Archive for April, 2017

Apr
16

Easter Changes Everything!

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Most of you can think of days that have changed your life forever. A graduation, your first car, that big promotion to suggest a few. Some days are related to family events such as a wedding or the birth of a child. We mark and recall those days because in their own way they changed the trajectory of life and helped us re-imagine life in a way we had never imagined before.

I think about the events recorded in the gospels about that first Easter. I appreciate the vulnerability and authenticity of how the characters are portrayed. As we follow them through the thickened plot we come to see how Easter truly does change everything.

Think about the thief on the cross beside Jesus. He was guilty of a crime and hung there as a result of his behavior. But in a moment of vulnerability he opened his heart to Jesus and asked to be remembered. Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” His guilt was transformed to forgiveness. Easter changes everything.

What about the women surrounding the story. While the men had gone into hiding on Good Friday, the women remained, dutifully attending to the needs of Jesus. On the first day of the week they were the first to arrive at the tomb hoping to finalize the burial preparations that remained undone due to the setting sun on Friday. When they encountered Christ their duty turned to devotion as they worshiped. Yes, Easter changes everything.

Mary Magdalene is one of the characters called out by name. There at the garden tomb, with eyes blurred by tears, she mistook Jesus for a gardener and asked where the body of Jesus had been taken. All it took was for Jesus to call her name, “Mary,” and her sorrow evaporated into joy. Easter changes everything.

The disciples had abandoned Jesus by and large during the his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. We later find them together in a room behind locked doors, bound by fear. When Jesus appeared to them his first word to them was, “Peace.” Their fear became peace in the presence of Jesus, because Easter changes everything.

Thomas was not in the room with those disciples, but when they reported their experience to him he doubted and demanded proof of his existence. When Jesus appeared to Thomas later he provided the proof Thomas claimed he needed to which he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Doubt turns to faith because Easter changes everything.

Finally there is Peter. Peter had strutted into passion week making bold claims about his willingness to die for Jesus, making bold assertions that he would never deny him. He impulsively cut the ear off of a soldier in the garden as a show of strength. Peter was strong, perhaps too strong, and often acted in self serving ways. But when Jesus restored him on the shore of the sea, his command was, “Feed my sheep.” Peter changed from a strong, self serving person to a servant. Easter changes everything.

Good Fridays are characterized by people who are bound by guilt, duty, sorrow, fear, doubt and self centeredness. That was true then and is true today. But Easter changes everything. Easter opens the door for us to change the trajectory of life and find forgiveness, devotion, joy, peace, faith and service. Only then can we re-imagine the life that God has intended for us all along.

Easter changes everything!

Categories : Easter
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Apr
13

Maundy Thursday, 2017

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A year ago today I was in my office when the phone rang. It was Cassie, one of the nurses from Scotland County Care Center. My dad had been under hospice care for some time and had developed pneumonia. Cassie shared that my dad had taken a downward turn and that we should begin to prepare ourselves for his passing.

“Should I come now?” I asked.
She said, “Not yet. The doctor is on his way and he’ll do an evaluation and I’ll call you back in a few minutes and give you a status update.”
“Ok,” I replied.

Within the hour Cassie called me back. I was expecting her to give me a status report accompanied by some form of time line. She simply said, “Your dad just passed. I’m so sorry.” She felt badly that she had created an expectation that she could not deliver. I told her it was ok, but instantly was deeply saddened that like Jesus, my dad died alone.

After I hung up I called my sister and my mother and began to make preparations to travel to Missouri, where arrangements would need to be finalized and a funeral sermon prepared.

I find it strange that even though I knew my dad’s death was imminent I was still largely surprised that he passed. I knew it was coming, but it still hit me in an unexpected way, like a driver that violates a traffic signal and plows into the side of a car in the middle of an intersection.

I also find it strange that I seem to think about and talk about my father more in this past year than ever before. I try to be careful about referencing him in conversations and even my sermons, but I can’t seem to help it. His words and actions that previously resided in the back of my mind are now in the forefront of my thoughts.

When I think about the death of my father it makes me wonder if the disciples had the same kind of feeling regarding the death of Jesus. They knew he was going to die. The Old Testament prophets had predicted it for centuries. Jesus himself told them of his pending death on three separate occasions. They knew that it was coming, but I can’t help but think that his actual death must have hit them a little by surprise.

When I think about the disciples and the death of Christ, I also can’t help but consider the fact that they talked far more about him after his death that before. They often retell his life story and quote him frequently. I’m sure there were moments of reflection where memories were shared and stories retold. Some of those stories were humorous that brought smiles and even laughter. Others were told with deep meaning and conviction, as though those stories transformed their lives.

Before Jesus died, you get the idea that the disciples heard it, but didn’t quite get it. But when the reality of Jesus’ death sank in, they got it. And when they got it, they couldn’t stop talking about it either.

Death is a reality like no other. There are no approximations or misgivings about it. It’s frank and honest, and offers no consideration of our own thoughts and feelings. As believers in the 21st century we are blessed to have Holy Scripture to help us process Jesus death. We are not in the same position as the disciples who seemingly had to figure it out on their own. We can read and talk about the story in ways the disciples could not.

But that does not mean that we should speak of Jesus’ death any less than they did. It’s good for us to speak of Jesus in our day-to-day conversations as well as in our sermons and lessons. We can speak of him today as though he is still alive. Because he is!

Categories : Easter
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