Our Palm Sunday reflection this week is offered by Christian Methodist Episcopal Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick
“Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to Me.” – Matthew 21:2 (NIV)
What I saw this week I didn’t remember seeing before: a donkey and a colt. I’m sure I’ve read this passage many times in the last 50-plus years, but I never remember seeing two animals being untied, at the direction of Jesus, so He could ride one of them (presumably) into Jerusalem.
As we have reacted to the various coronavirus-related “stay inside” orders for everybody except essential workers, I’ve noticed among the good signs, there is creative thinking about what we can do, about how we can do things; thinking that is stretching us beyond our ordinary boundaries. In fact, as Thom Rainey says in a recent article about it, “Pastors, your church is now a blank page.” I urge you to read the article (mychristiandaily/for-pastors-your-church-is-now-a-blank-page/).
Last Sunday morning I listened and watched the Sunday School lesson presented on line by the Department of Christian Education and Formation (thecmechurchced.org). It was not long (only about 16 minutes), and no time was wasted. As it ended, I felt guilty this was my first time to catch it (I thought I had seen advertisements of its coming). In my guilt I texted Dr. Crutchfield: “Thank you for this week’s Sunday School lesson. I confess this is my first time. How long have I been missing this?” He quickly responded: “One week. This was the second week.” I felt less guilt.
I started marveling at the new reality of how we are stretching in this time of crisis to think in new ways and do new things. I don’t know if I’ll want to spend another Sunday heading to Sunday School without first seeing the lesson taught on line.
As one pastor in the Eighth wrote to me, “We are learning the building is not the church; we are the church. Yes, we are the church, not the building. And the people we are called to serve are not just the people who come into that building. I believe God has pushed us out of the buildings this Palm Sunday and Easter Season.
The Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John all speak of the triumphant entry, and all speak of one colt. Only Matthew speaks of a donkey (NIV) or ass (KJV) with her colt. And the text of Matthew is clear there are two animals tied, waiting to be loosed … and then used for God’s purposes.
This passage makes me ask, on this day in which we remember a common donkey and her colt played an essential role in the triumphant entry of a King who was not coming in earthly regalia or trappings of military might, does God have a role for me? Matthew quoted Zechariah: See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the goal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9, NIV). They were the sign prophecy was being fulfilled.
What are the signs to you and me that we are essential?
Well, we at least believe we are, for we are doing everything we can imagine – some of us – to prove our relevance during this crisis; and that’s a good thing. We have stretched our abilities to think and plan worship, we have embarked in new ways of using conference calls and Facebook and Zoom to facilitate worship, even while the worshippers are separated by distance. Last week I saw a church use both Facebook (to project what the pastor and musicians were doing at the church) and Zoom (to project, on the same screen, what worshippers were doing in their homes in response to worship being led from an almost empty.
Yes. We are the Church and the Church is marching on.
Bishop Reddick III, the 51st bishop elected in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, has been presiding bishop of the Eighth Episcopal District (comprised of 226 churches within the state of Texas and Jamaica) since July 2014. Upon election as bishop in 1998, he was assigned as bishop of the Tenth Episcopal District (including the work in Jamaica, Haiti, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria). He was assigned in 2002 and 2006 as bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District (which includes the denomination’s work in Alabama and Florida). In 2010, he was assigned to the First Episcopal District (comprising Arkansas, Tennessee, and Jamaica). The 2014 General Conference assigned him to the Eighth Episcopal District. Born June 20, 1952, in Huntsville, AL, he is a son of the parsonage. His parents were Rev. and Mrs. L. L. Reddick Jr. He is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University of Delaware (OH) (bachelor of arts degree) and Duke Divinity School of Durham, NC (master of divinity degree). He was conferred honorary doctoral degrees from the United Theological Seminary and Bible College of Monroe, LA, and Texas College, Tyler. He was licensed to preach by the Rev. R. E. Brooks in 1966, ordained deacon in 1968, elder in 1969 by Bishop E. P. Murchison, and admitted into full connection in 1972 by Bishop C. A. Kirkendoll. After pastoral work in Alabama, Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri, he was elected editor of The Christian Index, official publication of the CME Church, in 1982. He was subsequently re-elected editor by the General Conferences of 1986, 1990, and 1994. During his work as editor, he was also pastor in Alabama; and pastor and presiding elder in Mississippi. As presiding bishop of the work in the Tenth Episcopal District, he expanded the work in West Africa from six to seven annual conferences, and added several districts. During his tenure as presiding bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District, he was also chair of the board of trustees of Miles College, and served as chair during the demise of President Albert J. H. Sloan II and the election of President George T. French Jr. During that stint, he was a founding member of the Alabama Faith Council, an interfaith gathering, with other Alabama judicatory leaders. In his four years as presiding bishop of the First Episcopal District, he was chair of the board of trustees of Lane College during the passing of President Wesley Cornelious McClure and the subsequent election of President Logan Hampton. He also led the CME Headquarters into self-management by professional CMEs and oversaw the boards of directors of six HUD-related housing properties inaugurated by Bishops B. Julian Smith, J. Madison Exum, and William H. Graves. One of his consistent goals has been to visit every congregation within the episcopal district he serves every four years. An avid traveler, he maintains relationships across the seas with CMEs in West Africa (through their episcopal leaders); and he has maintained relationships with the people of Haiti through their episcopal leaders. As a member of the board of directors of Bread for the World, he has lobbied Congress in the interests of ridding the world of hunger. He is married to Wynde (Jones), is the father of five children (Jon, Janice, Iris, Rose, and Samuel), and is the grandfather of three (Sean, Nylah, and Lailah).
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: A word of encouragement can make the difference between giving up or going on.
I always liked Matthew 18:20, which I learned early from my Dad… “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
I lean toward Matthew as well. Happy Pal Sunday. Walk toward Easter.
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You as well.
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