Abide…

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Easter 2014 is over. The turkey was devoured by my family, the hymns and anthems were sung by my church family, scriptures were read, there was joy and celebration, sunshine and flowers. The tomb was empty and The Lord is risen!

And now, it’s just back to regular life. At least, sometimes it can feel that way. But Easter, just like Christmas, was never meant to be kept to a day -or even a few days – of celebration. Easter, like Christmas, is meant to be kept the whole year through. We should wake each morning knowing that the tomb is empty, that our Lord is risen, that death has lost it’s sting and the bonds of sin are broken.

We are meant to dwell, to abide, to linger in these high and holy places. We are meant to live each day in celebration of eternal life , thankful for all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

So don’t rush away, friends. Don’t get too busy with other things, with the schedule and the to-do list and the hustley-bustley pace of your week.

Remember.
Dwell.
Linger.

Abide.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
John 15:7 NKJV

Silent Saturday…

The gospels are silent about the Saturday of Holy Week. No words were written to tell us what the disciples thought or felt, what they did or didn’t do. I’ve always felt that this Saturday feels like the whole world is holding it’s breath. Waiting, expectant, ready for Sunday.

But of course, it wasn’t that way for the disciples. They didn’t know what the end would be. They didn’t know that the best was yet to come. They didn’t know that their tears of sadness would be turned to tears of joy.

It must have been terrible. But here’s the thing – even in the midst of their despair or fear or dismay, God was still God. God was still in control. Still loving. Still healing. Still God.

Sometimes God is silent. But this silent Saturday reminds us that no matter how silent God may be, God never stops being God.

So if you are in a moment in your journey of faith in which you cannot hear God, in which you might feel like maybe God isn’t there – be at ease. God is still God. And Sunday is coming.

When I am in a place where I cannot hear God, I am always comforted by this song by my favorite singer/songwriter, Andrew Peterson. May it be a comfort and a blessing to you, on this silent Saturday.

Good Friday…

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Jesus has died.

Slowly. Agonizingly.

Dead.

His disciples are scattered and it looks like the story is over. How their hearts must have broken. How bewildered and frightened they must have been.

People often ask me why it’s called Good Friday…so much bad happened, after all.

But remember Isaiah?

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5 NIV

By his wounds we are healed. We are healed. Healed. Made new. Forgiven. Free. Whole.

That’s good. That’s what this Friday accomplished. That’s what Jesus chose to do. To die, to suffer, to be mocked and scorned.

Because there simply were no lengths that God’s love would not go to, to give us new and eternal life.

That’s very, very good.

That’s Good Friday.

Maundy Thursday…

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It’s Maundy Thursday. The disciples gather in the Upper Room. Jesus passes bread and wine among them. He tells them to eat and drink, that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood.

I wonder what they thought of this. If they did it out of a sense of habit. Jesus was their rabbi, their teacher, and students do what the teacher asks. Or did they have some sense of holy mystery and wonderment? Did they guess that he was giving them a way to celebrate their faith in a tangible, taste-able way? Did they know what his sacrifice would mean? Of course not. They were living this story as it unfolded and they couldn’t possibly have known what it all would mean. Even though he had told them he would die, and rise again, they couldn’t have understood it.

I’m still struggling to understand it, and I’ve known this story my whole life. Here’s what I know: when believers in Jesus gather around a table and share bread and wine, we get to literally taste and see that the Lord is good. We get to share in the reality that God became a man, died for our sin, and rose again breaking the bonds of sin and death for ever. We get to remember this with more than our minds or our hearts, with our whole bodies – with the senses of taste and touch, sight and sound, that God has granted us.

It is mysterious and it is beautiful and it is life-giving. And though this was a dark night on the life of Jesus – a night on which he was betrayed and arrested, abandoned by his friends – it was also a night on which he taught us how to live out our belief in him. By having a little supper with our friends and knowing he is among us.

May your Maundy Thursday celebration – in what ever for it takes – bring you closer to the life-changing love of Jesus, the Christ.

Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
Luke 22:17-20 NLT

Betrayal…

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Today the plot thickens. Judas’ mind turns to betrayal. He meets with the chief priests and asks what they will pay to get their hands on Jesus. I love how the Gospel According to Luke describes it:

Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted, and they promised to give him money. So he agreed and began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus so they could arrest him when the crowds weren’t around.
Luke 22:3-6 NLT

According to Luke, Satan entered Judas. Whether you believe in a real, embodied, horns-and-a-tail presence of evil, or a more insidious, intangible, ubiquitous presence of evil, it is easy to see that what Judas did was evil. Whether because of a devil sitting on his shoulder whispering to him, or the simple impulse of a heart that had never gotten fully on-board with Jesus’ message and mission, Judas betrayed his friend. He sold Jesus out. He treated Jesus as an enemy.

I find it incredibly tragic (especially knowing that Judas was so torn apart by what he had done, that it lead him to take his own life). Here was a man who got to travel, eat and chat with Jesus. He got to witness miracles first hand. He got to spend his days with Son of God.

And yet, somehow, he missed the entire point of what was happening right before his eyes. Or maybe, he just disagreed with all that Jesus was doing. I find it have sympathy for Judas – he is so lost and he doesn’t realize it until it is far too late.

But Judas’ part in the story reminds me that Jesus knows what it is like to be betrayed. He knows what it feels like to have a close friend, someone you trusted and loved, turn their back on you.

I suspect most of us know that pain. Oh, maybe our stories aren’t quite as dramatic as Jesus’ life. Maybe we weren’t betrayed to out arrest and execution. But any betrayal hurts. Any time someone you loved and trusted turns away from you, a wound is left behind.

The One whose wounds heal us, knows that particular cut.

We are never alone. We have a saviour who has been there, felt that. We have a saviour who is with us in the midst of our trials and pains. We have a savior who heals us – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow – through his persistent, relentless, life-giving love.

Bold…

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The darkness is gathering. Jesus is teaching and his words about the Pharisees are incendiary. It’s Tuesday of Holy Week and the cross looms ever nearer.

It’s like he knows what will happen, so he has nothing to lose. He doesn’t keep quiet, but speaks boldly.

“I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.
Matthew 21:31, 32 NLT

His words make them angry and they plot against him. The disciples must have worried. They must have wondered. They must have wished he would just keep quiet. Or at least use a little bit of diplomacy when speaking to the priests and leaders.

But he didn’t. His time was short and he wouldn’t waste it on finessing the message to save the pride of those who wouldn’t listen anyway.

It makes my heart heavy. To know that he was speaking the truth and was going to have to die for it. I try to live this story – his birth, life, death and resurrection – every day of my life. It is that in which I put my hope and trust, that which lifts me up when I am weak and weary, that which teaches me how to live well. And yet, every year, when we reach this part of the story, when the cross looms close, my heart wishes that it could have been different. That somehow Jesus could have been spared this awful pain and death.

My heart aches because I know I have done things to put him on this path. Because I need a saviour. I am far from perfect and forgiveness is something I cannot live without.

Our Lenten journey grows short, and Jesus will not turn aside from the punishment that awaits him. He will not play it safe. He will go, bold and bloody to the death that gives us all new life.

Quiet…

Road to Salvation

The beginning of Holy Week has me in a very quiet mood. There will be so much to say on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and of course, Sunday. But I don’t want to rush there yet. Today is Monday.

Yesterday witnessed the crowds cheering Jesus on as he entered Jerusalem. But today, it’s quiet. Today, the darkness gathers and the plot thickens. Today, Jesus is still teaching people how to love God by loving others. Today, the time marches toward the ending and the new beginning.

Today, I am struck by silence because in my tradition, we don’t really do anything to commemorate this day. There were things Jesus taught and said and did on this day, but there are no special services, no hymns written specifically for Holy Monday. In some ways, it is business as usual. Just another day.

For me, this is the calm before the storm. The quiet before all the busy-ness that will happen from Thursday to Sunday. For me, this is the deep breath before the rush of words and emotions. Sometimes, a little quiet is a very good thing.

This is the time to be still, and know that He is God.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
Psalm 46:10 NLT

Traveling…

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Lent is a journey to Easter. St. A’s has been journeying through the story of Jesus’ life. Each day is a journey, from waking to sleeping to waking again.

So I suppose it should come as no surprise that I have has the thought of traveling, of journeying, on the brain recently. Tonite I watched a movie called One Week, which was about many things, but the plot revolved around the road trip the main character took after being diagnosed with Stage Four cancer. It reminded me of the movie The Way which is also all about the journey that its characters take.

There is this thing about journeying – you start out and you are so far from your destination that it is hard to imagine actually getting there. But you put one foot in front of the other, or you turn the ignition key, or you buckle the seatbelt on the plane, and your journey begins. And slowly, inexorably, the steps or days or kilometers begin to pile up. For a long time you feel the emotional equivalent of the cliche question: “are we there yet?” It feels like you may forever be stuck in the endless act of getting there (wherever there may be).

And then, suddenly, sometimes surprisingly, you look up and realize you are just about there. You got distracted by something and the miles flew by.

If you are honest with yourself (and take the time to think about it), you realize you are not the same as you were when you began the journey. Journeying has changed you. The journey matters as much as the destination.

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. The beginning of Holy Week. For the last 40 days Christians all over the world have been traveling toward this week. Sometimes we have been weary, sometimes it has felt endless. But here we are. About to spend a week remembering what Jesus said and did in the last week of his life.

What has your journey through Lent taught you? What has changed in you during this time? What will you bring to this week that will make it different than the last time?

Every Holy Week is a chance to experience the sacrificial love of Jesus in a new way. To hear the story and to be transformed by it once again. You haven’t made it here by mistake. Jesus has something new to say to you this week. May all of our ears be open and tuned to His voice.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:27 NLT

Grace…

Short blog tonite. I found this on Pinterest (what did I ever do before Pinterest?!??!) and thought it was rather profound:

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That just sums it all up for me. I choose to live my life in the belief that luck doesn’t exist. When good things happen, it is because there is a loving, Living God who actively cares for his children. Good things that happen are gifts from a benevolent father.

I know there are lots of questions that can be asked in opposition to this stance. I don’t always have answers for those questions. But at the end of the day, I am not too worried about that.

I believe in grace, in mercy and in love. I believe Jesus lived and died for these things. I believe that Lent is a time to remember that and to think deeply about it.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 NIV

Hope fulfilled…

Yesterday I blogged about rain. today I woke up to snow, a flood in my basement and a lack of heat and hot water in my house. I have decided not to take that personally.

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to be out for a walk with a friend. It was gorgeous out: bright sunshine, bird song, warm temperatures.

And then we came across these on the lawn of a house on our walking route:

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The whole lawn was littered with them. They were everywhere and I just had to take a picture. I couldn’t stop smiling over these, the first crocuses I have seen this Spring.

It got me thinking about the fact that while hope is powerful, hope that has been fulfilled is rather miraculous. Think about a time when you prayed fervently for something and God answered that prayer (maybe not in the way you expected, but in a way that fulfilled the hope you were praying about)…wasn’t it just one of the most beautiful things you have ever experienced? Didn’t you feel like the great God of the universe had taken time it answer you, to care about you, to love you? Don’t you go back to that memory whenever your faith needs a shot in the arm?

I have been praying for Spring for a while now – knowing that it was on it’s way and knowing it would have to come eventually. But to see the crocus…it was the thing I’ve hoped for made real. And it was the most beautiful flower I have seen in a long time.

Jesus is all the deepest things that our hearts hope for, in the Flesh. In his coming to be with us, in his teaching, in his miracles and in that ultimate, beautiful laying down of his life and then defeating death as he rose from the grave. All of it was designed to make us right with God, to win our forgiveness and our eternal life. It is a very good thing to think about during Lent.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
1 Peter 1:3-5 NLT