Herndon UMC

God’s Love is Real. God’s Love is Active. God’s Love is for Everyone.

Holy Week

Mar 21, 2021 | Featured, Worship

 

Take Part in Holy Week at Herndon UMC

Mar 28 | Palm | Passion Sunday

HAND MADE PALMS — Everyone is invited to prepare a palm for Palm Sunday.  Green paper was provided in the Lent Kit, but you may use anything that you have.  You will need a piece of paper, a pencil or other tracing tool, and scissors.  Trace your own hand and then cut it out to make the palm.  Here is a how-to video to help you.

KIDS (age 3 – grade 6) are invited to make a paper palm and make a recording saying “Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest!” to be shared in the worship service.  All kids will remain anonymous for their privacy and safety.  A sample video is linked here. Videos may be sent to Patrick Tugwell, our Video Producer, at pmtugwell@gmail.com.  The deadline to be included is March 22.

 

ABOUT WORSHIP — The Scripture for this service is Mark 11:1-11.

The trouble with Palm Sunday is that we love a parade. We love the spectacle, we love the entertainment, we love the high flying hymns that sing of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as if he were going to be crowded as a king. We love a victorious Christ. It is Christ-crucified that we don’t know much to do with. And this whole story is drenched in the irony of what is about to take place in just a matter of days.

This digital worship service will stream at 10 am on Sunday, March 28 on YouTube and Facebook.

Apr 1 | The Way of the Cross (Drive-Thru Experience)

Herndon UMC invites you to explore the stations of the cross in this sensory, drive-thru worship experience.

Enter across from Herndon High School and begin with Holy Communion,.  Remember the last supper that Jesus ate with his Disciples. In addition to communion elements, you will receive a small egg carton of resources to help you experience the stations of the cross from prayers to burial from the safety of your vehicle, alone or with your family group, as you drive around the church parking lot.  Go to herndonumc.org/wayofthecross for more information.

The Way of the Cross will be available from 4:30-6:30 pm on Holy (Maundy) Thursday, April 1 at Herndon United Methodist Church (701 Bennett Street).

Apr 2 | Good Friday Service

Tenebrae (/ˈtɛnəbr, bri/Latin for “darkness”) is a religious service held during the three days preceding Easter Day, and characterized by gradual extinguishing of candles.  You are invited to join in this digital tenebrae worship service that will stream at 7 pm on Friday, April 2 on YouTube and Facebook.

Apr 4 | Easter (Modern, In-Person) Sunrise Worship -- Please Sign Up to Attend!

This short (about 30 minute), modern, in-person worship service with Holy Communion is planned for 6:30 am on Sunday, April 4 on Easter.  It will be held outside at Herndon UMC in areas 3 (in the circle) and 4 (grassy area) beside the Sanctuary and also live-streamed on Facebook.  

COVID health safety requirements are currently evolving.  We know that attendees will be asked to bring their own chairs or blankets (if they wish to sit down) and to wear a mask and to maintain social distancing.  We will continue to update this page as more is known.

You can help us plan for this service, and sign up for updates or changes below.  Just provide an email (and let us know if you prefer to be contacted by text) and how many will be in your group (including you), and we will contact you when there are changes or if an acknowledgement form is requested.

Apr 4 | The Flower Cross Returns

A tradition at Herndon UMC is to place flowers on a cross outside of the church building on Easter morning.  The cross will be in place, in front of the church, this year.  You are invited to bring flowers anytime Easter morning and add them to the cross.  You may bring your own flowers from home or there will be some flowers provided for you to place on the cross as well.  Please just be safe, maintain social distances, and wear a mask if you will be approaching others.

Apr 4 | Easter (Traditional, Digital) Worship

The scripture for this worship service is Mark 16:1-8

Hear this great news…Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed! Pastor Flor will share with us a message of resurrection and Good News this Easter.

New life is what the resurrection is all about. We seek a new life in the springtime, especially after the pandemic. How would it look to seek new life that will help transform us into more Christlike followers of Jesus?

This digital worship service will stream at 10 am on Sunday, April 4 on YouTube and Facebook.  This service will combine familiar hymns, liturgy, scripture, and prayer.  Music during the service will include organ, handbells, Herndon UMC’s Wesley Choir and the Voices of Truth (youth choir), and a variety of  instruments.  We hope you will join us for Easter worship!   

Jesus in the Old Testament: Lenten & Holy Week Devotional

Through Easter, Herndon UMC’s weekday devotions are shifting to hear from different voices.  Pastor Jonathan collaborated with other faith leaders to create this devotional that draws connections between Jesus’ teachings and the Old Testament.  A new devotion will post each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in Lent (and then daily throughout Holy Week).  Images with scripture and a question to ponder will appear on Facebook and Instagram.  You may also scroll back through the devotions below or you may choose to download the entire collection as a PDF.

Read. Ponder. Pray. — Wednesday, April 14

This Spring, join Herndon UMC for “Spring Training”. Experience different spiritual practices through these devotions. Find new ways to connect and deepen your relationship with God. Also available on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. — Tuesday, April 13

This Spring, join Herndon UMC for “Spring Training”. Experience different spiritual practices through these devotions. Find new ways to connect and deepen your relationship with God. Also available on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. — Monday, April 12

This Spring, join Herndon UMC for “Spring Training”. Experience different spiritual practices through these devotions. Find new ways to connect and deepen your relationship with God. Also available on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. — Friday, April 9

This Spring, join Herndon UMC for “Spring Training”. Experience different spiritual practices through these devotions. Find new ways to connect and deepen your relationship with God. Also available on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. — Thursday, April 8

This Spring, join Herndon UMC for “Spring Training”. Experience different spiritual practices through these devotions. Find new ways to connect and deepen your relationship with God. Also available on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. — Wednesday, April 7

This Spring, join Herndon UMC for “Spring Training”. Experience different spiritual practices through these devotions. Find new ways to connect and deepen your relationship with God. Also available on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. — Tuesday, April 6

This Spring, join Herndon UMC for “Spring Training”. Experience different spiritual practices through these devotions. Find new ways to connect and deepen your relationship with God. Also available on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Monday, April 5

The New Temple

Written by Joe Lenow, Rector of St. James’ Episcopal Parish in Lothian, Maryland.

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. – John 2:19-22

It’s rare, to get a moment like this; a moment when Jesus points to some bit of the world and says explicitly, “This is my Body.” It happens in the Upper Room on the night he was handed over to suffering and death. It happens here when Jesus is standing before the Temple of God’s covenant people.

This Body had been awaited by the people of God. They spent decades in the wilderness, moving from place to place, wondering if there would one day come a dwelling of God among them that would bring them rest and peace. It had been anticipated, hazily outlined in the mobile tabernacles that the Israelites would construct in the center of their camps.

This Body was prepared for, purified for worship. It could not be built by David whose hands were too stained with blood and violence. To enter this world, it required the true peace of Solomon’s Wisdom and the consent of Mary.

This Body is a place of sacrifice, the site where life is offered over to the Lord for the restoration of God’s covenant with Israel. This life is innocent, spotless; yet in being given, Israel is restored, proven to be faithful. Built on the spot where Abraham was saved from sacrificing his son, this Temple shows us that God will hold nothing back in redeeming us from the power of sin and death: not even God’s very self.

And then all was lost. This Body was cast down, razed to the ground by the empires of the world. Babylon, in its hubris, believed that Nebuchadnezzar was the true king of the world; Rome’s governors believed that this Body’s truth was theirs to judge and dispose of. Not one stone was left on top of another, but each lay silently in the cool earth. No further worship was possible; God had deserted the people.

Yet on the third day, this Body was raised—rebuilt, in even greater glory. For this Temple is the Holy of Holies, the dwelling of God with humanity. In it, the hem of God’s majesty drapes down in our midst, uniting heaven and earth. In this Temple, the luminous darkness of God’s mystery reaches its greatest intensity, hidden in fire and the clouds of smoke and incense rising with our prayers. Here, once a year, we enter into this mystery, and know that even the power of death cannot separate us from the God who has elected us. This Temple is the Seat of Mercy, the Ark of God’s presence, Emmanuel. Here, we come in adoration: falling on our knees; stunned into silence; moved to worship with all the people of God; given a new song to sing, a psalm to raise in the courtyard of this Temple:

Christ is Risen!

Click the (+) to open and read the full devotion.
These devotions will also be linked on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Sunday, April 4

Easter and God’s Laughter

Written by Matt Benton, Pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church in Woodbridge, VA.

Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” – Psalm 2:1-6

We conspired. We plotted. We counseled together. We hatched a plot. We arrested the Innocent One. We tortured the Prince of Peace. We killed the Lord of Life. We hung the Holy One of God on a tree. We shouted curses and jeers at the Blessed One. We crucified Jesus of Nazareth.

God came into the world and we cried “NO!” We told God that this was our world and we were content to be our own kings and rulers. And we shoved God out as loudly and as violently as we could.

But today isn’t a day for remorse. Today isn’t a day for sorrow. Today isn’t a day for grieving.

Today is a day for laughter!

CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! God shouts this day that God’s Son is the King of Zion. And He has been raised from the dead. He has been raised to live and to reign forever and ever. God has set His Son in the highest place. God has defeated death. God has defeated sin. God has defeated evil. Forever and ever, Amen!

And in so doing God has exposed sin, death, and evil for what they are: losers. Things defeated. Things finished. Sin will not define us. Death will not hold us captive. And evil has no power where Jesus reigns.

This is our victory. This is our celebration!

So, we also laugh. We laugh at the sin that had so long ensnared us. We laugh at death that once held pompous sway. We say, “where O death is your victory?” (Paul’s version of shouting “SCOREBOARD!”) We laugh at the principalities and powers that thought they could defeat our God. We laugh at any notion that our God could be outdone by evil.
Our God wins! Our God reigns! Our God is the victory!

Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

And ours is the victory. God’s Yes in Jesus is God’s Yes to us, a yes that says we are loved (any notion that you aren’t lovable is laughable). A yes that says we are not forsaken (any notion that says we are alone is laughable). A yes that says we are God’s children and heirs (any notion that says God doesn’t love us is laughable). A yes that says God is with us forever and we shall be with God forever (any notion that says we are condemned is laughable). A yes that says God will redeem every bit of us until we are who God has always made us to be (any notion that says our past will forever define us is laughable).

Laugh today. Celebrate today. Be joyous and raucous and boisterous today. Because Jesus is Risen. And God is laughing.

Click the (+) to open and read the full devotion.
Look for a new devotion each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in Lent. 
These devotions will also be linked on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Saturday, April 3

“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Written by Elaine Ellis Thomas, Rector of All Saints Episcopal Parish in Hoboken, NJ.

As part of my training for ordained ministry, I spent a summer as a hospice chaplain. Sitting at the bedside praying with those nearing life’s end was an extraordinarily holy time. For those with dementia or who were otherwise non-responsive, it always seemed like something of a miracle that, as soon as I began to say the Lord’s Prayer or sing an old hymn, from somewhere in the recesses of memory, they could recite or sing along with me. The 23rd Psalm was another favorite. Everyone seemed to know the words.

When you grow up in church, spend your life in bible study or daily and weekly liturgies, the words that we say and pray become like breath to us. For Jesus, the psalms would have been the hymns he learned from childhood. It is no wonder that, in the moment of his greatest distress, he would cry out to God in dereliction and anguish. This was his language. These were the words inscribed on his heart.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

As with all psalms of lamentation, Psalm 22 does not stay with the theme of abandonment. It moves through God’s faithfulness, a prayer for relief, and a promise to praise God for deliverance, but Jesus only gets out those first words.

The onlookers and others gathered around enacted other parts, deliberately or not. They pierce his hands and feet and cast lots for his clothing. They mock and scorn him; they taunt him saying

“He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, if he delights in him.” (v. 8)

The gathered chorus fulfills the verses of the psalm while Jesus remains at the opening cry of sheer rejection.

But Jesus knew the psalms. Was there some glimmer of hope in his lament? Did he recall that God’s faithfulness endures forever, that “They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done” (v. 30)?

Perhaps not, but this is the promise to us. In the salvific work of the cross, we are not forsaken. Even as we cry out to God during these months of pandemic and death and anxiety and loss, we know that

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations bow before him. (v. 27)

Click the (+) to open and read the full devotion.
These devotions will also be linked on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Friday, April 2

Cursed is the One who Hangs On A Tree

Written by Brian Johnson, Pastor of Haymarket Church in Haymarket, VA.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” – Galatians 3:13

Paul, the early Christian missionary who wrote much of the New Testament, had a problem.  Paul had spent his life studying, learning, trying to obey God’s law.  And, in the law – in what we would call the Old Testament – there is this very clear statement that “everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed” (Deuteronomy 21:23).  Paul believed – as he had spent his whole life believing – that the law was a direct message to the people from God, a message that told them how to live, how to act, what mattered to God.

And so, when he heard about Jesus, he knew deep down that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah, because the Messiah was the promised savior, God’s chosen and blessed one, and Jesus had died a cursed death: hanging on a cross, from a tree.  So, Paul became an intense opponent of the early Christians, because he was sure that they were dead wrong.  But then, Paul had this radical experience while traveling– overwhelmed by a blinding light, he heard the voice of Jesus speaking to him, calling him to follow Jesus and share his Good News.

So, now, Paul’s got a problem.  He believes that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s chosen savior for the people.  And if God has chosen Jesus, he must be blessed.  But Paul also still believes that God’s word in the Old Testament is true – which means that Jesus, as someone who was put to death on a cross, is somehow cursed.  How can Paul hold these two radically divergent – even contradictory – ideas together?  How can someone be blessed – sent by God, even – and cursed at the same time?

The answer Paul comes up with – an answer he passes down to us through the New Testament – is that Jesus bore the curse for us.  The logic of Paul’s argument is this: the law, as found in the Old Testament, is pretty clear: those who follow it, who do everything that it says we should do, will be blessed.  But those who fail to keep the law in its entirety are under the law’s curse.  The reality, as Paul points out (and as anyone who has ever been a human being knows), is that we all fall short, we all screw up, even the best of us fail sometimes.  The line between good and evil, it has been said, doesn’t run between people, or between groups of people.  The line between good and evil, between light and darkness, runs down the center of every human heart.  So, says Paul, we are all deserving of punishment.  We are all, in a sense, under a curse.  

Paul sees Jesus hanging on a tree, on the cross, and he sees something amazing happen.  Jesus, he says, is taking on the curse on behalf of the rest of us. He who had no sin, who was the only person ever to be free from the power of sin, has nevertheless accepted the full weight of sin, he has borne the curse for us, so that we might be set free, so that we might receive God’s promise, so that we might come to know, to be, God’s own righteousness.  He takes what we deserve, and accepts it for himself, so that we might know, experience, revel in what he deserves: God’s goodness, God’s love, God’s light.  Because Jesus accepted the full weight of sin, because he suffered under sin’s curse, everyone else who has ever been cursed, who has ever sinned, is given forgiveness instead.

We aren’t nearly as comfortable talking about curses these days as Paul and his contemporaries were.  And, yet, let’s be honest: there is much about this world that is not as it should be.  Disease, hatred, bigotry, injustice, oppression, greed, hunger, fear, white supremacy, poverty – there is much in this world that is broken.  There is much that is wrong that needs to be put right.  We might even, if we want to use spiritual language, call some of that stuff “a curse.” In Jesus, God says, “I see all the evil you’ve done, I see the injustice you’ve ignored, I see the broken systems that put the poor and vulnerable more at risk when things like famine and pandemic and disasters strike, and it’s going to take a lot of painful work to put it right, but I love you too much to make you bear the weight of your curse – and, anyway, it’s too much for you to bear – so, I’ll bear your curse myself.”

Jesus is God entering into our world and giving us something better than we deserve – better than we could ever earn on our own.  Jesus is God saying, “there are real consequences to all the evil you have done – cosmic consequences. But I won’t make you face those consequences on your own.  I will face them for you.”  

No matter what brokenness we face, no matter what evils we encounter, we do not face them alone.  God, in Jesus Christ, has borne the curse for us.  Thanks be to God.

Click the (+) to open and read the full devotion.
Look for a new devotion daily during Holy Week.
These devotions will also be linked on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Thursday, April 1

Adam and Jesus in the Garden

Written by Matt Benton, Pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church in Woodbridge, VA.

 Two stories and their settings are the same.  A man stands in a garden, before God, and is afraid.

 Two stories whose settings are the same but couldn’t be more different.

Adam stands in the Garden of Eden.  He has just eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He’s naked.  He’s ashamed.  And he hears God walking through the garden.  God is seeking him out, ready for their evening stroll. 

But Adam has disobeyed.  He has done what God specifically told him not to do.  HE HAD ONE JOB!  He knows that the second God sees him, God will know.  Know what he’s done.  Know that he’s disobeyed.  Know that he’s failed.

So he hides.

He’s afraid.  He’s afraid of what God will do to him.  What will happen when the truth of his actions is brought to light.  He’s afraid that he cannot stand before God, he’s afraid of what will happen when he stands before God.

Jesus stands in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He’s praying.  He’s praying so hard he’s sweating blood.  He’s afraid.  But unlike Adam, he’s not afraid of God.  He’s not afraid because of his disobedience.  He’s not worried about what God will do to him.  He’s afraid of what we will do to him.

“Father, let this cup pass from me!” he prays.  He is not worried about the price of his disobedience.  He is worried about the cost of his obedience.  What it will mean for him to be obedient to God’s will.  “Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  Adam couldn’t help but be disobedient; Jesus cannot help but be obedient.

Adam fears that the price of his disobedience deserves death.  Jesus is afraid because the cost of his obedience is death.

Adam fears that, because of his disobedience, his relationship with God will be severed.  Jesus fears that his obedience will, for a time, sever the link between the Father and the Son.

Adam leaves the garden walking on his own.  Jesus leaves the garden committed to walking fully with God, even if that means walking to His death.

How much of our lives do we spend with Adam in the garden, fearing the results of our own disobedience?  Afraid that God will discover exactly who we are and what we have done?  How often do we fear standing before God knowing that we have not been faithful?  How often do we try so hard to hide from God, lest God feel about us the way we feel about ourselves? 

What if, instead, we prayed in the garden with Jesus?  We prayed for Jesus to have the strength to be obedient where we have been disobedient?  To watch the conviction in Jesus’ eyes, the love in Jesus’ eyes.  What if instead of focusing our thoughts on our own disobedience we focused instead on Jesus’ obedience? 

Tomorrow, Jesus will go to the cross out of obedience to God.  Out of love for you and for me.  On Sunday Jesus will defeat death, defeat sin, defeat those things that we fear alienate us from God.

Today, leave behind Adam’s garden and its fear of alienation.  Leave behind the fear of what God will do to you should your obedience be discovered.  Leave behind the shame.  Join Jesus in Gethsemane.  See what God will do in order to show God’s love.  See what God will do to win your salvation.  Stop looking at all the things you and Adam haven’t done.  Look instead at what God does.

Click the (+) to open and read the full devotion.
Look for a new devotion daily during Holy Week.
These devotions will also be linked on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Wednesday, March 31

The Suffering Servant

Written by Hungsu Lim, Associate Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Richmond, VA.

Isaiah proclaims a profound message to the people in exile. This prophet sings a new song of hope and speaks comfort to the people, and his message is unique and powerful, written for a people who experience devastation and have to live in despair in a foreign country. The series of his messages called “Servant Songs” (Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-7, 52:13-53:12) offers hope and envisions a new possibility for the future.

“But here is my servant, the one I uphold; my chosen, who brings me delight. I’ve put my spirit upon him; he will bring justice to the nations.” (42:1)

Isaiah identifies the servant as the one God has chosen and put the spirit to carry on God’s mission. The servant is called to bring justice to the nations. The people who are in exile and suffering might have expected to hear a message of retaliation or retributive justice through the military messiah (anointed one). But this kind of servant is called to bring light to the nation so that God’s salvation may reach to the end of the earth (49:6). This mission is not nationalistic but universal. The image of the servant repeats the way that God calls and blesses Abraham and Sarah, “In you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) God’s chosen ones should not live for their own sake or their own benefit but should be a light for the nations.

Thus, Isaiah gives us a critical message because we, as human beings, tend to put ourselves first. If we are exploited or abused, we want retribution as justice. Of course, God confronts those who exploit the poor and advocates justice for them. But the mission that the servant is called to do is for all the families on earth, not for her/himself. Furthermore, the lifestyle of the servant is stunning because it may lead to times of suffering and humiliation. Being a light for the nations is not easy and requires sacrifice.

I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” (50:6) 

How could the servant tolerate humiliation and confront this injustice? How could the servant have been living as the suffering one? Suffering has been a deep issue in human history, and there is no easy answer to these questions of why. But the servant has found meaning in suffering. The one who is willing to suffer for the sake of God’s mission will make redemption and wholeness available for all. Suffering is not the end of the story because it can be redemptive and bring light to the nations. That does not answer the serious questions of why, but suffering can mean and make a difference beyond what the servant willingly embraces.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises, we are healed.” (53:5)

The image of the suffering servant is both an image of the community in exile and an image of how the early church understands Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus is the perfect example of the suffering servant who dies to save all. So, these texts become meaningful once the community of faith claims its belief and faith through them. They offer a meaningful way to follow what they are called to do.

We enter into a time of self-denial and repentance in Lent. Lent offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on the lifestyle of the suffering servant. It is a crucial time for us to identify who we are as God’s servants. When we also claim ourselves as God’s servants, we may be able to follow the examples of Jesus Christ, who lived as the suffering servant on earth and loved all unconditionally. Lent invites us to be a light and bring justice to the nations, even though we may undergo a time of humiliation and suffering. We have hope because God may use our sacrifices, suffering, and pains to bring redemption and restoration for others. Then, we can follow Jesus and his loving ways because Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Click the (+) to open and read the full devotion.
Look for a new devotion daily during Holy Week.
These devotions will also be linked on Facebook and Instagram.

Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Tuesday, March 30

Jesus, the Paschal Lamb

Written by Grace Han, Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Alexandria, VA.

 “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29

 “Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”  – Exodus 12:3-13

If you’ve been to church during Lent, you’ve most likely heard of Jesus referred to as the “Paschal Lamb” or “Lamb of God.” You have probably read scriptures with that reference or may have sung songs that use that image.  You may have wondered it meant for Jesus to be compared to a lamb, or perhaps you never thought about it too much.  But understanding the meaning of Jesus as the Paschal lamb is incredibly significant for us who are seeking to grow our faith this Lenten season. 

To truly understand Jesus as the “Paschal Lamb” or the “Lamb of God,” we need to go back before the gospels to the very first Passover in Exodus 12. In fact, the word “paschal” means Passover (or in the Christian context, Easter) and calling Jesus the “Paschal Lamb” links him to the first Passover.  Recall that when the book of Exodus began, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. God heard the cries of his people and sent Moses to deliver the people from the bondage of sin. While Moses performed nine signs, the Pharaoh was unmoved.  The night before God freed the Israelites from slavery, God instituted the First Passover meal, where each family was to take an unblemished lamb, slaughter the lamb, and use the lamb’s blood to paint the door posts of every house where they would eat the flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. That night, the Angel of Death would “passover” the homes protected by the blood, but take the lives of the firs-born children who did not have blood on its doors. It was after this final sign, that the Pharaoh finally relented and “let the people go.”

As this first Passover meal was instituted, the instructions were clear: this feast was to be kept “throughout your generations…as an ordinance forever” (Exodus 12:14), as a Day of Remembrance of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.  Because this Passover meal was not only a feast, but a religious ritual, the meal required specific rules for how the sacrificial animal was to be prepared.  They were to choose an unblemished one-year-old male lamb. The lamb was sacrificed in the Temple and its blood was collected in silver basins and poured out on the altar by the priests.  The Israelites were required to eat the flesh of the lamb to be in covenant with God.  Most importantly, it was a day of remembrance, so the Israelites would always remember how God delivered them from slavery.

Later, in the gospel of John, when John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God–“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), this was an incredibly powerful identification. John understood that Jesus was no ordinary prophet, no ordinary religious leader. John knew and anticipated that Jesus was the Messiah who came to atone for our sins, to deliver us from sin and slavery, so that we could experience true redemption and new life.

That designation became much more acute in the Passion narrative as Jesus prepared for his death.  As many of us know, Jesus came to Jerusalem because of the Festival of Passover, as many faithful Jews gathered together to celebrate that important holiday. On Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, that fell on the same day that the lamb that was to be sacrificed for the Festival of Passover also came into the city.  As the blood of the sacrificial lamb was poured out on the altar by the priests, similarly Christ’s blood was poured out for us. Just as the Israelites were required to eat the flesh to be in the covenant, Jesus instituted the Eucharistic meal, offering his body and blood to his disciples and to us, to bring us into covenant with Christ. 

Perhaps, most important, is what the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb achieved. In the first Passover, it was the blood of the sacrificed lamb that protected the Israelites from death. The meat of the lamb nourished and strengthened the Israelites for the journey ahead.  Through the sacrifice of the lamb, they were redeemed from their past sins and led into the promised land. The Paschal Lamb was more than just a ritual, it paved a way for a new life. 

When Jesus died on the cross, he died as our Paschal Lamb.  Through his blood we are saved from sin and death.  Through his body we are nourished and brought into covenant, and through his death, we are given a path toward resurrection, toward new life. 

But while Jesus achieved the purpose of the original paschal lamb, he also went on to ensure that we would never need another Paschal lamb again. In Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice was made. It is in his body and blood that we are atoned for again and again. It is in Jesus Christ that we are offered a second, third, and fourth chance. It is in Jesus Christ that we know and remember who we and whose we are. 

God loved us so much, he sent his son to be a “Paschal Lamb” on our behalf.  Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to be sacrificed for our behalf, so that we would be freed from sin and slavery and know new life. 

 Thanks be to God. Amen.

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Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Monday, March 29

Stories of Fish with Jonah and Jesus

Written by Hyo G. Kim, Pastor of the West Brunswick Charge in Farmville, VA.

Jesus eats a fish; a fish eats Jonah.

Jonah is a book about God’s calling for repentance, obedience, salvation, grace, and so much more. It is one of the well-known stories that even people who never read the Bible know. Most people think of Jonah, who ran from God and was then swallowed up by a fish.
Yes, the “a big fish story” part of Jonah has intrigued me for a long time. Regardless of this book’s significant meaning, I was always obsessed with the story related to a fish. “How could a fish swallow up a human?” “Wow! Jonah survived from a fish belly.”

However, there is also an opportunity to find connections and play with the analogical meaning of fish between Jesus and Jonah. What makes these two characters different? It is obedience. Jonah ran from the difficult calling God gave Him (Jonah 1:3), whereas Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s will and went to the cross. Interestingly, I found the difference in how they play with a fish. The Bible challenges us, “Are you gonna eat a fish or let a fish eat you up?” This impractical question is asked and determines our character of obedience in faith.
A fish is often used as an intermediary in scenes where obedience needs to be explained.
An obedient little boy brings five loaves and two fishes. Consequently, many people could share fish to eat. What would people think while eating those fishes?

When Jesus was just resurrected and appeared to disciples, He asked them to bring food. They gave him a piece of broiled fish (Luke 24:42). What would they think while resurrected Jesus was eating a piece of fish?

Undoubtedly, a fish is considered as a food in those contexts in the Bible. The laws of nature and the logic of the cycle of life are simple. To live, people must eat food. From this point of view, obedience thus eating a fish is not simply an act of following. This is the matter of life.
Are you going to live by eating fish? Or are you eaten by a fish and die?

A big fish ate disobedient Jonah for three days. What would Jonah think of himself for three days in a fish belly?

I remember being an 8-year-old and going fishing with my father for the first time in my life. Before throwing the fishing rod, my father said, “Wait a minute, I’ll teach you how to fish!” I couldn’t wait and threw a fishing rod without listening to my father’s advice, thinking of catching that big, nice fish. What was the cost of disobedience? The fishing hook I threw caught on my forehead and was pulling at my flesh. I was in pain and said to myself. “I came to fish but caught myself in pain.”

Are you ready to follow Jesus? Are you ready to fish? Jesus called the disciples and said, “Follow me, I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).

Remember that Jesus ate a fish, and a fish ate Jonah. Which one are you?

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Read. Ponder. Pray. (Holy Week) — Sunday, March 28

Christ our Great High Priest: Resting In Prayer

Written by Anna Petrin, a Professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.

“Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16

This beautiful passage from the Letter to the Hebrews is one of the most well-known parts of the Bible. It conjures up an unforgettable image of Christ as our High Priest – and quite a High Priest at that! A High Priest who has “passed through the heavens,” who is “tested” and yet is “without sin.” A High Priest who is somewhat like Aaron and his descendants in the Old Testament (Exodus 28-29), but who is also not like those high priests – because those men were sinners, and they offered daily sacrifices not only for other people’s sins, but for their own as well (Leviticus 9:7). Christ is therefore the perfect High Priest: a High Priest who offered himself “once for all” as a perfect sacrifice not for his own sins, but for ours (Hebrews 7:27).

As a teacher of worship at a seminary, I am lucky enough to work with students across all age ranges and denominations as they develop their own patterns of daily prayer and learn the history of Christian worship. And in reading journals, personal meetings, and assignments for the past decade now (from clergy and laity alike), I have heard again and again two similar refrains: “I’m worried that I pray the wrong way, so I just don’t pray,” and, “I can’t really pray because I’m too busy leading worship.” These honest moments offer us, as a church, a critical insight into our need for Christ in both our personal prayer and our communal prayer. They teach us that sometimes our desire to make our prayer “perfect” (as some of my students put it) ends up sidelining our great High Priest and places us in a role that we can never hope to fill.

As Hebrews teaches us, nobody else’s prayer can compare to Christ’s – not even that of a high priest in the Temple. What, then, are we called to as Christians? We are called to “hold fast to our confession” and to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The point here is not that we are supposed to say certain words (like the “confession of faith” in the United Methodist liturgy). Instead, the point is that we are supposed to open our hearts to receive the mercy and grace that Christ, our great High Priest, has already offered us once for all time.

Ultimately, Hebrews exhorts the followers of Christ to abandon self-sufficiency and to rest – to rest in the trust and knowledge of God’s goodness and provision. It reminds us of the words of Psalm 95 (“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…”), and it calls us to become people of faith who are open to “the promise of entering his rest” (Hebrews 4:1).
In short, to name Jesus as our great High Priest is to situate our own prayers – the prayers we pray in our hearts and the prayers we offer as congregations – inside the prayer of Christ. Our lives of worship are united not only to one another but to the great and unending prayer of Christ who comes to us, enlivens us, intercedes for us, and resurrects us, so that we can escape from our own prisons of achieving and performing, and instead live and move and have our being in the great and wide mercy of the God who made us.

This idea of resting in the Lord may seem obvious and even easy. And yet I suspect it is one of the most difficult steps that we have to take in a genuine life of prayer. It is hard to embrace the land of divine rest and to stop wandering in the wilderness of self-sufficiency. But the Bible calls us back to a relationship with our great High Priest, calls us back to rest in the knowledge that Christ’s mercy and grace are waiting to soothe and heal our every need.
The Lenten season can easily become a season of work: a season in which we try to haul ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps with the tool of fasting. But the Lenten period is not only a period of fasting; it is a period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. A time in which our needs both as individuals and as communities are set within the proper perspective. A time in which we are called to set aside the work of human gaining and striving in order to enter more deeply into the rest of prayer and love of neighbor. I invite you to ask yourself this Lenten season: What could I give up that might allow me to rest more deeply in the mercy and grace of the great High Priest who will never let me down?

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 Mission Focus – UMCOR

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) comes alongside those who suffer from natural or human-caused disasters – be it famine, hurricane, war, flood, fire or other events—to alleviate suffering and to be a source of help and hope for those left most vulnerable.  You may learn more about UMCOR at umcmission.org/umcor.

Herndon UMC regularly supports UMCOR through our  budget and through special collections.  Each year the Naomi Ruth Circle (of Herndon’s United Methodist Women) puts together kits for UMCOR.  This year they will be working on  Health Kits. 

After living the last year in this pandemic, Herndon UMC would like to focus on global health this season, making a special collection for UMCOR through Easter.  Funds will go to support the materials for the Naomi Ruth Circle’s Health Kits and any extra will go to support UMCOR Global Ministries in helping to meet peoples’ daily needs such as healthcare, food, hygiene and job security.

 

 

The mission of Herndon UMC is to serve and share God’s Love in community.

 

The vision of Herndon UMC is to live the teachings of Jesus so that everyone may know God’s Love and grow in Spirit-filled relationships.

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