Saturday, March 30, 2013

Know the Resurrection? Luke 24:1-12?

Christians know double joy in celebrating Resurrection Day.

  1. is the joy of knowing that Jesus has died, been buried, and risen forever conquering sin, death, and the devil.
  2. is the simple joy of knowing Jesus is the resurrection. He said as much just before he called into a tomb and Lazarus who had been dead long enough for his body to begin decaying came of alive (John 11:25).
Jesus is the resurrection. Sure He is the boy from the manger; but today we meet him in lives in our time. He's the man who cast out daemons 2000 years ago and walks with us today as we face temptation and evil in our time. Jesus was the one who called his first followers to love others as much we love ourselves. Today through his Word he is still offering us this life changing invitation. Jesus is the healer who made broken people whole in Israel 2000 years ago and he's the one we pray to today in trust and confidence that in Him we find a way past past death.
Jesus is the Resurrection. 2000 years ago hurting people reached out to touch him knowing that he would and could bring healing into their lives. Today He's the one who is now and forever bringing hope and joy in all circumstances of life.
Jesus friends had first hand experience of death's power. They'd watched him suffer and die. They very personally walked in grief until Jesus rose. This story of new life breaking in is surprisingly sweet to tell over and over again. The details in the 4 Gospels unlock different dimensions of the story.
In Luke Women came the tomb with spices. We presume they came to honor Jesus on last time--but they didn't find His body. Instead 2 men in dazzling white greeted them with a question that rings sweetly in our ears today, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Jesus, the death defying God/man was then and is now alive. Jesus, the live giver, is the resurrection. Jesus' open tomb and risen body is the evidence. He is life that overcomes death and gives us hope in which we rejoice today. No matter the circumstances--Jesus death defying life always renews us and gives us more reason to hope.
Easter Blessings, John

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fear, Joy and Resurrection Matthew 28:1-10?

In Christ we are blessed be people of hope. We are not called to be perfect or even normal. Perfection is reserved for God. And normal, a post chemo cancer patient says, is just a setting on the dishwasher.
In Jesus Christ we are called to live in hope. The day between Good Friday and Easter is a great day of hope disguised by grief. Just consider the Saturday after Jesus died.
Hope looked dead.
Jesus' friends likely grieved deep on Saturday after they buried him. Tears come with life's griefs, betrayals, and pains. Mary Magdalene's tears flowed as her rabbi, Jesus was crucified, died, and buried Matthew 27:55-61 and they probably didn't stop on the Sabbath.
But Hope wasn't dead.
This day, this Great Sabbath, can remind us of Jesus' time in the grave. Our Moravian brothers and sisters in their daily texts highlight this sabbath aspect of the day. It's a day when God seemed silent--but wasn't. Jesus rested in the grave. It's a day when hope looked dead or at least out of reach--but Hope has never been dead or out of reach. There's mystery about what happened after Jesus died. We read in 1st Peter 3:19-20 that Jesus went to reach the souls separated from God. There's mystery any time God seems silent.
We will, like it or not, have to live in the mystery. There are so many reasons why we wait for God some seen and others unseen. In faith we know God is work. If faith we know God is reaching for those we consider unreachable. Our faith is the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Our faith trusts that somehow God has ways to do even the impossible.
Faith in Christ comes clear in the waitings days. These are the days when Jesus and the new covenant look incomplete--but the Good News is that God is working on a way. There has to be room in our personal theology--in our understanding of God--for times when God seems silent. Faith is the simple confidence that God will give us answers in time. Faith trusts that God remains faithful as we pull (see the prodigal's story in Luke 15:11-32 to understand). Faith waits on God's answers of yes, not yet, or sometimes even no. Faith helps us know that's God's not dead even if He's silent for what seems like a long time.
Early on Sunday Mary Magdalene went to anoint Jesus' his body along with another Mary. Easter comes just this way. It's unexpected. New Life comes just like this in the place where people thought death ruled supreme. An angle greeted her with news. "He is not here, He has been raised" The Gospel describes these two leaving with fear and joy Matthew 28:8 as the went to share the news with the others. It was then that Jesus met them and told them not fear but to go and tell Matthew 28:9-10.
The wonder of Easter fills us with fear and joy. Meeting the risen Christ casts out ungodly fear and emboldens us to live in faith telling the world the Good News of Jesus with joy.
Peace, John

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Who are you in Christ's Passion Luke 22:1-23-56?

Early in Jesus ministry John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). In the cross we see the moment when Jesus is revealed as the lamb who takes away sin in his own death. Through faith Jesus' cross transforms us. Some might hope to sit as neutral observes outside this story; but Christ's innocent death is for us. That makes us participants who both lead Jesus to his cross in our sin and who directly benefit from Jesus suffering and death that overcomes our sin and death.
In the middle of reading the story this year John the Baptist's bold declaration, "behold the lamb" echoes for me each time Jesus is held up for derision. The chief priests (Luke 22:27-56), King Herod (Luke 23:6-12), the leaders of the people and the Roman Soldieres (Luke 23:35-37) even one of the criminals crucified with him mocked him (Luke 23:39). Stepping through the passion my imagination links Jesus beaten and killed with John's words about a lamb taking away sin. A lamb offered up to take awat sin and death with his own suffering and death.
As a dad who looks forward to time with his girls it's hard not to wonder about God the Father's will giving up a son. It's hard to imagine him offering up His Son to suffer and die for another's sake; especially a prodigal; but this is God the Father we are talking about not me or another sinner like me.
Fact is I find myself drawn into Jesus' story this year from the position of a prodigal (Luke 15:11-32). In the cross I see God's own self offered in exchange for me. And Jesus doesn't complain as God the Father seeks out the loss and offers the Son in their place. I find the great blessing to be mine as a wayward child who has returned amd the suffering to be Christ's alone. I find the great challenge as a prodigal facing the cross to be repenting of my own pride. To often I sit like the older brother (Luke 15:25-30)--but in the cross I can't see that any other prodigal's sin is any worse than mine.
My one prayer this Easter is this. May I not be a disinterested observer looking on from a safe vantage point at the cross. I pray that I might be drawn into the cross as a thankful sinner redeemed by the blood of the lamb ready to welcome back others redeemed by the love of the father. AMEN.
Pax, John

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Worship matters? Philipians 3:4-14, John 12:1-8

Jesus reorders lives: guaranteed. For Christians its unavoidable. When God moves into first place—when you move from death towards life—everything changes in importance. What you consider great today will someday be discarded as worship and serving God matters. Today's great accomplishments treated like a pile of trash or worse compared to being with God.
Few people speak so openly about their life's reordering as Paul. As a man of God convinced that religious conduct made him right with God the good news changed him. In Christ Paul's understanding of salvation as a gift of God's love given not a possession earned transformed everything. All he had to boast about as a religious man paled in comparison to the joy of knowing Christ.

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Philipians 3:5-7 ESV
In Christ Paul saw all his pride as skubala σκύβαλα a word that means worse than rubbish (Philipians 3:8). Everything else was skubala σκύβαλα to him now. In Christ lives are reorder and possessions revalued. Knowing the great price paid for for each soul in the death of Christ sets us free. Think of all the things we chase after in this world—money, houses, cars, status, all the accomplishments worthless compared to the cross and resurrection.
You've no doubt got your list of the things you think make you great. And we won't be able to hold onto anything but Christ and the good he plans to do in us and through us. Everything else is just skubala σκύβαλα. We know it is a part of our natural lives. If we don't get rid of our it from our bodies we'll become toxic. Even wonderful things God used to build you and mold you in his image can become toxic if held onto too after we were meant to be rid of them.
Freedom comes as your life is reordered. Freedom to love God first and put everything and everybody else in a good place, but not the first place in your life, sets you free. Our gospel story starts with Jesus eating in Bethany at the home of two sisters Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus (John 12:1-2). There's a story behind this one. These 3: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, knew Jesus' life reordering love (John 11:5) and deep connection (John 11:35). He was friend and rabbi. But most of all he was resurrection and life (John 11:25) who called into a grave and brought Lazarus back from dead (John 11:20-43).
What a meal—Jesus and his disciples sat with Lazarus at the table as Martha served (John 12:1-2). Mary poured a jar of nard over Jesus' feet wiping them with her hair (John 12:3).
Wow—this is worship—pouring out so much nard the aroma filled the house. Judas made a stink. Such extravagance—the nard could be sold and the profit given to the poor. John notes Judas didn't care about the poor—he pilfered from the purse for himself. (John 12:4-6). Jesus accepted Mary's worship. He told Judas to let her be—she bought the nard for his burial (John 12:7). She knew something of Jesus extraordinary character. Just 6 days before Jesus last passover trial, torture, death, and resurrection she worshipped him (John 12:8).
Along the way to Jesus' end and new beginning John points to signs. Signs through which God is at working telling us who we are, who our risen Lord is, and who we will be in Him. May Mary's worship remind us of the cross and resurrection. AMEN.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Is human forgiveness welcoming other prodigals back? 15:1-3, 11-32

Jesus told 3 stories of God the Father restoring the lost who'd forsaken His love in Luke 15. First is a story of a lost sheep, Luke 15:4-7. Next comes the story of a woman with a lost coin in Luke 15:8-10. Each time a lost one is restored Luke notes Jesus words-- there's joy χαρὰ in heaven. Then comes the most impactful story of God the Father's mercy I've read this past year Luke 15:11-32.
This stories often called the story of the prodigal son. Prodigal's are wasteful and act with disreguard for the great gifts they've been given.
It's no secret I am a prodigal as is every other Christian. There's no better word explaining our drift from God into sin. When you live close to God you have joy and all you need. Prodigals step away looking for something better that they will never find. Prodigals squander real treasure: the joy of being God the Father's presence.
There's One thing this story makes abundantly clear--God isn't the one who wanders--that's not the case at all. God's the one who stays firm as we prodigals search out better than what God has offered us (Luke 15:12).
No human can count all that attracts prodigals away from the joy of the Father. Money, sex, material goods, food, drugs, booze, pornography, power, reputation, appearance, prestigue--prodigals run to all these and more. Some use these as armor to protect a hurt core deep inside yearning for love. The list is endless but the result is always the same. Prodigals seek satisfaction while wandering away from the joy God the Father wants for them. Prodigals give up joy shared with God the Father, in exchange for much less Luke 15:13-16.
And this is where the Good News breaks into the story. Jesus told of a yound man who came to his senses (Luke 15:17) Whenever we are done running--for some prodigals it takes a few weeks--for others it takes years--we can turn back (Luke 15:17-19). Returning to the Father is the moment we find God's true heart and embrace; its the moment when we are restored to joy (Luke 15:20-24). Even when we're unfaithful the Father remains faithful wanting to always restore the broken relationship and welcomes us back into the joy of his kingdom.
Is human forgiveness recieving other prodigals back? While the Father was eagerly welcoming back his prodigal son into the joy of relationship his other boy came in to complain Luke 15:25-27. He accused his father of be prodigal too. He wasted resources on a wayward son and never was so extravagent with him Luke 15:28-30. I've been this unwelcoming brother too; perhaps this is the place where the honesty of thie story cuts closest to home. Jesus invites us here to know God's true character and heart. His love is for all--afterall Jesus came to call the sinners Luke 5:32.
We never hear what the elder brother did next. Maybe this is where the church is called to live out the ministry of reconcilliation 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. Maybe this is my great challenge as a prodigal who hasn't yet forgiven another prodigal
May God give us new spirits that we might forgive as he does whenever another prodigcal comes home. AMEN.