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Sunday grace

Very early in the morning while it is yet dark, I rise, remembering the words penned about  Mary. She made her heartbroken way to a garden expecting to offer the spices of death.

Instead, she was first to receive the hallelujah message and went to proclaim it with a glad and believing heart.

“I have seen the Lord!” she said.

When I was a small child, mother bought new clothes for me to wear on Easter morning, from socks and shoes to underwear and slip. Dress, hat and gloves were spanking and sparkling fresh. I was new from the hide out.

Today,  I reach for a skirt and top that’s been hanging in my closet for years. I add a purple sweater since it is a springy Easter-like color. I put on my mother’s vintage wind-up watch and the earrings my eldest granddaughter made for me when she was a child. I reach for two bracelets, gifts from good friends, adding the one that says “forgiven” and another with golden charms attached, words written on circles, “Messiah,” “King,” “Merciful,” “Jesus.”

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I’m not new from the hide out, but I am new from within, a new creation through Jesus.

What other philosophy, religious regulations, treatment plan, or heart surgery can make someone new? In the dark of a hidden meeting Nicodemus faltered at the idea of re-entering his mother’s womb to be reborn.

It was and is what Jesus offers to those who can believe He is who He says He is – Lamb of God, the Promised One, Redeemer, Mediator of a better covenant, intercessory Great High Priest.

No longer called a sinner, I am proclaimed saint, clothed in the righteousness of the One who is worthy of the title of Savior.

I once walked in darkness, but now I am in the light.

I once was lost, but now I am found.

I once wore the stained garments of my own sin, but now I am clean.

And like Mary, I proclaim, “I’ve seen the Lord!” He is alive forevermore.

Alleluia!

Sunday grace.

 

 

 

 

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A Holy weekend

It is the last day of March, time for my March ending post, but the day seems too holy to be casual or frivolous about weather and a slow spring emerging.

Sweet William and I shared a Good Friday service last night with people of our congregation. It was solemn, quiet, thoughtful. We ate the bread and drank the cup, and I left the building with remembrance etched in my mind.

At home as we prepared for bed, I spied the Passover moon out the window, brilliant in a darkening sky. I’ve missed it during the grey days of March, it hiding behind layers of cloud. The moon beckoned me into a season of the holy.

This morning I searched for a hymnal with the song sung a capella at the end of the service. O Sacred Head Now Wounded is mournful, an appropriate ending to last night’s reverent gathering.

Two millennial ago, those who loved Jesus and watched Him die were been grief-striken on the Saturday following. Death in the most cruel and painful form was pressed upon One who’s only crime was doing good on the Sabbath and claiming equality with God.

Did they huddle in homes, no words spoken, for what could be said that would relieve their hearts, broken with the sadness of finality.

We call it Good Friday, not because of any earthly good that transpired but because an eternal good was at work, what would only be apparent in days to come.

There is hope today because of that Good Friday. Death is not the end of life. For those in Christ Jesus, it is only the beginning.

Take time to think of the reality of Jesus death and resurrection. It changed the world. It changed me. It can change you.

If you want to read a post about Good Friday from 2013, you may find it here.

See the source image

 

 

Sunday grace

The new day dawns grey again. Snow and rain this week kept Maisie and me indoors more than we like. I hear birds in the early morning, and from the upstairs window I see trees blooming white in the little woods.

But spring feels illusive.

This chilly day is Palm Sunday, the pivotal day in history when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. More than just an ordinary ride, He was fulfilling the promise of old, giving the onlookers one more sign of who He really was.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
— Zechariah 9:9

Some recognized Him. Some did not. Some wanted to believe. Others choose to remain in their small world of skepticism.

There is so much to this simple story, the day of palm waving.

As people gather in churches to hear sermons about the one called Jesus, some will wave palm branches, some will wave away their boredom, some will wave at their friends, and some will wave away thoughts of tomorrow’s business.

All the gospels record Jesus entrance into the city and the beginning of His final week before the cross. The Jewish people were looking for a messiah, someone to save them from the tyranny of Rome, the cruelty of soldiers, the hopelessness of living without freedom.

They were looking for a king to rescue them.

Today we are still look for a rescuer.  Someone to make things better.  Someone to relieve our poverty.  Someone to raise our salaries.  Someone to give us what we want.  Someone to promise a better tomorrow.

No matter our nationality, our affiliations, our political persuasions, we want someone to come and save us, someone who will show us the way to a better life.

That Someone arrived in humble fashion on a Sunday two thousand years ago.  He came bringing peace.  He offered love.  He was hope.

But He didn’t fit the criteria of a king.  He was not the one they really wanted though He was the only One they desperately needed.

The One we are looking for is still Jesus.  He is the hope of all nations.  He is the answer to our questions.  He is the redeemer of our families.  He. Is. The. One. We. Need.

Wave the palms branches.  Lift your voice in praise.  Shout hosanna because blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

The King has come to save us.

Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is he, this King of glory?  The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory.”

Sunday grace.
palm-sunday

 

Revised and reposted from March 2015

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]

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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