Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of another season of Lent. It is a time of profound reflection as God's people enter into a season of quiet, lament, and preparation, leading us through Holy Week and Easter. I pray this Lenten season will be a particularly meaningful one for you.
This chapel message continues our reflections in Philippians, this time from 3:17-4:7. This text calls us to let ultimate things shape ordinary things-only then can we "stand firm" and "rejoice."
May this Lenten season give you humble strength to stand firm and rejoice because of Jesus Christ,
P.S. This text is made the more significant to me because of having just returned yesterday from travels to Israel and Palestine. The trip occurred at the invitation of Steve Haas of World Vision for five of us who serve as seminary presidents to spend a week together, principally in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Our group included Craig Barnes (Princeton Seminary), Dennis Hollinger (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Steve Hayner (Columbia Theological Seminary), Mark Young (Denver Theological Seminary), and myself. Since it was my first trip to the Holy Land, and since the current situation is so fraught with complexity and suffering, it is difficult to know what to share.
As we all know, the theological layers to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are intense. We may or may not be aware of the exaggerated and dramatic influence that comes from Christian Zionists from the United States. This movement garners hundreds of millions of dollars from Christians in the United States in support of Israeli expansion in the West Bank, despite the suffering and faithfulness of the Palestinian Christian church. Among a wide array of people we were privileged to meet and talk with at length, the most moving to me were Christ's humble, patient, nonviolent, justice-seeking disciples who are part of the tiny Palestinian Christian community. I would encourage you to listen to three of these very thoughtful Christian brothers:
I urge us to pray for peace with justice for Jews, for Palestinians, and for Muslims in Israel. I am also praying for the Christ at the Checkpoint conference next week, March 10-14.