April 2012 Devotional
Ephesians 2: 11-22
(13) "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (22) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (NIV).
You have probably heard people say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I recently learned that people in Wales use that saying to describe April. I’m not sure about the truth of that statement as it pertains to the weather, but I think it has some real theological value for me for this year anyway.
Sunday, April 1, 2012 is Palm Sunday, a day when Jesus was paraded through the streets leading to Jerusalem as a king. The crowds which gathered were probably roaring, competing for the best place to stand to see the new King ride through the streets. They were looking for a king that would be strong, a king to crush their enemies, a king above all other kings. They were looking for a "king of the jungle," lion sort of king.
But as I envision that scene, I wonder who was in the crowd that day. Were those that were unable to walk allowed to sit in the front, or were they kept at home, sheltered from the excitement and possible danger of the festivities? Were the blind there that day? Was there someone to describe what Jesus looked like? What about the deaf and hard of hearing? Were they in the crowd that day or did no one tell them of the parade? Were folks with differing abilities even permitted to hope for a king?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I would imagine that many with disabilities and many deaf and hard of hearing persons were missing from the parade route that day. Palm Sunday came in like a lion, but some missed it. Jesus may very well be the king of kings, but some people didn’t get the message, because they were excluded.
April comes in like a lion, but what about the lamb? Well the crowd on Palm Sunday waved their branches and praised Jesus as a king, but some of those same people just a few short days later would shout, "Crucify Him." The crowd had become angry, like a pride of hungry lions, searching for prey. And that’s where the lamb comes in. Jesus — rightfully the king of kings allows the hungry lions to see him as a lamb. The Bible says that Jesus is the lion and the lamb, but on Good Friday, Jesus was willing to be the sacrificial lamb " an offering like the sin offerings of the Old Testament. But this lamb, Jesus, was different. His death on the cross once and for all gave everyone in the world victory over sin and death.
April goes out like a lamb . . . . It seems appropriate to me. Even though Easter is during just the second week of April, I think we should think about Jesus as the lamb all through April, and even May, and really everyday. We should celebrate the wonderful news that Jesus not only goes to the cross to forgive our sins, but rises again, conquering the forces of evil and death.
We have wonderful hope in the Lamb of God. But again, I have to wonder. Who was there when they crucified Jesus? What were they doing? What were they saying? And I guess, more importantly, who wasn’t there that day? I don’t mean those who were busy or working or just didn’t feel like showing up. Who wasn’t able to go because they didn’t have wheelchairs back then, or because they had no one to guide them, or because they thought, "Why should I show up? I won’t know what’s going on anyway, because no one will try to help me understand."
How many times have you found yourself excluded? If you have a hearing loss, you know exactly what I mean. Maybe you could go to the parade or to the event, but would there be someone there who signed to tell you what was being said? Would someone be patient enough to repeat slowly the important announcements that not only give information, but protect the crowd from harm? Sometimes it’s hit or miss, but when we’re talking about the greatest information that has ever been shared, it’s not acceptable for some to miss the message.
I work as the Methodist chaplain to Gallaudet University, and I have chatted with many students about their feelings toward religion. One theme surfaces time and time again: "Why would I want to be involved in church? No one made any effort to include me or help me to understand the message." Each time I see this, my heart breaks not only for that person, but also for the body of Christ who failed to include them.
In like a lion, out like a lamb. Perhaps this saying isn’t best suited to describe the weather, but rather the goal of the Christian life. We tend to think we are strong, and we can make it on our own. We want a king like a lion. But Jesus is telling us today that there’s strength in being a lamb, too. Like a lamb, Jesus wants us to follow. And during this time of preparation for and celebration of Easter, let’s remember that the Lamb of God is not a sacrifice for just some, but for all people. May we all go out like the Lamb in the world, not excluding anyone, but humbly and faithfully sharing God’s love and the wondrous hope of Easter with everyone we meet.
Prayer: Gracious God, we praise you as the King of kings and we thank you for the extravagant, yet humble gift of your Son, Jesus. When we are tempted to judge and exclude, remind us of the times that others have excluded us. Encourage us to grow as members of the body of Christ, and enable us to break the cycles of division and exclusion by humbly sharing your Easter message of hope and new life with each person we encounter. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.