They Called It The Streak!

 

st-markI am old enough to remember streaking back in the early1970s. I suppose it still happens today. But, with many people’s wardrobe choices it can be hard to tell if they are streaking or dressed! And, as the morals in my country have been constantly eroding, I am not sure there would be a public out cry if someone was found to be streaking. I am not even sure too many people would bother to sat, “Don’t look Ethel!” But, have treated streaking (in the 70s) as if it was something new; when, in fact, as Christians, we can at eh very least trace streaking back to the biblical days.

On 29 April we are set to celebrate Saint Mark.  I always read with amusement as a child Mark 14:51, “And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” Yet, as I studied the scripture more maturely the verse became less funny and more sorrowful. While St. Mark never says that he is that young man, tradition and scholarship have come to the conclusion that ‘young man’ is in fact the Gospel writer.

The episode adds nothing to the Jesus Story. Yet, for some reason the writer preserved the story. One reason many scholars believe the story was kept was that the young man who ran away naked was none other than Mark himself.

Mark sets out his Gospel with a thesis statement: The beginning of the good news [the gospel] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1). And throughout his Gospel that thesis is asserted, but not by the people who Christ is trying to ‘win over.’ The Demons know who he is. A very shaky reply from Peter that could almost be phrased as a question as much as statement, says He’s the Messiah. And, of course, the final proclamation in Mark 15:39, “surely this man is the son of G(g)od,” leaves one to wonder just which god the centurion was referencing!

As we approach the feast day of St. Mark, 25 March, which Christ do we worship and proclaim? Do our own demons know more about the Christ than we do and keep us from worshipping? Or, are we like Peter and say his is the Messiah in more of a question form than a statement? Maybe, you proclaim that surely this man is the Son of God; but he is a God you’ve made him into as opposed to the God of the Bible, a thoroughly modern and updated god. Or even sadder, maybe you are willing to simply run away naked instead of being identified with the one true God.

St. Mark gave us sign post that the Christ was God’s Son, the true Messiah of Israel. As we remember St. Mark let us remember he told us about the “good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And he proclaimed throughout his book that “Surely this man must be the Son of God.” From the beginning to the end, and all points in the middle, Mark made the case that the Christ is our savior!

Until next time May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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Nonsense, Easter, Empty Tombs, Stones

tombA Friend of mine asked/mentioned on a social media site, “One thing I never understood about the story though. Why was the giant stone rolled to the side of the tomb? He didn’t need a doorway. In the next few days, if you read the scripture there are several instances where Jesus “appears” which it makes it sound like he was spirit?

Ok, let me answer your question with a question—or two or three! You said you never understood … So let me ask you what is understandable, what makes sense in the entire story? The answer is ‘nothing.’

The Roman guard was not going to let a, for lack of a better word, prisoner—at least a body under their watch—escape. They would have received the death penalty for such. Yet, they shook and became like dead men.

That the stone was rolled away would have been a supernatural feat. We would have never been able to roll the stone away. It would have weighed several tons. It sat in a trench and rolled down to cover the entrance. Yet, the Greek implies that it was not rolled—either left or right—in the trench; it was rolled outward away from the tomb. This would not have been an easy task for men.

Who were the first to discover the risen Christ? Women. Women were tasked with telling the others that the Christ had been raised. A woman was not a believed or relied on source in the ancient world. They could not testify in a court of law; and now they are given the burden of telling everyone that Christ has risen in the middle of history not at the end of time! Probably why in Mark’s gospel they don’t tell anyone! Who would have believed them!

First, while Jews, and Jews alone, believed in a bodily resurrection, they believed it would come at the end of history. The resurrection of the Christ came in the middle of history. And the women? As the women went to the tomb they said there was an earthquake. That was the stone being rolled away—the angel sat on the stone. I’m 99.44/100th percent sure the stone was rolled away so the witnesses could know that what had happened had indeed happened.

The Jews had had many people come and claim to be the Messiah, the anointed one of Israel. They had been put to death. Jesus was no different. He came made his claim and was put to death. They did not expect a resurrection, not until the end of time when everyone would be resurrected. Women were not reliable witnesses. Romans are not going to let a body under their watch disappear (remember these were highly trained fighting men).

Nothing in the story makes sense. But, then it does. As other messiah want-to-bes had come and gone, Jesus, the true Messiah, had to rise. What he accomplished, he accomplished on the cross on ‘Good Friday.’ After his death the world was a different place. God’s new creation was taking place. The resurrection was the proof of what had happen on Friday!

Now, I believe Jesus was raised before the stone was rolled away. It was rolled away so that it could be shown to be empty. But, something needs to be remembered. While did have those ‘spirit’ aspect like being able to appear in places, he also had a physicality ae to tough the wounds. This suggest some type of human body. Also, He had to appear somewhat human as he was mistaken for the gardener. The fact that the disciples didn’t recognize him walking down the road doesn’t point to him being changed so much as it points to them not expecting him to be raised!

When he ascended into Heaven some of earth went to Heaven; some days later when the Holy Spirit came down (Acts 2) some of Heaven came to earth. I think we too often we think of dying and going to heaven as the end. But if we follow Christ’s example, we will die and be with our Lord for a period of time and then there will be the resurrection. Our bodies will be raised on a New Earth with a New Heaven. So, Heaven is great place to visit but it’s not the final stop.  And nothing in these stories makes sense because it was something the world had never seen and will never see again! And, if everything made perfect sense there would be no room for faith.

May our faith guide us through this Eastertide as we move forward to Pentecost.

 

Until next time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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Simply A Cross

crossOne of the most popular pieces of jewelry is a cross. Not just among the religious, mind you, but among society in general. They come form the plain and simply to the most diamond studded bling. Even among denominations that only a few years ago might have shunned the wearing of such a sacred symbol, crosses adorn the necks, the ears, and anywhere else they can find to put one—on jewelry that is! We glamorize the cross on everything but seem to somewhat gloss over it in our churches. Sure, we sing a few songs such as the ‘Old Rugged Cross,’ or, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.’ But for the most part we skip past the cross and get right to the resurrection.

            As we hold our blingy crosses in such high esteem, even being proud when we see others adorned with them, for the First Century Jew, or anyone else for that matter, the cross was not the pretty thing we have made it out to be. The cross was a scary symbol. It represented the most horrid way a man could die. As one walked down the first century road, they could see the sights of the dying hung on the cross. Maybe the stench of rotting flesh filled the air. Buzzards would have been circling, waiting for the precise, right moment to swoop down for the awaiting feast. Flies would been buzzing around and maggots filling the open wounds. A deterrent to crime. An example set for one not to rebel against the empire. Yes, the cross.

            Yet too often we want to, in our we want it right now mental, go straight on to the resurrection. But, it was the cross on that—what has come to be called Good Friday—afternoon that changed the world. For St. Paul, he maintained that when in Corinth he vowed to know nothing but Christ and Christ crucified. It was not the resurrection—Sunday morning—it was Friday afternoon. Sadly, we look closer at the resurrection and skim the wondrous cross that changed the creation that God had once called ‘good,’ but had strayed from God’s will and way.

            While we look at the crosses we have around our necks, pierced in our ears, tattooed on our bodies, we forget what the cross symbolized to the Jewish people. We tend to forget that it was the cross, the wondrous cross, that on a Friday afternoon, changed the world. It was because of the cross that the proclamation ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God,’ not the resurrection, though by the resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God by the Holy Spirit.

            The Cross changed the world. The Cross made way for us to walk on a new earth, in the future, while still living in the present. The Cross, the Wonderous, Old Rugged Cross, changed the world; the resurrection was the proof that it had happened.

 

Collect for Good Friday:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.

 

Until next time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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Decisions, Decisions, Decision

baptism1Did you ever have to make up your mind? Decisions surround us. All through the day we make tons of them; some we make unconsciously. According to UNC TV we make on the average 35,000 conscious decisions during a day. Psychology Today suggest that we make a decision every two seconds. I actually think a bit more than I every thought I did! And making  decision to do one thing is also a decision to not do something else. As Rolheiser put it, “Every choice is a thousand renunciations. To choose one thing is to turn one’s back on many others.”  Yet, with all of the decisions we make, they each carry consequences.

In his book, Decision Points, George W. Bush started out by addressing his alcohol problem. But he ends the chapter writing, “There’s no way to know where my life would have headed if I hadn’t made the decision to quit drinking. But I am certain that I would not be recording these thoughts as a former governor of Texas and president of the United States.”

As we are in the Season of Lent, a season where we reflect on our baptisms, or prepare to be baptized; we reflect on the greatest decision we can/will/have ever make (made)! It is the decision that changes our lives. As Pope John Paul II put it, “Baptism frees man from original sin and forgives his sins, saves him from slavery to evil and is a sign of his rebirth in the Holy Spirit, it imparts to him a new life.”

Before we made that decision to be baptized we were lost in sin. One of the most powerful autobiographies I have ever read, St. Patrick’s Confessio, started off liked this, “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers.” There is where we are without baptism: a sinner, the least of all believers. We are the least of all because we stand apart from God.

But, there was good news in the form of the Gospel of God, the Gospel about his Son. The ‘gospel,’ euangelion <Greek>, was a proclamation. Usually it meant a royal proclamation such as a royal birthday, or a new king had ascended to the throne. In the case of the gospel of God, the gospel about his Son, the proclamation was that something had happened on the cross that first Good Friday by six o’clock in the afternoon. And, as a result the world was now a different place. And as sinners, that new world is the place that our baptism offers to us. Three days later when Christ was resurrected, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it gave us the proof of what happened on the cross that Friday afternoon. The world changed. That was the proclamation. For us the proclamation is that we can take part in that new world. And, it is through baptism that we take our place in that new world.

In our baptism we take part in the death of the Christ. St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome, we who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were indeed buried with Him through baptism into his death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).  As Paul continued, ‘our old self was crucified with Him so that our sinful body might be done away with” (v.6). Baptism changes “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner,” to, “My name is Patrick. I am a child of God.”

Baptism saved us (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism clothed us in Christ (Galatians 3:27). Baptism filled us with the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:28). Baptism allowed us to walk in a newness of Life (Romans 6:4). While there are many sacraments, baptism is THE sacrament. For without it it is impossible to partake in any other sacrament.

Lent is a time to reflect back on our baptism. And while we may make 35,000 decisions a day, while we may make a decision every two seconds, and while with each decision we make there is a renunciation of a thousand other possible decisions, every decision we make pales in comparison of that one decision we made to be baptized. While Lent is a good time to reflect on that decision, it should also be remembered with every other decision of the year because “By Baptism we are made flesh of the Crucified” (St. Leo). As St. Maximilian Kolbe put it, “The soul is regenerated in the sacred waters of baptism and thus becomes God’s child.” Decisions come and go. But one decision, the decision to be baptized, should transform our lives like no other.

 

Until Next Time May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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Lint, Lent, Belly Button Scent

March 6th marks the beginning of Lent 2019. It’s that period of time where we fast from ashwednesdaythings that keep us from drawing closer to God, in hopes that we draw closer to the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Just as we would, hopefully daily, we would clean the lint from our belly, during the 40 days of fasting in Lent we would clean the lint from our lives. We attempt to say goodbye—remove that unclean lint—to the things that keep us from the new life with God. Or, as N. T. Wright put it, “we say a firm goodbye to everything in us that still clings to the old!”

As Ronald Rolheiser said, “It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace.” But, when we clean away our lint, during Lent with the hope that it stays away, walking this earth becomes easier due to our walking closer to God.

Our Ash Wednesday service takes on a journey both backward and forward. We have the sign of the cross made on our foreheads in ashes. These ashes take us both back in time and into the future. We can look back at all the people in biblical times that mourn, our showed their grief by sitting in ashes, or placing ashes on the heads. So, our ashes will symbolize the ‘junk’ we’ve removed from our own lives. But, they show a bit more!
The sign of the Cross points to something better than what we are leaving behind. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that when he was with them he vowed to know nothing but Christ, and [Christ] crucified. It was all about that cross. When we ‘survey that wondrous Cross’ we find that there, our new life begins. It was there that the New World began. It all happened on that old rugged cross. The earth was there to be forever changed. Then, three days later came the resurrection; the proof that what happened on the cross was real, that the world was forever changed.

Our foreheads are marked with those ashes—symbols of those things, our past, that we are giving up in order that we may more fully be closer to God and do his work—in the sign of a cross—identifying us with the New World that began on a Friday with the death of the Christ. The ashes then look back on what we’ve left and forward to the life refined by the fire given to us  through the work of the Lord on the cross!

Let your Lenten fast draw you closer to that Cross. Clean you bellybuttons so to speak so your lives will be a sweet scent going up to the Lord!

 

Until Next Time, may the Good Lord Bless And Keep You!

 

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A Cross, Some Thoughts, Surveying the Wondrous Cross

goodfridayOne of the most popular pieces of jewelry is a cross. Not just among the religious, mind you, but among society in general. They come form the plain and simply to the most diamond studded bling. Even among denominations that only a few years ago might have shunned the wearing of such a sacred symbol, crosses adorn the necks, the ears, and anywhere else they can find to put one—on jewelry that is! We glamorize the cross on everything but seem to somewhat gloss over it in our churches. Sure, we sing a few songs such as the ‘Old Rugged Cross,’ or, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.’ But for the most part we skip past the cross and get right to the resurrection.

            As we hold our blingy crosses in such high esteem, even being proud when we see others adorned with them, for the First Century Jew, or anyone else for that matter, the cross was not the pretty thing we have made it out to be. The cross was a scary symbol. It represented the most horrid way a man could die. As one walked down the first century road, they could see the sights of the dying hung on the cross. Maybe the stench of rotting flesh filled the air. Buzzards would have been circling, waiting for the precise, right moment to swoop down for the awaiting feast. Flies would been buzzing around and maggots filling the open wounds. A deterrent to crime. An example set for one not to rebel against the empire. Yes, the cross.

            Yet too often we want to, in our we want it right now mental, go straight on to the resurrection. But, it was the cross on that—what has come to be called Good Friday—afternoon that changed the world. For St. Paul, he maintained that when in Corinth he vowed to know nothing but Christ and Christ crucified. It was not the resurrection—Sunday morning—it was Friday afternoon. Sadly, we look closer at the resurrection and skim the wondrous cross that changed the creation that God had once called ‘good,’ but had strayed from God’s will and way.

            While we look at the crosses we have around our necks, pierced in our ears, tattooed on our bodies, we forget what the cross symbolized to the Jewish people. We tend to forget that it was the cross, the wondrous cross, that on a Friday afternoon, changed the world. It was because of the cross that the proclamation ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God,’ not the resurrection, though by the resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God by the Holy Spirit.

            The Cross changed the world. The Cross made way for us to walk in the new earth, the future, while still living in the present. The Cross, the Wonderous, Old Rugged Cross, changed the world; the resurrection was the proof that it had happened.

 

Collect for Good Friday:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.

 

Until next time, may the God Lord bless and keep you!

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LENT, ASH WEDNESDAY: I’M GIVING UP MAYONNAISE!

ashwednesdayThe time of Lent is again upon us. And, for many it is the time where we give up something. For the next 46 days we ‘fast.’ We give up something. And, it is my plan to give up mayonnaise. Of course, of the 46 days, six are Sundays of which we are under no obligation to fast, so I can eat mayonnaise on those days—should I so choose. Yet, as I detest mayonnaise I believe I shall not partake of this food—I use the word loosely—on those days on which I could actually eat it. Sadly, that is the attitude with which many enter into the Lenten fast.

Our time of fasting during the Lenten period should be a time of bring us closer to God. Amos has called on us to “Seek the Lord” (Amos 5:6, ESV). We need to be clearing out the clutter that is causing us to spend less time with our God. Some many times in our busy lives, when time is tight, it is God who gets pushed by the wayside. Thus, our fast should be one that turns our eyes upon Jesus. As Paul wrote in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Our fast then needs to draw us closer to the Lord. As we await that day when we celebrate what the Lord has done, the day when the Lord changed the world on the Cross and gave proof of that change by his resurrection.

It was the Cross that changed the world. On that day the world became a new place. We have the evidence of this when Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that he resolved to know nothing while he was in Corinth except “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The proof of what happened on that Cross became manifest three days later when the Christ “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of Holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).

Our Lenten Fast then helps us to seek the Lord. It helps us to run the race with endurance. It should more clearly help us to see the world that came to be on a Friday afternoon on a Cross. Our fast helps to bring into focus the work of Jesus on the Cross.

John preached a baptism of repentance. And our Lenten fast should be a type of repentance. It is not a fast that turns us back from where we came; it is a fast that turns us to where we should go. We fast from what tends to take away our time from focus on God. It is a fast that helps us to turn to Him, to seek Him. It is a fast that doesn’t weaken us but strengthens us to run the race with endurance. As John preached a baptism of repentance, our Lenten fast turns our eyes toward, helps us more fully seek, the one who was raised by the same Holy Spirit by which we are baptized. It is not enough for us to simply turn our eyes from the things of which we fast; we must in the Spirit turn our eyes unto Him.

Of course, I am not giving up mayonnaise for Lent; I never eat the nasty mess to start with! As a matter of fact, eating mayonnaise, I feel, would probably send me on to the heavenly realm! But, I ask at this Lenten period, allow your fast to be one that draws you ever so closer to God. Seek Him and allow your fast to allow you to run the race with endurance. Turn from the world and walk in the Spirit by which you are indwelled.  As you seek God, humble yourselves so that you may be exalted (Luke 18:14). Allow the Holy Spirit to take you on a pilgrimage during Lent that takes you to the Cross of Christ with a proclamation that surely this man really is the son of God!

 

Until next time, may the good Lord bless and keep you!

(For those of you on FaceBook I will see you in April)

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