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Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

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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IMG_3212

“Christ is risen
He is risen indeed”

The traditional greeting of Christians on Easter Sunday. It is called the “Paschal greeting” and was used in Orthodox and Catholic early churches. Sometimes it is accompanied by three kisses, on alternate cheeks.

It is said to have come from the gospel of Luke (v. 34):

“It is true!
The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”

This said after two disciples met a stranger on the road, as they walked to a village called Emmaus. This stranger, who appeared to know nothing of the events of the days prior, when Jesus, the prophet, was crucified.

 

You see, the stranger was Jesus himselfbut they were kept from recognizing him” (v. 16).

The stranger was told, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus” (v. 21-24).

They seemed to think that, because of Jesus’ death, maybe Jesus hadn’t been the redeemer/saviour that had hoped him to be, and because they did not see Jesus, who was supposedly alive, they had missed out. All this blind disappointment, in the man walking by their sides.

Then this stranger rebukes them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (v. 25-27).

So this stranger (aka Jesus himself), slaps them upside of the head with what he always uses … what the prophets said. He reminds them that, according to the prophets, their long-awaited saviour had to suffer, had to die.

Then came the fork in the road, Jesus continuing on, but the disciples stopping in Emmaus for the night.

The disciples “urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”” (v. 29). So Jesus joined them for dinner. 

It was there, at the table that the lightbulb came on for the pair.

“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” (v. 30-31).

“He took the bread,
gave thanks,
broke it
and began to give it to them”

Let’s rephrase that:

He sat before them,
gave thanks for the broken bread,

his body, days before, broken,
for them

It was in the reminder of Jesus’ broken body, for their broken lives, that their eyes were opened to who is was … for them. It is today, Easter Sunday, that we are all reminded that his body was broken, for our broken lives … but are our eyes opened to this, our Saviour?

” … and he disappeared from their sight” (v. 32). A bit anticlimactic … Just when he is known to them, he leaves them … again.

“They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”” (v. 32). Not so anticlimactic after all, for now that their eyes were fully opened, they realized that something in them had been stirring as they walked and talked with him on that road, to Emmaus. Something in them knew they were in the presence of their Saviour, but, as with all of us, they were blind to his presence.

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon” (v. 34-35).

It is true! … almost as if they were saying, Indeed, the Lord has risen!

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Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 8.18.25 AM.pngAs the Spring Break is underway for myself, and others, in my neck of the schooling woods, we get to also take in the signs of Spring.

Already I have examined the bulb plants growing, daily from their warming soil, Magnolia trees with flower pods getting heavy, the Forsythia blossoms starting to peek out, and buds on every tree. Even the grass is starting to dart up.

The gardening stores and nurseries are becoming the hubs of spring seekers, Seeds are being started, colour being added to the beds, pots and gardens. New gloves and clippers purchased to replace the broken and missing (no doubt to be found only days after new ones purchased). The blades are being cleaned and sharpened for trimming.

We breath in the air, fresh and clean, reviving our senses, our imaginations and dreams.

There is no sweeter start to any season. In a sense, spring is a sanctuary … a season of rebirth, renewal. A season of wide-eyed excitement and wonder. A time apart from the day to day of the rest of the year.

It is no coincidence that Easter also falls in the spring of the year. It, too, is a season of renewal, a season of wide-eyed excitement and wonder. It marks the end of waiting for the risen Messiah.

It reminds us that he rose once … that, like the crocuses, tulips and daffodils, he will rise again.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God; believe also in me.

In my Father’s house are many rooms.
If it were not so,
would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also.”
John 14:1-3

 

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“Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You
You silenced the boast, of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring, the praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again”

The sun arose.

The dark of night was being extinguished by the light of the new day.

It was Sunday.

The Son arose.

The dark sin of death extinguished by the light of the world

In Hebrew, the name Jesus means god saves. Through his sacrifice of death and separation from his Father, then the resurrection on the third day, Jesus, the son of God, saves us even this day.

This is the day of celebration for he beat the power of death. Not just to show himself, risen, but so that we too could, through his sacrifice, overcome death.

Though we still live in a world of darkness, of sin, heartbreak and loneliness, we are never alone, and we have the power, strength and companionship of the the one who conquered sin and death.

This makes for a better eternity, it makes for a better today too.

death

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus, You brought heaven down
My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now

What a wonderful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King”

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“We’re you there
When they crucified my Lord?”

I remember the first time I heard the lyrics to the song were you there, and tears fell onto my cheeks.

Over a hundred years it was a negro spiritual included in a book called Old Plantation Songs, and is a song of questions … from the past and for today.

Today marks the day before the day known as Good Friday.

For some it is called Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday. It is a day in the Holy Week when the Last Supper is remembered, and is the model of the ritual of Communion, the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist.

For me, this is the greatest day of contemplation of the entire Holy Week leading to Easter Sunday. On this day I wonder at the events on that day of calm before the storm, for Jesus.

A day of prophesying and preparing his followers for what was to come.

A day which, he knew, was his last chance to speak to his friends who would become his church.

A day when he knew what was to come.

A day when food and wine flowed liberally for his twelve, but the reference point that they were got stuck in his throat.

They lay on their sides enjoying the celebration and sustenance of that day, yet it was his impending death that would give them sustenance and celebration for the rest of their lives.

I often think of the questions of that song, on this day. I ask them of myself, as I prepare for the reality of their (affirmative) answers. We were all there … we are all there.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (Were you there?)
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nail’d him to the cross? (Were you there?)
Were you there when they nail’d him to the cross?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
Were you there when they nail’d him to the cross?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side? (Were you there?)
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when the sun refused to shine? (Were you there?)
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

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When my kids were young, I would sometimes hear their cries from the bedroom at night. When I would ask what is wrong their response would be, “I’m scared, Momma.” And so I would ask the reason for their fear. Sometimes it was a fear of someone dying, or that their favorite toy was lost, or the dark was too dark, or they just felt scared. I would then sit, or lay, on their bed and say soothing words, sing soft songs. Inevitably, they would soon drift off to sleep.

There was no magic potion that eased them into restful sleep. What my children needed was not so much resolution of their fears, but my presence with them through their fears.

Do you remember times when the presence of someone you loved was the best comfort in the face of fear?

Maybe it was walking home in the dark, as a teenager, after watching a scary movie. Or holding your dad’s arm while walking down the aisle at your wedding (or maybe you were his comfort?). Or that friend who sat with you during chemo treatments. Or the one who held you close as you walked through a great sadness or depression.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

This Friday, Christians all over the world will walk through the valley, as we remember the sacrifice of Christ for us.

As his body hung on that cross, he was so aware that he was alone. A loneliness that he was born to bare, a loneliness that his divinity did not deserve.

Yet, Jesus, though the fear of the loneliness of the dark overwhelming, showed that he chose the accompaniment of the name above all names.

According to Elicott’s Commentary:

“how it was possible for the Son of Man to feel for one moment that sense of abandonment, which is the last weapon of the Enemy. He tasted of despair as others had tasted, but in the very act of tasting, the words “My God” were as a protest against it, and by them He was delivered from it.”

He spoke the name of his father when he shouted, “”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), and in doing so he declared,

even though I am in pain

even though my heart is heavy

even though I have wrongly been declared guilty

even though I will die a lone being

I will not fear, for you are with me as long as I have breath left to say your name.

The presence of God is there for us all, we need only to call on his name.

 

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Snowdrops

Spring has sprung, with the turning of day to day on the calendar. Though it is just the passing of time that heralds the new season in, the change of seasons on the calendar reminds us that things change, that there is always something new around the next corner.

Just yesterday, it was still winter … so said the calendar.

Over a hundred years ago, William Sharp wrote the poem, The Crystal Forest, and it so describes the most delightful winter that the Pacific Northwest has enjoyed (or endured):

The air is blue and keen and cold,
With snow the roads and fields are white
But here the forest’s clothed with light
And in a shining sheath enrolled.
Each branch, each twig, each blade of grass,
Seems clad miraculously with glass:
Above the ice-bound streamlet bends
Each frozen fern with crystal ends.”

And now, that winter has past. It was yesterday, spring is today.

I remembered that spring had come as I sat in a theatre of spring-seekers today.

“Winter turns to spring
Famine turns to feast
Nature points the way
Nothing left to say
Beauty and the Beast”

As love was declared, as the rose re-gained it’s fallen petals, as the shadows over the castle were cast away by the light, as the lungs of the ‘beast’ were filled with life-giving air, the song from the beloved story play.

Spring had come to the castle-topped mountain, and everything the light touched was transformed into something new.

Love came through Christ, and he fulfilled the work of his love in his Easter gift, casting away the shadows.

Spring is more than just a date on a calendar, it is change pointed the way through nature, and fulfilled by the Creator of the world.

“He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.”
Psalm 104:19

 

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If you live in the right areas of the world you have the opportunity to view the third ‘blood moon’ in the tetrad (four) series of lunar eclipses. The shadow of the Earth will cover the moon for just under five minutes. It is a rare and exciting event for sky watchers from NASA to those under my roof.

In the Christian calendar, today is the darkest day, but it is not because of an eclipse.

Today, Christians all over the world, participate in a memorial for the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, the sinless son of God, paying with his body and soul, for the sins of a humanity, who could not ever dream of making atonement for ourselves.

Today, I bow my head in prayer, and thank God that my own redemption was worth the death of His Son.

Today, is a day of thanks for the gift, but also acknowledgment of how dark was that day of scourging, torture, crucifixion, and death.

It could be said that, for Jesus, it was a total eclipse of his heart, as the sin of all humanity separated Him from His heavenly Father … a pain far worse than any torture man had done. This is the Passion of Jesus, poured out, as a light in a dark, hopeless, fearful world.

2015/01/img_1911.jpgThe quote, above, describes what was done on that day, when what Satan intended for evil, destruction and darkness, God turned into hope, light and life.

In the following video (at about 1:17), we see how, even in our physical world, darkness cannot eliminate light, through the description of tomorrow’s lunar eclipse:

“Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain, looking up at the sky.

Overhead hangs Earth, night side down.

Completely hiding the sun behind it.

The eclipse is underway.

You might expect Earth, seen in this way, to be utterly dark.

But it’s not.

The rim of the planet looks to be on fire.

As you scan your eye across Earth’s circumference, you’re seeing every sunrise, and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once.

This incredible light beams into the heart of the Earth’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the moon into a great red orb, when viewed from Earth.”

http://youtu.be/_70M4lkLKPk

On this day, as we remember the darkness of our sin, may we also see how that dark day has illuminated the light from it’s shadow.

“There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.”
Revelation 22:5

 

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Spring Break provided me with ample opportunities to be still.

For hours I worked in my garage … painting, sanding, waxing, sawing, nailing. Furniture was transformed, home repairs were made, and my soul was given room to breath.

Spending my time in such a quiet way gives me the opportunity to hear better.

I find having the time and space for quiet allow me to sing (and no other has to hear my horrid voice), to contemplate, to plan and dream, to weep, to smile, to pray.

Just this week, in our departmental prayer and devotion time, the person leading did so without her own words … yet my heart and soul heard so clearly.

As the lyrics to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross play, I heard them afresh, as though the weight of them, the weight of their story, lay firmly on my heart.

An archaic, yet still-relevant, hymn of the faith. Sir Isaac Watts is said to have penned it’s words about three hundred and eight years ago.

I glanced around the room, at the lovely people there … each of us with our own public or private sorrow, weighing on our hearts. Yet …

when we consider, when we survey,

that cross, that wondrous cross,

our own sorrows diminish, fade if only for the length of the song.

“When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain (deepest pain) I count but loss (no rugged cross)
and pour contempt on all my pride

Forbid it Lord that I should boast (weep for myself)
Save in debt of Christ my God
All the vain things that charm ( me most
I sacrifice them to his blood

See from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a present far too small
Love so amazing so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

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March can be quite a conundrum of a month. Truly it is, or can be a month of contrasts, when one considers the weather. It is often a gentle month, with both warm and cool co-habitating in our days, our nights.

It is a month of new life, emerging from every living thing. It is a month of possible wearing toe-less shoes in the day, and snuggling under a warm blanket at night. It is a month of lengthening daylight, but dark shadows still emerging. March is a month of looking forward, to the warmth of summer, to the freedom that summer’s schedule can bring.

March is a month of dreaming of what is to come, while under the warmth of what was promised in the frigid winter months.

Just yesterday we, in the Christian church, celebrated the Triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the city of peace, which has, historically, rarely been peaceful, has also been a place of contrasts.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, entering into the city of peace. The people, laying clothes and palm branches at his feet, in awe of this new king, who had been promised to give them freedom, to give them peace.

Just outside of the city, Mount Moriah. The mountain climbed by Abraham, in obedience (and trust) to God’s request that Abraham take his only son, Isaac, to sacrifice on an alter. The sacrifice, normally made with a perfect (spotless) lamb. Spotless, clean … to atone for something dirty, marred.

On that mountain, God had asked Abraham to do the unthinkable, sacrifice his own son, as the only atonement for his sins. Abraham, in his trust of his God, did what was expected of him … and then God provided a substitute, a young ram.

And now, this Easter week, we see contrasts again.

A father preparing for the sacrifice of his son, but this time, there is no other substitute.

“and he is the propitiation (atonement, sacrifice)
for our sins:
and not for ours only,
but also for the sins of the world.”

1 John 2:2

March, and Easter, in like a lamb …

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