Archive for April, 2023

Someone has said,

“We are Easter people, living in a Good Friday world.”

It started with a “violent quaking” (Matthew 28:2). As if there had not already been enough violence, just days ago, now the earth seemed to join in with hot-tempered participation.

The women (the ‘Marys’) arrived to see a traumatized guard and an angel sitting on the stone that had been covering the entrance to the tomb. The angel said to them,

“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.” (v. 5-6)

The news must have been almost too much to take in, for these women, still in the throws of new grief, still dealing with the trauma of the events of what had been done to their loved one, just days before.

This angelic being invited them into the tomb … into the place of death.

This invitation is for them, for us. For we, like the doubting disciple, need to see evidence. We need to enter into the place of death, to the place of hopeless darkness to see and know the miracle that has happened …

that death has been defeated!

We, who have grieved, who currently grieve, know the permanence of death … we have walked in the tomb of death. We know the darkness where grief resides. We know the sorrow that greets each new day. I think, in a way, grievers best understand this Easter Sunday message. This invitation to enter the tomb. To feel the cold, damp air. To hear nothing of life outside. To walk into the dark and imagine how much more dark it must have been with the stone over the entrance.

In his rising from death, in his dropping of his burial cloths, in the light pouring in, we can see hope in the midst of grief.

I love these words of Henri Nouwen:

“The resurrection does not solve our problems about dying and death. It is not the happy ending to our life’s struggle, nor is it the big surprise that God has kept in store for us. No, the resurrection is the expression of God’s faithfulness to Jesus and to all God’s children.”

Or, in the words of Jesus, to these same women, not long after their empty tomb tour:

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (v. 20)


He is with us … always.

He knows our sorrows (grief or otherwise).

He knows our struggles.

He knows our needs.

And that is

why he came.
why he dies.
why he rose.

Blessed are we who stretch out our hands to you
in doubt and grief,
in sickness of body and mind and spirit,
our prayers not fully realized,
rejoicing… anyway.

For that is what makes us Easter people:
carrying forth the realized hope of the Resurrected One,
singing our alleluias great and small,
while it is still dark.

Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Kate Bowler


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Good Friday …

Today Christians remember the sacrificial, horrific death of Jesus on a cross.

Today, in churches all around the world, singing has stopped, the blinds are pulled, the candles snuffed, the light extinguished as silence fills the place we call sanctuary (safe place).

And it is okay to be downcast, it’s okay for melancholy to set into our souls, it’s okay to let loose the tears that have been gathering in our eyes.

One of the hardest things about grieving is that the rest of the world is still turning, still going on, still living. When our world has stopped … full stop, yet all around us are the sights and sounds of life, regular life.

Today, those who grieve are more free to do so than any other day. Our weeping and sorrow is shared, understood. For today we weep with the world.

As we remember the sorrow of the one who died, we also remember that the Earth cried out it’s own sorrow.Today we hear, in Matthew 27, about:

  • They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. (v. 30)
  • Those who passed by hurled insults at him (v. 39)
  • From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. (v. 45)
  • The earth shook, the rocks split (v. 51)

As Jesus prayed in the garden, the night before his death, those closest to him slept … leaving him to sorrow, to grieve alone. As he begged God to remove the cup of sacrifice, a crowd, led by one of his own, was heading to arrest him. As he cried tears of blood, he did so alone.

Those who grieve have an intimate understanding of such solitary sorrowing. And it is here that we can relate, we can know that we are not alone, for Jesus knew sorrow.

But he did not just feel the weight of what was to come for him (the humiliation, the physical pain, the separation from God), he also felt our sorrow … the sorrow that comes from living in a sin-filled world where death still reigns, where it still stings.

As he cried tears of blood he felt the griefs that we feel, knowing that it was only through his impending death that he could wipe our tears.

As we remember the one who was crushed, utterly and completely, for us, because of us, we can know that he knows grief, he knows the loneliness, the sorrow and sadness that accompany death. But,

though the shadows creep all around us,
for shadows to exist
light must also be present.

“The day love died,
something new was born.

and may we be a people,
open to grief,
the loss,
and then, yes
the rising of the Son.”
-Kate Bowler

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When Jesus raised Lazarus from his lifeless state, he became the talk of the town.

Bethany, only about two miles from Jerusalem, where Jesus entered to crowds shouting,

“Blessed is he
who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

It didn’t take long for the human game of telephone to get the message out that this Jesus guy … he did the impossible, the miraculous … he raised a man (a local man, a known man) from his death in a tomb, four days (John 11:39).

If only Jesus was here …

That is what we humans often cry out.

He could fix our health, our finances, our relationships, our marriages, our jobs, our struggles, our dying loved ones … all of them.

But, we are all so sorrowfully aware, he does not always make it all better.

When I think of the phrase,

if only Jesus was here …

I do not think of things like health, finances, relationships, marriages, jobs, struggles, dying loved ones. For I know that we live in a fallen, sin-filled life. But that pleading thought does come to mind when I think of those who do not know him, those who have not experienced the peace of His Spirit in their lives, those who have not chosen to walk through life with Him.

I embrace those in my life wishing that Jesus himself would come and show his love for them himself. That He would physically be present to show the miracles available to them, through Him.

I can imagine something like this triumphal entry even today. I imagine him walking the streets of my city, people pointing and waving to him, whispering,

“that is the man who went to that funeral home,
walked up to the coffin (where the embalmed body lay),
said, “come out”
and the corpse sat up.”

You bet people would be stopping to say hi, chatting, pointing … a crowd gathering excitedly to see him, take a pic and post it on social media. It would be as if people got to have an encounter with a celebrity!

And so, today, on this Palm Sunday in Lent, this is the day of celebrations, joy and excitement for this miracle man called Jesus.

But …

What a paradox! For,

today Jesus is celebrated
as the miracle-working king
and only a few days later,
they chose to put him to death.

Only days after this triumphal entry, Pilate gave them the opportunity to spare the life of this king of them (of the Jews … but don’t think that we would do differently).

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

(John 19:14-15)

So, if He were here today, in our presence, right in front of our faces, would the miracles matter? Would the love in His eyes change our hearts? Would His physical presence draw everyone to Him? Would we wave palm branches today and turn our backs on him just days later?

If only Jesus was here …

He is, my dears. He is here through the Spirit who lives in us. The Spirit whose triumphal entry began when Jesus accepted God’s will for Him … for us.

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