The Quiet Before the Storm

As I’ve studied Holy Week, I’ve noticed something I’ve overlooked before. Jesus is unusually quiet during the week. With my nature, I guess I was always looking for the dramatic moment—the arrest, the trial, the betrayal and of course, the crucifixion. As intense as these moments are, Jesus spends most of Holy Week withdrawing from the public and praying.

There were people looking for Him, but Jesus wouldn’t be found.
There were crowds waiting on Him, but Jesus wouldn’t go teach.
His enemies were searching for Him, but Jesus wouldn’t engage.

Not now. This wasn’t the time. There’s a time to speak, and there’s a time to be quiet.
So, Jesus withdrew. He got quiet. He listened. He prayed.

When the enemies came, He was ready.
When He was tortured, He endured.
When He was abandoned, He remained faithful.
When it came time to die, He surrendered.

The silence prepared Jesus for the chaos. He knew what to say and what to do because He had hidden Himself in prayer.

This got me thinking about the noise in my life. My phone is always with me. Music or the television is always playing. I’m always connected, always wired in—afraid something will happen and I’ll miss out on it. Which is why, more times than not, I’m caught totally off guard when the storms come. I never see them. The music is too loud. The noise is deafening. I’m blown off course by a storm I never see approaching.

This is the lesson I’m having to learn. It’s in the silence before God where the noise of the world is swallowed up. It’s in the solitude of prayer where the pressures of the crowd are resisted, and it’s in the life of His presence where death is defeated.

Come to the Table

On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus invited His disciples to share the Passover meal with Him. Instructions were given as to where it was to be held. The disciples would have known the food to gather and significance of each item. There at the table, the story of God saving His people out of Egypt would be retold. They would talk again of Moses’ courage, the miracles he performed, how the Red Sea was pushed up into great walls so the Hebrews could walk across and then, how these great walls of water crashed down on Pharaoh’s army.

They would have talked about the power of God and the glory of His salvation.

And then, Jesus would remind them of another Passover, another Lamb and the God’s greatest salvation of all. Every time we gather at the Lord’s Table, we, like the disciples before us, remember the story of God’s power and the glory of His salvation. We remember Jesus and His arrest, the trial, and the bloody suffering of His crucifixion. We remember the hope of His promise—to share the cup with us once again only when everything is finished.

Interesting, isn’t it? The most sacred symbol in the Christian faith besides the cross is the table. There is beauty in this simplicity. Every home has one, and when the family gathers around it, they recall the story of God’s great power and the glory of His salvation. The table is the best place for discipleship to happen.

In evangelism, we’re finding out that hospitality, especially sharing a meal together, is the best place to begin reaching our lost friends and neighbors. Imagine that…it all happens when we gather around the table. The table is where stories are shared and where the things that really matter in life are known…like the power of God and the glory of His salvation.

The Best Sermon I Never Preached

There always a good sermon…but sometimes I’m not the one preaching it.

One of the unexpected blessings of hanging around a church for a long time is you get to know people…I mean, really know them. You know their stories and who’s been important in their lives. You know their triumphs and their failures, and you’ve seen them come through it all.

And you’ve seen some people come through things you don’t know if you could come through. I’ve seen courage—real courage—and honestly, I’m not sure I have it. At least, not like some of my friends have it.

This past Sunday, I was looking across the congregation when I saw them in their familiar place. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. Jim and Anne Burks were standing arm in arm as we sang the worship hymns.

Now, you’re thinking, “What’s so inspiring about that?” Let me give you a little of the back story. Jim has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. He’s been fighting it with surgeries, chemo, and radiation therapies. All of them have worked…for a little while. And then the cancer would come back. Recently, Jim had to have the lower part of his right arm amputated which means he has to learn to do everything with his left hand that he used to do with his right. That also means the right sleeve of his coat hangs empty at his side.

During the worship, Jim and Anne were standing together, and she was holding onto his coat sleeve, her finger intertwined around the stump of his right arm in his coat sleeve. She had told me one time, “I may lose him, but I’m not going to give up without a fight.” So, there she was, hanging on to Jim with all of her might. If part of an arm was all she could grab, then she would hold onto that.

And there was Jim, wiping away tears as he sang, “The Glory of the Cross” with our choir. These aren’t just theological phrases for Jim. They’re words he’s had to hold onto when there was nothing left to hold onto at all. He’s been through the fire. Tested more in the last few years than I have been in my entire life. And Sunday he was here with his wife, praising the God who’s bringing them through it all.

Honestly, when I saw them, I could have gone home. Jesus had given me more to think about in that one moment than I would ever say in a hundred sermons. Jim and Anne gave me one of the best sermons I’ve ever seen.

So, that’s why you need to go to church. There’s always a good sermon being preached. It just may not be the preacher who’s preaching it.