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Sunday grace

Very early in the morning . . .

The night is over and the promise of a new day infringes upon the darkness. Just a glimpse of dawn-breaking at first light, but the sun will have its way.

Mary and the women came expecting death wrapped in linen. They found an empty tomb.

Peter, who denied three times, wondered where he would go from here, but he was found by the Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep.

Disciples, fearfully hiding behind closed doors, could not believe the reports they were told until He gloriously appeared to them.

Thomas, waiting a full week later, sees, believes and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

Evil did not triumph. Death was not the end. A tomb could not contain and hold the majesty of Heaven.

On the first day of the week, a new day dawned, a new covenant completed, the law of love becoming the seal of commitment.

Nothing in history equals it. No other man ever consummated such a magnificent plan. It was conceived in the mind of the God-head, designed before creation, predicted by the prophets, and accomplished through a Savior.

The Suffering Servant became the Victorious Champion, the Great High Priest who invites unto the very presence of a holy God.

 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” — John 20:31

He lives! Celebrate His victory over death, hell, and the grave. Believe and accept the life He offers to whosoever will.

There is life in Jesus’ name.

Sunday grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green[photo by MaRanda Green]

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And it was dark

It was a dark night.

For Judas who walked away from the Passover, into his own passion for something other than he’d been offered, who left the Light of the world at the table of communion, it was dark.

For Pilate who came face to face with Truth and didn’t recognize Him, who asked the questions but could not grasp the answers, who washed his hands of the only One who could cleanse his heart, it was dark.

For the Jewish leaders and authorities who refused to believe and accept the one sent from God the Father, who were determined to go their own way, work their own agenda, it was dark.

For the eleven disciples and others who loved Him, who saw Jesus arrested, convicted and crucified, who did not understand the plan of God, it was the darkest of nights.

Jesus came to bring light, but for a while it seemed the light had been extinguished forever. Those who hoped He was their promised Messiah were left in their own prison of darkness.

Judgment must come.  Sentence would be passed and punishment meted out.  The prince of the world would be cast out.  Darkness veiled the earth for a time.

Those who will not believe, who choose to worship something other than the Christ,  remain in the darkness still.

Resurrection day will come at break of dawn.  The Light of the world will arise and shine once again. His glory will be revealed throughout the world.

 

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Those who accept the Son and the Father who sent Him, will walk in the light of day.

And we will never be afraid of the dark again.

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Revised and reposted from March 2016

The Friday of Passover week

We call it Good Friday. Two days before Easter Sunday. It seems an odd description for the original day.

Researchers differ about the origin of the term Good Friday. The one that seems most reasonable is that “good” related to “holy.”

It was a Holy Friday.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, would not have thought it a good day as she watched her son suffer an agonizing death, this son proclaimed by an angel to be called the Son of God, an heir to the throne of David.

The disciples would not have called it good since by this time they had scattered like scared rabbits. They were disillusioned, disappointed, fearful, and confused.

How could the people of Jerusalem have thought the events of the day were good? The city was in an uproar. Barabbas, a proclaimed dangerous criminal had been turned loose. Pilate was under pressure from the Jewish leaders and was concerned about his political position.

There was a crucifixion occurring during the week of Passover, the festival of freedom. And the prince of darkness appeared to be on the winning side.

But there was something holy happening.

The plan of redemption was at work on a hill called Calvary.  A perfect spotless Lamb offered Himself as the once-and-for-all sacrifice. The sins of the world were being carried to the cross.

Trespasses were forgiven.  The debt we owed was paid in full. Spiritual dark rulers were disarmed.

Christ on the cross brought great anguish to those who watched Him suffer, knew Him intimately, had learned to loved Him, and hoped He was their Deliverer.

They could not see any good on a Friday when the sun was darkened.

But there was something holy happening that day, something that would change everything.

It was a good Friday for me.

the cross

 

The hidden things

Jesus unceasingly taught the disciples during their three years together. At every opportunity, He was teaching, sometimes in plain language and sometimes in parables. Whether they were listening, and more importantly whether they were understanding, is something altogether different.

It seemed there were some lessons that needed to be repeated. Like loving one another and the first shall be last and the one who leads shall be servant to all.

Sometimes they seemed to grasp the message and sometimes not. Perhaps they didn’t always want to. Perhaps they wished Jesus to be who they wanted Him to be,  made in their image, to accomplish their goals and desires.

I’ve been there.

Toward the end of the Gospels, I read how Jesus told them what was ahead, how His earthly life was coming to a close, that He would be lifted up on a cross. They didn’t get it.

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. — Luke 18:31-34

Sometimes the messages in life are hidden from us.

I think of people I care about who are dealing with such hard things, disease, brokenness, troubled marriages, wayward children, death. And we don’t understand. I wonder what good can come from trials that crush us. I have walked in those uncomfortable, even painful shoes myself, where there are more questions than answers.

The reasons are hidden from us for a season.

I would like to know why two pregnancies ended too early. I would like to know why my mother died when I was in my 30’s. I would like to know why many health issues have wrecked havoc on us. I would like to know why my heart has ached from longing that felt physically disabling. I would like to know why some of my prayers seem to go unanswered.

I would like to know why. But I don’t. And so my faith reaches for the unseen, reaches beyond the veil of this life into the spiritual realm. It stretches me to strain for what is invisible, the substance of what I hope for, the evidence of things not seen.

After Jesus’ death and then His resurrection, God’s heavenly purpose finally begin to be clear. But the disciples suffered agonizing despair for the days of mock trials, crucifixion, and a dead body in the tomb.

On the other side of resurrection day, the Son rose and light shined and the minds that had been shrouded by darkness began to comprehend. The disciples lives were changed forever. In fact, the world was changed forever.

One day my faith will be sight. All things will be clear. The face of my Savior will be glory like I cannot even imagine. And it will all be worth it

The uncertainty will be certain. All sickness will be healed. Every broken heart will be mended. Strained relationships will vanish in the beauty of God’s presence.

And I will understand that the tapestry of life includes dark threads as well as golden ones.

I may not get all the answers I hunger for here while I trod this earth, but there are reasons and there is a purpose. It is God who sovereignly rules and reigns and will cause all things to work together for good, according to His divine plan.

One day I will know as I am known. When I see Christ, it will be worth it. In the meantime, I will trust Him who knows all the hidden things now and forever.

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Sunday grace

Entering the sanctuary I see the silvery containers at the front of the church and know they hold bread and juice. It is the day to partake in Holy Communion.

My church background did not provided this sacrament each Sunday as in some denominations. Different churches have different ways. Whatever the tradition, the observance is heavy with meaning. And the remembering.

Do this in remembrance. Remembering. Ann Voskamp calls it re-membering. Living in the chaos of this world sometimes pulls me apart. I feel stretched to the limit. I can get lost and undone.  When I come back to what is important, I am re-membered.

To pause within the fellowship of believers and remember Christ’s death, His sacrifice for my sins, somehow makes the pieces fit together again, let’s my soul catch up with my whirling mind and sets my heart on the path of truth again.

I am not my own. I have been bought with a high price. Through Jesus Christ I am His beloved. I have been chosen and adopted. In God’s sight I am holy and blameless. It is the gift of righteousness by grace. Lavish grace. Undeserved grace. Amazing grace.

We eat the bread, we drink the cup. We taste it and remember the Lord’s death. We remember His life, His resurrection, and His promise of abundant living for us His children.

This is the season to remember.

Sunday grace.passover

Moon signs

I stepped out to the deck, it all sparkles with frost on the railing ledges in the cold pre-dawn. The moon sends light in the clear dark sky.

The moon draws me this time of year. In its waning cycle now, it will take its time toward full round in less than a month. And then it will be Passover.

With fascination and memory, I watch the progress of the moon this time of year as it grows small, disappears and then starts to grow large again. Science books would explain its rotation and the shadows that block my view, but let me simply enjoy the beauty and mystery of it.

I watch the night sky with anticipation, the moon cycle signaling the Passover season which falls close to the holiday of Easter.

The first day of Passover is always a full moon. And my mind wanders back thousands of years to the first Passover when the Israelites prepared lambs for supper and brushed blood on their doorposts, following instructions they didn’t fully understand yet.

A scene from the classic movie, The Ten Commandments staring Charlton Heston as Moses, comes to mind. It is the night of Passover and the moon glows full and bright. What appears to be the shadow of death begins to move slowly toward Egypt. In this particular scene, the shadow blocks the moon for a few seconds as it pushes forward.

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I wonder what it was like that fateful night, the people of God shut in their humble slave dwellings, covered by the blood, eating lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread while they waited for something. Did they know this was the night of their deliverance?

Passover was God’s object lesson of what was coming. It was the shadow of the real and tangible Savior of the world, Jesus. The people would wait long for the promised Messiah, and He would come.

The anticipation of Passover carries me toward the season of remembrance.  Remembering the promise of a Lamb that God alone would provide for the redemption of the world.

This perfect Lamb would provide our freedom. Do we know this? Do we recognize it? Do we remember it? Have we accepted Him as our own Deliverer?

“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

                — 1 Corinthians 5:7

Observe the moon set in its orbit by our creator God. He is the One who promises, and He is faithful to do what He says.

 

Sunday grace

It’s not always been so, but these days I love getting up very early in the morning, while it is yet dark.

I listen for the first bird song in the spring that ushers in the full avian chorus.  I check the eastern horizon for the light of a new day.  It is quiet, before the world wakes, and I think of Mary on that one Sunday morning when she came looking for the body of her Lord and instead found an empty tomb.

What must it have been like for her in that first moment of realization.  Jesus was not there!

Go with me this morning to a place near Jerusalem.  Put yourself in Mary’s place.  Experience the revelation anew.

My friend, Debbie Moore, takes us there.

The sun skipped through the garden as a gentle breeze danced with spring blossoms weaving a canopy of pink lace overhead. As my turn came to enter the Garden Tomb, a wonder filled my heart no words could convey.

How many times had I tried to picture this very scene as a bonneted child seated on our family pew each Easter? I could never quite grasp how the stone had mysteriously been rolled away and the dark tomb emptied of the body of Jesus who had been so lovingly cradled within.

At this moment, though, the dampness and still air walked with me as I peered into the small section where my Savior’s body would have been placed. I closed my eyes and pictured the angels lingering at the doorway, the neatly folded burial cloth that promised His return, and the whisper of Hope eternal at His exit. I suddenly realized I had not taken a breath since entering the tomb.

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The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

As other tourists took my place, I stole one last glance at the empty tomb and my heart seemed to burst with a Hallelujah Chorus all of its own.

We concluded our tour in the Garden with the observance of the Lord’s Supper.  Our guide read the Easter story in the backdrop of a capella hymns being lifted heavenward from groups of fellow sojourners nearby. Oh, what a glorious day!

Would that we could celebrate Easter in our hearts so vividly each and every day this Holy season as we prepare our hearts to receive again the Passion of our Christ.  How can we ever express our deep gratitude for His ultimate Gift of Love?

Let us consider a reverent observance in silence and wonder at the most precious of sacrifices the world will ever know. Reflect on His boundless love overflowing with tender mercies and hide them in your heart.

Do not look for the living among the dead. He is alive!

 

Sunday grace.  He lives!