March 1st begins the 40 day journey of Lent. (40 days + Sundays leading to Easter). This year, I will be offering brief devotional readings Monday through Saturday throughout the season. We’re calling it #CCLent17. Each day will include…
: a Scripture
: a response
: a sentence prayer for the day
: an art piece.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things?
If God is FOR us, who can be against us?He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32, NIV)
We begin Holy Week. Sunday’s sermon dealt with a well-known but quickly dismissed character named Barabbas. A deeper kind of exchange takes place beyond the cry of the mob! Listen to the sermon here.
Come to any or all of our three nights of the Easter Celebration of the Arts! Each night opens at 6 with a special event at 7 . Wednesday is the Cafe music and poetry night; Thursday at 7 is a lecture on Christian Discipleship and the Arts; and Friday at 7 is our Good Friday Worship Service.
My meditation on Barabbas and Jesus led to this poem that I shared for the Arts Celebration. The sermon will aid in understanding the nuances.
But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Luke 23:18-19
“Holy Week” (Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem through Resurrection Sunday) is so called because it marks the climax of God’s Grand Story of Redemption. It is Holy – “Set apart!”
Here are some ways to engage this week as truly set apart, holy, special:
Come to as many of the services and Arts nights as possible. [Our vision for an Easter Celebration of the Arts is happening in a big way!]
Sunday of the Passion / March 29 / “Jesus or Barabbas?”
Wednesday / April 1 / Celebration of Arts Exhibit and events begin 6-8:30 pm Gallery Open [7-8:30 Cafe Night – Readings / Music / coffee / tea / refreshments]
Thursday / April 2 6-8:30 Gallery Open [7-8 – Lecture/Forum – Beauty Will Save The World: Christian Discipleship and the Arts – I will be presenting a short lecture / followed by responses from some of our artists / time for Q & A]
Friday / April 3 6-7 Gallery Open [7 pm Good Friday Service of Worship in the Sanctuary / reading and experiencing Jesus’ Last Hours before his death / Holy Communion ]
Sunday / April 5 7 am SunriseService in the church sanctuary 9 & 11 Easter Celebration Services at Cole Middle School [The Gallery will be open after each service with refreshments in the church Connection Cafe]
I close with a prayer from Howard Burgoyne, Supt. of the East Coast Conference of our denomination:
My prayers for each of you as we advance into Holy Week where the passion of Jesus blossoms fully is that you too will discover the sustaining grace of God’s word and Spirit in your life, to the extent that the devil departs, angels attend you, and your…ministry relaunches in the power and promise of the Risen Christ.
Act 3 of the Bible’s Epic Drama is about the Covenant-making God calling a people into being – not for their blessing only but so that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. How? It all points to Jesus. Listen to the teaching here.
Matthew 1 begins the New Testament with titles of Jesus that are telling! “This is the genealogyof Jesus the Messiahthe son of David, the son of Abraham…” The anointed one (Messiah) is the fulfillment of the covenant with David (always a son of David on the thrown) and the covenant with Abraham (all the nations will be blessed through you!)
Jesus makes the point explicitly in his post-resurrection “Bible Study:”
…Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself….”These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27, 44-45, ESV)
As N. T. Wright summarizes: Jesus mission was “to do for Israel and the world what Israel could not do for itself and the world.”
So read all of Scripture seeking Jesus – He’s everywhere!
In our series, Whole Gospel: The Bible’s Epic Drama, we come to Act 2: The Fall. In the sermon, I emphasize that we cannot be spiritually, emotionally, or relationally intelligent, if we don’t understand the fallenness of humanity! But then we have to ask the question: “Is there any Good News in the fact that we are “fallen?” Sin and evil have entered God’s good creation; Shalom has been vandalized; the image of God in us has been defaced. But Act 2 is not the end of the Story! You can listen to the sermon here.
A poetic note: I try to always take some time on my “Monday Sabbath” to read some poetry. Today it was Czeslaw Milosz, from a late book of poems called Second Space. It includes a long poem called Treatise on Theology. Two excerpts:
Why theology? Because the first must be first. And the first is a notion of truth…
Let reality return to our speech. That is, meaning. Impossible without an absolute point of reference.
[and another line that reflects his frustrations with the tendency of theologians and the church to make God’s truth unintelligible!]
There must be a middle place between abstraction and childishness where one can talk seriously about serious things.
[I wrote in the back of the book, “I think this states the quest of my adult life and ministry!” – i.e. to make the Bible’s rich truth understandable to anyone. ]
Have you wanted to better understand what the Bible is all about? We are being led this Lent and Easter season into an ambitious teaching series called Whole Gospel: The Bible’s Epic Drama. It comes with several exciting parts to it:
+ Sunday teachings will explore the “Six Act Drama” of the Bible’s really Good News – the whole Gospel for the whole world! I have been using this six act framework for several years in my Biblical Thought course at URI. It is essential for getting a grasp on the Big Picture, that in Christ, God is bringing restoration and reconciliation to His world. He wants us to truly Flourish!
+ I encourage you to read the The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, the main text I’ve used in my URI course…it is in Kindle ebook form also. There is a chapter on each of the 6 Acts that you can read following each of the sermons: (Creation, the Fall, Covenants w. Israel, Jesus, Church, and New Creation.)
+ We will provide opportunities for more indepth study: reflections through the days of Lent; podcasts; questions for personal and small group study; Sunday morning class, and more.
+ During Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter) we will host a wonderful new experience we’re calling an Easter Celebration of the Arts! Check here for details about the events and how to submit art, poetry, music, photography, etc. Invite your world to come and see!
(My sermon, “For the Sake of the Gospel“ from 2/8/15 gives some helpful background to the importance of better understanding the “Whole Gospel” in today’s culture.)
I love Eastern Orthodox icons. Every Easter I project this icon called The Harrowing of Hades. (There are several variations with constant elements) It portrays what Jesus accomplished in his death.
Jesus is pictured standing over the broken doors of the place of death, fallen in a cross shape over the pit. The Devil is in chains, and Jesus is lifting Adam and Eve out of the pit by the wrists (we can’t lift ourselves!) An ancient hymn goes with it:
“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death;
and on those in the tombs bestowing life!”
The Roman guard thought they were safe-guarding a tomb with a corpse. Meanwhile, God through Jesus’ death, destroyed the one who had the power of death and provided for the liberation of all humankind! (See Hebrews 2:14-15)
“Let him be crucified,” they yelled. (Mat. 27:23) “Let the Romans do their work.” But why crucifixion? Crosses, it turns out, were “billboards,” announcing to all who was really king!
One of my favorite descriptions of the cross comes from Jeff Cook:
“What does it look like for God to repair his world? What does it look like for God to defeat evil? Maybe it doesn’t look like what we thought it would. Maybe the move is not that of an angry deity scorching his enemies…Maybe God would choose to first seize the tool that had been used for centuries to oppress, terrorize, and enslave his children and make it his symbol of freedom. For crosses are billboards. Crosses unveil who is king. The cross is a royal symbol of power and of glory…On Good Friday, God reclaimed his world by enthroning his Son as the world’s rightful King!” (Jeff Cook, King, the Subversive Life and Death of Jesus)
Prayer: We thank you today our Savior, for the victory of the cross over all sin and death that would enslave and defeat us!
“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments…he said to them, “Do you understand what I’ve done to you?” (John 13:12, ESV)
Do WE really understand? Do we see the picture he is painting? Will we put on the servant’s apron as the uniform of discipleship? Do we see the cross as the shape of our service?
My wedding sermon for one of my sons included a reminder: “On this day, you would willingly say, I would die for you! Jesus calls us to do just that!” In marriage and in the New Community, Jesus calls us to “come and die.” (Someone once told me that you know you are a servant, when you don’t mind being treated like one!)
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
Prayer: Lord and Teacher, whose feet do you want me to wash today?