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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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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HOLY TRINITY, ST. PATRICK, AND SHAMROCKS!

cloverThe church year moves right along. This week, as Pentecost has just been celebrated, the year looks at the Holy Trinity. We profess the Holy trinity each week in the Nicene creed when we say, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The are always together and in unity: God never has to call the Son and the Spirit in for an emergency meeting! It is awful hard for me as one of Irish descent to even think of the Holy Trinity without thinking of St. Patrick.  While it is debatable if St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the trinity—as legend has it—the shamrock has come to be both a symbol of the saint as well as the Holy Trinity!

If we think of that clover leaf, we can envisage the three leaves that make the clover, each leaf standing alone, yet together with, equal to, and in unity with the others. If we look at the lectionary readings for Holy Trinity Sunday we can see the three always together, working together, and in unity.

Genesis 1:1-2 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” While the Messiah is not explicably mentioned, we know from John’s Gospel that “All things were made through [the Messiah], and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Together, in unity the three work together, just as the three leaves of the shamrock work together to make up the shamrock; the same DNA. The creed says of the Father and the Son:

“God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.”

The Spirt, the giver of life, proceeds from the Father and the Son—the Son is the bread of life, the Spirit is the giver of life; the Spirit must be then one with the Son—who is one with the Father. While leaf one is not leaf two, and leaf two is not leaf three—which also is not leaf one—the Son is not the Father and the father is not the Son, the Spirit is neither of the two and the two are not the Spirit, they are all three the one God: Hear O Israel, the lord our God, the Lord is one!

In the Bible there is only one command that is given to be done in the name of the Holy Trinity. This points us to the Gospel reading for Holy Trinity Sunday: Matthew 28:16-20. Baptism is to be done in the name of the Holy Trinity: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” Again, we look to the creed: We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. One baptism, for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), yet in the name of the three—which are always together, as are the leaves of the Shamrock. And, it is through the one baptism that the Spirit—which proceeds from and is one with the father and the son—is received.

Whether St. Patrick went to Connaught where he met two of King Laoghaire’s daughters, Ethne and Fedelm; St. Patrick had been unable to persuade the king to convert, but he convinced the king’s daughters; during their time of instruction St. Patrick used a shamrock to visualize the mystery of the Trinity, how a single plant with three leaves is analogous to the one Triune God with three separate and distinct Persons, might be open to debate. Or, possibly—or possibly not— St. Patrick was traveling and happened upon a number of Irish chieftains along a meadow. The tribal leaders were curious about the Trinity and asked St. Patrick for an explanation. So he bent down, picked a shamrock, and showed it to them, and explained how the three leaves are part of the one plant, and how similarly the three Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, are part of one Supreme Being. Even more debatable is whether St. Patrick ran all the snakes out of Ireland.

But, the certainty lies in the fact that the Holy Trinity has existed from eternity past into eternity future. Three, are always together; they were together at the creation. They were together at Jesus’ baptism—the dawning of the new creation. They are together at our baptism—they give us life and all that is needed to have a favorable outcome at the final judgment.

However you describe the Holy Trinity, the words unity and one have to be a part of the description. Does a shamrock do justice to the mystery of the Trinity? Probably not. But, our language has trouble describing all things God. We believe in God; we are saved by the work of Christ on the cross; our bodies are animated by the Holy Spirit.

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

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