Practicing Resurrection

Celtic cross Iona Abbey

Celtic cross Iona Abbey, Scotland

Its Easter Sunday, for many of us the culmination of our faith, the day for which all of us have waited, hoped and longed for. For many of us this seems like the end of the story, at least that is what you would think by the way we act during the rest of the year. Easter Sunday comes, we give our shouts of Alleluia, sing a few songs of praise, and then we pretty much go about life as usual. Tomorrow we will wake up, drink a cup of coffee or tea, and as I said in a previous Easter post What Have We Done with Jesus, go back to our pre Christ encounter jobs totally unchanged by all that Jesus has said and done.

Easter Sunday is not an end but a beginning. And it isn’t just a single day, it is a whole season that extends until Pentecost. How could we possibly celebrate the wonder of God’s new world which was ushered in by the resurrection, in a single day? And how can we possibly confine the practice of this incredible event to a short church service.

This is the season to practice resurrection, the time to go out and not just shout about the new life we have in Christ but to live it. Jesus resurrection transformed his  disciples. They left homes and families and jobs to live radically different lives. They sold their property and shared it with others. They looked after the sick and cared for the marginalized, and guess what, this small band of disciples became a world wide movement that still transforms lives today. What difference has it made in our lives?

In my study guide Celebrating the Joy of Easter, I ask

What kind of God do we want to incarnate to our world? Is it a God of love and compassion who leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to rescue one that has gone astray, or one who constantly accuses those who do not follow God’s ways? Is it a God who gets his hands dirty by entering, in a very personal and human way, into the pain and suffering of our world, or one who inflicts pain and anguish as punishment for our sins? Is it a God who celebrates life with enthusiasm by turning water into wine at a wedding, or one who strips us of our joy by placing heavy burdens on our shoulders? Is it a God who hears our cries and brings justice for the poor and oppressed, or one who stands aloof and indifferent to our pain?

Easter is the season to show others what kind of world we believe Jesus resurrection ushered into our broken world. It is a season to get out and practice hospitality, compassion, love, healing, generosity and care for creation. It is a season to show by our words and actions that we really do believe Jesus is indeed alive and is transforming our world… through us!

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Even Resurrection Pauses For Sabbath Rest

Photo by Monette Chilson

Photo by Monette Chilson

It is Holy Saturday, that day between death and resurrection when most of us pause to draw breath. What did not occur to me until I read these words Even resurrection pauses for Sabbath rest, in the Episcopal Relief and Development Lenten guide this morning, that today, for the Jews is indeed the sabbath day. This full day of Jesus time in the grave is the day into which all their hope and longing for the future is poured. A day to look forward with anticipation to the day when God does indeed make all things news.

The last words that Jesus cried before his death are It is finished. The work that God has sent me to do is done. It is indeed time to pause for rest, but what is God’s sabbath rest all about? Sabbath rest is not a rest of exhaustion, a pause before we get going with the next busy thing. Sabbath rest is a rest of fulfillment, of satisfaction for a job well done and as I sit here this morning I can well imagine God resting in the satisfaction of the amazing job that Jesus had just completed.

For the Jews Sabbath also carries with it a sense of longing and promise. It is the culmination of their week, that day on which they hoped to glimpse God’s eternal world and on this Sabbath rest 2,000 years ago they did glimpse it, though they did not know it. As Jesus entered Hades and released those who had died, the first signs of God’s resurrection world emerged in expectation of the fullness of God coming into the world on Easter morning.

And They Planted Him In A Garden

birth and crucifixion

At lunch time today Tom and I attended a Good Friday service at our local church. The service included the reading of the story of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion from the gospel of John. What particularly struck me was the account of Jesus burial which tells us that Jesus body was laid in a new tomb in a nearby garden. It is planting time here in Seattle and so, not surprisingly, the imagery that came to my mind was of Jesus, like a seed of wheat, being planted in a garden, buried in the earth to await the birth of a new creation.

Far fetched you might think? Maybe not. Some theologians think that the whole theme of the Gospel of John is that of new creation. Most of the book of  John (chapters 12-20) takes place during one week in the life of Christ. John concentrates on themes. One theme is that Christ will redeem all of Creation (not just souls) through Re-Creation. In many ways Jesus death was like the planting of a seed (Unless a seed is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone, but its death will produce many new seeds, a plentiful harvest of new lives (Jn 12:24).  And then in John 20:15 we read: “she thought he was the gardener”  Why did it matter that Mary Magdalene thought that Jesus was the gardener?  

The gospel of John begins with the words “In the beginning”. This immediately harkens us to the book of Genesis which opens with the same words. John then lays out a series of events in the life of Christ that mirror the Seven Days of Creation.  Read more

In the beginning God planted a garden – the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8).  In the beginning of the new creation brought into being by the resurrection of Christ God now in the form of the risen Christ, is once more seen as a gardener.  The hope and promise of these words which we so often skim over is incredible.  As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”

So as we mourn the death of Christ today let us  consider the hope that the planting of a seed gives us. It is but a dim mirror of the hope that resides in the Christ whose death we remember today and whose resurrection carries with us the promise of many lives renewed, restored and bearing fruit.

Songs by Steve Bell for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Rainbow tree - posted by Micha Jazz

Song writer and musician Steve Bell has several beautiful posts for this holy weekend that I thought you might like to be aware of

This one for Good Friday features the song Gone is the Light

 

Gone is the Light  
Music and lyric by Gord Johnson
appears on Steve Bell’s Devotion album (see below)

Into the darkness we must go
Gone, gone is the light
Into the darkness we must go
Gone, gone is the light

Jesus remember me
When you enter your Kingdom
Jesus remember me
When your kingdom comes

Father forgive them
They know not what they do
Father forgive them
They know not what they do

Into the darkness we must go
Gone, gone is the light
Into the darkness we must go
Gone gone is the light

And this one for Easter Sunday features another beautiful song Was It a Morning Like This. 

Was it a Morning Like This | Jim Croegaert

Was it a morning like this
When the sun still hid from Jerusalem
And Mary rose from her bed
To tend the Lord she thought was dead

Was it a morning like this
When Mary walked down from Jerusalem
And two angels stood at the tomb
Bearers of news she would hear soon

chorus:
Did the grass sing
Did the earth rejoice to feel you again
Over and over like a trumpet underground
Did the earth seem to pound He is risen!
Over and over like in a never ending round
He is risen! Alleluia!

Was it a morning like this
When Peter and John ran from Jerusalem
And as they raced for the tomb
Beneath their feet was there a tune

A Prayer for Easter Sunday 2013

Easter Sunday pryaer 2013.003

Maundy Thursday Reflection

This morning I posted this prayer on the Light for the Journey Facebook page.

Lord Jesus Christ today we are reminded
of how you knelt to wash our feet.
In a lowly act of service you poured out love.
Leading us away from power and prestige,
You showed us what true kingship looks like.
Earth shattering, profound,
A reversal of the status quo,
That we still struggle to imitate.
May we today follow your example.
May we kneel and wash the feet of others.
And in so doing share the wonder of your love.

The radical counter cultural nature of Jesus action is almost incomprehensible to us. A God who kneels to wash our feet as a servant. This was a job not just for a servant but for the lowliest of servants.

Two phrases stood out for me as I read the account of Jesus revolutionary action in John 13 this morning. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth and now he loved them to the very end.  (v2) and I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. (v15)

All that Jesus has been trying to tell his disciples is summed up in this act of servanthood which John describes as one of the final acts of love Jesus shows towards his disciples. Don’t go after power, wealth and position. Don’t expect others to kneel and wash your feet, get down on your knees and wash theirs.

No wonder the import of this story usually passes us by. It has a part of a ceremony rather than a real act of life. But this is the prelude for the Last Supper. Perhaps it is the prerequisite for us truly being able to take communion together in the way that God intended us to.

So my question for all of us as we stand in the shadow of the cross today is: How can we too kneel and wash the feet of others today? How can we become more like the servants God intends us to be and so share the wonder of Christ’s love?

A Prayer for Good Friday 2013

Good Friday prayer 2013.002