Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why Easter?

Easter is one of the most important days of the year in some church traditions. In others, it's a day when more folks come to church and fill the seats, providing a boost in the overall attendance figures. Some churches merely give the day a passing nod and go on about their regular business.

N.T. Wright, quoted here in this post on the internet monk site, states that we should celebrate Easter with enough wild abandon that the watching world wonders what in the world we are celebrating in such a manner. When I stop and think about what Easter really means, I'm inclined to agree with him.

The resurrection of Christ from the dead is his triumph over death. Jesus died for us, really died. He entered into something that has plagued humans since the Fall. What makes the difference is that Jesus DID NOT stay dead. He entered into death, took names and kicked butt. Death thought that Jesus had been stopped, that death had once again triumphed. By rising from the grave Christ took the teeth out of death. As the Apostle Paul writes, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" Death cannot touch us now. Oh, we may experience physical death, but it has no power over us. Because Christ is risen, we also shall rise and never die. Paul also says, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." If death has been put to death, then its sting, sin has been put to death as well, as well as the law. That means we are free from death, free from sin, and free from the law.

Sometimes this journey following Jesus gets tough. There are obstacles all along the path, and sometimes things get so dark that we can't even see the way ahead. At those times we can look back to the Resurrection and realize that because we can look back to that event, we can also look forward to the promise of our own resurrection and victory over death. The Resurrection gives us the strength to carry on.

The Resurrection also gives us the motivation to love others as we love ourselves. Because there has been a Resurrection, there will be a resurrection. Because their will be a resurrection, every person matters, and every thing we do matters. We don't know what any one person will be resurrected to, so we are moved to treat everyone with dignity, love and compassion. The Resurrection also guarantees that all of us who follow Jesus will be with him for eternity. This moves us to see all who claim Christ as our brothers and sisters, and fellow members of Christ's Body. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that enables us to love one another when we tend to act in an unloving manner.

The Resurrection is the opening move in the ongoing and final restoration of all of God's creation. It is truly death working backwards. That moves us to see creation as something that is being restored, rather than as a goddess or a thing to simply be exploited. We are invited to participate in the restoration that is happening now while looking ahead to that which is to come.

The Resurrection changes everything. It was, and still is, a world altering event. So celebrate! Throw Easter parties. Some traditions celebrate Easter for more than just one day. That's a great idea. Let those around see us go far beyond the chocolate bunnies, the new clothes, the ham dinners. Let them see how much we value what has happened, and let them wonder.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It was quite definitely early morning now, not late night.
"I'm so cold," said Lucy.
"So am I," said Susan. "Let's walk about a bit."
They walked to the eastern ridge of the hill and looked down. The one big star had almost disappeared. The country all looked dark gray, but beyond, at the very end of the world, the sea showed pale. The sky began to turn red. They walked to and fro more times than they could count between the deadAslan and the eastern ridge, trying to keep warm, and oh, how tired their legs felt. Then at last, as they stood for a moment looking out toward the sea andCair Paravel (which they could just now make out) the red turned to gold along the line where the sea and the sky met and very slowly up came the edge of the sun. At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise--a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had cracked a giant's plate.
"What's that?" said Lucy, clutching Susan's arm.
"I--I feel afraid to turn round," said Susan; "something awful is happening."
"They're doing something worse to Him," said Lucy, "Come on!" And she turned, pulling Susan round with her.
The rising of the sun made everything look so different--all colors and shadows were changed--that for a moment they didn't see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end, and there was no Aslan.
"Oh, oh, oh!" cried the two girls, rushing back to the Table.
"Oh, it's too bad," sobbed Lucy; "they might have left the body alone."
"Who's done it?" cried Susan. "What does it mean? Is it more magic?"
"Yes!" said a great voice behind their backs. "It is more magic." They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"Oh, Aslan!" cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.
"Aren't you dead then, dear Aslan?" said Lucy.
"Not now," said Aslan.
"You're not--not a--?" asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn't bring herself to say the word ghost. Aslan stooped his golden head and licked her forehead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came all over her.
"Do I look it?" he said.
"Oh, you're real, you're real! Oh Aslan!" cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."

C.S. Lewis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Christ is risen!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

This week has been a week off because the schools are off. I caught up on some yard work and traveled to spend some time with my sister and her family. We went to a Stations of the Cross event in our town this evening. Tomorrow we'll go to a Saturday vigil, and Sunday will see us at a sunrise service somewhere in town.

There's a fair bit of good stuff out there about Good Friday, Easter, etc., so here it is:





Rest tomorrow, and have a glorious Easter!

Good Friday

More from C.S. Lewis:

"Muzzle him!" said the Witch. And even now, as they worked about his face putting on the muzzle, one bite from his jaws would have cost two or three of them their hands. But he never moved. And this seemed to enrage all that rabble. Everyone was at him now. Those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find their courage, and for a few minutes the two girls could not even see him--so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him.
At last the rabble had had enough of this. They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling and some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him onto the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.
"The cowards! The cowards!" sobbed Susan. "Are they still afraid of him, even now?"
When once Aslan had been tied (and tied so that he was really a mass of cords) on the flat stone, a hush fell on the crowd. Four Hags, holding four torches, stood at the corners of the Table. The Witch bared her arms as she had bared them the previous night when it had been Edmund instead of Aslan. Then she began to whet her knife. It looked to the children, when the gleam of the torchlight fell on it, as if the knife were made of stone, not of steel, and it was of a strange and evil shape.
At last she drew near. She stood by Aslan's head. Her face was working and twitching with passion, but his looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad. Then, just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice,
"And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him out my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die."
The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. They couldn't bear to look and had covered their eyes.
While the two girls still crouched in the bushes with their hands over their faces, they heard the voice of the Witch calling out,
"Now! Follow me all and we will set about what remains of this war! It will not take us long to crush the human vermin and the traitors now that the great Fool, the great Cat, lies dead."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday

From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

A howl and gibber of dismay went up from the creatures when they first saw the great Lion pacing towards them, and for a moment the Witch herself seemed to be struck with fear. Then she recovered herself and gave a wild, fierce laugh.
"The fool!" she cried. "The fool has come. Bind him fast."
Lucy and Susan held their breaths waiting for Aslan's roar and his spring upon his enemies. But it never came. Four hags, grinning and leering, yet also (at first) hanging back and half afraid of what they had to do, had approached him. "Bind him, I say!" repeated the White Witch. The hags made a dart at him and shrieked with triumph when they found that he made no resistance at all. Then others--evil dwarfs and apes--rushed in to help them and between them they rolled the huge Lion round on his back and tied all his four paws together, shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though, had the Lion chose, one of those paws could have been the death of them all. But he made no noise, even when the enemies, straining and tugging, pulled the cords so tight that they cut into his flesh. Then they began to drag him towards the Stone Table.
"Stop!" said the Witch. "Let him first be shaved."
Another roar of mean laughter went up from her followers as an ogre with a pair of shears came forward and squatted down by Aslan's head. Snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling gold began to fall to the ground. Then the ogre stood back and the children, watching from their hiding-place, could see the face of Aslan looking all small and different without its mane. The enemies also saw the difference.
"Why, he's only a great cat after all!" cried one.
"Is that what we were afraid of?" said another.
And they surged round Aslan jeering him, saying things like "Puss, Puss! Poor Pussy." and "How many mice have you caught to-day, Cat?" and "Would you like a saucer of mill, Pussums?"
"Oh how can they?" said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. "The brutes, the brutes!" for now that the first shock was over the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This week, I'm going to repost some things I wrote last year during the Easter season. This first one was written for Palm Sunday.

Today we celebrated the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by people hailing him as the Messiah. Evidently this procession was not the only one making it's way into the city that day. The Roman governor, Pilate, was also entering Jerusalem with his forces. This was something that happened before every Jewish holiday. After all, the Romans had to remind the Jews who really was in charge.

So, you have an imperial Roman procession on one side of the city and a subversive, Messianic parade on the other side. The people shouting, "Hosanna!" as Jesus made his way along the road thought they understood what was going on. As they saw it, this man who had performed so many miracles was the promised king who would drive out the hated Gentile oppressors and restore the glory of Israel. Unfortunately, as the week unfolded, many of these same people, now disillusioned, would join in the calls for his crucifixion by those same oppressors.

Those folks were partially right. Jesus was the promise Messiah. He had come to set up a kingdom and free them from their oppression. What they didn't realize was the nature of the kingdom. It was a kingdom that is not of this world, a kingdom that came in, not by way of overthrowing the present empire, but by the king dying at the hands of that empire. The Jews were expecting God to do things the way they expected. They didn't understand that God rarely works that way.

I thought of how many times I've prayed for things and thought that God was going to answer those prayers in a certain way, either because I had jumped through a certain number of hoops to "earn" God's blessing, or because I couldn't think of any other way God could act. I trusted in God for the things I thought he would (or should) do. Like the Jews I followed Jesus for what I could get out of it. The funny thing is, God never seemed to do the things that I expected, yet so many things turned out in such a way that I knew the Father was taking care of me. Things were not all sweetness and light, and sometimes I questioned God about what he was doing. But I can look back on those days and see that God was there, and that he was working.

During our times together at St. Thomas, we have seen that God is not predictable. He is not someone who can be counted on to always do things a certain way. God relates to people in all kinds of ways, and we cannot tie him down to a particular plan of action. None of us can figure God out, yet he calls us into relationship with him. In that relationship we learn to trust God simply for who he is rather than for what we think he can do for us.

Be encouraged. Your Father loves you more than you know. He has given you his life and his glory. Trust the Father, even when the parade of Palm Sunday turns into the darkness of Friday.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

For today, I'll share with you a poem from Christine Sine.

Let us enter the city with God today

Let us sing hosanna to our king

To the son of God riding on a donkey

With shepherds and prostitutes,

With the blind and the leper

With the abandoned and oppressed

Let us shout for joy

at Christ's coming

And follow the One who welcomes the sinner and dines with the outcast

Let us touch and see as God draws near

Riding in Triumph towards the Cross


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Weekend Wanderings is back after a three week hiatus. A lot of water has flowed under the proverbial bridge, and God has been teaching me a lot of things. I'll try to share some of those in the future. I can't begin to list all of the good links from the last three weeks, but you can look at the blogs and check some of them out if you so desire.

Anyway, here are some of the best:

This and this are huge. Read, reread, and read again.
Living the resurrected life.

These next few links are all courtesy of Scot McKnight: Bull what? This is for those of you who remember CSN&Y. Interesting article on Glenn Beck. When did the NCAA forget that it is supposed to be about the athletes?

A couple of good posts from Dan Allen on expository preaching, here and here.
Alan Knox writes about tradition.
Jesus has left the building (HT: Alan Knox).
Good words on good words from Kansas Bob.

What do we do with sehnsucht?
A prayer.
A post about something ridiculous.
A reminder.

Chaplain Mike on embracing God's dream, and the heart of the kingdom.
Ronnie McBrayer writes about geysers and grace.
Incorporation, co-option. and the Gospel.
Better than a beating.
Donald Miller says that the heart knows the truth.

Have a great weekend.





Wednesday, April 13, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

Malaria is the number one killer of children under five in Zambia and many other countries in Africa. Bed nets are the answer to stopping this killer, but at a cost of $10, are beyond the reach of most. World Vision has been working to provide bed nets for many. To read a story about the nets' effectiveness and find out how you can help check this out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

For My Friends

In John 15:13, Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." Of course, we know that the context is Jesus telling his disciples that he is now calling them friends and that he is going to lay down his life. That has also been interpreted over the years to teach that we, as followers of Jesus, are to lay down our lives for others. I look at this verse and put it together with the command to love each other as Christ loves us and the declaration that that love will be the mark that shows who we belong to. It causes me to look at myself and ask if I'm really willing to lay down my life for my friends. I don't mean just being willing to take a bullet or throw myself in front of a speeding bus. It is much deeper, and I believe, much more difficult than that. Am I willing to give up my time for my friends? Am I willing to make them a priority? Am I willing to rearrange my schedule, if possible, for them? Am I willing to be awakened in the middle of the night to lend a hand? Am I willing to let them have their way in certain matters? To go deeper, am I willing to pursue a brother or sister who is estranged? Am I willing to forgo worship to be reconciled, as Jesus taught? Am I willing to humble myself and ask forgiveness? Am I willing to forgive, whether the other has asked or not? Am I willing to acknowledge hurt, forgive, and then re-establish fellowship because the other is my sister or brother, because we are family? Now it's starting to sound more like dying. Am I willing to do whatever it takes, at any cost to myself, to strive to keep the unity we have in Jesus Christ? Am I willing to be misunderstood, criticized, even slandered to show Abba's love to a world that is desperately in need of it? Am I willing to die? Tough questions. Questions that I ask myself, questions that all who follow Jesus should ask. My answer echoes the prayer of the father with the sick son in Mark 9:24: Lord, I am willing, help my lack of willingness!

Fear

Franklin Roosevelt famously said, "...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," as he tried to encourage the American people...