When praying about a theme and key verse for my counseling practice I finally settled on 1 Peter 1:3, "In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (TNIV). Thus, I named my counseling practice, Living Hope Family Therapy and Counseling. My desire, as I work with individuals, couples, and families, is that through our time together they might find a hope for their situation that truly brings life. My hope is that through our time together my clients might discover and experience the full meaning of this verse. There are a number of things to be considered...
Good Friday is the rather strange title we give to the day, in the Christian year, when we remember Christ's death. It is a part of the Holy Week story. It's not the part we most want to think about, but it is a necessary part of our spiritual (and mental health) journey. I once heard someone say, "Everyone wants to be resurrected, but no one wants to die." But for Jesus, as well as us, death is required if the resurrection is to become a reality.
Holy Week is a wonderful week but also one that can be rather busy. Some churches have Passover (Seder) meals during the week to remind them of their Biblical/historical roots. Many have services of Holy Communion; some even practice "foot washing." In many communities there are Good Friday services, and most churches will have an Easter egg hunt for the children. Then, of course, there is the celebration of Easter Sunday, coupled with special music, choir cantatas, Easter lilies, and other special events. For most Christian churches this is rather hectic time.
In the Gospel narratives it is amazing that nearly 1/4 of the stories in the synoptic gospels and 1/3 of the stories in the Gospel of John describe events that take place in a one week period of time. It is very difficult, in such a brief period of time, to wrap one's heart and mind around all of the various themes that are presented. In light of this, I have found it helpful each year to take a "slice of Holy Week" and let my thoughts center on one main theme. This year my slice is the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,
The focus of my attention this year is on John 17:6-12. This is known as Jesus' prayer for his disciples; so I interpret this to be one of Jesus' prayers for me. In this prayer Jesus prays that his followers might experience 4 main things: protection, unity, joy, and sanctification. It is clear, as we read this text, that these are four things that Jesus desires for each of us.
Protection is needed because the world can be a dangerous place. Some of the dangers are physical, others are relational and/or spiritual. How easy it is, at times, to be tempted into an addiction, an unhealthy relationship, an unkind way of speaking, or a destructive way of thinking. Our hearts and minds, as well as our bodies, need protection from destructive forces.
Unity is required in every type of fellowship: marriage, church family, work place, community and school. All we have to do is look to our current political scene to see the destruction dis-unity can bring. It doesn't mean that we always think a like; that is not the goal nor is it even healthy. It does mean, however, that in the midst of differences of opinion we learn to work together to accomplish a greater good. Jesus said it well: "a house divided against itself can not stand."
Joy is more than happiness. Happiness tends to be an emotion that is based on positive circumstances.. Joy is more of a deep seated satisfaction that is evidenced in both good times and bad.
Sanctification, for Christians, is simply the ongoing journey of being transformed into Christ-likeness. The question for each of us is simply: "Am I more like Jesus today than I was yesterday?" If not, perhaps a change in attitude, values, or priorities should be considered.
So this is my "slice" of Holy Week for 2019. It may not be the place where you feel led to focus. But I do encourage you to find a passage or theme and allow your mind to "settle in" during this important week. For this is a holy week: a time when hearts can be touched and our lives can truly be changed.
Palm Sunday is one of the most celebrate days of the Christian year. In fact, we are told, it is one day when children actually look forward to going to church: The music is upbeat, the children usually get to participate in a "palm procession," and in many churches they receive a palm branch to take home. All in all, a pretty exciting day!
But there is more to Palm Sunday than celebration and excitement. One commentator puts it like this: "The triumphant entry was an act of defiance. By the time this took place there was a price on Jesus head. The chief priests and Pharisees ordered that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him. The natural response would have been for Jesus to slip into Jerusalem and remain hidden. But he entered in a way that would bring the attention of the entire community on Him. It was an incredible act of courage.
How many times do we, when faced with difficult circumstances and tough decisions, slip into hiding and try to avoid the troubles that are before us? It is far easier to avoid a toxic person or situation than it is to bring issues to light or to force a confrontation. But there comes a point when we know, in our heart of hearts, that we must "ride into Jerusalem."
Jerusalem, for you, could be any number of things: Perhaps it is a heartfelt conversation you need to have with your spouse. Possibly the setting of actual boundaries coupled with enforced consequences is what is needed in your relationship with your children. Maybe it's time to begin exploring the possibility of a new job. It may be that you have struggled with a nagging habit or addiction for years and you now realize that you need to seek professional help. Whatever the need may be, courage to take action will certainly be required.
I hope that Palm Sunday will be a day of celebration for all. But I also pray that it will be a day when God will grant us the courage to "ride into Jerusalem" and confront the issues that need to be resolved. That, in essence, is what therapeutic assistance is for; to help us find a way to face and deal with those situations that bind us. If I can assist you in your "ride to Jerusalem" please call me to day: 918-914-HOPE (4673).
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.