Old Brick Reformed Church, Organized 1699

490 Route 520 • P.O. Box 153 • Marlboro, NJ 07746

Office Phone: (732) 946-8860 • Office Fax: (732) 946-9254

Secretary's Email: secretary@oldbrickchurch.orgInfo

Sunday Worship: Cancelled Until Further Notice

Passion/Palm Sunday: "Two Wonders of the Cross"
April 5th, 2020

It lifts my spirit every time I hear about it. I am sure it lifts your spirit too. I'm thinking about the pictures we see of people expressing their gratitude to first responders. People emerge from their homes at a designated time clanging cow bells. Others clap or sing from balconies. Even little children have joined the effort; the images are wonderful. Look for them on youtube. Sometimes, even in the "worst of times", such as 9/11 or coronavirus, these events can really bring out the best in people and it's really wonderful to see. I only hope that this spirit of gratitude and recognition continues long after coronavirus is a distant memory.

Unfortunately, and I apologize because I am not optimistic, often it doesn't last very long at all. Attitudes can change quickly. When the furor has ended, and life settles down people fall back into their ruts. Neighborliness, courtesy, and kindness somehow become lost in the rear-view mirror. Remember how we all wondered where the spirit of courtesy and neighborliness went after things settled down following 9/11?

People can be fickle. Feelings can change; sometimes they "turn on a dime". That's how people reacted to Jesus. One minute He enters Jerusalem seemingly on top of the world. People are cheering his name. They line the pathway to welcome him. They place robes along the road and wave palm branches in the air as they shout, "Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord". It's a marvelous scene of praise, joy, and hope. I would have loved to have been there, wouldn't you?

Sadly, as you know, the adoration shown to Jesus that day didn't last. Only a few days later, many among that same crowd would join their voices with an angry mob to answer Pilate's two questions. The first was, "Which one of these two do you want me to release to you Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" To Pilate's surprise the crowd shouts for "Barabbas" to be released. And, Pilate's second question, "Then what am I to do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" "Crucify Him, Crucify Him", the people shout. Pilate can't believe what he's just heard but he succumbs to the pressure anyway. Rather than risk an uprising, Pilate surrenders Jesus over to be crucified.

I must admit to you, as a preacher, it's sometimes difficult to explain this fickle reaction by the people. One moment they love Jesus and welcome him into Jerusalem joyfully as their King; the next moment they reject him and want him out of their lives completely. How do you begin to explain such an astonishing change of heart?

And, what is even more perplexing, is remembering the One whom they're turning their backs against, this is Jesus. Jesus, the one who demonstrated God's love to them. Jesus, whose healing power restored their broken bodies and mended their troubled hearts. Jesus, the one who proclaimed the Father's kingdom and pointed them towards eternity as none had ever done before. Jesus, who taught them lessons of forgiveness, salvation, hope, and grace. How much he loved them, regardless, they turn their backs on him and reject him anyway.

Praise can be a shallow thing at times. And yet, even though he knows we are all fallen sinners, He goes to the cross to pay the penalty of our sin to redeem us. How wondrous, how amazing!

Elizabeth Clephane of Scotland learned this lesson painfully. She was always struck by Jesus' challenge that, "whoever would come after me, must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me". Responding to Jesus' challenge, Elizabeth gave herself up to acts of charity and kindness to the poor. She earned the nickname, "the sunbeam" because of the radiant joy she reflected to others. She struggled, however, as every dedicated follower of Christ does, with her own sense of failure and unworthiness.

Her name might not ring any bells, but Elizabeth Clephane was also a hymn writer. She composed one of the most meaningful hymns we sing during the Lenten season; "Beneath the Cross of Jesus". In that noted hymn, Ms. Clephane describes the cross as more than just a symbol of the Christian faith; it's a symbol of contrasting wonders; "the wonder of redeeming love and my unworthiness" she wrote.

As you read her words, if you're familiar with the tune, sing the hymn in your mind:

Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

Upon the cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see,
the very dying form of one who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears, two wonders I confess,
the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

As we remember the events of Palm Sunday this coming; let's confess our sins and unworthiness. Let's acknowledge our own lack of commitment and dedication to Christ. And, let's approach the cross with grateful hearts that are truly humbled by his sacrifice.

As with Elizabeth Clephane, let's look upon the Christ, crucified and see for ourselves, "the wonder of redeeming love and my unworthiness" and then let's rededicate our lives to Him, the One who died for us to offer us the gift of salvation.

May the Lord bless you this Palm Sunday morning and in the week that follows.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor George Kaden

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