MENU

Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

An Easter Life in a Good Friday World

Depositphotos_51926417_original.jpg

Churches were jam-packed all over the world on Easter Sunday.  Why do they (and we) come?  The answer may not be hard to find in a Good Friday world where many feel anxious or troubled, where the unrelenting news can leave its hearers frightened or hopeless.

Easter is festivity!  It is JOY!  It is VICTORY!  It is a time to celebrate that death and despair are not the last words.  Good Friday and silent Saturday seemed to be the end of hope.  But as Tony Campolo put it: “it was Friday.  The cynics were lookin’ at the world and sayin’, ‘as things have been so they shall be.  You can’t change anything in this world, you can’t change anything’.  But those cynics didn’t know that it was only Friday, Sunday’s comin'!”

In a world often resembling Good Friday, Christians no longer need to live in fear and dread.  Easter Sunday has come, the stone was rolled away and God’s people were set free, no longer held in bondage by the curse of the broken covenant.  In a world filled with so much injustice and tragedy, Easter breaks out like the dawn, dispelling the darkness and declaring victory over evil.  And no matter how often love and faithfulness, peace and justice are bullied and seemingly defeated in our time, they rise again.

So, during this time of Eastertide….and always, let us not side with the cynics or the hopeless.  Let us shout from the rooftops “He is risen!” and celebrate the new life that is ours eternally in Jesus Christ.  Remember, Easter is more than a day or a season of the year, it is a way of life, indeed a NEW LIFE is ours! Thanks be to God and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!!!

child_rope_swing.jpg

Egads…. how in the world did that happen????  I turned seventy this year.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was holding hands with Barb Weeks at St. Joseph’s pre-school or Jon White was walking me home from Callanan?  I wonder if I could still do a ballet leg with the Sharks synchronized swimming team at Roosevelt High School or would I dare fly on the rope swing garbed in my blast jacket?  I think I can still jitter bug with the best of them, but roller skating might be out.

I know, I know, age is supposed to be just a number.  In that past that might have been the case, but SEVENTY sounds somehow formidable!

Sydney Perry, the Chief Executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven reflects on his seventh birthday:

“Today I turn 70.  It’s a great blessing to reach 70.  One can look back on a long span of life’s joy and achievements.  Still, it’s hard for me to believe; I don’t feel old (unless I look too closely in the mirror).  I am grateful to be healthy, to have energy and passion for both my family and my work, and even though I have an AARP card and happily present it at the movie theater, I consider “old” to be my mother’s age, and only hope I will be as spry, as active and as mentally acute as she is at almost 92.”

Many of the Boyz and members of SAGE would just laugh at me, and call me a mere spring chicken!

My life has been so rich in so many ways.  My greatest gift has been my faith, and that faith has allowed the Holy Spirit to take me to so many wonderful places to do such joy filled and challenging ministry.  So…look out, Pinnacle Presbyterian, because I’m still very alive and kickin’!  There is work to be done, ministry to be shared, faith to be expressed.

I leave you with a poem by Billy Collins

One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago
As I waited for my eggs and toast,
I opened the Tribune only to discover
That I was the same age as Cheerios.

Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
For today, the newspaper announced,
Was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios
Whereas mine had occurred earlier in the year.

Already I could hear them whispering
Behind my stooped and threadbare back,
Why that dude’s older than Cheerios
The way they used to say

Why that’s as old as the hills,
Only the hills are much older than the Cheerios
Or any American breakfast cereal,
And more noble and enduring are the hills,

I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice.

What has Easter done to you?

lightstock_93687_full_user_1756926_changed.jpg

On Sunday, hundreds of millions of Christians streamed in to churches around the world. Exit interviews would reveal a wide variety of answers to what the resurrection means. It’s a family day, an egg-hunt day, a get-dressed-up day, a big brunch day, a happy day. Those who listened that morning would tell what their preachers said: Some reminded us of Paul’s proclamation that, “Death has lost its sting.” (1 Cor 15) Others took us to Jesus serving Peter breakfast on the beach, to assure him that he forgives his (and our) failure of nerve. (John 21) Other pulpits rang out with the salvation of the cross, confirmed by the empty tomb, and still others emphasized how Jesus opened heaven’s gates for us. (Acts 8) Many worshipped a Jesus who, because of the resurrection, properly reigns atop the cosmos with all knees bowed to him. (Phil 2) And still others noticed that the disciples (students) have now become apostles (sent ones) – that resurrection gives birth to mission. (Acts 1.8)

Even worldwide Easter exit polls wouldn’t capture what I want. I’m interested in who we newly became on the way out of worship. Twenty centuries of Christianity have probed the layers of that empty tomb’s meaning. Jesus’ ancient explosion out of a borrowed tomb meant many things, and I’m glad we’ve noticed that. But the disciples surely couldn’t fathom them yet. I doubt they were even trying. This motley crew of disciples, who never quite “got” who their strange leader was, who had failed him at crucial moments, who now felt the pang of guilty loss. If they could even think beyond their guilt and grief, they assumed their next steps would take them back to the fishing nets and tax booths of Galilee. Emptiness.

Easter changed them. In fact, among all the reasons to believe that Jesus actually came out of that ancient tomb is the impact his resurrection had on the disciples. Peter denied Jesus three times on that Thursday night. Fifty-two days later, he preached a powerful and very risky sermon in the middle of Jerusalem. A few weeks after that, the chief priest and other Jewish authorities who handed Jesus over to Pilate threw Peter in jail because he kept talking about Jesus when they forbade it. Transformed.

What has Easter done to you?

 

Jesus_Cross_w.jpg

Holy Week is one of the busiest times of the year for a pastor.  The days are full, the services are emotionally charged, and there are a lot of them.  What is difficult, is staying with Jesus the whole week. 

Maybe you have a similar challenge. We began Holy Week with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  The crowds were excited; the people were filled with hope—the Messiah is here, they proclaim. Our choirs and children raise their palms and sing Hosanna!  The one who is going to save us has finally arrived! Jesus enters on a humble donkey with no pretense but the crowds do and the Pharisees do.  They have already decided what Jesus will do next.  We like the praise, the celebration and we know about what is coming.   Death…but THEN resurrection! 

It would be easy to skip the death part.  The gruesome, lonely, hateful and hurtful way our Savior died.  It would be convenient to only want the celebratory Passover meal like the disciples and not want Jesus to wash our feet.  It would be painless to fall asleep when Jesus is praying because we are so tired.  It would be obvious that we would protect ourselves by pretending like we didn’t know Him.  It would be easy to hide until Easter.  It would be easier to return to our normal, full, and often overwhelming week and wait until Easter.

When I think about Jesus’ last conversations with his disciples, I wonder what was behind Jesus’ words.  What did He really want when He offered them bread and cup.  What did He mean when He told them not to fight when the Pharisees came to take Him away? Or when He told them one of the twelve would betray him.

I believe Jesus was asking us to stay with Him.  The disciples wanted to change what was happening.  They wanted to protect Jesus, to keep Jesus with them, pretend like it wasn’t happening.  I get it too. It is hard to stay in the moment when you are also trying to plan for the rest of the week.  When your regular days don’t change just because it’s Holy Week.

Plus it is hard to stay.  The middle of the week emotions are difficult to live into.  The anger when Jesus turns the tables over in the temple. The celebration mixed with confusion and worry over someone’s betrayal. The exhaustion in the garden. The fear when Jesus was taken. The betrayal of their friend towards Jesus. The guilt when they abandon Jesus. The pain of watching their friend suffer. The sadness of Jesus' death. 

Those are hard emotions.  It would be easier to skip them all.  It would be easier to go right to Easter.  But I don’t believe Easter would be the same without the rest of it.  We need those moments.  We need them so we can understand how Jesus could stay with us.

Staying with Jesus through His whole life is how we show our love and gratitude that He stays with us.  It is how we can understand and realize His human experience was filled with human needs.  He didn’t want to suffer. He didn’t want to die. He loved His friends. He cared. He wept. He was angry. He was lonely. He died. 

We need Jesus to need us to stay with Him. Otherwise it isn’t a relationship. A relationship that requires something of us and invites us into grace and truth that we already received because Jesus stayed. 

Stay. I am going to try too.

 

 

 

Depositphotos_49677763_original_weaving.jpg

Being more . . .

Be more zealous than you are now. Learn to understand the times. Expect him to come who is above time, the timeless one, the invisible one who became visible for our sake, the untouched one, the one beyond suffering who came to suffer for us, who in every way endured for our sake.

Toil together, fight, run, suffer, rest, and rise up together as God’s stewards, companions of his table, and his servants!                                                -- Ignatius, 120 A.D.

One of the early leaders of the church, named Ignatius, wrote those words.  He wrote them in the year 120.  That’s nearly 2000 years ago.  They’re still read today, put into collections of early words, and pondered.  They could be written to people of faith today, don’t you think?

Get just a bit more serious about your faith.
Lean a little more about the times we’re living in, so you won’t be deceived.
Have confidence in the One who is above the times, even expect that One to teach you.
That One turns things upside down (or right side up!) in ways no pundit or worldview will every quite understand: 

God with us (not far away),
God who we can experience (not aloof),
a creating God who mysteriously experiences what it’s like to be created (even suffering),
a God above time who doesn’t abandon time to us, but weaves into time. 

Nice story.  But is it real?  Ignatius thought so, so much so that in his own time of tremendous cultural and political conflict he urged his fellow believers to take their cues not from the arguments and contests around them but from this One above it all. 

Wow. 

But how?  For we live in a real world full of deadlines and demands and duties and dependencies and dreams that we have to negotiate every day.  We have our worries and we have our weaknesses.  We also have our strengths, our hopes and our skills. 

Maybe the clue is in that idea of weaving—to weave into our daily outlook a little more trust in God, and a little more expectation that God show up (and is already here), and a little more effort to “understand the times” and so make clearheaded, even courageous, decisions when we can.  To be just a bit more zealous—not for power, but for truth, and for faith.

Ignatius quote from, The Early Christians: In Their Own Words.  Eberhard Arnold, ed. (Plough Publishing).  https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/early-christians/early-christians