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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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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REIGN OF CHRIST: Pentecost and Beyond

reignofchrist1Pentecost 2017 is now in the history books and for many it is a slow season—the season after Pentecost—as there are no ‘big’ events in the church year until the end of the year with the reign of Christ-or Christ the king. We spend the beginning of the year looking at the Advent; and too many times it seems we concentrate all of our spiritual energy from Advent to Pentecost—and for that matter focusing more of our energy on Advent and Christmas than on Easter through Pentecost. The season after Pentecost seems to get push aside. Yet, it moves toward the final date of the year—the Reign of Christ—and its teaching is rich.

We too often lose sight of the fact that the Gospels teach how Jesus—God—became King. And in the creeds themselves the middle part of the gospel message is left out. Whether you The Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed they go from being ‘born to the Virgin Mary’ to ‘suffering under Pontius Pilate.’  The miracles, the parables, as well as His teachings are sadly absent. If we rely solely on the creeds we would be left to see the Messiah as being born and being crucified and resurrected. The in between 33 years he really didn’t do much. Yet, as we look at the Season after Pentecost Christ did quite a bit and taught a lot as well.

We’ve made everything about a future hope that was to happen after the Ascension and forgotten that the Christ taught us to pray for Heaven to come on earth. We’ve re-interpreted many of the parables to be about the Christ’s second coming as opposed to their original context—his incarnation! For many the parable of the Ten Minas is all about the second coming, but it is better to see it as a parable about the first coming of the Christ. Of the ruler in the parable Christ says, “his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’” (v. 14). If we think about that in relation to Luke’s reporting that when as what they wanted done with Jesus and the yelled, “crucify him,” the Parable of the Ten Minas can be seen in a new light—a light that puts the parable squarely into Jesus’ incarnation, not His second coming: The King has come to an unfaithful Israel.

America’s, and really all of western, theology has an obsession with the second coming—fueled in part by the Left Behind series. As such, we tend to want to interpret everything in relation to a second coming. We celebrate the birth; we celebrate Easter—though sadly it has become a second-rate religious holiday; we look forward to the Second Coming. We practice the creeds—we skip 33 years of the life of the Christ.

As we move through the Season after Pentecost, let us see Christ in a different setting. Let us see Christ as he became King. Let it build to the year ending Reign of Christ. The first reading in Matthew for the Season after Pentecost is Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23). Matthew 9:35 states, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” The Kingdom Christ proclaimed was not a future event waiting to happen; He proclaimed a Kingdom in the here and now (Mark 1:15)! He was declared King at his baptism—sadly missing from the creeds! He proved his Kingship through his miracles and his teaching as one who had authority (sadly missing from the creeds!).

While the Reign of Christ ends the church year, the Season after Pentecost shows how the King came to rule. It shows how the King set up His Kingdom and proved he was the rightful King. He taught us to pray, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. The King was here to show us how to make that a reality. Many might see the Season after Pentecost as a ‘lull’ in the church year, but if we look at it as showing how Christ came to rule it can be one of the richest seasons of the church year!

 

Collect of the day:

Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right judgments, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered from the fear of all enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.

 

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

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EASTER TO PENTECOST: Have we lost sight of the Season

El_Greco_006With the Ascension—which is all too often overlook—many people (depending on the denomination, many see Easter as ending with, well, Easter; skipping the Ascension altogether, and with relatively few acknowledging the Day of Pentecost), consider Eastertide as having ended. Yet, the season of Easter begins on Easter and ends on the Day of Pentecost. Our Daily Office continues in the Easter season. Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost work together to point—in many ways to put us in touch with—not simply the Savior and the Spirit, but with God’s newly inaugurated New Heaven and New Earth—here now in part, but with the promise of a future completion.

Easter, while teaching about the resurrection of the Lord also shows Messiah as the New King, the eternal King, the King of Heaven and earth—this is the story the gospels tell and Romans 1:4 affirms the message—points us to our own resurrection. St. Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Like the Christ we too can be raised, and Easter points us to that raising. Baptism, while being salvific, puts us “in” Christ: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). At baptism, we are baptized into Christ and clothed in Christ; we are buried with him at baptism with the promise of resurrection just as He was resurrected! We will be resurrected in a physical body just as the Christ was bodily resurrected.

Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia, “I have been Crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who Lives but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Likewise, John gave us the words of the Lord, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). At salvation we are grafted into the vine and we become a part of the Vine and the Vine, which is the Messiah in us. Here the Ascension comes into full view, and a full view which sadly is all too often over looked by the western Church. Luke wrote, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). As the Christ was raised into Heaven he was seated at the right hand of God. Yet, at the Ascension, those of us who are “in Christ” also ascended in some way also. As Christ was raised bodily on Easter, at the Ascension he ascended bodily. As we were buried with him into death we to will be raised bodily and we to will bodily inhabit the New Earth. An earth that, just as we will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye, will be transformed in the same twinkling of an eye. As Jesus ascended bodily, we will inhabit bodily. At the ascension, a bit of earth made its way to Heaven. But, Eastertide continues to Pentecost.

“And when the day of Pentecost arrived …” (Acts 2).  With Pentecost our Easter season comes to an end. But our story does not stop there. For just as Easter and the Ascension point to the future, Pentecost also in a powerful way does the exact same thing. Too often we want to capitalize on the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit when we think of Pentecost—and that I fine as they are a part of it. But, Pentecost points to a larger picture that gives us more promises. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended and filled the people. And the promise was given that we too will be filled with the Holy Spirit: Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). With the coming of the Holy Spirit, Heaven and earth intersect. Just as at the Ascension a bit of earth went to Heaven, on the day of Pentecost Heaven came to Earth. While this is a present reality for all believers—the filling with the Holy Spirit—it points to a future reality. John wrote, “Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1).  As Heaven invaded earth on the day of Pentecost, at the end Heaven again will intersect earth. At this intersection, those who have been clothed in Christ—those who remain in Him and He in them—will be raised bodily and become inhabitants of the New Earth unto which the New Heaven will come down—Heaven will invade earth one last time and the earth will be put t rights for eternity; Those who were buried with Christ will be raised bodily as the inhabitants of the new earth!

At the resurrection, we to are raised; a bit of us ascends into Heaven, and Heaven invades us on the day of Pentecost. The Easter season fits together as does pieces of a puzzle. To leave out one piece is to finish a puzzle without its being a complete picture. All too often we stop Easter on Resurrection Sunday. When we lose sight of Easter we do not grasp humankind  being bodily resurrected; when we lose sight of the Ascension we do not grasp humankind being received into Heaven; and when we lose sight of Pentecost we do not grasp humankind being animated by God’s Holy Spirit. All of these are pointing to the time When God renews all things.

Easter continues through the day of Pentecost and includes the Ascension of our Lord.

 

Collect for Easter Season: Almighty God, who on this day didst open the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of the Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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

 

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