The First Step to Resurrection

As I have been celebrating Lent for the last several years, I have found my experience and appreciation of Resurrection to grow each year.

Easter is no longer just another Sunday. And it is no longer the end of an exhausting fast. It is a time I anticipate and can feel the excitement and energy brimming at the surface. For a few days I live with anticipation and open eyes to the glory of what God is doing in the world.

But most of the time I miss this. Most of the time I get caught up in all the other stresses and responsibilities life throws at me and I forget to remember.

Easter has become a time where I am reminded to wake up. To see things in a new way. To be resurrected.

As I broke my Lenten fast this year, I woke up and went immediately to the coffee beans. I savored the smell as I opened the bag and looked at the detail of the beans as I poured them into the grinder. And I just prayed: “Thank you” as I ground them. Not because I am deep, but because I wanted this cup of coffee to be an act of gratitude. I have gone without for a while and I didn’t want to take it for granted.

We have a brewing system so we have to pour hot water and wait, pour hot water and wait.

Each time I tried to stop and savor and appreciate and notice the coffee.

And then I got to drink it.

I-Love-My-Special-Coffee-With-Sweet-MorningIt was a cup of coffee. But it was more than a cup of coffee.

I have had coffee since Ash Wednesday. But this one is different. It is not my cheat for the week. I am going back to being a coffee drinker. It is something which is re-taking its place back in my day-to-day existence.

And I don’t want to take it for granted.

Sometimes, taking a break from even the good things in life helps us see thing for what they are.

It is easy for even the most beautiful things to become common place.

We stop seeing the miraculous at work in the ordinary. Or the good things have become so “mundane” that we don’t fully appreciate them and focus more on the difficulties and anxieties and stress that threaten to consume our energies and thoughts.

We stop seeing life as gift. As grace.

When we take a break or deny ourselves something, we open ourselves up to all the things we tend to take for granted. We become more open to the gifts and miracles taking place right in front of us.

Lent is about living in new ways after Easter. It is about life and grace and beauty. It is about resurrecting how we see the world.

This simple practice with the coffee led me to try this idea throughout the rest of the day.

I played with my kids. I noticed their beautiful smiles and eyes. I hugged them and savored their smells and feel. I appreciated how they grow and learn everyday. I tried to drink them in.

Then my beautiful wife came out and I did the same for her. I paid attention to all the things that made me fall in love with her, and all the things that continue to make me fall in love with her – her smile, her way of doing things, her sense of humor, her beauty, the way she cares so deeply.

Later, we planted our garden and I watched how my wife and son interact with each other. I watched the beauty of a mother and son. I watch the humor of a 5-year-old attention span. I heard the wonder in all three of us that these little seeds and leaves will soon turn into something much different that we will be able to eat and enjoy.

I tried to stop and savor and appreciate.

Because that is what Resurrection does.

Resurrection sees life in a whole new way.

Resurrection stops and savors and appreciates because these good things remind us about the ultimate good of the universe.

The good things are not random. They are grace. They are the result of a good God making the world good and when bad things happen, this same good God comes to correct and redeem the bad.

Resurrections allows us to savor the good, reminds us of the inherent goodness of the world, and affirms that this goodness cannot be contained, controlled, or crushed.

Unless we learn to stop and savor, it is easy to think the bad things in the world are the ultimate reality and have the real power and strength. It is easy to be consumed with the trivial and miss the miraculous.

When we deny ourselves of something good, we are then freed to no longer take Resurrection for granted.

This is the first step to living into Resurrection.

As we stop and savor the blessing God pours out on us each moment, we are then thrown into this beautiful story.

This Story says that the same Spirit which resurrects Jesus from the dead…

Lives. In. You.

That is a statement that we might need to stop, savor, and drink in.

You have the ability to bring new things into the world. You have the ability to help the world be more loving, hopeful, and beautiful.

…more Resurrected.

You are a means of grace.

This week, as we step into Resurrection, may we learn to see life as a gift. May we see the miraculous in the ordinary. May we see the beautiful resurrection bursting forth right here and right now.

May we join the Story.

Posted in Easter | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter: Christ is risen!

Easter_Christ_is_risen

Christ is Risen!

The grave no longer holds us. We are truly alive because of Jesus!

Our journey through Lent to Maudy Thursday (celebrating the Passover feast, and first communion) took us to the reality of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. On Friday, Jesus died, and on Saturday we lived in the silent reality that Jesus might not be who he said he was. Holy Saturday is a dark day on the Christian calendar because of this uncertainty.

But, he arose on Sunday. And, this changes everything.

This week, we experience the resurrection. As we have traveled through the darkness of Lent, we now awake to the reality that death has been defeated. What does this mean for the world and for those who follow Jesus?

Join us this week as we reflect on the readings:

Matthew 28:1-10

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”

Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

“And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

Psalm 118:1-2:14-24

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Let all Israel repeat:
“His faithful love endures forever.”
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly.
The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!
The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph.
The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!
I will not die; instead, I will live
to tell what the Lord has done.
The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not let me die.
Open for me the gates where the righteous enter,
and I will go in and thank the Lord.
These gates lead to the presence of the Lord,
and the godly enter there.
I thank you for answering my prayer
and giving me victory!
The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.
This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Colossians 3:1-4

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

about what my son thought was totally awesome

A couple of weeks ago we started the long process of cleaning out our garden to make way for a new planting of bushes and flowers. We bought a new house last year and we figured out quickly the builder put really crappy plants and soil in the garden, so we took it upon ourselves to start over, almost from scratch.

Part of the process was to pull the old, dead plants out and put them in a pile. For most our organic refuse, we typically walk it to a large field across the street for disposal. Last week when it came time to walk over a load of dead plants, I took my oldest son with me.

Now, my son is three and a half so he has quite the inquisitive mind. He wants to know what is going on with EVERYTHING. Questions like – “what is that?” or “why do you do that?” or “how come?” are sprinkled throughout our conversation.

Part of his questions revolve around death lately. I don’t think it is a morbid fascination but really a keen observation of his surroundings. He sees dead bugs, dead leaves, and dead plants after a long, cold winter. He wants to know why things are dead and what that means.

How do you explain this to a three year-old?

As we walked the dead plants across the road to the field, he asked me why we were throwing away all of these dead plants. My mind raced. I didn’t want to tell him that we just dumped all of our trash in the field and that I had a good reason for putting the dead plants in the field.

dead-potato-plant

It seemed like a good opportunity, so I told him about how God takes dead plants and puts them in the soil to grow new plants. Really, this seemed like as good of an answer that I could come up with.

After he heard this, he stopped and looked at me with a furrowed brow. Then, he said some words that I will hopefully never forget:

DAD, THAT IS SO COOL! THAT IS TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!!”

I might have added a few exclamation points.

Lately he has favored the term “totally awesome”. But, he could not be more right.

In our march towards the resurrection, our steps take us towards something that seems otherworldly, but is now the central tenant of the Christian faith. Our faith system, beliefs, and even churches are nothing without the risen Christ.

Plant in dried cracked mud

To consider, as my son did, that dead matter is simply food for new life and that God makes dead things come alive, is truly an awesome concept. Death, though something we can’t escape, will never win.

Unfortunatly, this has become another cold theology. But in a few words, my son brought back into focus the wonder and beauty of a God who would never let his kids meet an end. When you consider that God made a way for life, and for us to have a loving and fulfilling connection despite the darkness we carry……

THAT is totally awesome.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Being People of Resurrection

I’m told that as I was learning how to stand and walk that I had to deal with an interesting little hindrance: my older brother. Of course I was too young to remember, but according to my parents he enjoyed giving me a little nudge as I toddled about, pushing me down on my backside.

brothers-fight-300x200This no doubt set the course for much of our interaction growing up. As the younger brother I would prod and annoy; as the older brother he would assert his position by knocking me down. This is the way of brothers.

But as we both matured, the dynamic changed. I became much less annoying; he pushed me down less and less. And he became someone who, instead of constantly putting me in my place, began to help me up. And he still does.

He became my supporter and not my nemesis. Now he gives me guidance instead of shoves. He helps me stand rather than pushing me down.

He’s my brother.

In so many ways Lent is a prolonged, hard look at the darkness in the world. As Trevor pointed out yesterday, this is a reality that must be faced. We live in a world that is marked with darkness and destruction and sin. Lent makes us take a look at this head-on — the sin in the world, in our neighborhoods and especially the sin inside ourselves. By facing reality, we are amazed at the cross. We marvel at a man filled with love who would give his life to change this situation.

It’s why we have latched on to the cross as a symbol of our beliefs.

But the story does not end there. Easter brings us to a greater reality — that resurrection is real. The cross in itself is an amazing story, but the empty tomb bring more love, more joy, more hope. It is not just the story of sins paid; it is the story of death defeated.

The cross is amazing, but at our core Christians are resurrection people.

But I don’t see us always being people of resurrection. In fact, lately I have not really wanted to go online or blog because everywhere I turn I see negativity. Whether it’s magazine articles detailing Christian outrage over the Noah movie or the WorldVision decision, or another Facebook post in my feed complaining about our President or the government, or another snarky blog post from one Christian calling out another  – I just get sick of the negativity.

Because sometimes we seem to think that our job is to point out all the darkness in the world; to call out the sin and expose the darkness. To stand up to the world and push it back down in its place. To simply point out what is dark and sinful and wrong. Which is true, but it’s not the whole story.

To simply yell at the darkness is to stop at the cross. And there’s so, so much more to our story.

The Greek word for resurrection is anastasis, which literally means “to stand again.” Imagine Lazarus in John 11, stumbling out of that tomb and literally standing again. What a shock that must have been, to move from darkness to being able to live and breathe and love again.

This world needs resurrection. It needs to stand again.

You can get a lot of attention through negativity, by pointing out what is wrong with the world. Just take a look at cable news for proof. And to be sure, there is value in pointing out what needs to be changed. But if all we do is call out the wrongs of the world, we’re like a big brother pushing the world down.

What the world needs from Christians is not a push down, but a hand to help them stand back up. The world needs reconcilers and bridge builders. It needs people who feed the poor and cloth the needy. It needs people who will call them out of the darkness of their tombs and show them how the live and breathe and love the way they were created to.

The world needs people of resurrection.

So today, as we face a world that is dark and sinful and dangerous, let us go beyond the negativity. Let us look to Easter and be people who make resurrection real. Let’s bring light and love and hope to a world that desperately needs to stand again.

Let’s be lovers of people. Let’s be good brothers and sisters to those around us. Let us be people of resurrection.

Posted in Lent | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Post I Didn’t Want to Write

….so stick with me until the end here.

Holy Week can be a tough week. It makes us deal with all of the things we are uncomfortable dealing with.

In Holy Week, we are confronted with death. We are confronted with evil. And these are typically the kind of topics we want to avoid.

It is so easy in our technological and face paced world to skim over the atrocities in the world. I turn the channel or scroll quickly by and don’t have to be bothered by the realities of sin and evil.

We talk often about suffering on here, but suffering is easier to talk about than death and evil. Suffering is often temporary. Death is not.

And the death we see pictured here is the cruelest kind.

We see a man who is in anguish knowing what is about to come.

We see his friends reject him and walk away.

We see the crowds quickly turn from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!”

We see all of the cruelty of human kind played out in mockery, beatings, and in agonizing death.

These are not the things I like to think about. Even as I write them I question whether I should post them, because it is not the kind of thing I like to read on a blog.

But this week we come face to face with it. Holy Week doesn’t just mention these things in passing. Holy week makes you sit and stare.

And as we sit and stare, we may start to even see something behind the cruelty and death: evil. It is not just cruelty and death. There is something profoundly wrong with the world.

sinThis is what the Christian tradition calls sin.

We often think about sin in terms of rules which have been broken.

But this view of sin is much too small.

Sin is a force and a power which touches every single thing in the universe. Nothing has escaped the grasp of sin. Nothing is as it supposed to be.

There is real evil in the world and this evil goes much deeper than the sum total of all my little mistakes during the day.

There is horrific violence in the world and starving children and cancer and hate. All of the forces which fight against life and flourishing are captured in this often misused word: sin.

The world is not as it should be because there is sin.

Sin is why there is death. Sin is why there was a cross.

So as we read the story of Jesus, we are seeing what happens when sin runs its course. All of the awfulness of human evil is concentrated in one place and we have to sit back and watch it happen.

But I think this is a healthy practice.

If we limit the cross to Jesus looking at my mistakes and deciding to overlook them, we rob the cross of its power.

But if we discipline ourselves to really take a long look at the world and the evil and sin and awfulness in the world, we actually begin to open ourselves up to the amazing reality of the cross.

The gravity of contemplating the evil of the world helps us see the gravity of what is going on in these stories of Jesus going to the cross.

The stories we read this week are what happens when those atrocities come into a head on collision with the God who is love.

If sin and evil are not unbelievably awful, then the cross is just a nice sentiment.

If sin is horrific and devastating, then what happens at the cross is absolutely stunning. It is an earth shattering, beautiful, unimaginable, perfect act of love and hope and grace.

As bad as sin is…..it turns out love is greater.

Sin has real results and real effects, but these results and effects are no match for the power and love of God found in Christ.

There is an answer for sin.

The grotesque shadow plaguing the earth is not the last word.

The cross shows us love’s ability to obliterate all of the power sin has over the world.

It is a force which cannot and will not be stopped because the universe is hand-made by someone who would rather die than allow this destruction to go on.

For every horrific act committed in the history of the world, God is at work to rectify, reconcile, redeem, restore, and recreate reality to reflect the love and goodness and mercy of the one who hung on the cross but could not be contained by death and evil.

And that is unbelievably good news.

So this week, I encourage you to take on this difficult discipline. Notice the difficult parts of the story. Notice the difficult parts of our world.

We need a thicker and deeper view of sin so we can begin to appreciate the power of the resurrection. God has a better plan for creation and the ways of sin have had their day and are now passing away.

The discipline of Holy Week is taking a longer look at the devastation of sin so we can then be wrapped up in the unbelievable goodness and mercy of Sunday.

Posted in Lent | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Holy Week: The Road to the Cross

This week is Holy Week, the week we concentrate on the events leading to Jesus death.

Technically, Lent ends Wednesday. But we celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday as the events Lent has prepared us for.

The text in Matthew is long, so we encourage you to read parts of it every day this week to connect you with the story.

As we concentrate on the elements of the story this week, we find this to be the heaviest and darkest week of the Church calendar.

Evil is present and seems to come out on top. The powers Jesus called into question through his ministry have finally had enough and take out their wrath on this man, Jesus of Nazareth.

As we bear the weight of this week, we are reminded of the reality and presence of evil.

But as great as the power and gravitas are of evil, nothing can compare to what is coming Sunday.allthingsnew-background

Matthew 26:14-27:66

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?”

“As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there.

When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the twelve disciples. While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”

He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,

‘God will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”

Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

“No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”

Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.

“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”

Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Then the people who had arrested Jesus led him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end.

Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. 60 But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward 61 who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”

“Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!”

Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?”

Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”

But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.[l]”

Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.

A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”

Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.

Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.

Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders of the people met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,

“They took the thirty pieces of silver—
the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,
and purchased the potter’s field,
as the Lord directed.”

Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him.

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)

Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”

Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?”

The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”

Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it.

After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” 66 So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom,
so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me
and opens my understanding to his will.
The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me,
and I have listened.
I have not rebelled or turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me
and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.
I did not hide my face
from mockery and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone,
determined to do his will.
And I know that I will not be put to shame.
He who gives me justice is near.
Who will dare to bring charges against me now?
Where are my accusers?
Let them appear!
See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side!
Who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 31:9-16

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.
Tears blur my eyes.
My body and soul are withering away.
I am dying from grief;
my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.
I am scorned by all my enemies
and despised by my neighbors—
even my friends are afraid to come near me.
When they see me on the street,
they run the other way.
I am ignored as if I were dead,
as if I were a broken pot.
I have heard the many rumors about me,
and I am surrounded by terror.
My enemies conspire against me,
plotting to take my life.
But I am trusting you, O Lord,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.

Philippians 2:5-11

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Prayer

Father, as we concentrate this week on the road to the cross,
Let us take nothing for granted.
Let us feel the weight of evil in the world and the ways we fall short.
Remind us of the amazing love and grace it took for you to endure this week.
And as we enter into this story, remind us always of where it is headed.

Posted in Lent | Leave a comment

about some photos that defeat darkness

Yesterday my friend and fellow blogger Trevor posted an article in the New York Times Magazine that caused me to totally scrap what I was writing and go another direction. This week we are talking about life arising from death. This what we celebrate about the resurrection of Jesus. Death never has the final word. While darkness and misery surround us, they are never strong enough to block out the light of life.

Even after a brutal winter here in Texas (well, brutal for us) flowers are blooming and trees are budding. It is amazing to see how life always seems to win.

Yet, there are points in history where we are not sure if we can ever recover. I think of times like the holocaust or 9-11 where it did not seem imaginable to go on. Yet, we did and hope emerged.

One such time is being remembered right now as the 20th anniversary of the genocide in the country of Rwanda is upon us. I was a young teenager at the time and didn’t really understand what happened, but as I read back through what happened during this genocide, I can’t believe I lived through something like that and didn’t know about it. During the genocide, 1 million people died at the hands of their friends and neighbors.

Can you imagine something happening like this here? What if your neighbor knocked on your door and murdered your family because they were fooled by their government that they needed to die? Would you ever forgive that neighbor?

06rwanda_ss-slide-CIF0-jumbo

This article presents revealing photos of perpetrators and their victims. Most of these pictures show men who murdered the families and husbands of these women.

Over the last few years small groups of Hutu and Tutsi have been brought together for counseling and an attempt at reconciliation. With incredible bravery and humility, many have asked forgiveness and some have offered it.

This is a level of humanity I never new could exist. Sometimes it is easy to doubt God exists sometimes and the bible can be hard to interpret leading to doubts. But, for me when life breaks through such incredible tragedy and deliberate hatred – it has to make you wonder if we have a creator who will never give up. That people’s hearts can change to where they can forgive someone who murdered their family right in front of them – then pose for a picture to prove it – says a lot about how life can be snatched from the jaws of death.

But, don’t take my word for it. Check it out. And, tell me what you think.

Love wins eventually. These pictures prove it.

For the full article, click here.

For some info on the Rwandan genocide, click here.

For a similar project from a few years ago, click here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment