Easter Greetings to Our Sedona UMC Family & Friends,

“How Far Will You Follow?”

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year once again when we walk along with Jesus the road to Golgotha, journeying up to the hill of calvary, and standing at the foot of the cross of Jesus. One thing that has always intrigued me about this time of year is that the church seems to be so full on Palm and Easter Sunday, but not so much on Good Friday. It’s as if we say to ourselves—“Everything seems so good on Palm Sunday, why can’t we just go from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday?” Just going from waving palm branches straight to the empty tomb and celebration.

As the cheering crowd lined the streets of Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, they shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David, the promised one.” They cheered until they were hoarse. They laughed and cried, danced, and sang. The disciples believed it was the best day of their lives, and they weren’t too far from the truth. The crowds lining the parade route were to be commended for their enthusiasm. They knew how unlikely this was—the one they had been waiting for was actually coming into Jerusalem, it might just be true this time.

Whatever questions the crowd may have this day would be answered five days later when the grand marshal was carried out to the edge of town to a borrowed tomb. The leadership held an election and Jesus lost—The parade turned out to be a funeral march. Jesus’ chosen path began to take shape on Palm Sunday and played out throughout the week. They had their answer. It was now abundantly clear what it meant to truly follow Jesus, and this wasn’t what they had bargained for.

It’s still tempting to praise Jesus without truly following Jesus. Like that Palm Sunday crowd, we want to see and cheer and see our hopes come to fruition. We too long for a Messiah who makes our lives easier and more abundant. I have in my mind the type of Messiah I would most like to follow—we all do. But in order to follow, we have to give up our ideas about the path Jesus should take, and admit that His way leads to the cross.

We are all tempted to be admirers rather than followers. Christ’s church is not the fellowship of the comfortable, but of the cross. If we truly follow Christ, we’ll often live life against the grain. We’ll tell the truth in a world that so often doesn’t, give in a world that takes, love in a world that lusts, make peace in a world that divides and conquers, serve in a world that waits to be served, worship in a world that entertains, and carry a cross in a world that crucifies those who dare to love.

The crowd at the foot of the cross is smaller than the crowd on Palm Sunday because following Christ offers challenges and consequences. Christians are called to a journey that goes all the way to the cross—each and every step along the path. Answering “Yes, I want to journey with Jesus” is hard.

What does it look like to carry a cross?—Turning the other cheek, spending time with people who seemingly have nothing to offer us, standing with people on the “outside” acknowledging them as children of God and caring enough to minister even to those who have made terrible mistakes, doing good that will receive no accolades, sharing food with the hungry, holding hands stiffened by arthritis, sitting in a home next to the bedside of a dying friend, caring for other people’s children, providing a listening ear to the lonely, living the freedom to be vulnerable, loving others—even the unlovable just as Jesus would – inviting, picking up, and bringing someone to church, and following Jesus on the road less travelled and discovering the grace of God in the process.

In following Jesus all the way to the cross, we find that the journey offers only one guarantee; in the long run, we will gain far more than we could possibly lose.

Palm Sunday, even with all its pageantry and glory, is not nearly enough. How far are you willing to go? You and I need the cross of Jesus Christ. We need to put aside our tiny aspirations and take up following Jesus—Following Christ is hard, but if we carry our crosses and follow, then by the grace of God, at the end of the road—God will bring us to the Hope of Easter.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Fred