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Posts Tagged ‘resurrection’

I read an article today in which a person said that we needed the death of Bin Laden to come together as a nation. Now despite my chuckle at this man’s optimism that our nation has “come together”, I was a little bothered that we would “need” the death of anyone to come together.  What does this say about our needs as a human race that we need something violent to bring us together? My concern is that if it is death that brings us together, then how do we cope with life?

The words that have been circulating around the death of Osama Bin Laden vary: relief, pride, closure, joyful, glee, rejoice, revenge, retribution, etc.  There has been a need for closure for the tragedy of 9/11.  Bin Laden needed to be brought in for justice.  With the death of Bin Laden there has been a welling up of emotions in many people.  I have witnessed the struggle between vengeance, retaliation, forgiveness, celebration, and peace. I have seen my Christian brothers and sisters respond well and some not so well. I have questioned my own reactions.  I have concluded that I see no conflict with loving one’s enemy and forgiveness juxtaposed with the outcome of Bin Laden’s life.  Relief in someone’s death is different than celebration. In short, forgiveness and love does not equal blind tolerance to allow someone to continue to harm others and themselves.

Before I write anymore I would also like to add that after reading how the SEALS accomplished this mission I am amazed at their skill and humbled by the burden they carry in all they do and the burden they must carry now.  I am thankful for men and women like them and at the same time wish they weren’t needed.  I think it is good that Osama was found and though I do not mourn his death, I do not rejoice in his dying.

My concern goes deeper than the internal spiritual struggle. My concern is with the emotional response we expose in times like this.  I remember watching the news in 1993 after the disaster that took place in the Battle of Mogadishu, the one depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down, and the bodies of our soldiers being dragged through the streets. I had to wonder this week how close emotionally we are to that kind of scene.  What would have happened if Osama had been dropped alive in the middle of NYC? Our emotions are responding to rage, fear, assumed patriotism, mourning, frustration, etc.  The one thing we are not responding to is the divinity in our humanity.

The question I am faced with is do we really need the death of Osama Bin Laden to have closure, satisfaction, or security. The sad news is that this event really does not change anything permanently.  The end of the crusades did not stop men from misinterpreting scripture for evil purposes. The death of Hitler didn’t stop mad men from desiring the destruction of others not like themselves.  The death of Bin Laden will not stop hatred from infecting the minds of millions. Just like the silence after a murderer was hanged in the public square, we will simply read the news and go home to await another tragedy and hope for a good vengeance story.

Bleek? A little bit much for even my taste.  Reality? I know that a lot of camping and survivalist gear sold quite well in all the camping sections after the news of Osama’s death broke.  Is there good news? You better believe it.  There is a wonderful hymn that has been pulsing through my ears for about two months now, “my hope is built on nothing less that Jesus blood and righteousness”.  I thank God that I am in relationship with Him, especially in times like these.  The reason is that my hope does not rest in the news of this world nor the government, but that it rest completely in Jesus Christ.

We talk about Jesus’ blood and generally we see that blood as his blood that was spilt for our forgiveness and freedom.  But I see it also in his resurrection, bodily and whole, blood and bones.  He is a God who forgives in his death and invites me to participate in his resurrection.  His resurrection means that I have no fear of death for death is not final for me.  If I have no fear in death and my hope is in Christ, then what do I have to fear in life? Why do I have to wait on the demise of another to find satisfaction in me? I don’t.  My identity if found in him and therefore my security is not found in the tragedies of this world.  I do not have to wait for someone to apologize to me, or be brought to justice for something they have done to me in order for me to find peace. In Christ, I have a peace that passes all understanding and therefore can live out a life of peace and hope. This does not mean I live in denial or that I do this easily, but it does mean that I know where the source of true peace comes from and I have never been let down by Him before.

I am troubled by the man’s statement in that article about a nation needing the death of someone to bring us together because it means we are a nation with much to fear, much to loose, and much burden.  When people live out of that kind of burden it becomes difficult to truly live, to truly trust, to be honest with ones self and one another.  I think there is more to this world and this life and that is the reason I am an evangelist.  I do want people to know Christ.  But my agenda is not in moral superiority.  My agenda is not about propagating law.  My evangelism, which means good news, is about just that; good news.  Hope. Identity. Freedom.  Jesus Christ reminds us of our true humanity which is rooted in his divinity.  God is calling us all to be reconciled to him that we may discover who we really are.  He calls out to us and beckons us not to come together in death, but be unified in life, a life he offers freely. The peace and hope I had before and after the death of Bin Laden is the same, for it is not dependent on the ways of men but an everlasting source from the God of love.

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Sunday April 18, 2010

  • Season: Eastertide
  • Sermon: Follow Me
  • Scripture: John 21: 15 -22
  • Songs:

9:30AM Service

  1. Rejoice
  2. Awesome is The Lord Most High
  3. Our God Saves
  4. I Surrender (sorry, can’t find a link to the version we do yet)

11:00AM Service

  1. Crown Him With Many Crowns
  2. I Surrender (same version I can’t find)

I mentioned on Sunday that had I thought of it before bulletins and slides were made, I would have entitled this sermon “The New Normal”.  This phrase I am completely stealing from a friend of mine.  Several years ago this friend lost his father to cancer.  When I asked him how he was doing he said, “we are learning to live in the new normal.”  That struck me on a hundred different levels.  What really stands out for me today is how often when we are faced with something significant in our lives that we cannot quite process, our default mode is to go back to doing something normal as if the event never happened. That may work for a little while, but the reality is that the old normal is long gone and if we are ever to begin living healthy, we must step into the “new normal”.

When reading this passage about Peter and the disciples I am struck by how much their default mode is kicking in.  They are trying to process the events of the last several days (weeks?).  Grant it, not an easy thing to do.  First they enter into Jerusalem with their leader Jesus.  Jesus is praised.  I imagine the disciples were floating on this recognition and wondering if Jesus was about to take over everything.  Then Jesus is betrayed, convicted of  crimes he did not commit, beaten, and crucified.  Peter moves from being the valiant, if not ineffective knight, who declares his loyalty and tries to kill one of the guards succeeding in only missing the guards head and catching his ear, betraying all the teachings of Jesus in that moment, having his master yell at him to stop in front of his enemies, and then running off and denying ever knowing his beloved to the point of cursing his very name.  Not a good turn of events for any of the disciples.  They didn’t know it was going to be a last supper to them it was just, “supper”.

Now, three days after Jesus’ execution, he returns from the dead and shows up among the disciples in a locked room.  Surprise!  Then he is off again appearing to others and then once more back on the shores of Galilee where he finds the disciples off shore fishing.   When Jesus first met these men, they were doing the same things and I suppose now, they are simply attempting to figure out what normal is by going back to doing something they thought they were good at.  Now that I think about it,  I do not remember one story in scripture that ever paints these disciples as good boating men.   Anyhow, Jesus calls out to them, shows them were to throw their nets and they recognize him once more.

Once they are ashore, the Gospel writer John spends more time with Peter and Jesus.  When I look at this dialogue between Jesus and Peter, I still see the comparison of Peter denying Jesus 3 time and Jesus asking if Peter loves him 3 times, but I do not see this as God doubting or chastising Peter.  What I find is a wakeup call to Peter expressing all things are new.  They cannot and should not start over, but they do begin fresh.  Where once Jesus gave a man named Simon the name Peter, he calls him Simon once more as if to say let us make a fresh start and move beyond living in betrayal to living in forgiveness and life.  In a similar way, the writer John reminds us that these men were once fishers of men, but now Jesus has something more in store; he calls them shepherds.  I new vocational title for a new creation.  The New Normal does not have then returning to the old things as if nothing has changed, you see everything has changed now.  There is a new way to live and it can only be found when one first finds themselves in the forgiving presence of the Christ who defeated death.  From there we step into a new normal where death no longer has sting and we have something good to shout about.  As we are embraced by THE SHEPHERD, we become little shepherds coming along side those in this world who need a touch of grace.  Living in the New Normal makes this possible.  Hopefully here in this community or where ever your faith community rests, we might all be uplifted by one another to live in the new creation Christ has inaugurated through his death and resurrection.  It is not complete yet, but we can begin living in his rule today.

The biggest mistake many people make in having a relationship with Christ is that they try to take their new encounter with God and apply it to their old life, as if God were a kind of clothing we wrap around ourselves in certain weather.  Jesus, however, calls us to lay down our life and follow him.  It is difficult to make sense of God if we try to apply to our old way of living.  Jesus calls us to rename us and set us on a vision of life.  This means a life of following Christ.  Are you ready to live in a “new normal”?

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Follow Me

This Sunday I will be preaching from John 21.  It is the story of disciples fishing, Jesus calling, and Peter transforming.

I think Easter is the most pivotal moment in the history of the world.  Easter is what changed everything.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ was not just a moment for one man, but a powerful moment that let loose hope for the world.  What I love about this hope, is that it is not a “one day hope” but a hope that begins now.

That first sentence is an easy one to write, but it is a bold one to believe.  To believe it calls one to live it.  To live out of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and not merely out of some philosophical principles or rules of life, is to live a life not just formed by Christ, but animated by Christ.  The resurrection of Christ, declares Christ as Lord of all.  Not just Lord of those who believe.  Not just Lord of those who decide to live out of a particular faith.  Lord of ALL.  The Resurrection asks me if I allow Christ to be Lord of all.  Peter is faced with a new commission from Christ.  He must face his sin, but more importantly embrace his forgiveness and live out of the new life Christ calls him to.  We are faced with the same choice.  Is Jesus my Lord?  Will I trust him?  Will I follow him? Are there areas I have yet to give over to him?

In preparation for this Sunday, ask yourself how your life changed because of the resurrection.  Do you live differently?  If you would like, share with others here in this blog.  Above all, pray that God would move in you and search your heart and illuminate those areas you need transformed.  Perhaps you haven’t changed.  To that I would also ask that you would pray and allow God to work in you.

Pray and Expect:

  1. God to move in your life.
  2. God to be at work in your home and work life.
  3. For those leading worship on Sunday
  4. To see those areas that keep you from new life.
  5. And expect God to lead you to new life.

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Easter Sunday March 28, 2010

  • Season: Easter
  • Sermon: The Only Hope
  • Scripture: Luke  24: 1-10
  • Songs:

9:30AM Service

  1. How Can I Keep From Singing
  2. Christ The Lord is Risen Today
  3. Everlasting God
  4. offertory:  It’s Your Love
  5. Communion: I Will Rise
  6. How Great Thou Art

11:00 AM Service

  1. Christ The Lord is Risen Today
  2. He Lives
  3. How Great Thou Art

What an Easter Sunday.  3 services, standing room only in the second service, men wearing pastel, women wearing hats, 3 baptisms and 6 confirmands, lots of music and Sydney dancing by the cross.  That is how we are called to break a fast; celebrating life.  My expectations were exceeded on Sunday.  I don’t mean the number of people.  I mean the worship of people.  There was simply a great community of worshipers on Sunday.  Some people didn’t even realize they were worshipping.  Joy filled the room.  I honestly had a hard time communicating what I wanted to say on Sunday and part of that is because it was already in the room, the other part is that because at the time I tried to cut my sermon in half on the fly.  I bring that up, not as an excuse, but so you understand what I am about to say.  Sometimes the words the preacher says are superfluous to the action that is going on.  We need celebration.  It is very easy to get caught up in the fears of this world and think that God only has something for us one day, but the fact is he has something for us today.  I am not in the one day, I am in the now and the good news is that God is in the now too.  We keep looking for the solution, the escape, the hope for our problems at home and around the world and Easter shows us the answer.  The answer is found on the blood of the cross and the empty tomb.

Why do we look for the living among the dead?  The point is that there is no longer the dead, but the living.  It is like this, we are told in scripture that God will turn our mourning into dancing.  This does not mean that we do not mourn.  Of course we will mourn.  It is sad to be separated from loved ones.  It is heartbreaking to see tragedy on the global scale as we have seen it over and over these many years.  But we do not mourn as if God is dead.  We do not mourn as those without hope.  We mourn with hope, expectation, and empowerment.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  This wasn’t the end, it was the beginning.  Jesus rose on the first day of the week.  The first day of the new creation.  This means we stand with Christ in his resurrection knowing that death and pain declare nothing obsolete, but the living presence of God declares that He will make all things new.  The question that should be before our eyes is if we are ready to view the world with the eyes of Christ.  No to view the world as something crippled by it’s own sin and decay, not as something to be feared, but as something to be liberated with the love and power of our Almighty God.  If you believe that God is raised from the dead, then yes our mourning can turn to dancing.   We dance the story of Christ to our neighbors, to our friends, to our co-workers, strangers and enemies.  We dance the passion and love of God through each movement of our chest as we breathe in and out the life of the Almighty.

Leave it to my daughter to steal the show and deliver the best sermon anyone could possibly see.  First she sees me singing while we are taking communion.  She shouts ‘Daddy!’  That should be our response to communion, to look with delight upon our heavenly Father and shout Daddy, as if to say “there you are, I delight in you as you delight in me”.  Sydney’s next point was to break free from her mommy while we sang How Great Thou Art and run up on the stage.  She danced around the communion table and then around the empty cross.  New life, full of energy and joy dancing in front of a symbol that was once meant for shame and death.  Take that Satan.  Take that death.  How Great God is indeed!  That is where we belong, dancing at the foot of an empty cross and an empty grave.  You see?  He turns our mourning into dancing.  That is the Easter Story.  Live it.

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The women on my dad’s side of the family are by no means delicate.  Sugar and spice and everything nice?  They’ve not heard of it.  They were young adults during WWII.  Their men were at war and they were struggling to find jobs in Mississippi.  They did not grow up wealthy by any means.  My grandmother, who we call “Bubba” (you might be a redneck if you granma is called bubba), she was (is) a little woman.  Part of her story (which includes picking cotton) is telling a man that he WILL hire her and if he doesn’t like her after a week he can fire her and if she doesn’t like him, she’ll quit, but he will hire her.  She had that job for several years.  My great Aunt Ruth, Bubba’s sister, she outlived three husbands, had her hair done weekly at the “parlor”, and carried a hand gun (and as she told me, “it has hollow point bullets, make a small hole going in and one big enough to put your head in going out”) Sugar and Spice.  I found out about the hand gun when she (83 at the time) told me that someone broke into her house.  I asked her what she did.  My Great Aunt Ruth, with parkinson’s (she called the shakes) said she reached into her purse and pulled out her 45.  All I could think of was the man facing my Aunt Ruth with her shaky hands pointing that gun and listening to her tell him that she may be shaky but it only takes one hit.  Apparently Aunt Ruth was the mold for dirty harry.

Delicate, by no means.  But sickness and death are by no means impressed or impartial.  Bubba, is 91 but has no short term memory.  My Great Aunt Ruth passed away this week. Lent, normally a time when we reflect on mortality through means of some kind of fast, has unfortunately  hit closer to home for several in our congregation.  Grief and mourning is exhausting as we seek understanding, meaning, and the ever frustrating question of “why?”.  I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see a little less grief for awhile.  I’m ready for Easter.

Yesterday I was setting up for our Good Friday Tenebrae service.  Generally when I am setting up for this service it is a very somber time, reflecting on what Jesus did for us.  As I was walking between the buildings I had the song, “were you there” in my head.  The line “were you there when the sun refused to shine” drifted by while I was outside.  Yesterday the sun was shining and not one cloud crossed its path.  That beautiful day made it very difficult to think of suffering.

The more I thought about it, it wasn’t just the blue sky that kept me from sorrow; it was the fact of Easter.  Easter is the story of life, of resurrection, of eternity, of possibilities, of HOPE.  That word hope is the key.  Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that we are not to grieve as those with no hope.  Are we to mourn the loss of those we love? Of course, but we do not mourn in finality, we do not more in vain, but in the reality that death does not have the final say.

This Sunday we are going to celebrate life, real life, that exists because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Why do I call it real life?  Because it is life that is not hindered by the fear of death.  Life that is propelled in the now, because of what God has done and promises to do.  It is real life because we can stop living with the strategy of existing by avoiding and fearing death and move to a life in which we truly lay down our burdens  and breath deep the vitality of beginning our eternal life today.

I envite you to read Luke 24: 1-10 in preparation for this week.  As you do ask yourself what you find when you look in the tombs of your life.  Is it desperation, heartache, and fear?  Do you find anger, control, and frustration?  Is it sickness and despair?  Or maybe, you are ready to open the tomb in your life and find the  sweet liberating resurrecting reality of Jesus Christ.

Pray:

  1. For God to prepare your heart to meet him and for the life he desire to place in you.
  2. For others you know who need healing and hope.
  3. Ask God, how you might be a light of his resurrection in their presence.
  4. That God might help you see the areas you need to let go in order to be free
  5. That God might give you the courage to let them go.
  6. That  the Holy Spirit might fill you with the knowledge of his presence and resurrection.
  7. For me, as I continue to prepare to lead you in tomorrows worship.

Calling Jesus the Only Hope is not out of desperation, but out of pure joy of knowing I could ask for no one greater.  After meeting Christ, how could I want for more.   The Good News of Jesus Christ and his resurrection is that as debilitating as sickness and death are, they are no match for the grace and power of God.  Death is broken in the power of the cross.  Do I grieve for my family?  Yes, but not as one with no hope, for I know that my savior lives and one day, minds will be mended, hands will be steadied, and the zest for life those two women had will be renewed.  You see, God has the last say,

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