Daily Devotions Resume Monday

April 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m out-of-town for the weekend and will resume the daily devotions on Monday, May 2.

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From Fear To Joy

April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Retelling the Easter story of Jesus’ first appearance to His disciples after His resurrection (John 20:19-23) is like living into the truth of our own lives.  It is a story of transformation that provides the key to the power of the Easter reality in our lives.  The power of Jesus’ resurrection lies in God’s ability to turn death into life, or in the case of Jesus’ disciples, transforming a fearful room into a joyful one (20:19-20).  Jesus does not come into our lives to make it more difficult than what it already is.  As He did when He spoke his first words in the midst of the disciples, His presence brings peace.  God’s new life in and through Jesus’ resurrection is the ever-present reality of God showing up in our lives to surprise us with newness in the midst of stuckness.  God brings peace and joy in the midst of fear and anxiety.  But the story does not end there.  The transformation from fear to joy effected by the peace of new life in and through Jesus leads to a completely different purpose in life.  It is a transformational power that moves us into the world for the sake of bringing new life to others.  In the words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you… If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (20:21, 23).  The key verse between the previous two verses provide the crucial link for understanding God’s sending and our calling in the light of God’s power alone:  “… he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (20:22).  May the Easter power of Jesus’ resurrection move you forward on the holy gusts of the Spirit and into the lives of others to bring peace, hope, and newness!

Seek Things Above

April 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

We just celebrated Easter Sunday.  So what now?  Colossians 3:1-2 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  These verses give us the reason why celebrating Easter in the first place.  It is not just a celebration of something amazing that happened a long time ago.  We celebrate Easter, because we are confident that the story includes us.  We are participating in Christ’s death and resurrection:  we “have been raised with Christ” (3:1).  Whatever else Christian faith is, it is the proclamation that what God has done in Christ, God has done in us.  Therefore, Easter has everything to do with how we ought to live our lives.  An earthly way of living is simply not adequate anymore if you have been raised with Christ.  Now the focus of our whole beings shift to what is above, that is, the things of God.  Setting our hearts and minds on the things above literally means to seek the things of God.  How are you and I going to do that post our Easter celebrations?  A good starting point is to take the Bible in the one hand and the newspaper in the other hand while prayerfully seeking out other people to be in conversation with them on what God is up to in our town (based on putting in discussion God’s Word and what is going on in the world).

Rebuilding

April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

What difference does Easter make in the reality of our every day lives?  One of the most significant aspects of Easter is God’s ability to do new things in circumstances where everything seems humanly impossible.  After all, what is more radical in terms of God’s possibility in the midst of complete impossibility than raising somebody from the dead?  Jeremiah 31:1-6 describe God’s radical “Easter” in the life of Israel.  The northern kingdom, Samaria, was under foreign rule, and the southern kingdom, Judah, would soon be under foreign rule as well.  There’s destruction in the North, and there’s destruction approaching the South.  So Jeremiah’s “Easter” message of hope is that God will intervene and rebuild all the clans of Israel were there is only a sense of loss in the midst of destruction.  Where there is this great sense of having lost everything you know and love, and that everything you trust has been taken away from you, God shows up with his “favor” (31:2) and “everlasting love” (31:3) to declare his trustworthiness (31:1) that will result in God’s rebuilding process (31:4).  And those who hear God’s amazing “Easter” promise can only rejoice in knowing that even in the most hopeless of circumstances, God can be trusted to do new things (31:5-6).  Does Easter make a difference in your life where everything seems to be lost?

Let Us Rejoice!

April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

It is a new day!  “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24).  These words from Psalm 118 have long been used to celebrate Easter, and we use it frequently to call the congregation to worship on a Sunday morning.  It represents our Easter proclamation that God has risen Christ from the dead.  Therefore, “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:1).  In its Jewish context, Psalm 118 was most likely used at the Passover festival as an entrance liturgy to the Temple.  The basic proclamation is that God’s love is steadfast and endures forever.  For Jews, it is a reminder how God was faithful and loving in delivering them from Egypt and later from Exile.  For us, who just gathered on Easter morning, it gives voice to the joy of God’s enduring love embodied in Christ’s resurrection.  In the words of Biblical scholar, Richard Clifford, “His (Christ’s) rescue from death is a new exodus and a fresh sign that God’s steadfast love endures forever… His exaltation means our own.”  What difference will this Easter celebrations make to our lives?  Will others see in us that we are overjoyed by God’s enduring love of giving us new life in Christ?

The Secret of Silent Saturday

April 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Saturday of Holy Week carries within itself the awkward silence between the death of Good Friday and the life of Resurrection Sunday.  That is where we live our entire lives.  In the tension between life and death.  Knowing full well the realities of death in all its forms and shapes.  Anticipating new life to every now and then break through in the midst of death.  No words to describe the reality of sin, evil, and death.  No words to capture the new life that lies beyond human ability.  Just silence.  However, it is a silence of expectancy.  A silence that rest in the promise of a future.  A silence that anticipates God’s preferred future.  A silence of faith and hope that God’s love will prevail and emerge as new things coming from God’s future into the messiness of our lives.  Although, on this day, we stay in the secrecy of a Joseph of Arimathea, driven by the fear that comes with the tension between life and death, we know that in the story of Jesus’ burial there are already the secrets about to unlock the surprising good news of tomorrow morning (John 19:38-42).

A Good Friday Prayer

April 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

I pray on this Good Friday with the words of part of a Walter Brueggemann Good Friday prayer in 1991:

We dare pray while the darkness descends and the earthquake trembles.  We dare pray for eyes to see fully and mouths to speak fully the power of death all around.  We dare pray for a capacity to notice unflinching that in our happy playgrounds other children die, and grow silent.  We pray more for your notice and your promise and your healing.

Our only urging on Friday is that you live this as we must: impacted but not destroyed; dimmed but not quenched.  For your great staying power and your promise of newness we praise you.  It is in your power and your promise that we take our stand this day.  We dare trust that Friday is never the last day, so we watch for the new day of life.  Hear our prayer and be your full self toward us.  Amen.

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