Posted in Different Scriptures

An Eastertide Reminder…(you already know this)

Don’t put away your Easter Tree just yet!

Oh, you don’t have an Easter tree? That’s fine. Whatever your Easter décor or traditions, don’t shove them into storage at this point. We’ve only just begun our celebrations of Easter. It’s ok if your candy has run out, as we can now pursue much more celebrative ways to announce “He is Risen!”.

“Eastertide” on the church calendar is traditionally the 50 days between Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost Sunday. There are many traditions and connections to this season, but notice this: 50 days is just about 1/7th of a year. So in a sense, Eastertide is like the “Great Sunday” of the year! During this season, we are invited to contemplate the Resurrection of Jesus, what that means for the ways Resurrection Life unfolds & is available to us here and now, and to anticipate the future Resurrection when God brings all things to completion.

There are so many reasons for us to spend more time than we do, talking about and celebrating resurrection life. It’s literally one of the foundations of who we are as Christians. Early believers thought it was so important, they even moved their weekly gathering of worship to Sunday – believing the resurrection to be a sort of “8th Day of Creation”, or “First Day of New Creation”. It has transformed reality as we know it!

One of the keys (I think) to embracing the resurrection as something to truly celebrate, is to become increasingly aware of the difference between “coming back to life” and “resurrection”. Many people in scripture come “back to life“, meaning they return to the way of existing before they died. But this is not what happened to Jesus. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Paul clarifies it even stronger in Colossians 1:18, “ He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.” The “coming back to life” of anyone else was something to be celebrated for that person. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything. Here we see in the person of Jesus Christ, the coming together of Heaven (where God exists fully) and earth (where humanity dwells). He was given his “resurrection body” that is able to exist both where God is fully and where humanity dwells – a way of existing never before experienced by mankind. This is a reminder to us as believers that we are not ultimately looking forward to Heaven, even though it will be great to be with God fully. Even scripture reminds us that, “..in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” (2 Peter 3:13) We all – those of us still here on earth, and our loved ones who currently wait in the presence of God – are waiting on the coming New Creation where Heaven & Earth are united as never before.

The exciting thing is: We are not waiting passively! We join today as we are literally brought to new life from the Life of the Age that is to come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” The good news isn’t that if we accept Jesus into our hearts, we will eventually join him in Heaven. The good news is that for ALL people, when we abide in the Life of Christ (who IS the beginning of the coming New Creation) NOW, we become places and people through whom the coming New Creation is bursting forth TODAY, being proclaimed and revealed in ways that announce what it will be like fully some day!

Whew. Okay. I need to take a breath and calm down. But you can see why it would be a really big shame if we spent all that time building up toward Easter throughout Lent, celebrated with a big breakfast, pretty pictures and some candy, then went about our year as usual the next day, right? We can see why an entire “Eastertide” season is needed, and why every Sunday throughout the year becomes a miniature celebration of the resurrection. We are resurrection people.

The question then: If celebrating the resurrection means revealing/embodying the ways of Jesus and His coming New Creation – how will you celebrate this week?

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Posted in Different Moments, Different Scriptures

approaching the Holy

As we head further into the week before Easter, referred to as “Holy Week”, it’s good for us to pause and reflect on the direction we’re heading. Many of us have gone through these rhythms before, and there is a dangerous familiarity. Dangerous because we may once again miss out on an opportunity for God to stir or accomplish something new in our hearts and lives.

But also dangerous because, if we’re honest, many of us hesitate to move in the direction of the Holy. Our hesitancy is often born of the same hesitancy seen in Adam and Eve in the garden, as God called out “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Humanity’s response was to be afraid of a God who sought intimacy with them (Genesis 3:10), and it seems that same response is readily available for us still today. This is not only how we respond to God, but often how we respond to one another as well. We’ve been created for intimacy with God and one another, but so often we are hesitant, we run in the opposite direction, or deflect with hurry or humor. At best, we may even manufacture moments of emotional exhibitionism as a way of staying in control/power of our own vulnerability.

Yet this week we purposefully look in the direction of a God who became human, and submitted Himself (in Love for you and I) to one of the most humiliating and painful deaths imaginable (Philippians 2:8). He wasn’t anxiously curating His image so that everyone would know the best aspects of what He was up to. He was able to fully rest, even on His way to the cross, in the unchanging Love of the Father. His trust that God’s good redemption comes no matter what happens along the way, set Him free to offer Himself in intimacy as a friend even in that final week – even knowing some were preparing to betray Him.

What would it look like for you and I to approach the Holiness of this God who pursues us in a new way this year? What would it mean for you to “take off your sandals”, recognizing this place we stand in His presence, has been made Holy. What is on your calendar these next 5 days that you could reschedule for later? What would prevent you even in these next few moments, from pausing to recognize there is a Divine Love who calls out “Where are you?” right now?

Nothing in the experience of Adam and Eve up to that point had taught them to be afraid or hesitant when responding to the Love of God who seeks them in the garden. The only difference in that moment, was they had begun listening to the whispers of a deceiver who said, “Are you sure?” Questioning the Truth of God’s Word began to make them question His Love for them, leading to disorder in their relationship. Along with such a disorder, their relationship with each other followed and continued into the next generations.

We believe that in Jesus – we have been reconciled to God. Brought into a rightly-ordered relationship once again. As we approach the next several days, know there is a God who calls out to you “Where are you?” Know also that Jesus emerges from the shadows of a hidden humanity, speaking on our behalf “Here we are.”

Will we follow Him daily into the light, where we can know God fully even as we are fully known (and Loved)?

Will we remember that such a re-ordering invites our relationships with one another to be securely approached in the foundation of such Love as well?

Posted in Different Scriptures, Spoken Word

1 Peter 2:19-25

It is a sign of grace
If you suffer while doing right
But if you suffer while doing wrong
There’s no reason for you to fight

We don’t do what’s asked of us
In order to pay Caesar’s price
We walk forward humbly in Love
To reveal the Love of Christ

We don’t shake our fist and declare
“Jesus sets us free!
From following laws of men and so
We can live disobediently!”

But if, when showing love
Or offering unmerited grace
We find ourselves being cast aside
Or even just losing face

We look to our example
Christ – who did no wrong
Even though loving others
Put Him in chains He didn’t belong

He endured through suffering
Without demanding His rights
He trusted realities we couldn’t see
When others called Him to fight

By His wounds we have been healed
We, sheep who’d gone astray
So instead of asking “how can I be free?”
We’d ask “how can I Love?” today.