Tuesday April 23, 2019

Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
—Matthew 28:7

JUST AS THE ANGEL promises those women at the empty tomb that the risen Jesus will go ahead into Galilee, so he goes before us to meet us in whatever situation may represent our Galilee. When we recognize his presence and respond to him, resurrection happens in the midst of our daily lives. This is what it means to live today as Easter people filled with the Holy Spirit.

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Monday April 22, 2019

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
—Matthew 28:5-6

 

LET US THINK a bit more about angels. On the one hand, they sometimes come to us in a very human way. They may come in the form of a loved one with whom we can talk about those stones that harden our hearts, as a good friend who keeps encouraging us to reach out for new life, or as a stranger who enters our life unexpectedly with wisdom and insight that shed light on our darkness. These people act for us as messengers from God who bring resurrection hope into our deadness.
On the other hand, angels from the Lord may come in a more spiritual way. They may appear in a significant dream that lights up an obstacle that prevents us from living fully, in a wide-awake vision that strengthens us to do what we need to do, or in a surprise thought that pops into our minds, suggesting possibilities that we had not thought of before. Sometimes the angel may come to us in the words of a Gospel reading like the Eastertide verses we are thinking about now.

Sunday April 21, 2019

The first Easter Sunday was so good because that Saturday had been so bad. The enemies of Christ were confident they had put an end to this movement. His work was now a total failure. On Saturday Christ was in the grave. His life was over, His tongue had been silenced and the miracles were finished.
On that Saturday, the only recorded activity was by the Pharisees, the enemies of Christ. They were no longer concerned with Jesus, but about the disciples. We’re now in Chapter 27 of The Story; or Matthew 27:62-66; and we read ~
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’
64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
Their only concern were those pesky disciples. They were concerned they might steal His body. But no concern was necessary. Because you see, the disciples were in meltdown mode. They had scattered and were hiding in every available section of Jerusalem, for fear of a cross which may have their name on it.
Saturday had no courage, no hope. None of the disciples were thinking ‘so what are you going to say when you see Jesus tomorrow?’ Or ‘I wonder what Jesus is going to look like tomorrow?’ No one was thinking they would see Jesus on Sunday, so Saturday was utter despair. You would think someone would have remembered one of the many times Jesus promised He would come back on the 3rd day. Statements like, The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day. (Mark 9:31)
Wouldn’t you think someone would have remembered this and do the math? Let’s see He was killed yesterday, today is Saturday, tomorrow is Sunday . . . okay, 1 day, 2 days, tomorrow is the 3rd day . . . “you know fellas, I think we ought to get up early tomorrow.” But nobody connects the dots. Saturday has no hope; no courage. And on Sunday, they came to embalm Him, not to talk to Him. In Mark 16:1-3, we read, 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.
2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
That sure doesn’t seem like an Easter parade, does it? There’s no victory in the faces or hearts of the followers of Jesus. It may have been Sunday morning, but they were stuck in the hopelessness of Saturday.
You ever feel like your world is stuck on Saturday? You ever feel like you just can’t find anything good? Everyday is a rainy day, the sky is always gray. There are no silver linings and the story always has an unhappy ending.
There’s just no more courage, no hope, no reason to be positive. Ever feel like your world is stuck on Saturday? Then when you put your hope in something or in someone, either they let you down, or worse of all, they die.
And death seems like the ultimate insult. I mean, you do the best you can, you pay your dues to the world, you do your best to make a difference, you try to do what’s right, you try to stay healthy, you try to eat right and exercise, follow the rules . . . but nobody out lives death.
In the end you die. I don’t care who you are; from the wealthiest to the poorest. Even Elvis – died. Princess Diana – died, Martin Luther King Jr. – died, and there’s just something about that which sucks our lives into a Saturday state of mind.
You find yourself at a funeral, and it hits you, this is it? I can’t outrun it, I can’t do anything to avoid it, it’s going to happen . . . someday. That stinks.
I believe if you don’t have an answer for the grave, then you’re stuck on Saturday for your whole life. I mean, you may have your moments, but if you don’t have an answer for the grave, let me tell you, your stuck on Saturday, and that’s why we love Easter. Because to every single person, Easter gives us this promise . . . death is not a dead end, but it’s simply an exit ramp, from this life to the best life.
Have you thought about how you will face your final moments? It’s not a pleasant thought, is it? But what would it take for you to be able in your final moments, not to cower from death, but to face it, if not with excitement, then with courage. That we would face death unafraid.
Let me tell you how Jesus enables us to do that. He moves us out of a Saturday mentality, into a Sunday state of mind. He will take us from a Saturday where death has defeated life, into a Sunday where life has defeated death. And He moves us from the last day of death into the first day of life.
And all of the Easter stories tell this. One great story is the one about Mary Magdalene. In John 20:11, we read ~
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She said, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Can we pause for a moment? Mary Magdalene buried more than a friend that weekend. She buried the only person who ever helped her. We don’t know a lot about her, and some people make wild speculations about her, but look at this one sentence from Mark 16:9 ~
9 Now when Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.
In scripture the number 7 suggests completion. And so Mary Magdalene was completely afflicted. We don’t know what afflicted her, it might have been some type of dependency or depression, but she was completely afflicted. People avoided her. We tend to avoid people like that, don’t we? But Jesus didn’t. He not only befriended her, He delivered her.
And when she came to the tomb and found that the body was gone and that the stone was rolled away, it never occurred to her that Jesus was simply following through on what He said He would do. And she missed that miracle. She obviously saw the two angels, but she didn’t realize they were angels and she missed them.
There are times in life when despair is so deep and sadness is so thick and the walls are so high, that we feel we just can’t get out. These are tough times in which we feel like the world is closing in on us. We feel if anything bad is going to happen, it’s going to happen to me, it’s saying ‘I’m lucky, the only luck I have is bad luck.’
And God could send miracle after miracle and blessing after blessing and we’re told to count our blessings, and it just doesn’t work. And we wonder what does Jesus do during those times. And here is the answer. . .
14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
Do you see what Jesus did? He didn’t give up on Mary. Most of us would have. We’d think, ‘look, there’s angels sitting there talking to you, the tomb is empty, duh . . . come on Mary, get the message.’
But Jesus didn’t. The empty tomb and the angels didn’t open her eyes. So, Jesus took matters into His own hands and He came and spoke to her. He didn’t tell her to get herself together and to buck up. He spoke to her with tenderness, “Mary, why are you crying on this first Easter morning?”
He came to her like a gentle Shepherd. Why would He do this? I’ll tell you why – because He is Jesus, and Jesus does that. He’s ever patient, ever caring. He’s the heart of God. He’s so patient with you and I. The prophet Micah asked this question about God, Where is another God like you, who pardons the sins of survivors among His people? You cannot stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing mercy. Once again you will have compassion on us. (Micah 7:18-19)
Once again, Jesus will have compassion on you. I know there are people here this morning who are passing through seasons of life in which there is great sadness, you’re in the valley, it’s like being in a slump, and it’s really hard. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s family issues, maybe it’s your health, maybe it’s a job, maybe it’s just one problem on top of another.
And at some point when we hit the valley, we tend to think God must really be mad at me. And we start to feel bad about feeling bad. We think if I really had it together, I’d get out of this thing. And I’m tired of feeling bad, and if I’m tired of feeling bad, then God must really be tired of me feeling bad. He’s probably just mad at me. And stories like this one are in the Bible to let us know that is not the case. It’s to remind us God is patient and long suffering with His children.
He’s more patient with you, than you are with you. And He comes and He brings you the message that says, Saturday has come, it’s here, it’s today, but, Saturday’s are always followed by . . . Sunday’s. Am I wrong? What was yesterday? What’s today? Look it happened again. Saturday’s are always followed by Sunday’s. Or as we read in Psalm 30:5 – Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning.
So, be patient, God is patient, be patient with yourself. Eventually that season passes, and it’s Sunday. When the Saturday’s come, do what Mary did, notice her words to the angels — “They have taken my Lord away. . .”
She just kept calling Jesus her Lord. In tough times, Jesus remained her Lord. Anybody can call Jesus Lord on the good days. But when we’re moving through the Saturday’s of life, it’s not as easy to call Jesus Lord. But when we can continue to call Jesus Lord on the Saturday’s, oh how good it will be when the Sunday’s come. Listen to the end of the story . . .
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Listen to her devotion to Jesus. Did you catch what she just said? I don’t think Mary could have done this. She was so devoted to Jesus, that she wanted to get His body and bring it back. But also note, she still didn’t get the point of what was to happen on day 3. And Jesus was so touched by her devotion.
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
When she heard Jesus call her name she knew who He was. Someday we will hear Jesus call our name. And some day in heaven when you hear Jesus call your name, all the pain of earth will have been worth it. Someday, let’s talk it over in heaven. See if I’m not telling you the truth. When you hear Jesus call your name, you’ll say whatever struggle it took, He didn’t forget, He knew my name. And when I heard Him call my name it was all worth it, because I knew God knows me.
Listen your heavenly father, you heavenly king, your heavenly daddy, knows you and He knows you by name. He doesn’t just see humanity, He sees individuals. He sees us all, and He knows us by name. You call Him Lord, He calls you by name.
The Bible says, if we’re willing to confess His name on earth, He will confess our name in heaven. You hold onto that. And His message to you is this . . . He has moved the world into Sunday and He wants you to follow. It’s not Saturday anymore. It may be Saturday in your state of mind, it may be Saturday in your outlook and in your emotions, but actually God has already flipped the calendar page. And we’ve moved out of the state of death and sin and we’ve moved into the era of life and grace. That move took place 2,000 years ago.
And anyone who wants to follow God from Saturday to Sunday can do so. And we believe that because there was a movement in the tomb containing Jesus on that Sunday morning. And the eyes that had fallen shut on the cross opened beneath the shroud, and the hands that had fallen limp behind the nails straightened and strengthened beneath the veil. The lips which had grown quiet on Saturday spread into a soft smile on Sunday. Because there was much to smile about. The penalty for sin had been paid. It was finished.
And death had been defanged, and turned from a dead end street to a simple exit ramp. From this life to the next life, the best life. It was no longer Saturday, so Saturday’s sadness turned into Sunday’s beauty. And the beauty of Sunday stood up in the tomb and the beauty of Sunday stepped out into the Sunday morning dawn and told person after person what some of you are hearing Him say for the first time in your life, ‘oh, it’s Sunday, and I don’t have to be afraid of the grave any longer and I don’t have to live in guilt anymore. My sins are forgiven, my death is defeated. It’s Sunday, and that’s good news.

Saturday April 20, 2019

t’s Saturday – But Is It Finished?
Luke 23: 54
54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.
56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

Throughout the season of Christ’s birth we celebrate Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Three months later we commemorate Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.
But what do we call the Saturday that falls between Good Friday and Easter? What is so significant about it? Does it have a special name?
Holy Saturday, the “Sabbath” as it is generically called in our text, seems to merely be a verbal bridge between Good Friday and Easter. The Biblical account devotes one lone verse to it! Not a single Gospel writer records a meaningful event that took place on Holy Saturday.
Yet, in many ways, the Saturday when Jesus was in the tomb should be a significant high point on the church agenda. Saturday must be more than a time when we say, “Yesterday He died and tomorrow He will rise again, but today not much is happening.” It should be a red letter day.
“What’s the big deal about Holy Saturday?” some may wonder. For many — if spring is in the air — it is an opportunity to wash the car, mow the lawn, take a walk, or just rest in the hammock. Others will buy groceries for tomorrow’s Easter dinner — or take their kids to an egg hunt.
What happened on Saturday between Good Friday and Easter? To the untrained eye, nothing at all!
If we were to go to the tomb outside of Jerusalem at the crack of dawn on Saturday we would observe little of major significance. The body of a recently crucified man would be on a slab in a tomb — bloodied, discolored, rigid with rigor mortis. It would be a hideous sight (if we could see it). But we can’t because it is behind a sealed boulder that plugs the entrance.
But in heaven above and on earth beneath, far from our human senses, there is enough activity to change eternity. Demons are raging; some shrieking in fear. Satan has been stripped of all authority and power. Christ has opened paradise, ushering in both the thief who died by Him on the cross, and all those who had believed in the Coming Messiah through the ages.
The angels of heaven are rejoicing. The dead man’s Father no longer has His back turned toward His Son. There is a sense that a celebration is about to erupt at any moment! That is why Saturday is so important on the church calendar.
Yet back in Jerusalem, on the surface of Planet Earth, it is business as usual. If you were to stop the typical person and ask him or her about the excitement of Friday afternoon, inquire about the execution of yesterday, the individual would probably respond: “It is Saturday and it is finished!”
To them then, like to much of our world two thousand years later, “the fat lady has sung”. The entire episode is “history”. It is finished, kaput, over with, through, concluded, and buried.
If you don’t believe me, go ask that large man, the one who is sobbing, over there by that wall. His name is Simon Peter. A short time ago, in fact only 48 hours earlier, he never would have believed that it would come to this. Others will deny you, he had told his Master, but I never will! (Yet, Simon you did deny your Lord — not once, but three times.)
Simon can still hear the rooster crowing. He can still see Jesus turning His bloodied face, looking at him over his shoulder, locking eyes, as though to say, “I told you. I told you. But you wouldn’t listen.”
Simon Peter convulses with sobs of grief. But no tears come from his eyes any longer. He has no more tears to spill. He’s all cried out. He, the great rock upon which Christ had said he would build His Church, is a has-been. He’s all washed up. Yes, it is Saturday and it is finished, thinks Peter.
The rooster crows again in the backyard of Caiaphas, the high priest. He’s the same rooster Simon Peter heard last night; the same cock who rendered his shrill, lonely indictment. But the cock-a-doodle-doo of the rooster means something different to Caiaphas than it did to Simon Peter.
The rooster crows again in the backyard of Caiaphas, the high priest. He’s the same rooster Peter heard last night; the same cock who rendered his shrill, lonely indictment. But the cock-a-doodledoo of the rooster means something different to Caiaphas than to Simon Peter.
Finally, Caiaphas thinks as he rises from his bed, finally I rid myself of that charlatan. For three years he was a thorn in my side. For a thousand days I plotted and schemed to get rid of Him. And now, oh glorious Saturday morning, it is finished!
Caiaphas casts his eyes around the bedroom. Over in the corner are his tom priestly garments. Granted, it was against the Levitical Law to rip them, but it had been a nice theatrical touch. Maybe it had been the touch which had pushed the rest of the Sanhedrin into voting with him in favor of the death of that Messianic pretender.
Caiaphas thinks to himself: “It s Saturday and it is finished.”
Up on the hill, in the fortress, Pontius Pilate washes his hands for the umpteenth time since yesterday. His hands are chapped, red, rough from rubbing. They look clean, he mutters, but they feel ever so dirty.
What is on them, he asks him¬self. They feel — sticky. It feels like blood. But it can’t be! That’s ridiculous!
Pilate’s wife is still sleeping, even though it is mid-morning on a Saturday. She usually does not sleep in. She is a charging, Type A personality. But she has not been sleeping well lately. The last several days have been fraught with terrible dreams and nightmares.
In one strange vision she had seen the prisoner Pilate had condemned to death yesterday. She had come to her husband, warning him hysterically not to have anything to do with that man.
And now it is all over. The guards had brought Pilate the news that the lunatic, the one who thought he was some kind of king, the one who wouldn’t even defend himself before him, the procurator, had died rather quickly. Some of the Sanhedrin had come to him afterwards asking for guards to be placed around the tomb let his body be stolen.
These Jews are such strange people, thinks Pilate. Why can’t I put this thing to rest. And why can’t I get this sticky stuff off my hands?
After all, “It is Saturday and it is finished.”
Outside the city gates someone, out for a Sabbath walk, comes across a hideous sight. A corpse dangles by its neck from an olive tree. Flies have already begun to gather for the feast. Below the swinging, lifeless form lie 30 pieces of silver.
Those who later investigate the death rule it a suicide and will later discover the man’s name was Judas Iscariot. What were his last thoughts as he tied the knot? No one will ever know.
“It is Saturday and it is finished, Judas.”
In a tiny house within the city walls, a woman cries. She had such high expectations for her son. When he had been dedicated at the temple, 33 years before, an old man had warned her: “This child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel … he will cause you great pain … it will be as though a sword is piercing through your soul before it is all over.”
Now she knows what the old man had been talking about. It feels as though a hot coal is burning in her belly. She writhes in agony. The hurt is greater than the pain of childbirth. She cries out the name of her departed son: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”
She thinks to herself, tomorrow I will go with the other women and anoint his body. He is still me son. Tomorrow is Sunday. It will be lawful to anoint his body then. But today – today is the Sabbath.
“It is Saturday and it is finished.”
Meanwhile, Barabbas does not feel so bad after spending his first night of freedom following several years of captivity. He touches himself all over, like a man who thinks he may be dreaming. I must be the luckiest fellow alive, he mutters to himself! Those fools, they crucified an innocent man. But who cares– I’m still breathing!
Barabbas gets up and stumbles down the alley-way. He does not care that it is the Jewish Sabbath. He long since stopped blindly obeying the Levitical laws. Those puny oridnances have been ineffective against the Roman dogs.
All he knows is that the Romans have invaded his beloved Palestine and they must be killed. He has killed once — and he will do so again. If an innocent man had to die yesterday so that he could continue his mission of liberation, then so be it.
Yes, Barabbas thinks: “It is Saturday and it is finished — especially for the man in the tomb.”
In a beautiful home a short distance outside of Jerusalem, in Bethany, three people sit absorbed in their thoughts. See them there: One man and two women.
The man reflects on the irony of it all. Here he, Lazarus, is well and whole. Jesus raised him from the dead just a few weeks ago! But now Jesus is in the grave – and he, Lazarus, is drinking his second cup of Saturday morning tea and eating a bagel.
Martha, his sister, sits still for once. She is normally a virtual hive of activity! But she is not cooking or cleaning or chattering today.
She is thinking to herself: “I will never fix Him another meal. I will never wash His robe again. I will never be able to bring Him another glass of cool water in my living room. I will never ask him to tell my sister to help me in the kitchen.”
And Martha’s younger sister, Mary, sobs quietly. For some strange reason the feature that comes back to her is his feet. The last time she saw his feet, just yesterday afternoon, they had been grotesquely disfigured. Huge nails had been driven into both of them. They did not look like the feet she had anointed a few days before. They were not the feet at which she had sat, listening to wonderful words of wisdom.
See with me this trio, — Lazarus and Martha and Mary — captivated by their own thoughts, all thinking much the same thing: “It is Saturday and it is finished.”
Well, yes, it is Saturday. And the man this cast of characters is thinking about — though all differently — did say: “It is finished!” yesterday afternoon.
But is it really finished? Simon Peter, Caiaphas, Pilate, Pilate’s wife, Judas Iscariot, Mary the mother of Jesus, Barabbas, Lazarus, Martha and little sister Mary, all — to a man, to a woman — think so.
So — what do you think? What do you think?
We all live far beyond the confines of that first Holy Saturday. We know that Jesus will rise, has risen, from the dead. So why continue to make a big deal about Saturday?
Of that Saturday the text only reads: “And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” Can’t we leave Saturday alone? We have Friday and Sunday – isn’t that enough?
The reason we must make a big deal out of Saturday is because that is where we all live. That is where the most faith-full believers exist every day. The Son of God is dead but it seems that life is going on as usual. Nothing has changed! Something “is terribly wrong!”
This is precisely when our faith must kick in. Everything looks dark and gloomy. But our faith is what allows us to change “It’s Saturday and it is finished” (a statement) to “It’s Saturday, but is it finished?” (a question).
Our question is not laden with doubt, for we ask it on Saturday, where we all now live. Our question has much more certainty in it than the unbelieving statement of the sneering mob – “He said it was finished. Take him at his word. Move on to the next Messiah.”
But our faith shouts back: “No, it is NOT finished!”
His death has taken place, we cry out, but you have not heard the last from Jesus Christ. When He said those three words yesterday afternoon, it was not a phrase akin to the closing of a curtain at a play’s end. The only thing finished on Saturday is sin, death, hell and the grave!
Pontius Pilate will end his days washing his hands in a lake nestled in the Swiss Alps, banished from Rome. Caiaphas will be disassembled and placed in a bone box, which will eventually be displayed in a museum a few miles from where Jesus was crucified. Judas will become a euphemism for villainy and treachery.
But the remaining characters in the cast of that weekend all had a Saturday faith. Instead of looking dejectedly back on Good Friday, they looked forward, with great hope, toward Easter.
And gathered here, tonight, on Good Friday, we are like them. You see, we are all Saturday people in a Good Friday world.
We are Saturday people when we pray against all odds, and expect an answer.
We are Saturday people when we notice that we are aging, but still have hope for a brighter day.
We are Saturday people when a child is born into the bonds of our congregation, and we believe that God can help the new baby to live a good life in this increasingly evil world.
We are Saturday people when we stand by the sick-bed of one of our stalwart saints, and know that God can work even this situation out to His good.
We are Saturday people when we take a small piece of bread between our thumb and finger, look toward heaven, and thank God for His Unspeakable Gift.
We are Saturday people when we lift the Communion cup to our lips, drink its contents, and remember that “this same Jesus” will come again.
We are Saturday people when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, yet have a settled faith that the Prince of Peace is in control.
We are Saturday people when we see a coffin slip into the ground and, in the midst of our tears, can whisper: “I’ll see you again, tomorrow morning.”
I don’t particularly like Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter. I want to get on with it. I want to move right into the celebration. I want to leap-frog over Saturday and get to Easter pronto! I want the party, the excitement, the resurrection, to happen quickly.
However, we must wait out Saturday before we get to Sunday. Good Friday was tough for Jesus, but Saturday, that seemingly innocuous day on our church calendar, is when it’s tough for us.
Saturday is the gap between our faith and its fulfillment. It is the bridge between what we believe and what one-day we shall see at His appearing.
Winston Churchill thought he would die young, unmourned and forgotten. Yet he lived a long and fulfilling life.
In his nineties he planned his own funeral. It was to include numerous eulogies, the grand hymns of the church, and portions of the powerful Anglican liturgy.
The grand denouement was to take place after the benediction, when an assigned bugler, in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, would play a mournful rendition of Taps.
Then, after a lull, when the last echo of Taps was finished, another bugler was instructed to begin playing Reveille! (“It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the morning.”)
Good Friday is our Taps, Easter is our Reveille, and Saturday is the brief lull in between the two. It is a short interval of doubts and shadows. It is when Caiaphas cackles and Peter cries. It is when society mocks us for believing such an absurd, strange story.
On Saturday the world makes its statement: “It is Saturday and it is finished!” On Saturday hell throws its best punch. But on Saturday people of faith ask a question: “It is Saturday, but is it really finished?” And heaven answers — the next day.
So tonight and tomorrow, before we see the empty tomb, before the angels tell us He is risen, before the great and glorious Resurrection Day, we already believe! That is the nature of faith.
We stand against the tide of humanity. We shout to the heavens: “It is not over. Yes, He has completed His task, but it is not finished.”
So, when you get up tomorrow morning, on Holy Saturday morning, don’t go about business as usual. Sit upright in your bed and shout:
“Hallelujah! It is Saturday and, praise God, it is most definitely NOT finished! Jesus will rise shortly! Christ will come back soon! Hell cannot hold Him much longer. Heaven will not keep Him concealed forever. Today may be Saturday, but tomorrow — tomorrow is Sunday. The best is yet to come! I can hardly wait.

Friday April 19, 2019

Was Jesus indeed sinless and does Scripture make a big deal about it? Why is it so vital that Jesus be without sin?

Was Jesus without sin?

A. The virgin birth means Christ was born without a sin nature.

B. Jesus resisted temptation without sinning.

Luke 4:1-13

C. The Scripture declares that He did not sin

NIV Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin.

NIV 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Why is it important that Christ is Sinless?

A. A sinless sacrifice was necessary to pay for our sin.

NIV Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

NIV 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,

NIV Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

Heb 9:6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.

7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.

11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.

12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.

14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance– now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

B. A completely righteous life was necessary so that Christ’s righteousness might be credited to us.

NIV 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Phil 3:8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Romans 4: 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.

10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!

11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.

17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Thursday April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-17, 31-35

There’s some things that you only really need to remember once a year. And then once you remember it, you forget by the time another year comes around again. I can never seem to remember, for instance, where we store our big suitcase that we use about once a year. Every time I put it back in storage I think, “Ok, remember where you put this,” but then, about a year later, I’ve forgotten again.

Some of you might be having the same sort of feeling around this time of year: now where did I put that fertilizer I use every spring for my garden? Where are those lawnmower keys? Where did I store the lighter for the BBQ grill. Or — and unfortunately this one applies to me — where, oh where, did my golf swing go?

Every year I also have to remind myself of the meaning of Maundy Thursday. It’s one of those churchy words that we use each year, “Maundy,” but its significance can be lost in the previous year’s facts and figures.

“Maundy” means “commandment.” It comes from an old Latin word that sounds similar, and we call tonight “Maundy Thursday” because we read the scripture reading from John’s gospel in which Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This “new commandment” might not seem that new. “Isn’t God all about love from the very beginning?” But the love Jesus is speaking of here, the love Jesus is showing here isn’t your ordinary love. It’s a love that’s never been seen before.

It seems like the Easter season is especially a time for Hallmark cards, Easter bunnies, and nice hopeful spring sayings. “April showers bring May flowers” we say. Or , as Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”

So in spring we buy Peeps and pastel colored M&Ms, and — yes, the Easter Bunny arrives where Santa Clause left off at the Mall in Waldorf, and kids pose for pictures. Spring sort of brings out this festive spirit of pastels and play and nice ditties. And that’s all fine. There’s nothing wrong with a little springtime frolicking. But that sort of spirit is not the sort of springy fun that Jesus is dealing with in tonight’s lesson.

The type of love Jesus is speaking of is intense and not to be found on a Hallmark card anywhere. Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

The love Jesus shows tonight is love in the very face of the devil. John writes that “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.” That betrayal would soon lead to Jesus’ death on a cross. But Jesus washed the feet of each and every disciple, even Judas. The type of love Jesus showed was in spite of, or perhaps, because of the devil in Judas. Judas either wasn’t strong enough, or the devil was too strong for him, but Jesus didn’t seem phased a bit. Jesus knew what was up, but he washed Judas’ feet anyways.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t speak much of the devil in my life, and very rarely if ever, do I refer to the devil in a personified way. For me, most of the time, thinking of the devil at work is not a helpful thing since we know that nothing–even and especially the forces of evil–nothing is stronger than God and God’s love.

But, some faithful Christians do speak of the devil, and do so in helpful ways for them. It’s important for some to call evil what it is, to give evil a name, to think of evil personified in Satan. For some of these folks the devil their lives is plain and simple–Satan might be a particular tendency to sin, or a disease or affliction, or something that draws them away from God. But no matter how one deals with the devil passages in scripture, it’s clear that Jesus is not afraid of the devil. Jesus washes Judas’ very feet. The type of love that Jesus shows is love in the face of the extreme evil, love in the faith of death itself.

In Jesus’ time, no host would wash his guest’s feet. Washing feet was a dirty task, a menial task perhaps for a slave, but usually something you just had to do yourself. If the host was nice, he’d set a bowl of water and towel out, but no free person would ever wash the feet of another free person.

But Jesus turns the table upside down. Jesus takes a towel and kneels down, washing feet dirty from the dusty roads of Palestine. Jesus takes on the task of a slave, but instead of showing weakness shows strength beyond measure. Love is like that. It’s measured not in power or prestige, but in acts of humility.

So when Jesus commands his disciples to love one another as he has loved them, when Jesus commands us to love other and he has loved us, the command is for love of a new level, love unknown before.

The surprising nature of Jesus’ acts writing “the directive to wash one another’s feet is a call to share the kind of love that startles and surprises. It is a call for love to show up when no one might expect it.” And so, we are called, to love even–or exactly when–it might catch folk off guard.

maybe that means writing a letter to that old friend or family member you argued with
maybe it means swallowing our pride and admitting we were wrong, that one time at least
maybe it means accepting someone not because it’s easy, but because it’s what Jesus would have done
Of course, we know what comes later in John’s gospel. We read the story last Sunday in Luke, Jesus taking his love even to the cross.

Some Christians are fond of saying, “God sent Jesus to die on the cross.” But, putting it that way robs Jesus of his humanity, it takes away Jesus’ capacity to choose and makes him only God’s pawn.

God didn’t send Jesus to die, God sent Jesus to love. And the very fact that Jesus lived out this love so well, got the authorities angry at him. Jesus showed the world a different way to love, a different way to live. And they couldn’t handle it. So they put him to death.

As a congregation, we are sent to carry on that love of Christ. We do so here, within these walls, but out of them as well. And the love Jesus’ commands is not a simple one-way love, but a love of mutuality, a love of community. Jesus tells all of his disciples to “love one another.” Jesus’ love is a mutual thing; a back-and-forth pick one another up when he’s down and then receive the same down the line kind of love.

The danger Jesus’ disciples were met with that night was that they could interpret Jesus’ new commandment too narrowly and only love one another there in that room as Jesus had loved them. The danger was that the disciples would love each other really well, but forget to spread the message to the ends of the earth.

That call confronts and challenges us still today. Do we show Christ’s surprising sacrificial love in ways that just toots our own horn, or do we spread the message beyond our walls of comfort?

Washing one another’s feet is nothing comfortable. And, perhaps even tougher, is having your own feet washed. Does our love have that edge to it, that uncomfortable but holy notion that we are living out Jesus’ commandment? Are we following the new commandment, that as Jesus says, “That everyone will know that we are disciples by our love?”

[walking to the Communion table]

Jesus also commanded that we meet at this table, to remember him.

He knew that we would fall short, that our love would falter, so he gave us this meal for the journey.

Every time we eat the bread of life

every time we drink the cup of salvation,

we proclaim Christ’s death until he comes again.

So we celebrate Christ’s holy supper this night,

united with all those in the faith,

not because we are perfect, but because we are needy,

not because we love rightly, but because we are loved first by God,

not because we deserve God’s benefits, but because God chose us before we could even stumble.

So come, eat and drink, share the feast, for it is Christ who invites us in love.

Wednesday April 17, 2019

LAZARUS, who enjoyed dinner with Jesus in Bethany, was a new creation in Christ. And the story told every spring via re-creation points to the truth about the character of the Author of Creation. This journey together through Lent serves as an invitation to align the heart of our spiritual nature with the regenerative heart of God, the Sustainer and Deliverer, to set our intention toward life and to align ourselves with the light.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
—2 Corinthians 5:1