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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

This week’s random thoughts was at the top of a friends post on Facebook.

As I read the list of ten … let’s call them the week’s learnings during this time of self isolation in the shadows of Covid19, I heard a song from childhood …

count your blessings

Now, at the end of that week, feeling rather depleted from a week that had a fair number of downs that seem to overshadow the the ups, I am revisiting my friend’s post.

As I look back over the week, this post and two other memories pop out for me.

There is a family that I follow on Instagram. Their beautiful daughter (and their whole family) have been fighting cancer for almost fifteen years (she is about twenty now) … through one diagnosis and three relapses. After over a month of self isolation, they are naming something each day that they are each thankful for.

A sweet teen, who carpooled with me to school (and whose heart and soul I adore), dropped off a belated birthday gift. Part of it was “The One-Minute Gratitude Journal” with spaces to write what I am grateful for each day.

Hum …
Coincidence?
I think NOT!

Saint Augustine (of the late 300s-early 400s) said,

“we are an Easter people
and
alleluia is our song.”

What he was saying is that as people (all people) who have been given the gift of Easter, the gift of the sacrifice of Christ, our song, or message (maybe even to ourselves) need always be praise to the Lord.

To offer thanks is to recognize from where our blessings come. To offer gratitude is to see what we have … even when we are in a place of many have-nots, of depletion, of lack.

And so, I wrote my list, of this week’s random thoughts … thanks. And, you know what, I have much to be thankful for … much for which to sing praises to my Lord … alleluia!

I encourage you to try this too … I’d love to hear from you … what are your random thoughts and thanks this week?

  1. Zoom visit with a dear friend
  2. Daily after work walks with our son
  3. A delivery of a belated birthday gift from the sweetest teenager I know
  4. Able to help my mom accomplish a level of technology
  5. A charcuterie board that looked and tasted wonderfully
  6. Discovering a great new TV series to enjoy with hubby
  7. Conferences with students who have the most amazing work ethics
  8. Sunny days
  9. A bunny hopping leisurely ahead of me while walking on a trail
  10. A church small group who is like oxygen

Count Your Blessings
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Who couldn’t use a little
Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney
singing Irving Belin’s
Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep?

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Though the Easter weekend has past, somehow it could almost feel like it never happened.

I have to admit that I didn’t do too well with my lenten sacrifice. I had intended that each day I would read a number of chapters in John, starting with the death of Lazarus and going to Jesus’ arrest in the garden. Despite having the time, with self isolation and social distancing becoming a reality, contemplative reading was not something I have done much of these weeks.

The one lenten practise I did maintain was a frequent, silent praying of what is known as the Jesus Prayer,

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
have mercy on me,
a sinner.

I put an image of it on my phone’s home screen, so I saw it every time I went to turn my phone on (and man, have I turned it on often during these days of Covid 19 updates and breaking news).

I have been constantly reminded, in the lead up to Easter, who I am in relation to Jesus. What he has done for me.

Then Easter, during this season of Covid 19, came … and went. No crescendo of voices on Easter morning, no large family gatherings, no face to face Easter embraces and greetings of “He is risen” to respond, “He is risen indeed.”

Yet …

The words of song, the words of an ancient creed, have been mulling in my mind for weeks …

The first writing of the Apostle’s Creed was in 390AD …

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

In this time of Covid 19, in the light shadows of the Easter weekend, we are called to the question,

what do I believe?

And the words of this Creed echo in my mind, in my heart. For this is what I believe is the essential belief of we, the Easter people. The people who follow, not blindly, but in faith of the one who died for our good … both here on Earth, but even more so, for the eternity that awaits us all.

So, my soul sings what I believe, reaching a solo crescendo … one reached by millions of followers throughout the ages.

We all have to answer the question of Pilate,

“What shall I do, then,
with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

And I believe what I believe
is what makes me what I am
I did not make it
no, it is making me
it is the very truth of God
and not the invention of any man
I believe it

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I cannot imagine not being able to recognize someone who I love.

Yet, as we read the accounts of people who encountered the risen Jesus, it seems as though they were completely unaware as to who was standing before them.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You

Of course, each of these people, seemingly blinded to the obvious, were also in the depths of despair, sadness, confusion and grief … for the one they so loved had died in such an unfair and violent manner and with him, died their hopes of a Saviour for their people, for themselves, for redemption.

They were mourning and hopeless.

In a sense, their eyes were not yet opened to the fact that, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus :

“you do not grieve like the rest of mankind,
who have no hope”

(1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Because they had not yet seen the resurrected Christ … it was in the seeing … with their eyes and their hearts, that their hope was made real.

I love the story of the two walking along the road to Emmaus with Jesus. It says that the trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus is about seven miles. At some point along the way Jesus himself joins them in their walk. Jesus listens as they tell of the events of the past three days, with great sorrow and hopelessness. Jesus then challenges them, calling them foolish, saying,

“Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26).

Then, when they reached the village of Emmaus, they invited Jesus to spend the evening with them.

At the evening meal (how Jesus loved when people gathered around the bread and wine), a miracle occurred :

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31).

These were not his disciples who had experienced the first communion with Jesus at the last supper. Yet, through the breaking of the bread (his body), their eyes were opened to the truth of who they were dining with … their Savior, the very bread of heaven.

Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century wrote the words to the beautiful hymn, Panis Angelicus … the words, in Latin and English below:

Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum
O res mirabilis
Manducat dominum
Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis
May the Bread of Angels
Become bread for mankind;
The Bread of Heaven puts
All foreshadowings to an end;
Oh, thing miraculous!
The body of the Lord will nourish
the poor, the poor,
the servile, and the humble.

It is in the physical element of the bread, the symbol of the body of our Hope, our Redemption, that our eyes can be opened, so that we see with our hearts the truth of who he is … but we have to be willing to take that bread into us, our lives.

this is his body.

broken for you.

take.

eat.


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He is risen; He is risen indeed.

Thus begins this Easter, this Resurrection Sunday.

Believers in Christ greet one another this way, as a message of hope, joy and shared belief …

for it is the resurrection of Christ that unites us, as believers in him

It is a wild and out-there thing to believe that Jesus, the man, rose from the dead. Yet this is our hope of salvation … this empty tomb, this rising from the dead.

His horrific crucifixion death was the covering or substitute for us and the sin that we had no ability, no resources to pay for. He stepped in, as the sacrificial lamb, to pay our debt, to cover our sins, so that we can face our God.

It was, on that first Easter Sunday that we are introduced to the origins of this Easter greeting.

The women came to the tomb, to discover that it was empty. They were, no doubt, filled with horror and grief that the body of their Jesus had been stolen. Then angelic messengers greeted them, saying :

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:5-7).

Then, later, while a couple were having a meal with a stranger, their eyes are opened to the identity of the stranger, when Jesus breaks bread for them, then he disappears. They immediately go back to Jerusalem and tell the disciples, “The Lord has risen indeed” (v. 34).

God, in his ultimate wisdom, knew that we humans would need more than one confirmation of his rising from the dead!

So, as a community of believers in this sacrifice we excitedly awaken this morning and greet one another with the most unifying greeting possible,

He is risen,
He is risen indeed.

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”
Matthew 28:6

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The day before his death …

and he goes to the garden …

where all things, good and evil, originated.

Today, as we prepare to remember the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus and subsequent resurrection of our Savior, it is good to spend some time in the garden with him.

When Jesus entered the garden of Gethsemane, he said to his disciples,

“Sit here while I go over there and pray”
(Matthew 26:36)

We are still called to sit … to contemplate … to pray.

Somehow, it is easier to do those things out in nature … and in the beauty of a spring garden, it is as though our souls are drawn not only to the creation, but also the Creator.

Today is the time for reflection, for prayer.

Spend some time today in the garden.

I stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me is falling.
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.
And He walk with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

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Who do you love?
a spouse? children? friend? parent?

Why do you love them?
how they make you feel?
what they have done for you?
they are yours?

To what extent would your love go for their benefit?
do things they like to do?
move to another city?
sacrifice time? money?

There is a story that always reminds me about the greatest gift of love:

There was a little girl who was suffering from a rare life threatening disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had somehow survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”.

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

That story always reminds me of the love of God, for us, his children. It is the love spoken of in John 15:13, which tells us, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

In Ellicott’s Commentary, on this verse, we read that, ” … the highest reach of love is the self-sacrifice which spares not life itself.”

If I think about it, I can imagine being willing to sacrifice my life for a handful of individuals … maybe a few more. I care for those people, have a relationship with them, seek the best for them and desire that they have future, a hope.

The thing is the love of Christ for us goes the next step further. God made this sacrifice because he cares for us, seeks the best for us, desires a future and hope for us. But, he made this sacrifice for those who have relationship with him, as well as those who have not chosen relationship with him … and his sacrifice was his own son.

It is the greatest love … there is no greater.

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He wept.

Jesus wept.

That’s what I’ve been reading, each day of this season of Lent, as I read from the death of Lazarus to the prayers of Jesus, before his arrest.

As I read and reread the account of the death of Lazarus I have more insights and more questions.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

John 11:32-37

Each day I am left with the question,

why did Jesus weep?

did he weep because Lazarus was dead?

  • that doesn’t make sense, because Jesus knew that he would soon raise Lazarus from the grave.

did he weep because he loved Lazarus?

  • he did love Lazarus, but … death would not defeat Lazarus, and Jesus knew that his temporary ‘sleep’ would soon come to an end.

did he weep because he saw Mary (the sister of Lazarus) crying?

  • the passage does say that “he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” when he saw Mary weeping, but it is not until they take him to Lazarus that his tears begin to fall.

Though those rationales have some hint of truth in their possibilities, I wonder if maybe the tears of Jesus had more to do with his own fate, in the days that were to come. I wonder if it might have been that Jesus was beginning to face his own ‘sleep’.

As Jesus walked through the events leading to his rising of Lazarus, we read that the death of Lazarus (v. 4) “is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” How could the death of Lazarus be for God’s glory?

Had Jesus prevented the death of Lazarus, that would have been great … but probably not miraculous. It would not have cinched it for Jesus as Messiah … for who could raise the dead to life again? By waiting for Lazarus to die, by healing him when there would have been so many around was to, in essence, crown Jesus king of the Jews. Thus, opening him up to his arrest and all that followed.

Back to the verse (v. 4) “it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Has Jesus (God’s Son) been glorified through his healing of Lazarus?

Well … yes. But what exactly does glorified mean? and what does it mean in this specific context?

Glorified means that someone or something typical is viewed or treated or honored as something more … something or someone special (I hear the Dana Carvey character of the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live saying special). This is not the biblical meaning of glorified.

In 1 Corinthians 10:31-32, we are instructed, “whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. Do not become a stumbling block …” In this we understand that we, as the followers of God, reflect his glory, so we have a responsibility to reflect accurately. God’s glory is who he is, his perfect character. For his glory to be glorified through his son, means that his perfect character and love are reflected through the sacrificial death of his son, for the sake and souls of all people.

In other words,

we could not know of the glory of God’s love for us, except through the death of Christ.

Jesus modelled, for us the sacrificial aspect of reflecting God’s glory … it is not always doing what is easy, what is natural … often it is doing that which might bring us to tears, but the God who he allows us to reflect is eternally glorified.

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