Easter Sunday #HolyWeek

John 20:11-18
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

 Seven Stanzas at Easter
John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Revelation 5:5

Saturday #HolyWeek

Matthew 27:62-66
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

On this day—this last, final day of Lent—it may be tempting to skip ahead to what awaits us on Sunday, without giving Holy Saturday its due. We know the rest of the story. Yet how might it be to linger with these words of lamentation, as if we did not know? What if we sat ourselves down with the women opposite the tomb, and listened to their grief and longing, and waited with them? When times of darkness come in our own lives, and we don’t know the rest of the story, how does what God has done for us in the past give us cause to hope for what God will yet do?

Therefore I Will Hope
A Blessing for Holy Saturday

I have no cause
to linger beside
this place of death

no reason
to keep vigil
where life has left

and yet I cannot go,
cannot bring myself
to cleave myself
from here

can only pray
that this waiting
might yet be a blessing
and this grieving
yet a blessing
and this stone
yet a blessing
and this silence
yet a blessing

Jan Richardson

My Weekend Picks for 3-25-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

12 Ways to Make Sure Easter Guests Don’t Come Back
Paul Steinbrueck
article_images/4.16.EasterGuestsDontBack_672014289.jpg“This Sunday is Easter, and when you look around your church, you’re going to get that uncomfortable feeling that comes from being around all kinds of people you haven’t seen in a while, or perhaps never before. You know, the slackers who only show up at church twice a year…

They’re going to take your favorite pew, sit and stand at the wrong times during the service, and double your wait in the coffee line after the service.

You don’t want to have to put up with those distractions and inconveniences week in and week out, so here are 12 ways to ensure those people don’t come back the week after Easter…”

I appreciated this excellent little reflection on The Lord’s Supper and Christ’s sacrifice…

Costly ReconciliationDarryl Dash
I recently attended a seminar on conflict and reconciliation. I don’t think of myself as someone who’s embroiled in a lot of conflict, but I’ve had my share. I’m human, and I’m in church leadership. That means that I’ll occasionally offend and be offended.

I heard stories about conflict gone wrong, and the cost to set things right again. Some stories were ugly. Some conflicts have sent ripples across the globe, and have caused unimaginable hurt.

When the hurt is real, reconciliation is costly. Even when it’s costly, it’s often not complete.

But then there’s Jesus.”

This is a lovely piece of writing…

The Kiss That Heals the WorldTrevin Wax
sad boy
“Maybe, in this simple act of compassion, we find a clue to the story of our world, a story that kids instinctively know must be true.

Her stooping down says, “You need me to come to you.”

His stretching out his hand says, “I’m hurt and need to be healed.”

Her kiss says, “Love will heal the world.”

His response says, “Because you love me, I am whole again.”

In this exchange we see a small taste of the healing that God offers to the world. The Creator God looks down on the people He has made, sees them in distress, and offers His kiss of love.”

Some powerful thoughts in this piece about New Life Church’s Good Friday service…

Easter Is Coming…But Not Yet (Why Holy Week Matters)
Glenn Packiam
https://mysteryoffaithblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/holyweek.jpgEaster is coming. 

We tell ourselves this on days when morning breaks with news of another massacre. We remind ourselves of this when the darkness is heavy and fear grips us by the throat.

Easter is coming. We feel the ache in our bones, the yearning for resurrection, for the world to be renewed, and for all to be set right.

Yet it is tempting to rush ahead to resurrection.

My bishop in the Anglican Church of North America, Ken Ross, wrote to the clergy under his care earlier this week on the importance of Holy Week:

I am praying that this week is not about recollection, but about participation in these holy mysteries. This week has such value — there are no shortcuts to the resurrection: we have to go through the cross.

We have to ‘go through the cross’.

This is why Holy Week matters. Holy Week is a chance for us to enter the Jesus Story in all its fullness.”

Ask the “hard” questions…
Source: Pearls Before Swine


Friday #HolyWeek

Luke 23:44-46
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us,
‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing,
your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying,
your death I am dying.’
Nothing in history or in the universe
cuts us down to size like the cross.
All of us have inflated views of ourselves,
especially in self-righteousness,
until we have visited a place called Calvary.
It is there, at the foot of the cross,
that we shrink to our true size.”

-John R. W. Stott

Thursday #HolyWeek

Matthew 26:20-30
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Table In the Wilderness

There’s a table in the wilderness
Where the blind can see and the poor possess,
Where the weak are strong and the first one’s last,
There’s a table in the wilderness.

There’s a table in the wilderness
Where the blessed sing of His tenderness,
Where the lame can walk and the weary rest,
At the table in the wilderness.

When you search so hard for the Promised Land,
But the earth won’t yield to your blistered hands,
And you hang your head and you wipe your brow,
And you shout it out, shout it out.

There’s a table in the wilderness
Where the blind can see and the poor possess,
Where the weak are strong and the first one’s last,
There’s a table in the wilderness.
There’s a table in the wilderness.

When you close your eyes kneeling by your bed,
All the working hours spinning through your head,
You remember the place that your heart desires,
Where you found your life, you found life.

At the table in the wilderness,
Where the blind can see and the poor possess,
Where the weak are strong and the first one’s last,
There’s a table in the wilderness.

There’s a table in the wilderness
Where the blind can see and the poor possess,
Ever thankful for being honored guests,
At the table in the wilderness.

There’s a table in the wilderness.

Wednesday #HolyWeek

Matthew 23:37-38
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”

Jesus Weeps

Jesus comes near and he beholds the city

And looks on us with tears in his eyes,

And wells of mercy, streams of love and pity

Flow from the fountain whence all things arise.

He loved us into life and longs to gather

And meet with his beloved face to face

How often has he called, a careful mother,

And wept for our refusals of his grace,

Wept for a world that, weary with its weeping,

Benumbed and stumbling, turns the other way,

Fatigued compassion is already sleeping

Whilst her worst nightmares stalk the light of day.

But we might waken yet, and face those fears,

If we could see ourselves through Jesus’ tears.

-Malcolm Guite

My Picks for Tuesday 3-22-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

A Gentle Political Recalibration for ChristiansErik Raymond
Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Mobile, Alabama“Without minimizing the importance of the election or impugning anyone who is a political junkie, I want to offer a gentle reminder for Christians who might be getting a little too wrapped up in the election. Call it a gentle calibration…

…I don’t doubt that this election is important. Relatively speaking they all are important. However, I’m suggesting that we align our expectations with how the Bible teaches us to pray. We have been greatly blessed in the United States for many, many years. Evangelicals have enjoyed tremendous influence in society. Now, however, things appear to be changing. Is this a cause for concern? Sure. But is it a cause for panic? No…

…You might think my expectations are too low. Perhaps they are. But perhaps your expectations are too high and your foundation a bit more American than biblical. It is easy to get stirred up from the news stations but it is hard to pray and be content in God. Faithfully pray for your leaders, pursue peace, advance the gospel, and rejoice in God’s kindness to you—even through unbelieving men and women.”

The Bible returns to Cuba. How history was made in February 2016.Jeremiah J. Johnston
FILE -- June 1, 2015: A vendor wearing a shirt with a Cuban national flag motif, stands next to a souvenir T-shirt featuring Che Guevara, in the shop's doorway, in Old Havana, Cuba.“For the first time since diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba were restored, one of the world’s largest private Bible collections was made available to all Cuban people – free and open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – on display from February 6 – March 13…

…Since the average North American household owns 4-5 Bibles, it is difficult to appreciate how significant this Bible exhibit is for Cubans. More than forty years ago the Castro led government banned the distribution of Bibles in Cuba and only recently implemented an “experimental program” lifting the restriction…

…The inauguration concluded outside the cathedral with a public performance by Cuban singers, dancers and actors paying tribute to the narrative of the Bible – and it was an extraordinary site. I was stunned.

What is the appropriate reaction when you know you are witnessing a turning point in history before your very eyes? We sat among the Cuban people and all around us they were cheering, some overwhelmed with emotion, so thankful to have the opportunity to learn more about the Bible.”

I Am BarabbasDave Miller
“The story of the crucifixion of Christ is disgusting, sorrowful, enrapturing and transformational, all at once. But it is sometimes hard to find my place in the story. I’ve certainly had some Peter moments where I cowered in fear, afraid of the consequences of standing for my Lord. I don’t like to think I’ve ever pulled a Judas, betraying my Savior, but I’ve failed him often. The soldiers and the crowds disgust me, and I don’t think I’d ever scorn Jesus like that, but I also know in the depths of my own depravity I am not above any sin. Actually, one day I will be like Christ because of the finished work of Christ, but alas, today is not that day.

So, who am I in the story of the Cross? There is one character most like me, one with whom I identify more than any other.

I am Barabbas. 

No, I’m not a criminal or a political revolutionary or whatever it is that he was. But there are so many similarities – significant markers that identify me with this wicked man…”

This is the first Easter since 1981 that I haven’t been at least partially responsible for my church’s weekend services. So I offer this very practical article to those of you who continue to carry that mantle…

The Procrastinator’s Guide to EasterDanny Franks

“It’s here again.

Easter happens this Sunday, and maybe – just maybe – you let it sneak up on you. Whatever the reason – March Madness, early spring break, Downton withdrawals – you are simply not ready for it.

But I have your back. Here are ten easyish ways to be ready for the weekend, and you can do any one of ’em in less time than it takes to unwrap one of those infernal Cadbury Eggs (seriously, how do you get into those things?)…”

With apologies to my vegetarian friends…
Click image for a larger version. Source: Pearls Before Swine

Tuesday #HolyWeek

(The following is excerpted from Mark 12. You can read the whole chapter at the link.)

Mark 12
Jesus then began to speak to them in parables…

…the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away…

…Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words…

…Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?…“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him…

…Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said…“At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” …Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?… He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”…

…One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”…

…And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

My Picks for Monday 3-21-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Just look at our presidential candidates for vivid examples of what Michael Hyatt is talking about…

One Major Missing Ingredient in Leadership Today
Michael Hyatt
Leadership concept illuctration showing a red paper plane leading a group of white planes. Vector format available.
“In the passages immediately before and after, Paul talks about leadership and working together. Talking about love seems like a strange detour, right? It’s not.

“1 Corinthians 13 is primarily a chapter on how to lead,” says Noble. “Paul is continuing his discussion about leadership here, and when he says going to show you the most excellent way, I believe he’s saying, ‘I will show you the most excellent way to lead.’”

I think Seth may be getting at the same idea from a little different angle, and with more brevity…

CoercionSeth Godin
“Coercion can make change happen (in the short run). Coercion can look like leadership. But it doesn’t scale and it doesn’t last, because ultimately, it burns down the very institution it sought to change by mob force…

Real change happens because of enrollment, because it invites people in, it doesn’t use fear. Real leadership patiently changes the culture, engaging people in shared effort. It’s more difficult, but it’s change we can live with.”

Speaking of a lack of love in leadership…

Actually, Most Evangelicals Don’t Vote Trump
Darren Patrick Guerra
Actually, Most Evangelicals Don’t Vote Trump
“Jacksonians are largely highly nationalistic blue collar voters who despise Wall Street bankers and Washington elites. There is a long historical precedent for Jacksonian voters periodically rising up in anger and disrupting the political equilibrium, as was seen with Andrew Jackson himself, William Jennings Bryan, and to a lesser extent, Ross Perot. Most of the exit poll data suggests that evangelicals, per se, are not driving Trump’s success; Jacksonians are.

What confuses the media is that Jacksonians also happen to live in blue collar southern and midwestern communities where nominal evangelicals are more likely to also reside. It is highly likely that many evangelical Trump voters are Jacksonians first and foremost and only adopt the evangelical label as an afterthought. Their evangelical label is likely then a vague cultural affiliation rather than an indicator of deeply held religious beliefs and behaviors.”

On a completely different topic, I think this looks like it could be an extremely helpful book…

An Interview with the author of: How To Be an Atheist
Justin Taylor
“If you are a believer, I urge you to get this book, encourage friends to get it, and form a study group in which you can work through the material slowly and thoughtfully. I promise you, it is well worth the effort. I meet many Christians who wish they could go back to graduate school and get an education relevant to their Christianity, but finances and other commitments present insurmountable obstacles to this move. Well, there is a second alternative: read books like this one and you will get an education.

If you are an atheist who is intellectually open to investigating some of the problems in your worldview, this is the book for you. It has an irenic tone and deals fairly and proportionately with its subject matter.”

A graphic, and strangely humorous, illustration of the discomfort of air travel…

Why flying is awful, explained using your sad, lonely apartmentChristopher Ingraham
“So let’s return to that ubiquitous Boeing 737-700. It fits 143 people into 914 square feet of cabin space, or about 156 people for every 1,000 square feet. Let’s put all those people into your apartment.
This is not fun. It’s probably a violation of several building codes. There is literally no room to move, and that’s assuming that you’ve already taken all the furniture out of your apartment. The cat is probably freaked. Out.”

 And, in keeping with the air travel theme…
Source: Bizarro