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Sunday, April 16, 2017

He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!

There is something incredible about waking up as the sun rises on Easter morning.  If you know me (even a little bit), you know I am not a morning person… at all…  There is, quite literally, nothing I like about the rising of the sun.  I love the sunset.  I love the darkness.  My family and friends just roll their eyes, shake their heads, and smile when it starts to rain, and the sun goes behind the clouds, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief that it is damp and cold and dreary.  If I’m honest, it’s not that hard for me to sit with the sadness of Holy Week, which is probably one of the reasons I do it so well and preach it so nauseatingly.  Yet, as the sun just barely peeked over the horizon, this morning… this morning… this Easter morning… I instinctively, joyfully woke up.  I arose, because Jesus arose!  This is the best morning for waking up! 

Matthew 28:6-7, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly…” (NIV).

Interestingly, this is not a morning for sitting with… anything…

When Mary and Mary arrived at the tomb, they probably needed a minute.  I mean, how confusing must it have been?  Even if they remembered Jesus’ words, none of it would have made sense.  Grief is a horrible, wonderful, terrible process.  What is essentially just hours after the brutal death of Jesus, which they observed, grief must still be clouding everything!  They must be numb.  Incredibly, they are going through all the right motions, adhering to all the right customs.  The vast majority of us rally and do these things when tragedy strikes.  But there is an order to things.  A protocol.  A modus operandi. 

What do you do when the body is missing?

Oh, I just realized I could go more ways than I want to with that one… (note to self, follow up).

As I read the resurrection account again, this morning, I stopped to think about how very familiar it is.  To be candid, we need some things in our life like this… some truths we can recall by rote, in the midst of our most heartrending moments, when we can’t make sense of anything.  And we need the angel, too.

As a force of habit, I woke up with the words, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said…” niggling at the back of my mind.  I’m not sure my eyes had even opened yet.  I surely hadn’t had my morning coffee (still haven’t as of this writing, so forgive me if it isn’t as coherent as I think it is).  It was that foggy instant between being fully asleep and fully awake.  Honestly, I might have still been dreaming.  And even though it’s a passage I have memorized and quoted, I couldn’t for the life of me remember who spoke the words.

Ah… the angel.

Thank goodness the angel was there, speaking truth into the lives of two women who were probably more prepared for another day of death than one of joy.  They had come to rub spices and oils on a rotting corpse.  Thank goodness the angel was able to catch their attention long enough to jog their memories.  And thank goodness the angel had a plan for what happens next!

“Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly…”

And you know… they do it!

The resurrection narrative hangs on these women with red, swollen eyes.  I think they’re able to accomplish the telling, precisely because they know what it is to sit through the pain.  They know we can’t have one without the other.  They’ve lived it (and lived it well). 

Colossians 3:1-3, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (NIV).

And so their lives are inextricably tied to Jesus’ life, once again.  To… his… life!  Because he is alive!

May our lives be tied together, as well.

Psalm 118:24, “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad” (NIV).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Holy Tuesday, Year A

I almost feel as if Scripture is throwing punches, this morning.  How ridiculous is that?  But really…

I Corinthians 1:18-20, 25: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world…? For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

I’m a pretty smart person, but I’m not claiming this kind of wisdom or intelligence, just to be clear.  I am frustrated, though.  Even my intelligence is frustrated.  And there are multiple reasons for that (most of which I do not have time to delve into, right now).  Over the past few weeks, for example, I have been completely perplexed regarding resurrection and the number of people whose resurrection accounts are recorded in the gospels.  It’s not as if I haven’t read these accounts over and over again.  It’s just that we don’t really talk about them in the same way we talk about Jesus’ resurrection.  But I digress a little bit, because I’m not going to write about that now, either.  In fact, the only reason I’m mentioning it, at all, is because I don’t want all of my readers to get through this post and assume I have lost my mind.  I’m still thinking about important stuff.  But I’m just going to throw it out there; I can’t stop thinking about the Easter Bunny!

Stay with me… Please… Stay with me…

I really don’t like the Easter Bunny.  Now, before anybody starts to imagine my children having a miserable childhood that lacks imagination, let’s get a few things straight.  We have pictures with Santa Claus.  Unicorns are real.  I still get excited when Tinkerbell flies across The Magic Kingdom at night, and I will challenge any teenager who doesn’t believe in pixie dust.  But the Easter Bunny makes me a little bit sick to my stomach (and it’s not all the Reese’s PB eggs… truly…)

I want to write something eloquent to express the importance of this Holy Tuesday, a day that is sometimes forgotten in the preceding and upcoming ‘big ticket events’ of Holy Week, but I keep seeing the Easter Bunny who was waving at me… wildly… from the corner of a church lawn on Palm Sunday.  Are we, perhaps, distracted?

I get fairly bent out of shape when others jump ahead in the Holy Week narrative, because I need to sit with Holy Saturday when it arrives.  (You know… that day when many churches have their Easter egg hunts, but Jesus is dead, so it doesn’t make sense—as a side note, I legitimately appreciate the many churches that have moved their bunnies and eggs to an earlier time, this season, because Holy Saturday is certainly not the time for celebration!)  And yet here I find myself, jumping ahead.  It’s Tuesday, but Saturday’s coming…

I’m going to give myself just a touch of grace, because Jesus jumps ahead on Tuesday, too.

He says, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going” (John 12:35).

Saturday is dark.  Really, really dark.  Please, get ready to sit with that.  Stop Walking!

What a terrible post for Holy Tuesday.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Holy Monday, Year A

John 12:1-11... There are exactly two ways I would like to go with this passage.

First, there’s Mary.  I want to talk about her gift… her sacrifice… her pain… her love.  I want to talk about how Jesus, in some sense, will follow her lead in the days to come, making the washing of feet (at least) a practice firmly embedded in our Christian DNA, and (at best) a sacrament… a means of grace, itself.

Second, there’s Lazarus.  I want to follow up on this dead man walking.  Honestly, I want to poke a little fun at the chief priests who make plans to kill him, because they lack creativity.  How do they think this might end?  Perhaps with Jesus raising him from the dead… again?

But even though I could get a lot of mileage out of either of these, I found myself drawn to Judas.  Of course.  But not as I usually am.  By the end of Holy Week, I have a tendency to rile a good number of people because of the compassion that grows… for Judas.  But honestly, friends, this morning he just ticks me off.

John 12:5-6, “’Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ [says Judas] He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (NIV).

I don’t do too well with people who exploit the poor. 

If Judas had said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold (for almost any other reason),” and then dipped his hand into the bag; it still would have been wrong.  If Judas’ bent toward theft had left the treasury short of the necessary funds for a new fishing pole, a night at the inn, or new carpet for the tabernacle (oh, come on…  it’s funny); it still would have been problematic.  If Judas had been straightforward and confessed that he felt the need to have more than the others, something not held in common; honesty would have caused a stir.  But Judas takes advantage of the already destitute.  And I just can’t deal… or, maybe I just can’t even…

When did the poor become our ticket to greatness?  When did we start hijacking their narratives to make ourselves look good?  I know I’m beating a dead horse, today (there’s a parallel somewhere, chief priests…), but I can’t wrap my mind around this.  Let’s be real—I would rather have people helping the poor (in legitimate ways) and taking credit for it than not helping at all.  So there’s that.  But there are also a whole lot of people who keep talking… and talking… and talking… and doing nothing.  Like Judas.  Stop talking! 

What a terrible post for Holy Monday!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Crisis Moments Pass, but Sometimes it Stinks

Dry bones are not in crisis, but they probably were at one time or another.  I mean—they’re dead.  They’ve been dead for a long time.  Something happened that sucked the life out of them.  And then time passed.  After the breath ceased, the flesh and tendons melted away.    

By all accounts, a dead Lazarus should have been headed down the road of dry bones.  Bodies start decomposing fairly quickly after death…  OK, immediately.  Bodies start decomposing immediately.  My Google history is actually pretty disturbing, right now, but I needed to wrap my mind around this. 

When Jesus arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days.  I think we have to assume that Lazarus’ body was not embalmed (although there were some ancient embalming possibilities).  If that assumption is correct, Lazarus’ internal organs had likely decomposed by the time Jesus arrived.  Blood and foam would have been leaking from his mouth and nose.  Bacteria would have been rampant.  And there were probably maggots.  Martha was definitely not wrong when she verified exactly what Jesus was asking and made sure to give him the information he needed. 

Roll the stone away, Lord?  It’s been four days!  This stinks!  (John 11:39, really, really paraphrased).

But Jesus—you know, Jesus who was four days late—is all like, “You know what, Martha, just trust me.  Just do it.” (I can’t even stretch that for a paraphrase.  I hope nobody gets all over me for taking creative license with Scripture.)

And the thing that blows my mind here is that control freak, clean freak Martha must agree; because the next thing you know, they’re rolling the stone away.  And Lazarus—very dead, partially decomposed Lazarus—walks out.

I wonder what the process looked like.  Perhaps Ezekiel gives us a clue in the passage about the dry bones prophesy.  Like the Israelites, Martha and Mary might have cried out, “Our (his) bones are dried up and our hope is gone” (Ezekiel 37:11, NIV). 

How many times have I said something similar in less dire circumstances?  (But it stinks!  It’s too late!  This cannot be fixed!)

Yet, once the bones have been reconnected with the proper tissue, the Lord says, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (Ezekiel 37:14).

Well, OK then…

If there’s life after death—after decomposition—then I have to believe there is also life after frustration… after disappointment… after crisis…