Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Trouble with the Resurrection…

As someone who grew up in the church, I should have noticed long ago. I have mentioned it in my sermons on Easter Sunday. I have written about it in Easter letters and church newsletter articles. But I don’ think I grasped it until this year.

Our Easter celebrations are full of light, joy, and praise. After the long season of Lent we are ready. And there is joy in the stories of the Resurrection —

 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28:8 NRSV). 

But far more of the Resurrection seems tinged with fear, doubt, amazement, confusion:

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” (Luke 24:36-37 NRSV)

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:8 NRSV)

Now I don’t want to be a kill-joy in the post-Easter glow. But Easter troubles me. If God can overturn death, what else might God overturn? If my expectation that the dead lie quietly in their graves is wrong, about what else am I wrong? If God has upset what is set, then what might happen now? Perhaps that is the point.

 

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Holy Saturday – The Best Day

Saturday of Holy Week is my favorite day of the Lenten/Easter cycle. Really. A friend and colleague posted this picture on Facebook this morning that captures it best for me —

 

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We live on Saturday! We are caught between the work of God done in Jesus Christ on the Cross and the full realization of that work for all of creation. Yes, Christ is risen (we’ll get there tomorrow) but in our world God’s triumph has not spread to every person and corner. Death has been defeated… but the power of death  reigns.

For me what grabs my heart is that God was at work when all seemed lost. God was waiting for Sunday – for the day of Jesus’ unveiling in his risen glory. Saturday was not yet time. And so we live on Saturday but with, I hope, a deeper sense of God being at work despite appearances. A stronger faith that God’s triumph is imminent but not arrived.

Saturday is a good day if we let it be.

 

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Good Friday 2014 – Here is the Man!

In John’s gospel, Pilate brings Jesus out to the crowds after he has been flogged (and in a vain attempt to derail his crucifixion)  –

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”  When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” (John 19:4-5 NIV)

We who follow Christ echo Pilate’s exclamation  and add to it “Here is our God!” We cannot understand the God of the gospels without the cross.

In keeping with the call of Pilate to look, take a few moments today to look at this slide show from the Metropolitan Museum of Art depicting the crucifixion in art:

Jesus on the Cross

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Holy Thursday 2014

John introduces the story of the Upper Room on that Thursday evening long ago by recording —

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.”
(John 13:3-4 NRSV)

Jesus acts as a servant, humbling himself to wash the disciples’ feet. He could abase himself because of who he was, and to whom he belonged. So much of what we do is rooted in what it will achieve or, perhaps more often, how it will appear. For Jesus at the end – as at the beginning – his deeds are rooted in his belonging to the Father.

Author Gordon McDonald writes –

“You can tell whether you are becoming a servant by how you act when people treat you like one.”

Jesus’ washing of feet is the beginning of hours of humiliation – betrayal, arrest, torture, agonizing death. Yet who he was shines through even the dirt and grime of the coming hours.

Prayer for Holy Thursday

O God, by the example of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,
you taught us the greatness of true humility,
and call us to watch with him in his passion.
Give us grace to serve one another in all lowliness,
and to enter into the fellowship of his suffering;
in his name and for his sake. Amen.

from The United Methodist Book of Worship
(W. E. ORCHARD, ENGLAND, 20TH CENT., ALT.)

 

 

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Wednesday of Holy Week

John relates

“After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.” (John 13:21-22)

They were uncertain because they all knew their hearts, knew their vacillating loyalty, their weakness. Whatever his intent, each man knew that he had within him the seeds of betrayal. And those seeds would bear fruit in the coming days as they all abandoned him – all betrayed him in some fashion. But all but one would be restored…

“Peter denied Jesus; Judas betrayed Jesus. The bad news was that both of them fell off the track and were both filled with regrets, remorse and anguish for their mischievous behaviours. However it was only Peter who chose to rise again after falling! Judas chose to end it with suicide! If you fall, you can rise again” 

Israelmore Ayivor, The Great Hand Book of Quotes

Prayer for Wednesday of Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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Tuesday of Holy Week –

John tells us that some Greeks came to Philip (John 12:21) and said “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” In 2000 Peter Jennings hosted an ABC documentary that began with these words —

“Hello, I’m Peter Jennings, and we have been searching for Jesus—as reporters, that is, because it’s an irresistible story. And whatever your faith or religion, there’s simply no denying the extraordinary influence that Jesus has had—that he does have—in people’s lives.”

People still want to see Jesus! They may not know that is what they want to see. They may not want to see what we want to show them (our churches, our accomplishments, our significance). But they seek him still…

 

A Prayer for Tuesday of Holy Week

 

Holy and compassionate God, your dear Son went not up to joy
before he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified.
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son, our Savior. Amen.

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Monday of Holy Week – Power of Little Things

Madeleine L’Engle (author of one of my most treasured childhood reads, A Wrinkle in Time) wrote in A Stone for a Pillow:

Perhaps what we are called to do may not seem like much. But consider what one scientist has called “the butterfly effect”: even a butterfly moving its wings has an effect on galaxies thousands of light-years away.

In John 12, we read the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet on this day in what we call Holy Week. Such a small, yet extravagant, thing she did. And we still wonder at it. And fail to measure up to such entire yet simple devotion!

 

Prayer for today from The Book of Common Prayer —

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

 

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Palm Sunday Prayer and Reflection

Pope Benedict XVI is quote as saying re: Palm Sunday —

“Palm Sunday tells us that…it is the cross that is the true tree of life. “

We search for Eden, hoping to find it again. John sees a new tree of life in his revelation. But Benedict reminds us that the tree of life for which we long has already been planted on Calvary rather than in some lost Eden. It is a bare but not barren – emptied of its victim but not of its power. On Palm Sunday remember that the Son of David will shortly be revealed as the Son of God.

A prayer for this beginning of the Holy Week journey:

Almighty God, your Son came to us humbly on a donkey’s back
and now he sits exalted by your right hand.
As we enter into Holy Week contemplating your his path of suffering,
help us to become loyal and steadfast disciples,
that we may always hear his word, follow his teachings, and live in his Spirit.
And prepare our hearts for that day
when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord and King,
to your eternal glory. Amen.

 

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Preparing for Sunday — A Psalm for Palm Sunday

King Jesus, why did you choose a lowly ass to carry you to ride in your parade?

Had you no friend who owned a horse–a royal mount with spirit for a king to ride?

Why choose an ass, small, unassuming beast of burden trained to plow not carry kings?

King Jesus, why did you choose me, a lowly unimportant person to bear you in my world today?

I’m poor and unimportant, trained to work not carry kings–let alone the King of kings, and yet you’ve chosen me to carry you in triumph in this world’s parade.

King Jesus, keep me small so all may see how great you are;
keep me humble, so all may say,
“Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord,” not what a great ass he rides.

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Deliver Us From Evil – Begging for It

Been on a break – sick last week and overwhelmed by life and church. Back at it today!

In this journey through Lent using The Lord’s Prayer, I come to the phrase “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And this quote launches this week’s reflection –

Many assure us that Jesus really means “keep us away from temptation,” or “lead us out of temptation,” or “remind us that you never tempt us.” Of course none of these things is what Jesus actually said. He told us to beg God not to put us to a test, presumably because we would fail it. What a vote of confidence in us! What a vote of confidence in God! What a way to conclude a conversation!

Telford Work, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg

Despite a life-time of positive affirmation and thinking, I cannot do everything. There are things – many things- beyond my ability. I don’t know everything. And what I know I don’t fully understand.

Evil is bigger than me, bigger than my ability to overcome. I need someone to deliver me. I need Christ.

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