Posts Tagged ‘Easter’
Holy Saturday: A God-Forsaken Silence of the Lamb
(My rambling thoughts on this holy reflection day…)
Holy Saturday. It’s a quandary for me. First, it’s not a day that I usually observed in the scope and sequence of my Protestant Evangelical upbringing. For that matter, neither was Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday, or any other traditional observance of the Christian Calendar. We covered Christmas Day (more Santa than Jesus) and Easter (more new Spring clothes and candies than a resurrected Savior). Fast forward… Over the last decade of my life, I’ve become more aware and studied in the traditions of the Church and found that my faith and my daily experience with the Godhead and the people of God have been enriched in ways that words cannot describe. As much as I enjoy this aspect of my spirituality, I often get caught between the tensions of intellectual understanding and the mysterious unknowing. Reflections during the Holy Triduum (evening of Maundy Thursday thru evening prayers of Easter Sunday), cause me great tension as I wonder and wander in my mind over the events that span these days… Here follow some of my thoughts over the past couple days, a Midrash of sorts maybe:
The crucifixion of Jesus and the subsequent events leading up to the resurrection of Jesus are a profound mystery to me. I say I understand, but it’s more some measure of assent of agreement to what theologians say it is and what it represents or does for humanity. Honestly, there is far more I do not understand than what I truthfully do understand. The gaps in the Holy Triduum narrative lead us to much conjecture and likely much misunderstanding, but still, I think the tension has healthy benefits…or it can have healthy benefits.
There are some aspects of these “things unknown” that I struggle with more than others. One thing in particular is the reasoning of God for choosing the instrument used in the killing of Jesus (the cross and the subsequent act of crucifixion). Yes, I’ve heard and studied much of the ideas, thoughts, metaphors, allegories, and like that gives us plausible reasoning for the cross, but all of it still falls short of registering in my simple little mind. I don’t get it. Why the cross? Why crucifixion? I simply do not know. Though speculation and theories abound, none of them satisfactorily answer the questions I have, nor do they sufficiently purpose this means of death over and above the sacrificial death of any other holy person—there have been other martyrs, there have been other gruesome, tortuous deaths, and others have given their lives as a ransom for others. We respond, saying, “Yes, but Jesus was the Son of God” and this sets apart the crucifixion as a singular event in the history of humanity. At this juncture, most Christian believers just mute up and solemnly nod in agreement and smother their questions. I do not. As I said, I give affirmation of belief, but that doesn’t mean I understand. I can parrot all the theories and doctrinal statements of belief, but I still don’t understand. For me, it begins to boil down to whether or not the cross is truly the seminal event of the Christian faith. Most of my Christian upbringing leads me to say it was what I was taught; “It’s all about the cross” “It’s all about Jesus suffering in my place” “It’s all about the blood” “There had to be a price for sin…and Jesus paid the price.” I honestly have a tough time nodding my head in agreement that these are the seminal events of the faith I profess. Don’t misunderstand my thoughts, I do think these are pieces of the whole, but the seminal event??? No. I don’t believe that.
Am I saying the cross is not central to the Christian faith? I don’t think I would actually say those words, but I don’t believe I place the same level of importance on this event as what I was lead to believe. The death of Christ is central to the faith…but the instrument of death, I’m not so convinced other than it is associated with Jesus. In other words, had it been a poison lance or a hangman’s noose, either of these might be the little golden charms we hang on our walls or around our necks.
What then, is the critical event of the Christian faith? I say it is the resurrection (The apostle Paul seems to affirm this in his 1 Corinthians discourse chapter fifteen). This begins one of my main points of contention. Many Protestants, especially in the circles that I have traveled, focus almost entirely on the cross, suffering, and death of Christ. All of these are not as much about Christ as they are about Jesus taking “my” place. He suffered for “me.” He died in “my” place. In effect, a translation of this focus can become so “me” centered it loses the focus of redemption and reconciliation entirely. This is not true of the resurrection. The resurrection remains “we” centered. Perhaps that is why so many humans lose focus on the resurrected Christ and want to keep their eyes fixated on the suffering Christ. Again, I don’t know, but I wonder. Regardless, hyper-focalization on the death of Christ inadvertently minimizes the most important aspect of the Christian faith, the resurrection.
But what about those days in-between the death and resurrection of Christ, that Holy, Silent, despondent day when Christ was silent, dead, and buried.
The historical teaching of the Church proclaims Jesus descended into the underworld or place of the dead (the Harrowing of Hell) and defeated the captor of humanity. Exactly how this played out, I am unsure, but we profess similar in our confessions and creeds within the Christian Church. I have my own theory and piecemeal understanding—speculative I am sure—nonetheless, it is what I think I think for this season of my understanding.
In his death, Christ identified with humanity more intimately than at any point previously in his life. How? I think he identified with humanity more closely through his forsaken separation from God (the Godhead: oneness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Because Jesus was incarnate (born and lived as human flesh), because he agreed to become human and empty himself of his Divinity (Phil. 2:5-11), he was able to fully experience, understand, and identify with humanity what separation from God was truly like. Before this moment in time, God had never been separated from God. God agreed to break unity with himself for the sake of saving humanity. All his mortal life (Jesus) was readying him for this separation and preparing him for the moment it would take place. The tragedy and heartbreak of the Gethsemane prayers, pleading for the cup of sacrifice to be removed, all leading to this point. The travesty of separation was agreed to and accepted for the sole purpose of saving souls, the most wonderful creation of all of God’s created things, humanity. It’s all about the we…not the me.
This moment of “death” precipitated by the narrative of the cross, God-Forsaking-God, led to the Silence of the Lamb (Holy Saturday), but only in temporal time…only in what we could see and hear with our physically limited eyes and ears. In eternal time, happening at the same instance of death that Silenced the Lamb, eternity heard a roar from the Lion of Judah being born gloriously for all eternity, triumphantly redeeming and reconciling God’s greatest creation, human souls.
And thus… The God-Forsaken silence of the Lamb was eternity’s greatest triumph. This is why resurrection matters. It is why I adhere to proclaiming Christus Victor (Irenaeus) opposing a hyper-exaltation of Penal Substitution (Augustine). Christus Victor is all about the “we” while Penal Substitution can easily deteriorate into the age-old trappings of “me.” I have been crucified with Christ, so I might live eternally with Christ.
Easter—Resurrection: Faith in Uncertainty
Readings: Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 ◊ Lam 3:1-9, 19-24 ◊ 1 Peter 4:1-8 ◊ John 19:38-42
Resurrection in the Christian faith is a pretty big deal, without it everything we believe crumbles to nothingness. The Apostle Paul said as much; “if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless” (1 Cor. 15:12-19). I think many Christians acknowledge this about our doctrine, so we choose by faith to believe unwaveringly in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Believing in the resurrection, though, does not mean there are not times of uncertainty and question…and sometimes doubt. Mary, first to the tomb of Jesus, had trouble recognizing him. The disciples who traveled with Jesus along the road to Emmaus also had trouble recognizing him; their conversation with him along the way was laden with lament, grief, and uncertainty. When Jesus appeared to the disciples while they were hiding in a locked room, they were first fearful and a bit incredulous… Thomas refused to believe until he could touch the wounds of Jesus. Fear, doubt, and uncertainty were all present in the midst of the glory of the resurrection. I do not think circumstances have changed. As glorious as the resurrection is, there still exists the ever-present juxtaposition of inglorious uncertainty. I do not think this will change until Jesus returns for the final time. How we respond to these times of inglorious uncertainty makes all the difference in the world and determines whether our faith will flourish or we spiral into the proverbial tailspin of self, resulting in damage to ourselves or to those we love the most.
Kathleen Norris writes; “During times of uncertainty, we often want to get busy, doing something rather than nothing.”
A I consider Kathleen’s statement, I reflect on the nature of uncertainty and its very close friend fear. When a person, or animal, is stricken with fear, a biological event takes place we know as the “fight or flight” syndrome. Uncertainty, like fear, I believe, can propel us to this reactionary state. People become motivated to do something when they are uncertain and/or fearful…, but the Lord reminds us to “fear not” I am with you or better, I AM with you.
Fight or flight sends us to the land of frenzy and hyper-activity. Our attention is focused like a laser on survival and self-interest; we become less inclined to be surveyors of the big-picture… The time is not right to be entertaining options or paying attention to an invisible God. Uncertainty and fear demand an immediate response; once we exit survival mode, we can afford to take time and look to Jesus.
While this response seems natural and scientifically explainable, it is not the way of Jesus. In fact, it is more the way of Jesus for him to lead us to the land of uncertainty where we are served up a steady diet of “learn-to-trust-me” dishes. Again and again, we are tested with fight or flight situations and encouraged to “fear not” with hopes we might learn to trust the God who never leaves us.
It isn’t easy learning to tame the adrenaline rush of fight or flight—filling in uncertainty with “just do something” busy-ness, but if we can learn not to be fearful of the perceived absence of the empty tomb, we might just experience the power of the resurrection Jesus in uncertainty. When we learn this and practice it in truth, then we become people of the resurrection, living its eternally glorious power every single day…until the final and triumphant return of our Lord and King Jesus!
He says; Be still and know that I AM the LORD. Amen.
Easter Sunday Prayer
O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Book Review: God For Us
Edited By: Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe
Publisher: Paraclete Press
Paraclete Press has done it again! God For Us is another heirloom quality devotional written, crafted, and printed in the same beautiful spirit as God With Us.
God For Us is as its subtitle suggests, a devotional focused on the Liturgical season of Lent and Easter. Paraclete Press with Editors Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe have gathered together some of the most well respected Christian writers (Beth Bevis, Scott Cairns, Kathleen Norris, James Schaap, Luci Shaw, Richard Rohr, Ronald Rolheiser, and Lauren F. Winner) from the modern day and assembled their writings into a theme that helps us draw closer to God with our reflections upon this most holy Lenten and Easter Season.
As I mentioned earlier, this is truly an heirloom quality book and very sturdy. It is hardbound with glossy, heavy gauge paper. Paraclete Press has also thoughtfully included a single ribbon marker for place keeping. The book could easily stand on the devotional writing alone, but the inclusion of Christian art spanning 1500 years makes this work truly rise above other seasonal devotional books.
Another feature of this style of devotional writing (perhaps it would be better to refer to this book as part of a series) is the all-in-one approach to teaching and practice. The book appeals to many different learning styles as it incorporates history, art, poetry, prayers, liturgy, and Scripture to hopefully engage as many of the senses as the reader allows engaging.
The flow of the book follows the Lenten-Easter season in full, beginning with Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, proceeding through the Lenten Calendar, landing on Palm Sunday, entering Holy Week, the Holy Tridium (Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter/Pascha), completion of the journey on Easter Sunday.
The book is completed with a very thorough notes section that details every resource used throughout the devotions. There is also a nice biographical section for the contributing authors and a resource guide for every illustration shown in the book.
This is a marvelous and very attractive resource for one of the most sobering and beautiful seasons of the Church Calendar. If you have been wondering what you might use as a devotional resource for yourself or your family, this might be worth your consideration. There is still plenty time to order and receive the book from online retailers before the Lenten Season begins. Amazon.com is retailing the book for just around $20.00 before tax and shipping. In my opinion, this stunningly handsome book is well worth that price and then some. Thanks go out to Paraclete Press for another winning devotional guide!
Easter is Coming – What Do We Hunger and Thirst For?
The season of Lent to Easter is an active reminder to me of what my soul hungers and thirsts for, unbroken or untainted union and fellowship with the Godhead. As I reflect upon the death and resurrection of my Lord, I mourn over the brokenness of my own spirit. There is joy in my life, to be sure; however, my union with God through Christ is still impure and still wanting. I see the world around me in disarray. The changing cycles of the seasons: spring to summer—autumn to winter are reminders of the circle of life to death that I believe may have been unheard of before the Fall of Man. I am also reminded of the Revelation writing of John; “Nothing accursed will be found there any more… And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3, 5) when I am awakened each morning and I witness the dawn sun chasing away the darkness of night to remember this too is a sign the world (and I) are still broken. These thoughts remind me of how deep the brokenness of man truly is. Resurrection is the hope for the end all brokenness and this is my hunger.
I am joyful for the gift of God’s Holy Spirit indwelling; my mind has been renewed, my heart changed, and my sins forgiven. All these things are true, but the memories of my past still haunt me and my sins, while forgiven, still remain as scars that remind me of not only how far I once was from God, but how far I still am from him. I rejoice at my reconciliation with Messiah Jesus, but my rejoicing remains bittersweet. I wonder how it might have been for Adam, before his fellowship with the Godhead was broken. According to the Genesis account, Adam would have had no memories of sin… no knowledge of good and evil. The concept of corruption was nonexistent. Adam’s fellowship with God was untainted; allowing for unquestioned trust, love that was pure, and sacred union with the Trinity free from shadows of the false selves. I thirst for this union.
I realize the significance of Jesus’ atoning work for mankind; I receive the fruit of this work in my own life through the merciful grace of God. Daily are the wonders of this renewing force in the outworking of my life; even still there remains the tension between what is and what is yet to be. I hunger for resurrection. I thirst for untainted union with God. As Jesus prayed for us—for me—I long to be in glorious communion with Him as it was always meant to be even before time existed.
20 ”My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23 NIV)
I long for the Kingdom of God in full because I know when this comes, the memories of all sin will be forever erased and my union with Jesus finally whole and untainted. For now, I will continue to live between the clay and the glory…some days closer to the dirt from which I was made and some days closer to the glory that gave me life. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus meant when he pronounced blessing on those who are “poor in spirit” and those who are “pure in heart” that we recognize the liminality of our existence while we wait…realizing our brokenness, even though reconciled, and willing one thing: to be absolute and complete in our holy unity with You, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning and so shall it ever be; world without end. Amen.
[15MAY2011] Week of 4 Easter
“The LORD is my Shepherd”
O GOD, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one GOD, for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 23:1, 3-5
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 3 He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his Name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. 5 My life overflows with your blessing.
When I think about this psalm (in particular), I think how often it is recited…through ritual and by rote, and how it has lost much of the life that it embodies for us. I mean, how many times is it recited without any real thought or reflection given to it? What powerful confidence this passage imbues in those who take and eat these words. Do I believe the LORD is my shepherd? What does it mean to me if He is my shepherd? If my lot in life is less than what society deems is standard, do I have all that I need? Do I trust in Him with such confidence that I will follow Him wherever He might lead, believing that whatever my journey, He leads me along right paths? And, the providence of whatever my path is to bring honor to His Name; regardless of prosperity or poverty, sickness, suffering, health, or…? The arc of my life is to bring glory to His Name, no matter the chapter and no matter the verse. Do I believe that God is always with me? Even if the moment is silent, even if the moment is “dark,” even if the moment “feels” as though He has withdrawn… do I still believe and act as though He is with me? Do I believe and trust that no matter what my life appears, it overflows with the blessing of my God?
I do. These words are life reminders; reminders that my life is in HIM, the Good Shepherd.
I tell you the truth; I am the Gate for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd. (John 10:7, 11)
He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the Hands of God. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25)
Lord, grant us courage to stand firm by the tenets of your Kingdom—to seek peace and pursue it, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to uphold the cause of the voiceless, to worship no other GOD before you. Amen.
2nd Sunday of Easter–Doubters We Are All
Sunday Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery hast established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; though the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, on God for ever and ever. Amen.
If one does away with the fact of the resurrection, one also does away with the cross, for both stand and fall together, and one would then have to find a new center for the whole message of the gospel. –Hans Urs Von Balthasar
- Psalm 16
- Acts 2:14, 22-32
- 1 Peter 1:3-9
- John 20:19-31
19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas, was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” 26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:19-29)
Quite a few thoughts occur to me when I read through this passage. The first one (and it deserves much more attention than I will give it here) is Jesus’ statement, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” My goodness is that statement loaded. I suppose the best way to unravel that comment is to consider how Jesus was sent. Off the top of my head, he was sent with the express intention that his life would be a sacrifice. He was sent to be the servant of all men. He was sent as one who had voluntarily forfeited all of his natural and divinely given rights. He was sent to be the “scapegoat” (sacrificial Lamb) for someone else’s crime (mine and yours and…all of humanity). And, we are sent as his followers… in the same way. The question I’m pressed to ask myself is this; “How is my sending going?” Is my “sending” looking very much in the same way as Jesus was sent?
The second thing I consider is the episode with Thomas. I think Thomas gets a bad rap… “Doubting Thomas.” This is what he’s called; this is Thomas’ identity: “Doubter.” The thing about this too, I don’t think anyone says it (doubter) as if it is a term of endearment or anything resembling a good thing. It’s almost as if we sort of spit it out, “phttt-Doubting Thomas-phttt.” Doesn’t seem quite fair of us to me. The text makes a point of telling the reader that Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them in the locked room (verse 24), so when the other disciples tell him that Jesus had visited them, they were speaking from the position of having “been there done that.” Thomas had not shared that experience. It seems that Jesus loved him so much as to visit again expressly for the purpose of removing Thomas’ doubt. When Jesus appeared, the text tells us he spoke directly to Thomas; “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” I don’t think we give Thomas much benefit of the “doubt” (pun intended). I think, looking back on my own thoughts and life, I’ve criticized all the disciples and looked down at most of them for some reason or another. Yet, I have to wonder, who is the weaker disciple or the lamest follower? If I consider all things and count the revelation of God’s Word (the canonical text of the Bible) in conjunction with the two millennia of church history, I’m the weaker link. I probably reveal more doubt in my following than Thomas ever did. I probably show more betrayal of Christ than Peter or maybe even sell-out Judas ever thought of. I’ve probably ridiculed and destroyed as many or more Christians than Paul ever persecuted. All of these considerations are with the express examination of the life I’ve lived in light of the information and knowledge I posses. How do I live out my faith? Is my faith lived out with confident assurance or am I a doubter-betrayer-persecutor disciple?
I think my life has changed considerably over the years and I’m not quite the doubter I was, but I still have my days. Thomas isn’t the only one; “Doubters” we are all. Lord, help each of us be faithful representatives of your resurrection and Holy Spirit power.
Keep me safe, O GOD, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.” LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 11).
Do not be faithless any longer. Believe. Blessed are those who believe without seeing… –Jesus (John 20:27, 29)
“The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:9)
Easter: “He is Risen!” [2011APR24]
It is only right, with all the powers of our heart and mind, to praise you Father and your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Dear Father, by your wondrous condescension of lovingkindness toward us, your servants, you gave up your Son. Dear Jesus, you paid the debt of Adam for us to the eternal Father by your blood poured forth in lovingkindness. You cleared away the darkness of sin by your magnificent and radiant resurrection. You broke the bonds of death and rose from the grave as a conqueror. You reconciled heaven and earth. Our life had no hope of eternal happiness before you redeemed us. Your resurrection has washed away our sins, restored our innocence, and brought us joy. How inestimable is the tenderness of your love!
We pray you, Lord, to preserve your servants in the peaceful enjoyment of this Easter happiness. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen. –Gregory the Great
Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life (1 Cor. 15:22 NLT).
In the culmination of the resurrection of the Christ we are given our eternal hope. “This is the end for which man was made…” We gaze upon the resurrected Son of God with future hope that brings assurance and peace to us in the “now” of today. Our upward climb of the day may not be abated, the pressures of our labor may not be lessened, sickness, grief, and the vacuum of loss may remain amid our daily journey. But, Christ is alive! Jesus has risen! And, as he has risen, so shall we. As we look upon Him who has been glorified, we can share His victory and find our peace in the midst of our pilgrimage in this life. We can take consolation to know that even in our solitude, we are not alone. We can know that even in the pain of our life journeys, there is One who has born our stripes, so we might be healed. This is our peace today with the hope of our ultimate victory for tomorrow. All praise and all glory be given to the Resurrected One! All hail King Jesus, the One who has proclaimed victory over sin and death.
We see in the risen Christ the end for which man was made and the assurance that the end is within reach. –Brooke Westcott
I thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered me from the dominion of sin and death and brought me into the Kingdom of your Son; and I pray that, as by his death he has recalled me to life, so by his love he may raise me to eternal joys. Christ of the cross and of the empty tomb, strengthening us to bear the burden of the day, to seek you among the hurts and questions, and to trust you for mercy enough for this day; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Your statutes have been like songs to me. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. The LORD is for me; he will help me. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. We give thanks, O GOD, we give thanks, calling upon your Name and declaring all your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 118:1, 4-7, 14; Psalm 119:54; Psalm 101:1).
“He is risen from the dead!” (Luke 24:6)
A somber reflection…
How quickly we forget the miracle of resurrection. Christ has come. Christ has died.
And… Christ has risen again.
Tarry… He said.
Wait…for ME; He said.
Be filled… Be filled with… ME, Jesus.
Be filled with God; YHWH, the unspeakable name of the uncreated One. The Power. The Presence… Living in You; Living in Me.
I ask; as did the disciples traveling along to Emmaus. Do not our hearts burn when He is with us, but wait… isn’t He always with us if He dwells within us?
“Behold, I make all things new…”
I wonder, as I examine my soul, how often I live in a continuing state of spiritual renewal. Does not my heart burn with His Presence? Has His “Perfect Love” cast out all fear? Does the assurance of His Indwelling Presence remove my doubt and anxiety? Has my faith grown to support a “born-again” life…is my faith larger than a mustard seed?
Why am I so easily distracted? How can I be distracted from what I am inhabited by? Is there a prescription for Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder?
Am I inhabited by the I AM?
O, LORD, Crush me and empty me that I might be filled with You. I am in need of continuous reformation. Re-Form my image that I might Re-flect You; a Resurrected image of You, O God.
Lent Week 4: An Interactive Reflection
Personalizing the Readings from Week Four (An exercise interacting with God’s word to me) –Scripture References from Lectionary (Cycle C)
Joshua 5:9-12 || Psalm 32:1-11 || Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 ||| 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Oh! My joy is complete! Today my sin has been put out of sight…my disobedience has been forgiven. The Lord says, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your reproach.” My confidence is restored; as I walked through the desert of disobedience, my body groaned all day long in my fear that I would waste away. Finally, realizing the folly of my rebellion, my heavenly Father made His appeal to me through my Older Brother; “Come home, he said. Be reconciled to our Father.” I have come to my senses; no longer will I wallow in the extravagant foolishness of my own self indulgence. Confessing my rebellion to my Lord, I stopped hiding my guilt…and He forgave me. I am reconciled! I am restored!
What joy for those whose lives are lived in complete honesty in pursuit of intimate fellowship with the Triune God. For He is my hiding place; He protects me from choices that lead to my undoing, because He leads me by His Spirit. He surrounds me with songs of victory. The Lord says to me, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” So I rejoice in the Lord and I am glad, for my joy rests in unflinching obedience to His righteous ways! I shout for joy, my heart is pure; His unfailing love surrounds me because I trust in Him, my holy God…my Savior King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies and the Lover of my soul.
“What is the path, O Lord?” I ask with the obedient desire seeping from the pores of my soul. He speaks to me and reveals my mission…clarity coming in the form of the divine mystery…He will now make His appeal to my other wayward brothers and sisters through me! He is defining my path, giving me the task of reconciler; He is naming me Ambassador of the Older Brother, my proclamation is to speak for Him… “Come back to God, our Father!” Our Older Brother, who is the Christ, has provided the means for us to be made right with God. This is my path, bearer and crier of this marvelous message of reconciliation. My old life is gone, a distant and disintegrating memory of my former self. My new life, my new path, has begun… I am new son; forgiven, reconciled, and restored… I sing a new song as a new son; my song is named Immortal Eternal Victorious Joy. Amen. ~~Jeff Borden
The effect of prayer is union with God, and, if someone is with God, he is separated from the enemy.
Through prayer we guard our chastity, control our temper and rid ourselves of vanity. It makes us forget injuries, overcomes envy, defeats injustice and makes amends for sin. . .
It will refresh you when you are weary and comfort you when you are sorrowful. . . Prayer is the delight of the joyful as well as the solace of the afflicted. . . Prayer is intimacy with God and contemplation of the invisible. ~~Gregory of Nyssa
“I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” ~~John Newton
We are sharing a teaching series as we approach Resurrection Sunday (Easter) in our church called “The Road to Redemption.” I was honored with teaching the installment on the “Redeemed: Humans are Broken” yesterday. I have included with this post the outline, small group discussion questions, and my teaching notes as well as the audio of the message. We used a video to setup the teaching which I have also included here which adds some context to the first part of the sermon… As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.