Palm Sunday

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April 04, 2020 • Beth Guckenberger


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Beth Guckenber gives Vineyard Cincinnati Church an encouraging Palm Sunday Message.

Message Transcript

Good evening and hello, welcome to Vineyard Cincinnati Church. I'm Jennifer Shock. I'm the women's pastor here in our life groups ministry and I'm so glad you're able to join us online today. Now in Hebrews 12 it says this, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. I want to share with you today a few ways that vineyard Cincinnati is continuing to run the race set before us. What does being the church look like today? Well, it looks like our Hispanic ministry using Facebook for their online studies, our life reset classes are being taught online. Our 55+ ministry just started a new study online on soul keeping and our prayer team is offering extended prayer over the phone right now and I want you to know that the vineyard is continuing to be a good steward of our resources in this time.

We have helped other churches reaching out to them to share with them how online giving works. Right now we have mobilized 100% of vineyard staff to take their ministry online and use new virtual connection and teaching arenas and we have cut back on expenses. We've shut down our facilities to save on utilities costs. Your giving really matters. It matters right now. This church is committed to continuing to serve people in our city, socially, practically, and spiritually. We want to continue to support them, so thankful we are so thankful for your faithful. Giving that's fueling ministry around here. Will you pray for this church as we continue to seek new ways to reach people in our community with God's love and care? I'm going to pray over our offering. Lord, I thank you that you are the same today as you were yesterday and as you will be tomorrow. We place all of our faith and hope in you, Jesus. We trust you with our giving and we love you. We pray in your name. Amen.

Hello everyone. My name is Beth Guckenberger and I just want to take this opportunity to reintroduce myself to you. The last couple of times I've been up here on stage. I've told you about this word that's become kind of an Anthem for me. I was thinking about this word when I got a call this week from your trustees. The truth of the matter is I have such affection for this community and for this church body, so when they called to let me know about this opportunity, I was remembering a word I have taught you before. This Hebrew word, Hineni is translated in English as here I am. We'll find it eight times in our Bibles. It's the word that Moses says to the Lord when he calls on him in front of the burning Bush. It's the word that Abraham responds to the Lord.

When he, when the Lord calls to him, he's almost way up a mountain in Genesis 22 about to sacrifice his son. It's, it's the response of a child of God. When God calls on us, our response should be, here I am. But that word in Hebrew means a little bit more than here I am. It, it's probably better translated is whatever it is you're asking of me. I'm already in agreement of it. So this week when I got that phone call, my response to them was, had any, whatever it is God's asking of me, I'm already in agreement of it. And it is my privilege to be here in this place with you at this time, in this body. I know. This is a family matter and families are, are messy. And I'm really sorry. I'm really sorry that you're hurting.

There's nobody that wants you to hurt. The trustees don't want you to hurt. The staff, doesn't want you to hurt. I don't want you to hurt, doesn't want you to hurt nobody. Nobody wants you to hurt. And I value things like transparency and authenticity. So I want to be as honest with you as possible. Here's the real, here's the real truth. People are doing the best that they can and inevitably no one is perfect and you might get let down some in this process. I was thinking about how we live in a world these days where we know more than we should because the internet and social media, like I know what the inside of people's houses look like. I have no business, knowing what the inside of their houses look like, right? We haven't, we have access to information that we shouldn't have because because of our online lives and so we sometimes get an appetite or get used to thinking that I need to know everything before I decide how I'm going to feel or think or act.

And the truth of the matter is we don't, we don't have to know all the facts to know that we have to trust that God is always in control and that's what I'm primarily asking you to trust this weekend. Just that God's in control of all the comings and goings of our lives and your lives in this church life in my world at back-to-back ministries, which if I haven't met you yet, I'll tell you more about that. That's the world with which we work with orphaned and vulnerable children. We talk a lot about trauma and we're going through a trauma. Actually, the whole world is going through a trauma right now, however it is that you're managing the Covid19 crisis. It's, it's already hard and now you have this additional thing that you're having to hold onto and wrestle through the loss of the pastor of your church, and I just want to acknowledge that that's hard, but here's what we talk about in our trauma training.

There are things that happen in life that we don't like and we can't control, and if we can't figure out how to get around things that we don't like and can't control, we get stuck in that spot. And the very last thing I want you to do is feel stuck because of the story. I don't want you to feel stuck and even worse yet, I don't really want you to sin because of it. There's no place in the body for that. For some of you, you've been processing this information for the last couple of days. For some of you, maybe this is the first that you're hearing about it, but wherever you are in this story, I just again want to tell you that with affection I feel, I feel it. I feel what you're feeling. I'm sorry that you're feeling it that way.

I told the staff this week that the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I think there's more ands than ORs. You know, we think sometimes in life like things are good or they're bad, they're hard or they're easy, but there's really actually space for things to be both good and hard. For them to be both sad and hopeful that the more we can make room and allow some of those emotions to lay up there right next to each other. The healthier we're going to be because this is an opportunity for us all to grow and mature. No matter, no matter how you feel about covid 19 or this news that the church is experiencing. I'm imagining you, I wish I could see you and feel you here, but I'm imagining you as having some big feelings. Trust me, I've had some big feelings this week too, and the world, they tell us things like, listen to your heart, follow your heart, but my heart, my heart can feel all kinds of things in the same hour.

I cannot follow my heart. That's why the Bible and the Lord knows that he made us and he tells us in his Bible things like set your mind on things above and renew your thinking and take every thought captive cause he understood. If we get our head in the right place, our heart will submit to it. And so my, just my plea with you, it's come with me into the word of God. Let's get our head set on the things above. Let's take all those thoughts captive that are taking us down the wrong paths. Let's renew our thinking. Let's let's get in those places. I was involved in young life in high school and I remember one night coming home from a club and I was all excited about what had happened in the club and I was telling my mom and dad about it and I remember my dad said to me, Oh I have that you are talking to God as much as you are talking about him these days.

And that that thought was in my mind a little bit this week. I was thinking to myself, I hope as a body we are talking to God about this news. As much as we're talking about this news, I mean at least before we should be talking to God. Before we talk about this news, I I, there is no place in the body of God and God's family. There's no place for things like judgment and gossip. We get to live a different way because we've been born again. You've been given a supernatural nature and that means we don't have to fall to some of that sin that might tempt us. I might be tempted to judge. I might be tempted to, to gossip, but I don't have to do that anymore because I have set my mind in heavenly places. I have given my life over to the one who is never changing in Jeremiah 1519 we might talk about this on another Sunday, but in Jeremiah 1519 the NASB version says that when we extract the precious from the worthless, we get to be God's spokesman and I've been thinking about that a lot this week.

What's going on around the world? It feels really worthless. It's so terrible what's happening, but we get to look like Christ followers. We get to look like God's kids when we take from all of that worthless, his precious, and that's really, that has been my prayer for you all day today, all weekend, this weekend, all in the Holy week. We're about to experience may we find precious inside of that worthless. Pretty much every time I've gotten on this stage to be honest, I've talked to you about stories of things like reconciliation and restoration and redemption and rescue repair like those are God's storylines and the reason we get to talk about stories of reconciliation and redemption and and rescue and repair. The whole reason we get to talk about those is because of the week we're going to experience right now because of what God did between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

We can talk all the other 51 weeks of the year with hope about what it is that he has done is doing and will still yet do. You know the Palm Sunday story, you'll find it in Matthew 21 it's the story where Jesus is on a donkey and lined up along the road where the Jews who finally believed he was the King of the Jews, they hadn't been believing Herod was the King of the Jews. That's what he said. Finally at the end of Jesus's ministry there said, okay, you are the King of the Jews. And they lined up on this road and they waved at him Palm branches and they said one word over and over again. They said the word Hosanna. And I kinda grew up thinking Hosanna was a little bit like hallelujah. Like we could say them like about the same, but Hosanna in its root meaning is a little bit more like, save me, deliver me.

It's a, it's a war cry. And as those folks were lined up waving their Palm branches a Jesus, they were saying, save us from the one who said he was the King of the Jews. You, we believe you are the King of that. You are our King. Hosanna. Hosanna. And, and Jesus was going down that path. And the geography. Imagine this with me. Just in your mind's eye, there's like a Hill. He was going down and then he kind of dipped into something called the Kidron Valley and then he would go up to Jerusalem, which was called the city on a Hill, and there's a great big wall around that city on the Hill and around that wall. You would enter in to that city through a gate, depending on who you were. There was a giant gate in the front of the city that was called the King's gate. That's where Herod of course would enter in.

There were different Gates depending on your faithfulness or your cleanliness, and then there was this little gate. I stood up against it and I'm five foot four and it was, I was taller than it. It's a short little gate, a door that was called the sheet gate, and that's where three times a year she put enter into that gate to be sacrificed as part of three different Jewish festivals and you all read different things. It'll tell you how many sheep were walking through the sheet gate, the week of Passover that Jesus died. At the minimum there were thousands. So just again, imagine with me for a minute, the scene Jesus going down the Hill, the Palm branches waving Hosanna, Hosanna, save us, deliver us, be the King that we want you to be. Jesus is going down. It doesn't tell us in our Bible how Jesus entered into Jerusalem. We could imagine just for the sake of our imagination that those people calling him King were lined up for him to enter into the King gate. But I don't think he entered in through the King gate cause I think we would have read about it in our Bibles and I don't think Karen would have let him do it anyway.

So just imagine with me for a minute. A lot of sheep as far as your eye could see thousands of sheep going through the sheep gate. Sheep, sheep, sheep, sheep, sheep sheep, sheep You know where I think Jesus went, I think the lamb of God went through the sheep gate. sheep sheep sheep sheep sheep, lamb of God.

A little bit later in the afternoon after we saw the sheep gate, we went over to this area where there was this Greek and Roman ruin and I couldn't stop taking pictures of everything I saw. I had my iPhone out. Those people were impressive. Their architecture was impressive. They had giant bathhouses and giant libraries and giant coliseums and giant schools and giant roads that had giant chariots that pass themselves on their giant ways to go everywhere they went, and I kept taking pictures saying to my husband and I like, can you believe it? These people didn't even have the internet. They did not have scientific calculator. These buildings, some of these buildings are still standing. I cannot believe it. I was just like taking pictures everywhere I could and then I learned it was on those streets that Jesus said, these words: wide is the road that leads to destruction.

You want to be impressed with what man does? It will lead to your destruction. Why does the road that leads to destruction, but what? Narrow is the gate that leads to everlasting life. You want to be one of my kids? God says you're going to go through the sheep gate. We're not going to go overthrow the King. We're going to go and lay our life down. We're going to go and sacrifice on behalf of other people and the story of Jesus going through the sheep gate. That thing started, I mean of course before the beginning of time, but go with me all the way back to Genesis 15. Genesis 15 God's talking to one of our patriarchs Abraham and he tells me, you have two promises. I'll give you as many descendants as stars in the sky and the land in which they're going to dwell and wanting to make sure that Abraham had enough faith to believe that which God had promised them.

He said, I'm going to seal something with you. I'm going to seal something in a blood path covenant. So read this story in Genesis 15 he tells him to go get seven animals and split them apart except for the birds. And there's like a bloody river between those split carcasses and that would have been familiar to Abraham because people were doing blood pack covenants in those days over things like cattle or women or war, when a blood path covenant happened, two parties would agree on something. Then they'd walk through that bloody river and now it's saying to everybody watching, if I break my end of this deal, I'll pay the price with my blood.

So when the Lord told Abraham, I'm gonna seal my two promises to you in a blood path covenant, go get these animals. Split them in half. If I were, Abraham doesn't say this in your Bible, if I ever were Abraham, I'd be thinking to myself, I know how I'm going to walk through this because I can see my own feet. I can't see you. I wonder how God is going to go through a blood covenant with me. But the Lord in his mercy knew that Abraham and all his descendants of which we are, would not be able to keep a perfect covenant with a perfect God. So he put Abraham to sleep, which we should start paying attention at that point because the last time the Lord put somebody to sleep, out came a woman, right? That's Adam and Eve. He put Abraham to sleep and then he walked through that Blood path covenant on behalf of himself.

I am God and I will keep my commitment to you, my promises forevermore. And I'll walk through this on behalf of you and your descendants. And if you don't keep your covenant, I'll pay the price with my blood. The decision to go through the sheep gate, the decision be the lamb of God who would lay his life down for us in this very week, started all the way back then and you can read the story and see that he went through representing himself as a fire pot. You know what a fire pot is? They would use these like imagine you have fire in your life, but. At the end of the day, you can't have the fire going all night long. It would be a danger. So as the fire would die out, they would take the coals from that day and it was stick them in a fire pot that would stay hot and then the next day they would get fresh kindling and put it out for tomorrows.

The next day's fire. They would use the ashes from yesterday. That is hot coals in that fire pot. Pour them on the new fire and out would come a fresh wind of fresh fire. He represented himself as a fire pot. It's why you'll read twice in your Bible when it says if your enemy is hungry, you give him something to eat and if he's thirsty, you give him something to drink. And in doing so you do what? You heat burning coals on his head. You literally pour my presence on him cause that's not the way the world works. You want to be like my kids. You want to look like me and my family. We're going to pour my presence over people who aren't expecting it and don't deserve it.

Ever since that happened in Genesis 15 whoever was in charge of the altar would take the blood of that day's sacrificed animal, and he would splash it on the alter at nine o'clock in the morning and at three o'clock in the afternoon and they would blow this instrument called a shofar. It's kind of like a giant trumpet. And whenever you, wherever you were, when you heard the shofar blew, it was like your moment to remember: I have a perfect covenant with a perfect God and he keeps his promises. So if you go with me to this week, we're about to walk into this Holy, this Holy week on Friday, crucifixion Friday. If you read your Bibles, think Luke 23, go, you're at home. Look it up. The Jewish day starts at sundown the night before, but do you do all the math? Jesus was nailed to the cross at nine o'clock in the morning when the, the moment that first shofar blew Jesus was nailed to the cross. You know how long he held up on that cross? This doesn't even make any sense. If I was Jesus, I'd be hanging up there like 11:30 I would say, let me down. I'll still resurrect myself in three days. I'll still conquer all sin and death. I'm not staying up here any longer. This is hard. This hurts.

But she says he hung on that cross until the three o'clock shofar blew. Because you know what? We serve a God who was always perfectly on time. And if I ever shake my fist at God, I'm just going to be honest with you. If I ever get like, Oh Lord, it's usually about issues of timing. Like something's happened faster than I want it to, or something's happening not as fast as I want it to, but I'm telling you, vineyard family, we can trust that God is always perfectly on time and if he is writing a story, we can trust him in it.

This week, as I began to think about what it is we would talk about on this, um, Palm Sunday weekend, I kept thinking I had this like itch in my brain. I was like, I know there's someplace else in the Bible where we waved palm trees. Where Palm trees are waived besides the story of the donkey and Jesus going in the week before he was to be crucified. And I found it in Revelation chapter seven. It says this, after this, I looked, this is John by the way, Revelation is written by John. He's, he has a vision of that which is yet to come. And he says, after this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from where every nation, every tribe, every people, and every language. So again, use your imagination. What will that look like one day standing before the throne and before the lamb, they were wearing white robes and they were holding Palm branches in their hands and they cried out in a loud voice.

Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb. And then all the angels, they were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures and they fell down on their faces before the throne and they worship God. Saying this. Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen. And then they would say, amen, praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen. That's, that's the, that's that's the cry of our hearts.

I talked to you a minute about hallelujah a second ago, right? I thought, Oh, Hosanna and hallelujah meant the same thing I looked up. Hallelujah. Hallelujah is really two words together. The first part comes from the Hebrew word Hallel. That means to make a loud noise, to be foolish, to be clamorous. The second part comes from Yahweh. That's the name that the Lord gave himself when Moses had the courage to ask him in Exodus, chapter three. So who do I say it is that sent me and God says, Yahweh I am. When we say hallelujah, we raise, we make a loud noise, we celebrate. We're foolish and clamorous about the one who always is and always will be. That's what hallelujah is. When we can say hallelujah, when we, when we like everything that's going on and we can say hallelujah. When we don't like everything that's going on, it's the praise that comes off of our lips that, that sets us apart. That says you're a part of this, this God family.

Todd and I had a woman that lived with us. Um, we lived in Mexico if I haven't met you yet for 15 years. And we had a woman that lived with us in Mexico. She was an orphan and then a widow and she was kind of like our Mexican grandma for our children. Um, she like made them food when I said they can't have any more and you know, those kinds of spoil them rotten. And then when we moved to Cincinnati a couple of years ago, she would spend six months of the year here with us and six months in Mexico. And last mother's day I called her just to say happy mother's day during the months that she was in Mexico and she had a cough and I noticed wasn't, it was just, it was too much. And I said, that sounds like that sounds rough. And as I called on her, um, over the course of the next few months, I, that cough wasn't getting better.

In fact, it was getting worse. So we decided to bring her here to Cincinnati in July to help her get medical care that we could supervise. And almost immediately she was diagnosed with a lung infection. And from when she arrived here in July until the week that she passed in October, she was hospitalized three times. The last week that she was hospitalized, the doctor came in the room to tell us on a Tuesday that the battle we had been fighting for her life and with her for her life that we were losing. And he didn't know how long she had, but he just wanted us to know that he didn't think we would turn it around. So that night, Todd and I sat with her at her bedside and I said, you know how you always worship? She's a huge worshiper. And I said, you know how you're always worshiping?

I think you're going to be doing it on streets of gold sooner than we planned and she just responded by saying this, this verse in Romans about how everybody who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Then the next couple of days in the hospital, you know they ask you questions about your name and the year it is and they're checking your mental fitness and on the day that she died on a Friday, they asked her that day, her name and they asked her if she knew my name and she, she couldn't answer it. She didn't know her name and she didn't know my name and so I just curled up at the bottom of her hospital bed. She was like four foot 10 so there was lots of room down there. I curled up on the bottom of her bed and I didn't know what to do.

My heart was breaking because I realized I was going to say goodbye to someone that was really important to me and so I just started to sing what was her favorite praise song. It's a song that we don't have translated in English, but our La viña people might know the song. It's a Spanish worship song called Sumeta Himay and I just started to sing to her the first verse of Sumedhomay because it actually just made me feel good, better. And then I got to the chorus of that song and she sang every word of it with me and I looked over at Todd and I said, where does worship go inside of us that when we don't even remember our own name, we don't forget his? I mean this, this is it. This is, this is the reason we raised the hallelujah. This is the reason that we sing those words, those amen.

Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength because it sets our mind on things above. It helps us take all those thoughts that shouldn't be there anymore. Anyway, anyway, captive, it renews our thinking and it carries us from wherever we are today until we go home with him in glory. This week I sat down with your senior leaders, your senior directors, and that's exactly how we started. I said, what do we know for sure to be true? And here's what they said to me. God will rebuild his church. He restore souls. We can rest in him. God will go before us. He is never surprised. He is still on the throne. God can be trusted.

We're still on mission. The work of the kingdom will sit on that truth. He builds the church, he advances the kingdom. We just worship him on our way through there. And you, you know what your part is? Vineyard family. We have a city that's hurting. You know what you need to do? Heap burning coals on their heads. Bring the presence of the Lord into every conversation to every neighbor, every member of your family, every person you look across the screen to bring the presence of God to the city that's hurting. Do small things with great love, and we're going to watch it change the world. The enemy. He wants to destroy us. We won't let him because we know for sure what is true, this, that, that word Hineni I um, I was in Israel after I started telling everybody about it and I asked the, the guide that I was with, I'm like, Hey, I've been telling people about this word.

Can you just confirm for me? Like, am I saying it right? Am I teaching it right? And he said, yeah, yeah you are. He said, but you know, there's some time in the Bible where the Lord says, Hineni to you, I said, there's some time in my Bible where he says to me, here I am. Whatever it is that you're asking of me, I'm already in agreement of it. I'm like, show me where that is. In my Bible. He told me to open up to Isaiah 58 vineyard family. I encourage you to open up your Bibles or your Bible apps to Isaiah 58 it says, this is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke to set, oppressed free and to break every chain. Is it not? To do what?

What are we gonna do? Share our food with the hungry. Provide the poor wanderer with shelter and a place at your table when you see someone naked to clothe them and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. If we get busy about the business of God's works, if we get busy advancing his kingdom, declaring his name, waiving our Palm branches, praising him, then what will happen? It says, your light will break forth like the Dawn and your healing will quickly appear your righteousness to before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer you. You will cry for help and he will say, Hineni, here I am. Whatever it is you're asking of me, I'm already an agreement of it. This Holy week, let's let's make the the song of our heart, the declaration of our mouth.

be: I want swept up in stories of restoration. I want to participate in stories of reconciliation. I want to be a part of redemption and rescue and repair. That is my birthright as a daughter of the King and I call on me, Lord, call on me. My response will be Hineni. I will say to you, whatever it is you're asking me, I'm already in agreement of it. Vineyard, family, amen, praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be our God forever and ever. Amen. Let's pray. Jesus, it is with authority that we have as co heirs with your son who this very week demonstrated what that looks like to lay our life down, to sacrifice on behalf of other people to serve at our own expense. We'll follow you through the narrow gate. We'll believe everything that you write in your word will will set them true in our minds and it is with this authority I ask you release an anointing on this body and all who are listening that their households and their children and their children and their children experience the blessing

of this family.

and I pray these things in your Holy and precious name. Amen.

Thanks for joining us at vineyard Cincinnati church online, where for over 30 years we believe that small things done with great love will change the world vineyard. Cincinnati is open to everyone no matter what your thoughts are about God or church, whether you're new to church or have been around for your whole life, you're in good company with those of us who are exploring who God is or rediscovering what church can be. If you've enjoyed the service and want to know more about us, visit vineyard we hope you join us again soon.