angry at Jesus for not fighting back. They believed when push came to shove (literally) that Jesus would let them use their swords, but he did not. Other disciples feared loneliness—what were they going to do without Jesus, without this community of friends traveling and working together? 

Still others, like Matthew—a hated tax collector, were losing a sense of purpose and worth which they had with Jesus for the first time in their life, and it was all falling apart. Who was he going to be now? Others were losing the most important relationship they ever had—they were broken-hearted with grief. How could they bear to watch someone they loved die? So, they scattered—shame worked—they betrayed, denied and abandoned Jesus.

It seemed like hope was losing and those in power were succeeding in setting the honor/shame scales back in their favor, but in reality, Jesus had his own parade going on. Jesus used their schemes to enact God’s plan of salvation and we see this at every stop in the story.

In his procession to the cross—Jesus saw the women weeping and he stopped to acknowledge them, and speak to them—to their pain, their loss, their fear of losing him, their agony.

In that moment, it is as if time stood still. Jesus acknowledged all human pain—all of the weeping, betrayal, denial, abandonment, loss, fear, and failure, including our own—as if to say, “This is not as it appears! You are not losing, and all is not lost! This is not the end, shame is not the story, and pain is not final! Watch for the the real parade, the parade to paradise!”

Then from the cross, Jesus does not accept the shame, mocking, and ridicule others try to put on him. Instead he sees their shame, their brokenness, their sin, in all of its ugly cruelty, and—with words not of shame and judgement, but rather of love, abundance, and peace, he prays, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those with the eyes to see can behold the real parade he’s leading to paradise.

Then the scene shifts to the criminals hanging with Jesus and they both articulate part of what we all want. The first one asks to be saved by being spared suffering—have we not all asked God for that? But that’s not how God saves—God enters into the fullness of human life rather than rescuing us from it. So, the second criminal says, “remember me when you come into your kingdom—be with me, save me, forgive me and bring me into your heart, Jesus.” And Jesus does: “today you will be with me in paradise.” The real parade is marching forward.

Those in power thought they were winning the battle as they exchanged a parade of honor for one of shame and death, when in reality, the God of the cosmos, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, hung above the theater of this human drama, and in Jesus Christ, offered abundant love and wholeness and new life for all.

Jesus is leading a parade to paradise—that’s the only parade that matters—and we are blessed to be counted in that number!

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