Resurrection changes things

Jesus himself appeared and stood among the eleven and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?…While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”—Luke 24:36-37

Easter was a beautiful day.  The weather was perfect.  Trees and flowers were blooming. Our services were beautiful—balloons, flowers, music, alleluias!!  “The Lord has risen indeed.  Alleluia.”  Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!”  Communion.  Jesus. All creation sings along.  So, why do we have doubts, today?

The disciples had this problem.  Only a few had witnessed the crucifixion, but there were witnesses.  Mary, and some of the other women, had been there and seen it all.  Mary had stayed by his tomb, and she said that she had seen him alive.  Others saw the stone had been rolled away and angels told them Jesus was no longer dead but had risen as he had said he would. There were rumors that he had appeared to others, too. But could it be true?  What’s the problem?

I was touched by this reflection from Laura Darling in 50 days of Fabulous:   “Why do doubts arise in our hearts? Because you were dead, that’s why! Not only merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead. May I say it again? Dead. Not resting. Not stunned. You had passed on, ceased to be, expired. You were bereft of life, you had kicked the bucket, you had shuffled off this mortal coil. You were dead and buried, and we were never going to see you again. That’s what death means, you know. It means separation. It means all last chances are gone. It means there’s no chance for anything to be any different between us.

“And now here you are, and it’s not a delusion, and you’re not a ghost, and you’re eating a friggin’ fish. So forgive me if I’m a little wigged out here, but that’s not how life is supposed to go. It’s supposed to go in a certain direction. It’s supposed to allow for no revisions. What’s past is past, what’s done is done, what’s gone is gone, what’s dead is dead.

“I’ve got to tell you, Jesus, you have broken those rules so badly I don’t even know where to put them anymore. I don’t think there’s any charity that would take them, you’ve messed them up so badly. And now that those rules about the past and the future, death and life, you and me, are in the rubbish, I’ve got to ask you, what else are you going to change?”

What else is going to change?  Why do we doubt? Why do we wonder if it is really Jesus showing up in our lives?  Did he not say he would?  We could miss, in this story, that Jesus shows himself to the disciples while they are doubting.  But, it doesn’t keep him away. Nor do ours.  What are your doubts today?  What are mine? Where is Jesus showing himself? What is changing? What is he resurrecting in you and me?  Because, resurrection changes things.  Alleluia!

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An Easter Meditation

Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been.  One asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was him.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”…(and he says, “Your Name.”)

“Go tell my disciples”….John 20:11-18

Love has won!! Alleluia!  Alleluia!!  Alleluia!!!

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A Holy Saturday Meditation

A HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION

Love is in the tomb.

Today is a sad day in the life of the Christian Church—Jesus has been crucified.  This is the only day of the year when there is no reserved sacrament.  No communions will be offered and no sacraments can be consecrated.  (Until after sundown which, traditionally, is Sunday.) This day is for remembrance that Jesus has died but is not yet raised.

For the disciples, who do not know the end of the story, it is sadder still.  All their hopes are crushed.  Not only that, a dear friend has been savagely killed and they weren’t able to stay awake with Him as He asked at the last.  Some have betrayed him, too, and their grief is intense.  What will they hang on to, now?  How can they remember Him?  How can we?  Love is in the tomb, today.

One Disciple’s Lament

Oh God, my God, they have killed my Lord. Why? Why? He was so gentle and so strong.  He was the one—the Messiah.  How could they not know?  Our Hope is gone.  I stayed there at the cross and watched this horrible thing. I cannot bear those images.  My heart is broken in so many pieces and I cannot stop my crying.  Sobs come from the depths of me and tears continue to run down my face like rivers.  Oh, his dear lovely face.  Blood!  He forgave those who were responsible for his death.  He cried out to you, O God.  He forgave me and healed me with his love and he is gone.  There is a hole in me, now.   How can I go on without him?  I can’t go on without him.  Why?  Why? If I could only touch him, again.  And they beat his dear self-again and again.  If I had not been there to see, but I had to go and stay.  I could not but go and stay.  He felt abandoned by you and betrayed by his friends. Why did you not save him?  I cannot betray him nor abandon him, now.  He said it is finished.  Finished?   I could not leave him there alone.  I can’t leave him here in this tomb alone.  I feel abandoned, too, without him, but I stay here in this place where he is buried as much as I can. I can’t do this.  I can’t.  I can’t.  I am lost.

I will never again see his face, feel his touch, nor hear him call my name….

Love is in the Tomb, today.

A Good Friday Meditation

John – Chapters 18 & 19

What can one say on Good Friday that has not already been said?  The story is very familiar to all of us and there are so many great meditations already written, why should I write another? Well, for two reasons—because I can, but really because in order to get into the story, I need to meditate on it. Writing helps me do this.

Our children hated Good Friday.  They thought it was gruesome so they didn’t want to go to church on Good Friday to be reminded.  An old Johnny Hart cartoon comes to mind—actually, I saw it again on Facebook and that reminded me.  Person 1 says:  “I hate the term ‘Good Friday!’”  Person 2:  “Why?”  P1. “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.” P2. “If you were going to be hanged on that day, and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” P1. “Good.”  P2. “Have a nice day.”

Perhaps, Person 2 should say, “Have a Good day.” It doesn’t really look or feel like a good day, though, does it? A Good day almost requires standing on the other side of the cross from where the disciples are standing, and that’s not where we are today.  Jesus and his disciples are in a garden.  He has asked that they stay awake and pray for him and for themselves but they could not. There are other times the disciples will fail, today.  Watch as the story unfolds.  Once again, let’s try to put ourselves into it as one of them. It is found in the account from John.

Judas, has already betrayed Jesus and, now, he brings soldiers and police to the place where he knows Jesus will be so they can arrest him.  Was that a glance between Judas and Jesus?  Even though, Jesus knows what is happening, this must be a blow. We, his disciples have no clue.  What are we thinking, now?  We don’t understand all of his teaching, but we have seen the works of God that Jesus has done.  Are we wrong about Jesus being the Messiah?  Why is he being arrested? Why doesn’t he stop this?  Peter, once again, takes matters into his own hands, draws his sword and cuts off a slave’s ear. Jesus rebukes him and says something about drinking from a cup his Father has given him.  What?

These, and more, are the stories of today.  These are humiliation stories, rejection stories, abandonment stories, stories of torture and they are not pretty. The disciples run away, Peter denies knowing him, the Jewish leaders that he had hoped to turn around rejected him.    But, Jesus’ love and purpose transcends his disappointment and pain.  Unconditional love has a way of doing that.And this is the story of Love.  And this is our story.

Questions to ponder – When do I betray Jesus?  When do I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for God’s purpose to unfold?  When do I believe that God does not understand how I feel?  Will I ever be able to love like this?

 “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain—for me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love!  How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?  Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? – Charles Wesley

DLW

 

A Maundy Thursday Meditation

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Traditionally in the Christian Church, this day is known as Maundy Thursday, sometimes called Holy Thursday. Three main events take place on this night before the Passover festival which are –Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, the institution of the Eucharist our Communion meal, and his giving the “new” commandment of love. The lessons for the day and the Liturgy which will be celebrated bring these to mind. As we begin this day, Judas has already betrayed Jesus and he, with the remaining disciples, are beginning their final meal together before Jesus’ arrest—though the disciples didn’t know that it was.

“Jesus got up, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist.   He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel.  In this culture, foot washing was done by slaves. Peter can’t handle this and objects.  He says, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”… “Never.”  Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”… “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”   Jesus washed their feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servant hood. He says, “Do you understand what I have done for you?”… “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…” He will give another example, but that is tomorrow’s story.

After washing, Jesus’ puts on His robe. He tells his friends that He is going away, soon, and they can’t come with Him this time.  Then He says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  This Great Commandment is Jesus’ desire for his friends.  That includes us.

In the lesson from I Corinthians 11:23-26, the apostle Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words at this common meal – the Last Supper, “that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”  These are the words that are still used today in our common meal, the Eucharist.

After this meal, Jesus and his disciples leave for the Garden where Jesus prays and the disciples sleep.  Stay tuned.

Tonight at Trinity, these stories will be lived out in our service, which begins at 7 pm.  If you can’t join us, take some time today to read these lessons. As you read and pray, imagine yourself as a disciple (apprentice) in these stories and events.  What are your thoughts and feelings as you accompany Jesus and as you listen to him?  If you can, do this even if you are planning to be at the service.  These next few days of our journey with Jesus are intense and we want to pay attention, be aware, and not let them pass by lightly.

 

Tuesday in Holy Week

John 12:20-36

Our Holy Week journey continues. The Gospel tells us that some Greeks, in Jerusalem for the festival, came to Philip and said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” We are not told if Jesus responded to this request, but his comments to Philip and Andrew seem a bit odd. He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified….I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit….Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also…..” It is almost as if Jesus is talking to himself, pondering.

Is Jesus wrestling with what he knows is about to happen? Is his struggle, once again, with the temptation—the shortcut—to use power instead of love to bring about his purposes. He is troubled, “….what should I say—`Father, save me from this hour’? NO, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” Does Jesus question if he is hearing correctly? He turns to his Father and prays, “Father, glorify your name.”—for his Father’s will, not his own. A voice comes from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there thought it was thunder or an angel speaking. Whatever is taking place here is big – not Plan B – but planned before time began.

Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He is telling his followers how he will die. The crowd asks, “How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” I can almost see Jesus shake his head. They don’t understand. He tells them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you….” The scripture says that after Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. Odd. Strange. In the darkness? In our darkness? This is not the Messiah the people were expecting.

What are our thoughts as we listen to Jesus today? “Who is this Son of Man?” Do we want to see Jesus? Do we see him? Is he somehow hidden from us in the darkness? Do we understand? Are we walking in that light? Is Jesus the Messiah we expected? Do we look for shortcuts?

“Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus.”

Wednesday in Holy Week

Today’s Gospel, John 13:21-30, is one that has been discussed, meditated upon and discussed even again.  Today, once more, we meditate on the story.  “At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”…”Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”… So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.  The writer of John is making a point that it was night.  Why? Is he implying that Judas was walking in darkness rather than light at the time he left the table?

What was Judas’ motive?  Some say, he may have been trying to save Jesus’ life from the crowds that were becoming agitated and likely to become violent.  Others say that he was trying to force Jesus into His role as King over Israel and so overthrow the Romans.  Maybe he wanted to save Jesus’ reputation. Some Orthodox churches call Judas a saint because he was the one who did what had to be done.  None of these reasons or motives make any difference to the fact that Judas betrayed his Lord.

The drama marches on and Jesus knows that it is the fullness of time.  God is using what Judas is doing for his own purposes and Judas has no clue.  Jesus is not meeting Judas’ expectations. Whatever reason he had when he took the bread from Jesus, the tempter came and Judas made a decision to take matters into his own hands. This story would go on with or without Judas, but how sad that the hand of a friend brought it about.

A thought this morning is that in the Eucharist, when Jesus breaks and gives us bread, he says, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”  And, often, we betray him, too.  When? Like Judas, when the tempter comes to us and we take matters into our own hands—when we tell Jesus that we’ll take it from here, we’d rather do it ourselves—when he isn’t working fast enough for us—when he is not the Messiah we want—when we want to do things according to our plan rather than waiting for his, etc.  When we don’t live according to his teachings.  When we distort his image.  We know when.

Who was the guilty?  Who brought this upon Thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee. ‘Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee! I crucified Thee.—HYMNBOOK, Page 158

Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  Lord have mercy.