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How Can Love Win?

March 24, 2018

As regular readers of my blog will know, the past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for my dear wife Denise, her family, and this Padre. Once more we have walked through the Valley of the Shadows as we walked with her Mom Jeanne, as she transitioned from this world to the next. Four months earlier, we walked with my own Mom Shirley, through the same Valley.

Midway through our journey with Jeanne, I had to return to Estes Park and Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies for the funeral of another one of our dear members. The new year has proven to be as challenging as the last half of 2017 when it comes to death, dying, and the journey through the Valley of the Shadows. I can’t tell you how often the Beatitudes of our Lord have come to mind… especially his promise, “Blessed are the ones who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Or the words of the Psalmist, “Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

And so, as we fly back to Colorado today, my heart and my spirit are grieving. As I led Jeanne’s service, I mourned the loss of a very dear woman who gave me my dear wife. I also thought of my own mother and how much I miss her. As I walked with Bill’s family last weekend, I keenly felt the pain of their loss. Grieving and broken… yet we are about to begin Holy Week with tomorrow’s Palm Sunday service.

I also think of what our Lord must have been thinking as he rode the colt into Jerusalem on that day long ago. As he rode through the gate where the sacrificial lambs had been led to the Temple, I wonder what went through his heart and his mind.

As the crowd cheered their loud Hosannas and laid the palm branches and their coats down on the road for Jesus, it must have seemed like a festival atmosphere. Yet Jesus knew he was riding into Jerusalem to die! Did the words of the Psalmist ring in your ears, Jesus? “Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Lord, how did it feel to hear the adulation of the crowds, knowing that they would desert you when the going got rough? How did it feel to know that when the pressure was turned on by the “religious leaders” that they would quickly turn on you with shouts of “Crucify Him!”? Did you look upon them with contempt? Did you feel the bitterness of betrayal?

You wept over Jerusalem… your heart broke into pieces as you saw what was coming. “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’” (Matthew 23:28-29)

This has been a difficult Lent for us. So many deaths and so much mourning and loss. Yet as I figuratively ride into Jerusalem with Jesus, I find some sense of calm and peace. He faced the Valley of the Shadows… yet in the midst of it all, he found hope and he found love. This reminds me of the end of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In the famous love chapter, concludes by saying… “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:14)

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem to die, he must have felt one overwhelming conviction. As he wept over Jerusalem, he must have felt one thing in his heart…. Love.

This Lenten journey has been like no other Lenten season I have experienced. As I look from Palm Sunday to the week ahead, I will look at it differently this year. Even though Jesus would face suffering, torture, and death… he still held love in his heart for all of God’s children. And with the Psalmist I will say… “Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

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