Up until this spring there had been a certain elderly gentleman that walked regularly in our neighborhood. He appeared to me to be of Asian descent and perhaps not over 5’6” in height. But there were really only two reasons that he stood out to me. First, he had a very distinctive gait pattern. He walked with a fairly brisk pace and his arm would swing back in an arc all the way behind his back as he walked along. It may have been part of his daily exercise to get the most out of his walk, but it was memorable. But the biggest thing I remember about him was his smile. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t a huge smile. It just always struck me as kind and genuine. I would drive by in my car, he would wave and flash a small smile, and I truly felt blessed by him.
This is Holy Week – one of the most special opportunities for spiritual reflection during the year. It began on Palm Sunday which commemorates the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem amid cheers and cries of, “Hosanna!”. In just two days we will have Good Friday, which commemorates Jesus being betrayed and taken before the crowd amid ridicule and cries of, “Crucify Him!”
Almost a month ago I mentioned April the giraffe who was expected to give birth to her calf at any moment. Well, it looks like that “moment” could be any moment now! Thinking about giraffes led me to consider our sermon series, “Impossible Possibilities.”
In light of the tragedy that has taken place today in London….
Have you heard about April? April is a giraffe at the Animal Adventure Park in New York and she is moving ever closer to the birth of her fourth calf. There is a webcam and information at aprilthegiraffe.com. For the past couple of weeks millions have tuned in at one time or another to the live feed. I have checked in several times to watch her do everything, except – give birth (apparently it is very difficult to predict the labor of a giraffe, it has been imminent for 2+ weeks!).
Today is Ash Wednesday and it marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is the 40 day period (not counting Sundays) before Easter. It is a time for reflection upon life – both life here on earth and life eternal. One of the most important services of the entire year for me is the Ash Wednesday service. The ashes come from the burned palm fronds that were used in the preceding year’s Palm Sunday service. I always find that deeply moving. I can imagine that some of the people who were there to greet Jesus as He came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey were there to condemn Him a few days later. Waving palm branches one moment, crying out “Crucify Him!” the next.
Currently we are in the middle of the sermon series, “Music that Changed the World”. It has generated a lot of discussion as to what particular music changed the world and in what way. I am sure everyone has their own list – especially in regard to how their life was changed by music. I can think of several pieces of music that had an impact on my world. When I think back to my apparently superstitious junior high days, I felt that the song, “Sad Eyes” by Robert John was one that you never wanted to dance to because it would cause the relationship to break up.
This year we are practicing “The Year of Gratitude” at St. Luke’s. We have been encouraging everyone to write one thank you note each day to someone. In a time where so much can seem wrong and negative, saying “thank you” may seem to be an insignificant act. Yet, it is something that is needed to encourage those who are making a difference to continue in the same way. Today there are people who think that what they do doesn’t matter.
Today I am thinking of our current president and his departure from office for a new person to step in.
It’s the beginning of a brand new year. That means getting used to writing “2017” when it feels like I just became accustomed to “2016”. It means talk about resolutions, a new annual theme for our church, and thoughts toward upcoming sermon series. Perhaps best of all, it means a new start. We’ve been given the gift of a clean slate. Whatever 2016 meant to us with its ups and downs, 2017 has yet to be written. The script will be accomplished through a combination of circumstances and our reactions to them as well as our intentional actions apart from anything the world may throw our way.