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Resurrection Morning

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. 
John 20:18
Death cannot keep back love;  love is stronger than death.  The meaning of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that God’s path to human beings leads back to God
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
On that promised resurrection morn,
the Light, unable to be bound,
In Sovereign triumph over death,
Stepped forth to leave an empty tomb
By folly sealed with silent stone.

Two Seraphic servants of the light,
at once in blazing glory stood,
Striking guards with bolts of fear,
Who fell prostrate like men dead.
The stone was moved to fully open.

Heaven’s witness to a Sovereign act,
is voiced aloud from age to age,
Witness to prophetic spoken words,
Death where is your victory, your sting?
The morning star is risen indeed.
~Pastor Jack Matheis

A Great Hope

Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:40-42

“Good Friday and Easter free us to think about other things far beyond our own personal fate, about the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and events; and we lay hold of a great hope.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Today as we wait,
and consider the ultimate meaning of life
we feel so finite,
so temporary on this soil.

To spend a mere six weeks of Lent
studying His Word
is only a glancing blow,
as we reach out to lay hold
of our one great hope.

These Words last while
our earthly bodies will not
the promises ring out while
our attention wanes
the blessings perpetuate while
our gratitude is paltry
the glory is overwhelming while
our appreciation is lacking
the power belongs all to Him
and not to us

It is the Lamb we know so well
the gentle willing sacrifice
taking our place
taking on our guilt
taking off our accumulating debt
taking us along for a walk,
for a breakfast,
for a touch of his side, his hands

He lets us know
through an infinite love
from both the man and the God
that He is with us
He is for us
He is the hope we reach to grasp.
~Emily Gibson

Grace Beyond Merit

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Romans 11: 5-6

“Good Friday and Easter– the days of God’s overpowering acts in history, acts in which God’s judgment and grace were revealed to all the world– are just around the corner.  Judgment in those hours in which Jesus Christ, our Lord, hung on the cross: grace in that hour in which death was swallowed up in victory.  It was not human beings who accomplished anything here: no, God alone did it.  He came to human beings in infinite love.  He judged what is human.  And he granted grace beyond any merit.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our dog Sam does barn chores with me, always has from his puppy beginnings.  He runs up and down the aisles as I fill buckets, throw hay, and he’ll explore the manure pile out back and the compost pile and have stand offs with the barn cats (which he always loses).  We have our routine.  When I get done with chores, I whistle for him and we head to the house.

Except this morning.  I whistled when I was done and his furry little fox face didn’t appear as usual.  I walked back through both barns calling his name, whistling, no signs of Sam.  I walked to the fields, I walked back to the dog yard, I walked the road (where he never ever goes), I scanned the pond (yikes), I went back to the barn and glanced inside every stall, I went in the hay barn where he likes to jump up and down on stacked bales, looking for a bale avalanche he might be trapped under, or a hole he couldn’t climb out of.  Nothing.

Then as I passed by, I heard a little faint scratching inside one of the horses’ stalls, which I had just glanced in 10 minutes before.  The horse was peacefully eating hay.  Sam was standing with his feet up against the door as if asking what took me so long.  He must have scooted in when I filled up the water bucket, and I closed the door not knowing he was inside.  It was dark enough that I didn’t see him when I checked.

There was not a whimper or a bark when I called for him as I walked past that stall at least 10 times looking for him– he was patiently waiting for me to open the door out of my love and concern for him and set him free –  there was nothing he could do but wait.

It’s a Good Friday.  The lost is found even if he never felt lost to begin with.

But he was lost to me.  And that is what matters.

He was waiting for the grace of a closed door to be opened.

Today that door has been thrown wide open.
~Emily Gibson

16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 1:16-20

“When we walk in the Lord’s presence, everything we see, hear, touch, or taste reminds us of him. This is what is meant by a prayerful life. It is not a life in which we say prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence.” –Henri Nouwen

I am a math teacher. No matter what I do for the rest of my life that will always be true, to some extent for me. If I someday have pleasure of teaching about theology, philosophy, and ethics, I still, in so many ways, will be the guy with a mustache who taught factoring quadratics and how to multiply integers.

Finding the connections between math and God can be hard. This morning, however, there was a moment of clarity. I have been teaching different aspects of the coordinate plane in all my classes. Determining points, determining slopes, translating shapes, and solving systems of equations–this has been my daily bread for the past month.

I read this Nouwen quote in the midst of Passion Week, building to Christ’s death and resurrection. It made me think about the coordinate plane, whose central point is called the origin. What makes the coordinate plane unique is that any time a point is named, it is always in reference to the origin. Apart from knowledge of what or where the origin is, the numerical value of points on the plane would have no meaning. Yet the origin is widely forgotten, regarded as just another point on the plane.

I come before God, the origin, in the same way. He has frequently been forgotten, regarded as another point among many. However, for my life and experiences to make sense, they must be placed in relation to God. My joy comes from a Father in whom I experience provision. My suffering is understood in the suffering of the Son upon the cross. The Spirit gives and drives my hope for how the new creation begins now. The Triune God (that is a piece of math I will not try to touch) constantly serves as my point of origin. Only in relation to God, do I find meaning.

“What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend, for this thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me thine forever; And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, Outlive my love to thee. Amen.”

~Ben Gibson

Praying Fervently

Jesus and the disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down to the ground.  And when he rose from prayer,  he came to his disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them ‘ Why are you sleeping?  Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ “
Luke 22:44-46    

Jesus is praying fervently (to the point of sweating blood), concerning his upcoming Crucifixion, which will appease God’s wrath against  all of OUR sins.  We might assume that he is praying that he might not be tempted to turn aside from God’s plan.  At the beginning of  his ministry, he was tempted and resisted three times. (Mt. 4: 1-11).  Now he is to face, not only an excruciating death, but also the final and most severe temptation: denial and disobedience.

Over the course of three years, he has spoken to his disciples many times about what is to happen: his death, and the pressure to fall away from Him and belief  of God’s words.   He has asked the disciples to pray with him.  Yet the tired disciples sleep and can not pray for even one hour. (Mt. 26:40).

What can we learn from this encounter?

Are we like the disciples, who having heard God’s word and warnings, do not understand, and are in denial? (Mk. 16:21-23)

Are we caught up with short prayers for our own immediate needs, ignoring God’s warnings?

Like the disciples, do we not understand Jesus, that WE, too,  will be persecuted, even to death,  for standing for God’s Truth in Christ, and can fall away and betray each other and Christ?  (Mt. 24:9-10)

OR

Are we like the men of Issacher who seek to discern and understand  the times?  (2 Chr. 12:32)

Do we pray that we might not enter into temptation?

Do we pray fervently that we might stand firm in / on Christ, in the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20)  and boldly declare the gospel –  no matter the penalty?
~Pam Herbert

The Near God

“…I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b

“Remember, I am with you”…that is the Easter message, not the distant, but the near God – that is Easter.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Presence is a powerful thing.

As a father of young ones, how easily I see that truth in the actions and longings of my children. I myself still remember the panic and the fear that I felt as a young boy, “losing” my mom in a large store and therefore feeling the absence of her presence…the feeling of being abandoned.

We often think about our celebration of Advent as being the season of “presence”- after all, it is then when we celebrate and sing of Immanuel, “God with us!”

But there is a sense in which the season of Lent is just as much about God’s presence. Of course, there are the implications of the resurrection upon presence, namely, Jesus is alive – that is not insignificant! But even before we get to Sunday, the cross of Jesus declares to us that God is with us, that He will always be with us, that we will never be abandoned. And amazingly, it is Jesus’ own words of abandonment that proclaim to us this powerful, wonderful truth…

My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?

Jesus, as God’s Son, had known, from eternity past, unbroken fellowship with His Father…and now, because of our sin, it was gone.

What does that mean?

It means that Jesus allowed Himself to be abandoned that you might never be, not in this life, not in the next.
Child of God, rejoice and rest in His presence, now and forevermore.
~Pastor Nathan Hitchcock

 

 

 

If ~

And IF Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile:you are still in your sin.
I Cor. 15:17  

Many in our society today respond to the good news of the resurrection of Christ from the dead as Paul’s hearers in Athens did; they greeted his witness to the resurrection with sneers. To many today the idea of the resurrection is sheer nonsense. There is — they believe — no historical evidence or proof of anything like the resurrection ever happening. Many would ascribe it to a cooked up story by Jesus followers, or part of the Biblical myth.

The Apostle Paul would boldly declare the resurrection to be a true historical fact.

As Nancy Pearsey writes in her book, “Total Truth”,  “Historical Christianity teaches spiritual truth which is firmly rooted in historical events.”

This is what Paul is setting forth in this passage when he states,“if Christ’s resurrection has not happened in real history, if there is no empty tomb, then our faith is of no value, it is useless.”

As Pearsey continues, “Paul declares some 500 people are eye witnesses to the fact that Christ  was alive after the crucifixion, which means Paul was treating religious truth as susceptible to the ordinary means of verifying historical events. To Paul this means the resurrection is the final factual guarantee of the trustworthiness of the gospel.”

If Jesus is not risen we are, as the Hymn writer aptly puts it, “Shackled by a heavy burden, neath a load of guilt and shame,” — and with no hope to escape our tragic end, the wrath of God.  But as the song writer continues, “he touched me and O the joy that floods my soul.”

Our only hope is to be touched by the love of Jesus, as he witnessed to John in Rev. 1:5, “to him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by his blood;” and Paul adds to that testimony in Rom.5:9, “Since we now have been justified by his blood how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath.”

If there is no resurrection then we are to be pitied above all for we are still shackled by our load of sin with no hope to be freed from God’s judgment; which would mean the hatred of man is stronger than the love of God.

NOT!

For as John writes, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”  It is the Son who testifies, “Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, I am the living one; I once was dead , and behold I am alive for ever and ever. And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” ( Rev.1:17,18) 

Amen, Hallelujah, He is risen, He is risen indeed.
~Pastor Jack Matheis

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