Heaven laughs! Earth exults and all she bears in her lap; the Creator lives! The Highest triumphs and is freed from the bonds of death. He who has selected the grave for rest, the Holy One, can not be corrupted.
Longed-for day! O soul, be happy again! The Alpha and Omega, the first and also the last, who placed our heavy guilt in the prison of death, is now wrested from danger! The Lord was dead, and behold, He lives again; if our Head lives, so also the limbs live. The Lord has in His hand the key to death and hell!
So rise up then, you God-given soul, with Christ in spirit! Step onto the new course of life! Up! Away from the works of death! Let your Savior take notice of your life in the world! The vine, that now blooms, bears no dead fruit! The tree of life lets its branches live! A Christian flees with great haste from the grave! He leaves the stone, he leaves the cloth of sin behind and wishes to be living with Christ.
“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.
This is a more personal post born out of our trip to Saipan for the wedding of our son Nathan and Isa our new daughter (who was born and raised in Saipan!) The poem below may only be for me to capture the experiences of culture, history, beauty, and family. But hopefully it can speak to you as well. The picture here relates to the poem.
Saipan is the largest of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The native people group and language is Chamorro. The culture is wonderfully hospitable and family oriented. The island was occupied by the Spanish, Germans, Japanese, and is now a U.S. Commonwealth. A decisive and terrible battle was fought here in World War II with American forces defeating the entrenched Japanese army. The Island of Tinian, 3 miles away, was the place from which the Enola Gay took flight to drop the first atomic bombs.
Three large military cargo ships are stationed near Saipan, just off-shore and have become a ‘permanent’ part of the landscape visible from the main beaches. They were part of the lasting impression that became a metaphor of sorts. Here’s the poem that has helped capture my experience.
Already, but Not Yet (Saipan ~ Summer 2013)
Another taste of Pacific paradise:
Sunset addictions satiated;
Encore after encore…
“Just wait – there’s more!”
Cultural senses brimming;
History to learn, and learn from.
New daughter, new village;
My familial cup overflows.
And these giant ships offshore?
Keepers and Intruders of the Peace.
dubs the Chamorro Elder!
Yet each evening’s masterpiece
Melts them into strange beauty.
Outdated specks on the canvas
of New Creation – coming.
I try to always read some poetry on my day off – my Sabbath Monday. This poem by Anne Porter struck me in a unique way. It reminds me of my part in the brokenness inflicted by sin. My “blind complicity” as she says in the third stanza. How I dismiss people in their wounded state, “as if I were not one of them.”
Whatever harm I may have done In all my life in all your wide creation If I cannot repair it I beg you to repair it,
And then there are all the wounded The poor the deaf the lonely and the old Whom I have roughly dismissed As if I were not one of them. Where I have wronged them by it And cannot make amends I ask you To comfort them to overflowing,
And where there are lives I may have withered around me, Or lives of strangers far or near That I’ve destroyed in blind complicity, And if I cannot find them Or have no way to serve them,
Remember them. I beg you to remember them
When winter is over And all your unimaginable promises Burst into song on death’s bare branches.
Eschatology – or the study of “Last Things,” has often been mis-applied. What the Bible tells us about the end of all things is not to make us speculate or to make us panic and evacuate. Rather it is about living NOW in light of the in-breaking of Christ and His Kingdom! It’s about being prayerful, pure, watchful, and on-mission. Preaching on 1 Peter 4:7-11 made me appreciate again, the challenge of living the rest of my life with POSITIVE URGENCY. (Here is the sermon)
This is a section from N. T. Wright’s Simply Christianthat further unpacks the practical implications of the Bible’s end-times teaching:
God’s future has arrived in the present, has arrived in the person of Jesus. In arriving, it has confronted and defeated the forces of evil and opened the way for God’s new world, for heaven and earth to be joined forever…Not only heaven and earth, but also future and present, overlap and interlock. And the way that interlocking becomes real, not just imaginary, is through the powerful work of God’s Spirit. This is the launchpad for the specifically Christian way of life. That way of life isn’t a matter simply of getting in touch with our inner depths. It is certainly not about keeping the commands of a distant deity. Rather, it is the new way of being human, the Jesus-shaped way of being human, the cross-and-resurrection way of life, the Spirit-led pathway. It is the way which anticipates, in the present, the full, rich, glad human existence which will one day be ours when God makes all things new. Christian ethics is not a matter of discovering what’s going on in the world and getting in tune with it. It isn’t a matter of doing things to earn God’s favor. It is not about trying to obey dusty rulebooks from long ago or far away. It is about practicing, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God’s new world! Christian holiness is not (as people often imagine) a matter of denying something good. It is about growing up and grasping something even better. Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.
And a closing prayer:
Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: Give your people grace so to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Holy Week and Easter Sunday were glorious times for our church. In the sermon Sunday, (available here) I used, as I have for many years, the icon of the Resurrection, originating in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Christ has smashed the gates of Hades (or death) and fashioned them as a bridge over the pit of hell. Below, the locks and keys lie broken. In one, Satan himself is bound, powerless to prevent the destruction of his kingdom.
The song we sang that comes from an ancient Paschal hymn says, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death…”
Christ stands over the tomb pulling Adam and Eve (as representative humanity) up and out. We don’t see Jesus raising two individuals. We see him raising the entire human race from bondage to sin and death.
This year I discovered a detail I never saw before. (Further study confirmed it is a standard requirement of all versions of this icon.) Jesus is pulling the man and woman up BY THE WRIST. They have no power to stand on their own. They don’t even have much power to reach out their hands to Jesus. The wrist image is a graphic way of proclaiming, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13, ESV)
Glory to God!
ruminations on biblical thought and human flourishing