Foreseen in Joy

Foreseen in Joy

This post is written by Sarah

I got to sleep in this morning and as I drifted slowly awake a memory came to me of my first Mother’s Day. It was 2012 and I was six months pregnant with Micah. Some dear friends of ours, Arthur and Min Lee Ang were also expecting a child. Together with a couple single friends from our church we all went out for brunch after the service to celebrate. The day was chilly but the sun was warm so we ate out on the patio. As I remembered this scene I got out of bed and remarked to Andrew, “That was one of the best days of my life.” Continue reading “Foreseen in Joy”

Journey to the Cross: Sunday

Jesus Enters Jerusalem as King (Palm Sunday)

The most significant week for Christians is the week of Easter, often called Holy Week. I thought it would be neat to look at this week from the perspective of Mark. Next year maybe I’ll choose another Gospel author to follow along with. I’ve always liked Mark, though. He’s short and to the point. Yet, he includes interestingly specific details that the other authors do not.

Palm Sunday has always fascinated me. The whole passion narrative is thick with irony. The passion narrative in Matthew contains perhaps the most examples of the ironies of the last days of Jesus’ life, but Mark has them, too.

Here’s what happened on Sunday of Holy Week as found in Mark.

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

It starts off in an interesting way. As they get to the Mount of Olives, a set hills just outside of the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus tells two of his disciples to go get a donkey colt in the town just ahead of them. He knows that it’s there. He knows what the disciples should say to anyone who asks about what they are doing.

Jesus shows he knows everything that is about to happen. Nothing is a surprise to him. The fact that he knows a colt was tied to a doorway was not just a good guess. It had been prophesied and he knew that it was there.

I wonder what the conversation looked like between the disciples on the way there.

“Uh…so let me get this straight. We are going to get into town, assuming there is a colt that hasn’t been ridden and we’re just going to…take it?”
“Yeah…I guess so.”
“Let’s just hope no one is around. I really don’t want to have to tell them that we are taking it and we’ll return it later. What if they say no?”
“Hey man…Jesus knows what he’s doing. There’s a reason he’s telling us to do this.”

Sure enough, when the disciples got to the nearby village there was a colt tied to a doorpost. As they untied it people ask them what they are doing. Another conversation I would love to see…

“Hey! What are you doing?”
“Uh, don’t worry. We’re not stealing it. The Lord needs it and will bring it back shortly.”
“Um…ok? But it has never been ridden before.”
“Perfect! We’ll bring him back in a bit.”

Then they bring it back to Jesus and throw their cloaks over the back of the colt and Jesus sits down and begins riding into Jerusalem. The people around recognized Jesus and began throwing down their cloaks on the road and went out to the fields and brought back branches and spread them around (hence Palm Sunday).

They celebrated Jesus as King. They shouted “Hosanna!” That is a shout of celebration, a “hurray!” so to speak. It can mean “Save, please!” too. They celebrated as the people of Israel once celebrated David, the greatest and most famous of all the Jewish kings of the past. They celebrated Jesus as their savior – but not a savior from death and sin, but of politics and religion. But they were praising and celebrating a Jesus they had hoped for and wanted, not the Jesus they needed. The people celebrated and were basically worshipping Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem. But by the end of the week some of these same people would be screaming for him to be crucified.

Jesus knew that. He knew that the praises that sprang from the lips of these people were accurate and true, but void of their true meaning. Herein lies the irony of Palm Sunday. The praises the people say are indeed true. He is there to save them. He has ushered in the coming kingdom of David. It was right for them to say these things, but they didn’t understand what they were saying.

What must have that been like for Jesus? To hear people say things that were true, but to have the people not know what they were saying or singing or praising. Perhaps it’s similar to many Sundays around the world. We sing songs filled with meaning and theological truths and oftentimes have no understanding of what we are singing. Our words are empty. We may even understand what we are singing, and allow the words to have meaning in that moment — but by the end of the week we are cursing Jesus and slapping him in the face by our own actions, thoughts, words, and behaviors.

But Jesus sat there and accepted their praises. I’m sure the disciples loved being with him then. Proud to be with someone so respected, so worthy of praise. He was loved. They probably felt so special, very important. But by the end of the week, they too would desert Jesus and even deny knowing him.

And thus begins Holy Week.

 

A Sunday Step Back

As the title of my blog indicates, I believe we oftentimes need to take a step back from our busy day-to-day lives in order to gain perspective and wisdom. We live in a busy society, and when we fail to reflect upon what we are experiencing we lose out on life lessons, insights, and other precious moments. So, in light of this, I am planning to have a weekly “Sunday Step Back” in which I post a picture (or maybe more) that I have taken along with a simple reflection from my own life.

Micah's Stare

This is my son. I’ve talked about him quite a bit on my blog, especially the anticipation of his coming into this world. I am studying for a MA in Counseling right now. I spend many hours reading about psychological issues, theories in counseling therapy, and all kinds of mental health issues. I must say, it’s a fascinating field of study. You can gain a lot of insight just from reading books about theories within counseling, but at the same time it’s absolutely horrifying. It’s not like it was in high school psychology class when everyone read about all the various mental and personality disorders and then self-diagnosed themselves with all kinds of rare mental disorders. It’s not like that. It’s more of reflecting on the dysfunction of various relationships in our lives, especially within our families. That’s where things get scary.

What’s horrifying about psychoanalytic psychology is that you begin to realize how much influence you have over your children’s development. And how much influence our parent’s had over our own development. It’s quite incredible. Sometimes I think that some of the things I read about are a bit farfetched, but generally speaking there is some solid empirical data to back up much of psychology’s claims to the various stages of development in children (and adults for that matter). How I interact with Micah (my son) is incredibly important. The more I read, the more I realize that.

So my goal is simply to be as consistently loving and caring for Micah as possible and to be as honest and transparent with him as I possibly can be as he grows older. One thing is for sure, studying counseling has made me a better husband and father, and a better person overall. My relationships with my friends and family have been much more meaningful and healthy since I have gained insight about myself and about how we as humans relate to one another.

Micah plays with his toy

So as Micah grows and discovers new things about this world and about other people I hope that I can be a consistent guide and example for him, helping him understand the complexities of what it means to grow up in this world. What it means to be a boy. What it means to be an American. What it means to have a mommy and a daddy who love each other. What it means to love other people. What it means to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God.

Hello, Goodbye. Goodbye, Hello.

For whatever reason I have consistently been able to say goodbye well. This doesn’t make goodbyes easy to do or say for me, but I have been blessed in being able to end relationships and chapters in my life with healthy closure.

When you grow up in a community where the population is basically 98% white, you really miss out on some of the enhancing elements of other ethnicities and cultures. So when I came in contact with anyone that was different than me, I was instantly intrigued. Perhaps no more so than on the first day of seventh grade when a puffy-haired, quiet Japanese boy walked in late to my first class, Percussion. I don’t believe we had assigned seats at the time, but we were all sitting in two rows of plastic band chairs. There was an empty seat beside me. When he walked in I could tell he was a bit overwhelmed, eyes scattering to and fro. I wanted him to sit next to me. I motioned for him to come sit in the empty chair next to me. His eyes caught mine, noticed the empty chair, and he started over my way.

This Japanese boy would soon become my window into another culture. The Japanese culture. As I helped him with his basic English, he taught me some Japanese words. As it turned out, we also had Home Economics together. We made cookies and even Hungarian Bubble Loafs together. We became friends, and as it turned out he would influence me in some pretty dramatic ways.

In the middle of my freshman year of high school, my Japanese friend told me that he had to go back to Japan. His dad’s company wanted him to go back, and so they had to leave before the school year ended. I was pretty sad about this. He really had become a friend of mine. We had been in marching band and other percussion groups together. I had even started taking Japanese at my high school, as well as some of my other friends who had gotten to know him.

The time eventually came for him to get ready to go back to Japan. A group of friends of mine threw a small party for him. But before he left, I wanted to let him know how much I appreciated him as a friend. I wrote a long letter (like 5-7 pages) reflecting on our friendship and how he had impacted my life. It was my way of accepting that we had to say goodbye. It was my way of honoring my dear friend. Hopefully it meant as much to him as it did to me.

That was really my first goodbye of any real sense. I do remember moving from Omaha, Nebraska to Indianapolis when I was five. We left our families behind and moved into a new chapter of life. But I was five. And all I remember was being excited about moving into a new house and making new friends.

My closest friends from high school I still have not had to say goodbye to. Although we took different college and career paths we have nearly all moved up into the same area together, able to see each other on a fairly regular basis. Of course Facebook has made things easy for keeping up with many people, feeling like you never really have to say goodbye. It’s more of a “see you later.”

The week before I graduated from college I wrote individual letters to every professor I had recounting the classes they taught, and what I took away from their classes. I went around to all their offices and individually thanked them for their impact in my life.

By the end of my senior year in college I had made some close friends. And all of us were going in completely different parts of the world. One moved to central Florida, one to LA, one to France, one to Texas. But we were able to spend the last semester having fun with one another, meeting nearly every friday to hang out and play games.

School is always hard because if you make friends that are older than you, you will have to say goodbye to them sooner than those of your own year. If you make friends that are younger than you, you will have to say goodbye to them before they graduate. So making friends knowing that you will have to say goodbye before you want to can hinder the relationship. But if you know that you only have eight months together, you can either make the decision to take advantage of the precious time that you have, or to stay disengaged. I always try and choose taking advantage of the time I have. It could potentially set me up for be very sad when we have to say goodbye, but I probably would be even more disappointed knowing that I never really took the effort to be a close friend with people because I knew we’d have to say goodbye.

I just graduated from graduate school. I have invested a lot of time and energy into this school and student body. My situation is a bit muddled because I just graduated with my Master of Divinity, but am also continuing with an MA in Counseling. So I am saying goodbye in one sense, but hello in another. I was wondering how I was going to put good closure on this degree because I’ll still be around for another one. I wanted to end well, to close this period of my life cleanly. I didn’t really know how it was going to work. But then, within a few weeks of graduation I was asked to give a testimony of my time here at TEDS in chapel and then I was asked to give the student response of thanks at graduation. And before I knew it I was once again able to give a proclamation of my reflections and thanks to the professors, friends, and mentors that have influenced me so deeply while attending school here. I was able to say goodbye, and to say it well.

In a sense, meeting my Japanese friend was a hello, but it was also the beginning of learning how to say goodbye. In no small part because of this friend, my wife and I and another friend from middle school (who was also in our Home Economics class) will be traveling to Japan to serve as missionaries. I have been there three times, and even got engaged to my wife over there. I didn’t know it at the time, but meeting that friend of mine in seventh grade was really the beginning of saying goodbye to the life I know here in the United States. Hopefully when the time comes, I’ll get to say goodbye well to America and all my friends that I’ll be leaving behind.