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The Resurrection – What’s the Big Deal?

Empty Tomb

From time to time across my life, the Lord has granted me the grace of some “new” understanding of Him, of me, of “stuff” relating the two… of Him and the world… just… “something”… on Easter morning. This effect is always the most profound when He guides me along some “path of preparation” (rather reminiscent of John the Baptist’s “prepare ye the way of the Lord… Make straight paths…”) during Lent.

I put the word “new” in quotations opening this post, because what I learn is often not “new” at all… It is something, some word or phrase, that we ALL know… that we’ve ALWAYS known… maybe all our lives. And yet, the learning opens before me with unimagined depth and breadth, such that it seems I had never heard or seen it before.

This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday just past, has been one of those times and, to be perfectly frank, I’m still “recovering” from it.

I awoke, gently… quietly… and the Lord spoke just one single word. “Resurrection”

That’s all He said. But…

I could not even move from my bed before He just “unfolded” that word before me… took me inside of it… let me watch in an entirely new way what HE means/meant by it… that it felt as if I lay there for two hours, though it may have been seconds, minutes, or half the day. Time just stood suspended.

Jesus, sitting up naked, clearing Himself of His winding sheet in Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb? Yes. That was there. But… but… there was just so much MORE! I had never thought about the actual technical “meaning” behind the word “re-surrection”. It means… “breathing again”. It became this “coming-again-to-life” of not only Jesus, but all of mankind, and all of the fallen world, and all of the Cosmos, all of Creation.

The Re-surrection was, is, the “Fresh Start of Life”, buried with Jesus in His death, raised again in Newness of Life…

Not just Him, not just “us”, but ALL!

Is that a big enough deal?

How about this, then?

Two things, ONLY two things, denote the Christian… the one translated from domain of darkness to kingdom of light, Kingdom of God… to trust and acknowledge that The Father sent Jesus, the Son… and raised Him from the dead.

Why is that “all we need to know”? Because within THAT, all else is contained and subsumed.

How many times have I heard the protest, “Being a Christian is too hard. I go to Church and I don’t know enough. Everybody in Sunday School knows all this ‘stuff’ and I feel like an ignorant fool! And the Bible is too complicated, all these rules, verses, books, stories. I just don’t get it. I’m not SMART ENOUGH to be a Christian or go to church!”

Oh, the pain in my heart at such words!

What did the APOSTLES require of a “new church” just “getting with the program” in the First Century?

Three Things: (1) No fornication. (2) No eating the meat of strangled animals. (3) No eating meat sacrificed to idols.

I mean, they had a big MEETING about it and everything! And that’s what they settled on. Now, how “complicated” is all that for a Church Covenant?

There wasn’t any Bible at the time to impress one another with, or make gentiles memorize.

Paul repeats time and time again, he preaches(preached) only Jesus, and Him crucified!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Christian life should never get so complicated, Gentle Readers.

Believe in the Father, His love, His provision. Believing in the Son sent from the Father, born true man, living as true man yet truly God son of God. Believing in the Passion, the Cross, and… AND… the RESURRECTION!

Life, pulled from the maw of death… destroying death and darkness once and for all in the glory and power of Life and Light!

Love God, love neighbor, love self. Love as Jesus loves…

Complicated? Hardly!

But this word, Gentle Reader… the Power of this Word… Resurrection!

When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in Jesus of the Cross, and Jesus of the Gospels, and Jesus of the Manger. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God the Father who raised Him. We believe in God and the Old Testament, and the Covenant God made with man, to care for him as his God, and receive him as His people. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God who walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and who fashioned man in His own image, and who fashioned Adam and Eve as created He them.

Many many peoples have worshiped gods who bring death from life. Many peoples have worshiped gods who demand sacrifice in payment for their blessing and good will. Many peoples have worshiped gods who generate fear to constrain and rule men.

Our God is none of that. Our God brings Life at the destruction of death. Our God sacrificed Himself, to feed and bring blessing to men. Our God generates Love that conquers fear, and has removed punishment having taken that upon Himself.

This is not complicated. We need not make it so. This is simple relationship. And we can decide… each of us individually… whether or not we CHOOSE to TRUST in such relationship. And… we can invite others to do so, generally in words of nearly one syllable.

God is so urgently, so intently, so intimately present… right here, right now… seeking relationship of touch and immediacy with His children…

One friend I had used to put it this way:

  1. Do you believe that Jesus truly lived, and was sent by Our Father, God?
  2. Do you believe that Jesus truly died, hung on the Cross?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus truly rose again, resurrected by the Father?
  4. Has he ever died since?
  5. Then He must be alive right now!!!

Let us all be Resurrected, freed of deadness, numbness, decay, atrophy. Let us all be made alive! Wonderfully alive! Totally Alive! As only HE knows and makes Life!

It’s just not that complicated, is it? Be joyful in the grace of New Life!

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Posted by on April 6, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Entry Five: “A Drama of Choices!”

Journal Entry:

All is quiet now, all the tumult having died away and The Master laid into His borrowed Tomb. Now… there is… TIME!

“TIME”… that principle difference between human and angelic consciousness and thought. “TIME”… that “tick/tock” thing that people experience between one event and the next, one encounter and the next, one element of a sequence and the next. We don’t have that, we don’t know “delay”. For us, all is “sequence”… one thought follows another, like pages in a book. There is no “space” or “distance”, or “process” or “ponder”. We do not “consider” between “choices”. We CHOSE, we MADE our CHOICE, and now… for us… there is simply “discern-and-do” as to His Majesty’s will.

The other difference, a critical difference, between human and angelic consciousness is “illusion-deceit-falsehood”. We SEE, we truly see. We cannot be deceived or fooled or lied to or misled. Dark Ones cannot paint a false picture before us of specious choices, and tempt us to lean away from His Majesty’s will.

Somehow, all that… both “time” and “falsehood”… are bound up with physical matter. Since we are utterly “spirit”, those subordinate orders of being, those things that depend on material substance and comparison to have meaning, simply don’t. They have no meaning or hold over us.

It was in Eden, in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of material Creation, when His Majesty and The Master began to weave together the spiritual and the material, the substantive, when both “time” and “falsehood” were realized from the potential to the actual. We angels can “observe” such a state of existence, and we can even “participate in” it from time to time (at His Majesty’s bidding), but we do not… we CANNOT… fully experience or comprehend it.

Facility in both spirit and matter are Divine attributes. His Majesty, The Master, The Radiance… they can all create in both spirit and matter. We cannot. But Man… Man, now… Man is fashioned in His image, can enter fully into Him, and in Him can create in both matter and spirit.

What has all this got to do with the horrendous events that have just passed? Well… EVERYTHING! They have EVERYTHING to do with it!

Because we angels are truly “sons of God” created at His hands… yes. But we are purely spirit, we made ONE and only one “choice” (to embrace Him or to repel Him), and we live apart from material time or illusion, in the Eternal. We are, therefore and fully, “servants” to Him and His will.

Man, on the other hand, lives in the material (though with fully spiritual faculties), is subject to material time (the tick-tock kind), and can be deluded and misled. Therefore, MAN lives in a state of moment-by-moment CHOICE regarding His Majesty and His will. Every moment, man gets to choose to embrace His Majesty and His will, or to repel Him.

And THAT… is EVERYTHING… about these momentous and horrendous events these days…

I wrote last of the exit from the Passover Supper into the Garden of Gethsemane on “Thursday night”. From that exit, and the separation of Judas from the group, The Master knew and tried to prepare His (now) “friends” for what the next 18 hours would bring.

So many things occurred in such a “brief” (humanly speaking) span of time… a person could spend years tracking all the threads of all the drama there. The fears, the ambitions, the delusions, the agendas… The Romans, the Politicians, the Religious Leaders, the Pious, the Exploiters, the Voyeurs, those seeking “Entertainment” (as at a train wreck, a public hanging, or a bloodsport), the confusion.

But we angels saw it all a bit differently. We don’t see all the “bells and whistles”, the “flash and sparkle”. I cannot speak to what others saw, but what *I* saw, with intense clarity, was an astonishing sequence of “choices” made by just a handful of “principal actors”, whose decision sequence summarized what happened throughout the region in those hours.

The Actors?

  • The Master
  • Judas
  • Peter
  • The Disciples/Friends
  • Pontius Pilate
  • The Crowds

I will not go through all of that here right now. The “feelings” are yet too fresh and even (odd to say) “painful”. I’ll get more detail down in entries to follow. But all these entered into a series of “Choice Chains”, sequences of decisions where they could follow their conscience (embrace His Majesty and His will), or they could yield to temptation of fear, pride, or avarice (repel Him).

Judas… his “choice chain” is so short and clear. He is likely to be vilified and condemned for millennia as the iconic “betrayer”. And yes, indeed he was… but look at him, his concerns, his decisions and choices, up alongside Peter… and there are just a couple critical places where they are distinguished.

Anyway, enough for now. More entries later. We yet wait and see what will unfold. At this moment, nearly all are consumed with despair and disappointment. The story seems ended… ended behind a huge stone in a hole in a cliff… and the great Kingdom Story wasn’t supposed to end like this!

More to come…

 

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Would we dare?

The Omega

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Hebrews 12:1-2]

The Alpha

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Never, before today, have I thought of Christmas in terms of “shame”. Of Mary’s shame of conceiving out of wedlock, Joseph’s shame to wed a pregnant bride, their family shame to bear their son in a cast off stable, to bed Him in a feed trough…

And what of Jesus Himself? Who can even begin to conceive of the contrast between His glorious throne, and swaddling clothes, nappies, and nipples?

And yet… and yet… He EMBRACED that! ALL of them did! Who can imagine such a thing? Mary dared deadly shame to say “yes” to the Angel Gabriel. Joseph dared to trust Mary when she told him of Jesus’ conception.

And Jesus? Jesus willingly embraced His humanity, placing Himself in the care of this incredible couple. He embraced the shame. He accepted His own weakness, helplessness, dependency.

Doing so… as a puny little infant… His very presence terrified a king, prompting the slaughter of countless boys. His presence inspired other kings, who paid Him homage and presented Him gifts. His danger, and the warning of an angel, uprooted His family to an alien country to preserve His life. Did they travel in secret? Like people ashamed? Traveling by little known routes, not to be seen, moving by night, resting and hiding by day?

How strange does this all seem for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Did they despise the shame? Yet did they all embrace it, for the love of God and those He came to save? Did they love us? Somehow know that somewhere, sometime, you and I would be sitting here praising God for all this?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All this… all this shame… they took on and embraced, that WE might come to be freed of OUR shame! That our own shames, guilts, sins, be remembered no more. That we stand clean and clear, robed in the righteousness of Christ before the Holy Throne of the Father!

What about us? That’s the question that came to me this morning. That’s the question the Lord confronted me with this morning.

Does “shame”, a concern about what other people will think of me, ever prevent me from doing the right thing, a righteous thing, an action of grace?

It has, Gentle Reader. I must be honest. There are times I have refrained from doing “the right thing”, because it would embarrass me. You too?   * head nods here *   Well, our human frailty gets us all sometimes.

But just let me encourage you, Gentle Reader. Let me ask you to encourage me as well, from time to time. Acts of grace, of compassion, of gentleness… should never be constrained by “how it looks” to others, or whether we will “lose status” by embracing the shame. Do the right, the gentle, the loving… and let onlookers sort themselves out before the Throne.

Jesus’ earthly life began embracing shame. His earthly life ended the same way. But throughout… He is, was, and ever shall be… King of Kings, Lord of Lords…

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [Philippians 2:8-11]

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Advent Devotions, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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The Cross as Compassion

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

The Cross as Compassion

Friday, July 4, 2014

Each worldview has its own folly and its own form of wisdom, and Paul says the cross has challenged both and comes out with the best and most honest answer—precisely because it incorporates the tragic (the irrational, absurd, and sinful) and uses it for good purposes. The Christian perspective can absorb and appreciate paradox—which is order within disorder, redemption through tragedy, resurrection through death, divinity through humanity.

For Paul, therefore, the cross and its transformative power is his summary symbol for the depths of divine wisdom, which seems like mere “folly” to the “masters of every age” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The compassionate holding of essential meaninglessness or tragedy, as Jesus does on the cross, is the final and triumphant resolution of all the dualisms and dichotomies that we ourselves must face in our own lives. We are thus “saved by the cross”!

Paradox held and overcome is the beginning of training in non-dual thinking or contemplation, as opposed to paradox denied, which forces us to choose only one part of any mysterious truth. Such a choice will be false because we usually choose the one that serves our small purposes. Who would ever choose the cross? Yet life often demands it of us anyway. Would anyone will or wish their child to be born with a mental or physical disability? Yet how many such families rise to very high levels of love and compassion? Paul offers a new wisdom that challenges both “Jews and Greeks” (read: religious conservatives and secular liberals) in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25.

Conversion, therefore, is not joining a different group, but seeing with the eyes of the crucified. The cross is Paul’s philosopher’s stone or “codebreaker” for any lasting spiritual liberation. God can save sincere people of faith inside of any system or religion, if only they can be patient,trusting, and compassionate in the presence of human misery or failure,especially their own. This is life’s essential journey. These trustful ones have surrendered to Christ, very often without needing to use the precise word “Christ” at all (Matthew 7:21). It is the active doing and not the correct saying that matters.

Adapted from Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi,
pp. 75-76

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 

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“Don’t Touch Me!” — Why Not?

Empty TombNow after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus *said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.” [Matthew 28:1-10]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her. [John 20:15-18]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There are two accounts of the first few hours of Resurrection Day, from two different Gospels. So much wonder, beauty here. So much we could speak of. But today, I’m simply going to savor the day… and point out an “odd thing” here, it seemed to me for a long time.

Both passages clearly express the feelings of the women who came to the Tomb. Great grief, ready to anoint His body properly, confusion at the empty Tomb. Then, the first passage shows us how overwhelming their joy was when He appeared to them directly (verses 9 & 10). They bowed down and worshiped Him, taking hold of His feet. (Would we do any different? I doubt it.) He sends them on to the Disciples, to deliver His orders. (By the way, they are not believed… but anyway.)

In the second passage, we see Mary Magdalene grieving, distraught at His body having been stolen. Jesus comes upon her quietly incognito and asks why she is so sad. She tells Him. (Did He plan to reveal Himself before she exposed her pain? Was His “original plan” just to deliver His message and go His way? Did her tears move His compassion to reveal Himself? How often do our tears move His compassion to reveal Himself, when He may not originally have planned to? — Sorry, those are the kinds of questions that come to me when I ponder Him in scripture.)

Jesus reveals Himself, simply by speaking her name with all that Love in His heart. She melts, calling out to Him AS HER TEACHER! “Rabboni”.

But, that’s when Jesus does something very strange, indeed. Grief or not, compassion or not, love or not, joy or not… He forbids her from touching Him! Really? REALLY? Is He KIDDING? No, He’s not. He gives a very specific reason not to be touched…

“Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

What a strange thing to say… Certainly it must have seemed so for those who heard Him that day. And this passage confused me for a long time. But one day, when I realized that as I grew in my own maturity in Christ, Jesus’ relationship changed with/to/in me. Is He my Lord, Savior, Master, God? Yes… all of that… yes. But ALSO, as I have become an adult in the Father’s House, Jesus has become very much my Friend, my Captain, and beyond all else, My Big Brother. (Now, I was blessed in this life to HAVE an incredibly wonderful Big Brother, so this has not been a difficult transition.)

Now, as I’ve grown up, did Jesus CHANGE? Of course not. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. But with reference to me, my life, my experience, His relationship has changed over time. What’s more, the “old relationship” has to pass away, to make room for the new.

I’ve spoken before of absolutely fabulous teaching that has blessed my life. I have worked with and for some incredible men and women of God. They poured themselves out to help me grow and learn and serve, and any good you see in me is to their credit and God’s. (My faults and failings are entirely my own, thank you!) But over time, these wonderful people have become peers and colleagues… no longer mentors and teachers. Oh, that’s not to say I still don’t learn tremendously from them, or that I do not seek their counsel from time to time. But equally they sometimes learn from me, or seek my counsel. The relationships have changed. They’ve grown RICHER, but distinctly different.

Jesus, through the Cross, had changed not just the Universe… but EVERYTHING. His relationships with those who had loved Him in His earthly life had changed. There was going to be more change. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit was to come, and He would be INSIDE them!

This Resurrection Day was the beginning of this “interim time” between the Cross and the Pentecost. And it was of critical importance to Him that they, ALL of them, Disciples, family, holy women… everyone… begin to release and let go the Old relationship with Him as “Wandering Rabbi”… and prepare for the new relationship with Him as Glorious Lord Within.

Please notice the strange words He wraps around His instructions to the Disciples…

“Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 

He must ascend to the Father, yes. But He takes great pains specifically to point out… “brethren”… “My Father and yours”… “My God and yours”… These are words of equality, peerage. These are words I would never dare to say but that He said them intently and first.

He puts Himself, now, and “His brethren”… on level and equal ground.

I haven’t got all the answers about this, Gentle Brethren. I just point it out. And He brought it to me very intently, when I asked about the “Why Don’t Touch”?

He no longer wanted to be seen in His old relationship. That needed to make way for this New One. As Firstborn among many brethren, that we be joint heir with Him.

More to come…

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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When the Stars Grieved

Sunrise CrossHoly Saturday — An Intermission… the space between the tremendous drama of events in the past two days, and the unknown of Jesus’ promise of something more dramatic three days after His death.

We have spent these days walking alongside, or a little behind, the Disciples Party as Jesus directed them into Jerusalem for the Passover. It is regrettable that the vicissitudes of history, politics, and economics have so divorced Christian worship and rhythms from our Jewish roots. Easter is inextricably woven with the Passover, the dramatic high points of Jesus’ ministry are woven with Passover, but unless we are blessed to know and have walked with Jews in our time who love and worship God, we can easily miss all these connections.

Across this day, this quiet day, I have been steeped in the awareness that today I “celebrate” or “commemorate” Death. Not “the dead”, as in the Feast of All Souls or All Saints. And not “Dying”, as in Good Friday, and the Lord’s surrender, willing surrender, to becoming sin and letting darkness come that He might pay the price, collect its wage. But rather, this is the aftermath. This is the silence after the tumult. This is the grief. This… is the Death.

We are disciples, you and I. At least I know that to be true for myself, and for those who have corresponded with me from these pages. We seek eternal life… we have it, and we seek to comprehend it, to cooperate with it, to serve Him… “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17:3] I don’t know about you, Gentle Reader, but as we approach Easter, my heart seems to settle its pulse into synch with His Companion Disciples, and vicariously I experience much of what I suspect I would feel had I been there and then.

And today… today… just seems to be such a “trembling” day. Were we walking with the Companions, we’d have watched our most terrible nightmare come about. Our Master, Our Teacher, now Our Friend… God, Son of God, this incredible Rabbi… the Messiah from whom we expected such great things… arrested, shamed, tried, condemned, rejected by the multitudes in favor of Barabbus of all people! Finally stripped naked and crucified with criminals!

Did we keep thinking this wasn’t real? Did we think there would be a last minute rescue? Did we think He would pray, and stretch forth His hand, and speak to the Father, (as we have seen Him do so many times), and power come forth from Him to change all of this? And then we were afraid! So very afraid! The Romans, the Temple Guards, the Pharisees, Scribes, and finally even the Mob Itself! It seemed Jesus had just given us over and gone His way! He was being KILLED! Were we to be killed as well? How could everything have gone so very wrong in only the week since He was proclaimed through the streets as “Blessed… who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And our fear rendered all but the most loving of us… fugitives. We melted away from the crowds, and fled for safety and cover. Only the women held the faith. The women who traveled with Him from the beginning, who supported Him with their means, who wiped His feet with their tears, and His bloodied sweating face with their clothing as He stumbled along on His last Journey to the rocks where He would be slain. Are we ashamed of ourselves. we burly Companions, we whom He authorized to travel in His name, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out the demons, as we see these mere women with the courage to stay alongside Our Lord, where our fear of death turns our knees to water and we slink away to melt into anonymous crowds and shelter?

Yesterday, the Day Jesus Died, was an incredible day of such fear for us! Fear, confusion at what was happening, and Death! When He was taken down, two men stepped forth and did something unthinkable. They were, of all things, Pharisees. Here we are in the Passover, about to enter the Sabbath of the Passover, for which we have spent 5 days of purification and cleansing and preparation… and, as Jesus is lowered from the Cross as a corpse… these men (Nicodemus and Joseph) gain permission to take custody of the body and lay it in a new cut tomb.

BurielNow, publicly, they have become Unclean. They cannot enter the Temple to worship. They cannot sit to the Passover. They cannot traffic with their peers or those they lead and teach. They are now no better than lepers in their community… not until they have purified themselves from handling the dead. They, these religious men, must come and deal with Jesus’ body first, washing him of the blood and the filth, restoring His modesty and dignity, before the women can come and anoint Him with herbs and ointments for proper interment. There is no time! There is so little time! Unclean or not, women or not, they must all be back to their homes before the sun sets.

So it is a hurried job to prepare the Lord’s Body to be sealed up, until the Passover Holy Sabbath is past, and they can return to the Tomb. They do their best. He is washed, anointed, and wrapped in a winding sheet. Sadly, they all leave Him. The stone is rolled into the entrance to seal His grave, and they all go home.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now… there is nothing to do… but wait.

So here we are… waiting. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Just the waiting, feeling the grief, feeling the confusion, feeling the fear. Jesus… is Dead.

This is the “mood” that has pervaded this day in my universe. Rather than “fight it”, I simply “embraced it” and offered it up to the Lord saying, “OK, if this is what I am experiencing… if this is what the Companions experienced… where is the grace here? What purpose, what light, what are You teaching here?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It seemed that my focus, so tight and intense on the Cross, the Tomb, Jerusalem of that time… “panned outwards” to a visage of the region, the hemisphere, the globe, then onwards out beyond the solar system, galaxy, to encompass all of the universe before me… and all of that… ALL of it… stood poised and silent… frozen in the reality of the Death of Him in whose hand all of this was held together. It was like inhaling, and being unable to exhale. It was a sense of “trembling anticipation”.

This… is a miserable feeling. Don’t you agree? That sense of “this is terrible”, but “something else is fixing to happen”, but “I don’t know what that is”, and “I don’t know if it will be better or worse”. It’s the pain of the present, combined with the fear and uncertainty of the future!

Where I sought that the Lord would RELIEVE my discomfort, I was surprised that He seemed to INTENSIFY it, MAGNIFY it. I knew He was in charge of whatever He was doing, so I did not resist. But it was to be totally immersed in Death, the full experience of the grief, the pain, even the texture and odor. Not pleasant, as learning experiences go, but I could sit still. Now I, Gentle Reader, like most people I know, have a natural revulsion and aversion to death. For many years I despised and “fought” it, feeling a a personal sense of defeat when someone in my care succumbed to death. As I matured, I came more to “accept” death as a necessary transition from here to There. But I still didn’t “like” it. At this point in my walk, I have come to realize that there are times when Death is a welcome relief and release from the intense labor and suffering of captivity in this body. But I cannot say it was ever something I “embraced” with my heart.

That was the challenge of this day.

The Lord challenged me to “embrace” Death altogether. So to enter into Him and His heart, that I could see that He did so… and allow the Him in me to do so again, and take me with Him as He did.

Does this sound strange to you, Gentle Reader? It certainly did to me. After spending an entire day “immersed” in Death… the Lord now asked me to “embrace” that as wholeheartedly as I did Life, Love, or Joy. It made no sense! I could not understand or comprehend this. Still, clearly, He had done this from the Cross… there was nothing to this directive that seemed inconsistent with Him or Love or scripture.

So, given that I’ve found “faith” to be my willingness to embrace a truth I could not comprehend… I obeyed.

I endeavored to “relax” in the immediate intimate presence of death itself. Like learning to “float” in water, it’s not an application of effort… it’s the refusal to apply resistance. It crystallized into ceasing to judge “Death” to be “bad”, just accepting it as a part of the experience of life God grants to us, and thanking and praising Him for making it part of our lives. The very strange instruction to my heart seemed to be to: “Trust Death”. Strange, no?

After yielding into the stream that the Lord seemed to direct, some interesting truths seemed to become apparent. I don’t offer these here as “grand answers to mysteries”. It is all yet quite mysterious to me, but I offer “food for thought” here, as we have spent this extraordinary day… rather like Noah and his family shut up in the Ark, sealed in, days before the Flood began… just waiting… waiting… on a promise… confused… in a box.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jesus did not refuse the Redemption in that He did not refuse or flee from the Death that came for Him. He embraced it. He surrendered to it. He trusted to it, that the Father (who He could no longer feel, hear, or sense), was Sovereign over all… and He could trust to that. Jesus indeed had exercised authority over Death many times in His ministry… but not today.

Jesus had taught strange things about death through His travels…

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Mark 8:34

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:24

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” [Acts 2:22-24]

Here, the truths of this passage, seemed to be where my ponderings brought me.I realized a simple series of things:The great “Tyrant” of our lives, the force that impels people against faith and into selfishness stems from the apparent power of death. Not so much death itself, as the FEAR of death. To acquire things, to bully others, the lie, cheat, steal, kill… all seems to bolster an illusion of our invulnerability, our potency, our power. Why do we need such things so desperately? Because they meet our deepest insecurity… the knowledge of our mortality… and our fear of everything having to do with that. Humans not only fear death because of the implications of the Afterlife… but because of revulsion to Death Itself!

As always, Jesus deals with this head on. He doesn’t do a lot of “teaching about” Death in His 3 years of traveling. But He teaches multitudes by direct confrontation. He raises the Dead. More than once. (Fairly impressive, no?)

He SAYS, simply, “you must die to live.” He instructs His followers to let loose their fear of death, embrace it, take up their cross and follow Him. At the Last Supper He instructs His to eat His body and drink His blood, by which He has earlier taught they will have life within them.

Then, Jesus MODELS His teaching. He surrenders to Death, laying down His life of His own initiative.

Today, this Silent Day Between, it is ever so tempting to sneak a peek forward to the rising of tomorrow’s sun… to “borrow forward” into tomorrow’s joy.

But if we can refrain… if we can hold our self control… an incredible thing happens right here. People are bullied, their whole lives long, by the FEAR of Death. What if we lost that fear? What if we could embrace the whole issue of Death as one the Lord absorbed and now rules, that we are to embrace it, in all ways, in order to follow Him?

What would it be like if the greatest fear in our personal universes, just evaporated? What if we simply trusted Him? Would we find it easier to LIVE in and for Him, not just die? Would we be less shy in our communities about our love for Him, or His for us? Would we be more loving, more giving, less attached to our material possessions? Would we be less concerned about “what other people think?” of whether we are keeping all the rules, and be more attentive to the hungry, the sick, the incarcerated, the sinful?

I’ve said before, we cannot fully love anyone we do not fully trust. As long as we see Death as a thing apart from Him, apart from His love, but yet present in our lives… can we fully trust or love Him? And what happens when we release that?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Were the First Century Christians so extraordinary because they had seen with their own eyes, and lost entirely their fear of Death? Could they openly follow Jesus into the joy, the light, the love, the power of the Holy Spirit, because they had lost all fear of death, persecution, or the power of the state?

What would our days, our walk, be like if we could do the same?

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Crucifixion – Abandoned? Betrayed?

crucifixionImagine how massive, how incredible, how unimaginable the change in Creation… that happened in the HOURS of man’s fall in the Garden.

We do not know what time Eve and Adam betrayed reality by tearing its fabric, opening the veil between evil and consciousness by eating fruit of a tree for which they were not yet prepared or authorized. But we know that they hid from the Lord as He sought them “in the cool of the day”.

The Lord confronted them, offered them the opportunity to trust Him with the truth (which they sidestepped), and sadly had to rescue them by protecting them from what was now tremendous danger to them, the Tree of Life. It only took a matter of hours, for Creation to be torn asunder. The Perfection of Creation was ripped from God’s plan, by the sin of Adam. In Adam, all men fell. From this perfect place, this perfect time, this perfect life… came forth death and utter corruption.

Fast Forward… who knows how many years…

Again, Creation Itself trembles on a brink of unthinkable, unspeakable, inexpressible change. God Himself has entered the full frailty of humanity. He has lived a mortal life. He has walked in perfect harmony of God’s will. And the world, the fallen world, this broken world, all the corruption of all of time, is now come together to focus on Him. The Darkness of all of Time has come to this point… to find Jesus… to focus on Jesus… to crush Jesus… to kill Jesus. All the corruption, all the sin, all the darkness and shadow that crept into reality through the rent fabric of the Garden… Now all of that takes aim at Jesus, through the crosshairs of the Crucifixion. The Redemption of Creation was restored through the sacrifice of Christ. In Jesus Creation was restored.

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.[Romans 5:18-19]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How… how simply Incredible… is all of this? Don Merriitt is going through a wonderful review of the Book of Hebrews right now at The Life Project, and there you see this incredible explanation of mechanics of redemption through faith, connecting the dots between Jesus and fulfillment of Old Testament Law and worship practices. Who can follow all of that, really? Not I. Definitely “above my pay grade” stuff. God engineered redemption with such care and crafting that vast portions of it are simply mystery to me. I can embrace the truth of them, but not comprehend the means. There is only faith for all that.

But through the one… Adam… all fell. Through the One… Jesus… all is made whole. And in all of that, that tremendous realignment of Creation itself… Jesus did that… Alone.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This year, as the tremendous grief of Good Friday does indeed wash over me, as often in years past… This year… I was struck with a different thought than ever before. I have often been struck by the “aloneness” of the Passion and Redemption before, yes. Judas abandoned the fellowship of Disciples, yes. Jesus begs the Father to take His cup away, yes. The disciples there sleep as Jesus prays, rather than standing an hour of vigil, yes. Peter, one of Jesus’ best friends denies Him, yes. All desert Him at His trial and on the way to the Cross, but for some women who stay with Him, yes. At the very foot of the Cross itself, there is only young John and His mother, standing loyally by. All the rest have fled, yes. And then there is that final moment, the separation that tears the Veil asunder, when Jesus cries out, “Lord, Lord, why have You forsaken Me!”

Year by year, all of these alone-nesses, all of these separations, all have focused my attention across time.

But this year, it was very different. This year, all I could sense and feel was Jesus’ being torn away from the Father. And all I could think was to wonder, “What did He FEEL as it happened?” I mean, think of it, never before in the history of the universe, had Jesus ever been ALONE… apart from the Father.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I found myself wondering, as Jesus approached these moments through this week, KNOWING what was going to happen and what He needed to do… when you reflect on His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, that the Father spare Him this…

Did Jesus feel abandoned?

In that He experienced all that we do, short of sin… how did He feel as the first moment of Aloneness in the history of time… approached? We see David feel this from time to time. We see Job, the Disciples, countless others throughout the Bible. I have felt abandoned by friends… haven’t you? I know no pain greater than to be in a time of great trial, say, like Jesus, approaching death, and have a beloved friend or family member abandon one, go silent, ignore you. Can you imagine that? Now can you imagine such a thing between Jesus and the Father? Inconceivable, isn’t it?

Jesus declares that He feels “forsaken”. He was utterly desolate and alone. He had, over His time on the Cross, BECOME sin. All sin for all time. And for the first and only moment in all of time, He could not feel the presence of His (Our) Father. How lonely would that be? How abandoned?

I have to wonder, did He feel “betrayed”?

He shared all of our feelings. Would we feel abandoned and betrayed? Did He?

What a depressing prospect, eh? What a hopeless and sad story this is, isn’t it?

But it ISN’T! This, this Passion, Crucifixion, to be followed by Resurrection and Pentecost… is the pinnacle of the GOOD NEWS! So it is very important, even in the depths of the sadness of the Cross, to realize where Light lies in the heart of such darkness.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As we ponder just how alone Jesus was through our salvation, we are struck with the pain of that. Can there be anything so painful, so deeply wounding, as the realization that, especially as one approaches death, a friend, friends, or family that have sworn to be with you, stay with you, walk with you, and treasure you… no longer can be found? That they abandon you? Do we feel betrayed by that?

And, if that is the case… if Jesus felt not only that sadness and loneliness of being abandoned, but even the pain of betrayal as well… how did He handle it? What did it take, what WOULD it take, simply to walk on through the experience, through the pain, through the abandonment, through the betrayal?

I can tell you what it took… what it takes… faith… and love.

And that is the Good News here. Jesus experienced something absolutely unique in all of His lifetime in those hours. He experienced what leads people to death at their own hands every day. Abandonment, betrayal, and nearly total isolation. Only one disciple, some women, and His mom showed the courage not to flee. Only they could bear the pain to watch Him die, or dare the risk not to run and hide from Him.

Jesus always felt the love. Supremely, He felt the love from the Cross. As the multitudes looked upon Him, vilified Him, spat at Him, threw garbage at Him as slowly he bled and suffocated on a garbage heap… Jesus said only one thing over them to the Father. He begged that the Father would forgive them.

And, as His life ebbed from Him drop by drop and breath by breath, as He BECAME all sin for all time… As thus He allowed death to creep into Him, sin by sin over three hours… He was transformed from Life to death, so necrotic of spirit that for the first time in the history of time, He was so “dead” He could not feel the Father’s presence and love. In His anguish He cries out for the Father’s presence, but there seems to be no response. How bitter is that? How sour and galling?

So what does He do?

He goes on.

He can’t hear comfort. He can’t feel comfort. He can’t see relief or comfort. But He knows who He is, and where He is, and what He is to do. So, in faith alone, and fully in love, He goes on and surrenders to the horror that is happening. Having BECOME very sin itself, He thirsts, He drinks, and He dies.

And… thus… He WINS! He CONQUERS!

He, God, Son of God, had to be brought to the very brink of will and faith itself, and, fueled by love alone, He had to step over the edge. And He did.

THIS is why we can experience faith at all. This is why we can experience love, trust, and compassion. This is why the Garden, its separation, its boundaries, its lies and illusions wafted in vapors of guilt and shame by the serpent who engineered the Fall… this is why none of that can bind us any longer.

Jesus freed us from all that, simply by experiencing the very depths of abandonment, betrayal, loneliness, and loss… and yet giving Himself over utterly in faith, and trust, and love. He walked on through His duty as if He had all the armies of encouragement, friends, family, servants, walking alongside Him. He carried on as if He were Moses with Joshua’s supporting hands for His tired arms.

Jesus treated those who abandoned Him, who claimed to have treasured Him, who turned away from Him as He approached death… as if none of that happened. He looked upon his betrayers and abandoners, loved them anyway, prayed for them, and gave up His life for them. Just as we are to do to love as He loves, without regard for their words or their silences. He simply walked on in His love for them, for the Father, for us… as though it were any other day. He “betrayed betrayal” by simply giving it no traction and loving on through the pain of seeing those He loved and trusted reject and abandon Him.

Here is tremendous power. Here is the combination of faith and love. Here is the truth that changes hearts, changes lives, and… this day… changed the universe itself.

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” [Matthew 26:39]

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.[John 19:30]

How do we win, how do we triumph in the joy that is Christ’s life, here and now, as we deal with the pain of this world? We drink the vinegar and absorb all that pain in faith and love. We refrain from using any of our resources, our swords, our words, our angels, to defend ourselves or set things right. We trust the Father, we declare our efforts finished, and we exhale.

Next… we will see about the Father’s response to such faith, trust, love…

Stay tuned…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 19, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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