Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sunday's Here!!

Sunday's here! The grave is empty--Jesus is RISEN! This is the season in the church when we celebrate the greatest act of love in history. The past couple of days, I have been thinking a lot about "the holy catholic church," the universal body of believers. So often we extol individuality--even in our personal relationships with Jesus--and while that is certainly important, I think there is something we lose sight of in our independent western culture: Corporate faith, collec
tive faith, the fact that "Wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there I am there in the midst." (Matthew 18:20) We can and must have our own private, intimate fellowship with God. But we can't deny the fact that something supernatural happens when we come together with others who believe.
Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus wanted more of Peter than he had been giving up to this point. He asked him, "Do you love me? Then feed my sheep." (John 21) Maturing faith is never just about me. It is about US. Just as my hand can't tell my eye, "I have no need of you," neither can I dismiss others who claim the name of Jesus. I have seen Jesus in Presbyterians from Nigeria, Lutherans from Norway, Mennonites from Florida. I have seen him in Catholics from Pennsylvania, Baptists from Washington, and Charismatics from Korea. I have seen him in Brethren from India, Dutch Reformed from Minneapolis, and Pentecostals from Missouri. There is One Event which all Christian faith centers on: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the resurrection, all faith and hope is pointless. Without the resurrection our brief lives here are futile, filled with inexplicable pain--the suffering of loved ones with cancer, the sudden death of a child, endless woe and misery and struggle. But He AROSE! I believe it. And I draw energy from those of you who believe it, too. No, we don't have every answer to all the whys in our world, but we know the One who does.
Great men and women down through history have died waiting for the Promise of His Coming. And now you and I wait with them--old men, grandmothers, young parents, teenagers and toddlers from every nation, tribe, and tongue. We join together on Easter to remind ourselves--and the world--that this is not our home. That Jesus has gone before to prepare a place for us beyond our wildest imaginations. That, where HE is, we will be also. A place of no tears, no sickness, no suffering. Because He lives, there is strength to live lives of purpose, focusing on the goal that lies ahead. Easter's message of hope is for us and for all who are far off that will yet believe because of our stories of faith. Won't you tell yours?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saturday's Silence

Waiting. Silence. Guilt and Sadness. This is what Saturday felt like to all those who loved Jesus. Had yesterday really happened, or was it all a bad dream? But no, the ones who had taken down the body of Jesus and carried it to the tomb still had his dried blood staining their robes. They who had heard him cry, "My God, my God--why have you forsaken me?" could not block out the memory still ringing in their ears. How had this ended so terribly? Weren't they just walking alon...g the road with Jesus, basking in his growing popularity, feeling honored that THEY were the ones he had chosen to follow him? How could they have abandoned him, still cowering in secret--afraid for their lives? Surely they were dismayed to see Peter--their fearless leader--broken and despondent, wrestling with his public denial. They had no doubt heard what had become of Judas and maybe some thought he had chosen the only way out. We know the story and what happens next. But they did not.
Have you ever found yourself in this place of waiting in the face of God's silence? An earthquake has ripped apart your life (your health, your family) and you think you can never recover--things will never be good again. You pray, but you feel your prayers rise to deaf ears or bounce off the ceiling. You doubt if God is there, if he hears you, if he cares. And yet we KNOW that things were happening that Saturday after the crucifiction. Jesus descended into hell and took the keys of hell and death, triumphing over his enemies and making a mockery of them. (Colossian 2:13-15) His dying words, "It is finished," meant he had successfully delivered the blow God had promised the serpent way back in the garden of Eden; "[Adam's] seed will crush your head." Satan may have celebrated on Friday, but he didn't laugh for long.
Whatever you may be going through today, know this: God is near. He is aware, he is paying attention, he KNOWS. And though you may not see it or feel it, he is busy on your behalf. Can you rest today? Can you take advantage of the Sabbath given to you and just rest? Times come when we are told, "...having done all to stand..." to continue to simply STAND. Stand and see the salvation of our Lord who has defeated the ultimate enemy, who has all authority in heaven and earth, and who loved you SO MUCH he died for you. Sunday is coming, Sweet Friend. Just you wait!