Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday in Easter Week

As I view the dying flowers
Breathe in the faint smell of holy smoke
My tears mingle with yours
Many with so little have even less
Family treasures now strewn across the miles
And down the road
Others find ways to benefit from tragedy
Waiting on your voice and call so hard in this time
My hands and heart are ready Lord
Use them in this time
To be instruments of your resurrection power

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday in Easter Week

It is in the walking
You are revealed in and through us
It is in the breaking of the bread
You nourish and fill us
As we journey this road
Lead me to see you as I travel
Use my hands
My heart
My life
That others may see you on the road

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Monday 2011

With the scent of flowers and incense still in my memory I wonder about all that has happened in this place, in this community, and especially in my own heart.  Thirteen services, countless dead trees, hundreds of new faces, unceasing prayer, shaky voices, heart wrenching liturgical dance, soulful preaching encouragement, music that drops you to your knees, leaving the desert, and entering courts of praise with tears of thanksgiving.  What has really changed?  Why do we, I, do what we do here?  

Here in this hallowed place.  This place of tradition, memories, and memorials.  This place that has literally been smashed to pieces by forces beyond the control of its people and rebuilt with love.  It is a place of resurrection in so many ways.  It glorifies a resurrected savior and I wonder, is that what it means to live a resurrected life?  To be smashed to pieces by something beyond my control and being rebuilt in love.

To love enough that even when all is smashed there is hope for a new day, a new beginning, a new path.  To love enough to stay in the midst of brokenness, dashed dreams, trashed trust.  To love enough to see poor choices, less than healthy decisions, and accept I cannot change them.  

To hope that tomorrow will bring more moments of joy than pain for those I walk with.  To hope that my words and my hands made a difference for someone today.  To hope that someone’s load is made easier by a kind word or a hug.    

To trust that even when it doesn’t seem so, what I do matters.  To trust that being faithful means doing things that sometimes don’t feel comfortable.  To trust enough to put my heart out there again knowing it might be shattered once more.

As the memory of the week walks through my mind, I realize I did journey with my Savior to the cross.  Often I was carried as he met me in the hands, hugs, and prayers of those who love me.  That truly black Friday scarred my soul as I pondered life with a hole that could never be filled.  The week so full of too much doing it was easy to lose sight of the importance of the journey.  It was not me on that cross, it was the One who loves me so perfectly that it frightens me.  By climbing on that hard wood and refusing to be held there, I was given the gift to love, to hope, and to trust that while I may never know how, things have changed forever for those who beheld the beautiful flowers and inhaled the smoke that smells like God.  And the one most changed was me. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 1A

One Sunday, a teacher gave his young class the task of decorating an egg to explain what Easter meant to them.  They were to return the following week and share their eggs and explain how they represented what Easter meant to them.  The morning arrived and the children excitedly shared their eggs.  Some had flowers to represent growth.  Some had words of scripture that reflected their understanding of Easter.  Each egg captured that child’s understanding of Easter.  Well except for Bobby. Bobby has Down syndrome and is often dismissed as not understanding theological concepts and basics taught in Sunday school. 

With trepidation the teacher asked Bobby to share his egg.  Bobby walked to the front of the classroom and opened his egg.  It was empty.  The teacher asked Bobby to explain.  Bobby said, “It is empty.”  The teacher said that he knew the egg was empty.  Everyone present thought Bobby had not understood or finished his assignment.   Bobby said, “no, the tomb.  The tomb is empty.”  In a class full of young children, Bobby got it.  Bobby knew that it is the empty tomb that is important on Easter morning.  It wasn’t the flowers, the pretty objects in the church.  It was that the tomb is empty this morning.

The empty tomb.  We know the end of the story, but for a moment, let’s be with the Mary at the tomb. An empty tomb was not what she expected.  She came prepared to do a task.  The body of Jesus had been hastily prepared to be placed in the tomb.  She comes this morning to finish the preparations for the burial of his body.  Likely she had much on her mind.  There is much to do when a funeral is going to occur.  Where will all the out of town guests sleep?  How will we feed so many people?  Do we have enough dishes?  How will everything get done in time?  Who is sitting with Mary? 

She does not know what to do.  This was not what she expected.  She asks the angels with tears in her voice and on her face where they have placed her lord.  She thinks that they have taken him away for some reason.  Perhaps political, perhaps not.  She doesn’t really care, she just wants to find him so she can care for his body.  She knows by doing this she is showing her love for Jesus and his family.

She turns and sees Jesus.  But it is not until he calls to her that she recognizes him.  Imagine her relief, her joy.  She has found her Lord.  Now she can finish her task.  Wait, if he is alive, she cannot prepare his body.  He tells her she cannot hold on to him.  She has just found him again and he tells her to go.  Imagine her confusion.  She comes to prepare her dead Lord for burial and instead finds him alive and telling her to go.

And she does.  Mary goes to find the other disciples to let them know about the empty tomb. 

That is what we celebrate today.  An empty tomb.  A tomb empty because of a risen lord.  A lord we don’t always understand.  A Lord that is easier to contain inside a tomb.  A Lord who defies all our expectations and attempts to understand him.

A Lord who terrifies and amazes us.  A lord that is no known quantity to be tamed and ruled.  A lord who challenges us to get out of our boats, leave our comfort zones, to tell others about him, and a Lord who calls us to follow him.

This Lord is not a kingly, strong messiah, but rather a messiah who has been beaten, spat upon, and killed.  A Lord who challenges us to leave our nets behind and join him in fishing, fishing for people.  We are given the ability to heal, to move mountains, and to love.  To love in the way of this unexpected terrifying Lord.  We are challenged to continue in the life and work of Jesus.

Mary reminds us of the mystery of faith.  We celebrate an empty tomb.  A tomb with none gathered there.  Remember, when things got tough we all ran away.  Most of us hid while the events of Jesus’ death unfolded.  Like Peter we denied our Lord.  The Lord of the empty tomb.

Yet God loves us in spite of that weakness and failure. God uses our weaknesses and failures to build his kingdom.   Jesus does not need a new group of better disciples.  Jesus has accomplished the will of god by suffering on the cross.  No matter our imperfect faith or how many times we remain silent when we should share the Good News of God in Christ, we are always able to return to the lord.  We can never get so far away from Jesus that we cannot be touched by god’s healing presence.

We are called to that empty tomb.  The tomb that symbolizes the end of the story.  The story that ends with a new beginning. 

Jesus was crucified, descended to the dead, and now sits enthroned at the right hand of God.  And we, we are called to continue his work here in this place on this most glorious day.
Today we celebrate the empty tomb.  A tomb emptied by God’s love.  A God who became human, knew pain, suffering and separation from God and now sits enthroned at God’s right hand.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Great Vigil of Easter

This is the night.  This is the night we remember God bringing the children of Israel, out of bondage and leading them through the Red Sea on dry land.

This is the night.  This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and restored to grace and holiness of life.

This is the night.  This is the night, when Christ breaks the bonds of death and hell, and rises victorious from the grave.

This is the night.  This is the holy night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away.  This is the night innocence is restored to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. 

This is the night that casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.

This is the most blessed night, when earth and heaven are joined and we are reconciled to God.

We have heard the record of God's saving deeds in history, how he saved his people in ages past; and will bring each of us to the fullness of redemption.

Later this night, will later hear more words of the salvation story, our story.  Our love story with God.  Later this night we will renew our baptismal vows.  Later this night, we will remember anew that we can do all things with God’s help.

This is the night we will hear that Christ is risen.  This is the night we shout with joy the Lord is risen indeed.  This is the night Alleluia’s will be sung joyfully.  This is the night we leave the desert behind and enter with tears of thankfulness into the courtyards of praise.

This is the night we break bread together in remembrance of the gift we are given.  The gift given to free us from the bondage of sin and death.  This is the night we celebrate a love beyond measure.

This is the night.  The night when we hear, remember, and learn yet again about love.  We have heard and will hear again about God’s story with us.  God’s love story with us.  This is the night we learn that we are loved.  We are loved with a love that is timeless, endless, boundless.  A love that can only come from above.  We learn of the love of the One who loved us first. 

This is the night we hear words that tell us of the unbounded love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

This is the night we are reminded about a love beyond our comprehension.  A love that thankfully, is not like a pie with only so much to go around. There is more than enough for each of us. We don’t miss out because we are not perfect.   God’s love is boundless. And that love grows as we each open our hearts and minds to it.  There is enough for ALL OF US.

We do not have to do anything to earn God’s love. It is ours for the taking. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And especially on this night.  It is ours. Unearned. Undeserved. Ours. Endlessly.

And yet we find ourselves putting limits on God.  Boundaries on a love we can never truly grasp. We try to be good enough, smart enough, or what ever enough. But the good news is, there is nothing we can do, except to embrace it.  We are loved beyond measure by a God whose love knows no limits. Fully, completely, forever. And nothing, nothing we can do will end that love.

We do not know how to handle this God that loves us so fully. In our futile attempts to understand it, we put conditions on it. Try to make rules to earn it. Rather than accept the gift and embrace it, we push it away and in trying to understand it, decide we need to find ways to earn it. 

This is the night to lay those conditions down.  This is the night to accept with joy the gift given so freely.

This is the night, you are asked to respond, body, heart, and soul.  This is the night you learn, you are loved.  Fully, completely, forever. YOU ARE A BELOVED CHILD OF GOD and nothing you can do, nothing, will keep you from that love.

May you open your arms to the love of God that knows no limits on this most holy of nights.

This is the night.

2011 Lenten Prayers using "writing to GOD: 40 Days of Praying with My Pen" - Day 40

This 40 day journey is often dry
Yet through this time I remembered why
We must touch the barren places
And look beyond our public faces
As we leave this desert
May we deposit our hurt
As we journey to the empty tomb
And once more burst from the womb
Refill us, refresh us, renew us
Resurrect us once more

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Jesus was right.  The crow of the cock proves him right.  I have denied him.  He was right.  My lord and my teacher, I have denied.  Not once, but three times I have denied him.  What kind of follower am I?  I denied him.

In the garden I tried to defend him.  I cut off that slave’s ear.  I was so angry.  How could they treat Jesus this way?  He has done nothing more than to share the words of the Torah with them.  He has taught openly in the synagogue and in fields.  He did nothing wrong.  They arrested him.  And yet, he healed that slave. 

Then they bound him and took him away.  Why?  I was so afraid they would arrest me for being a follower that I denied him.  Not once, but three times.  He was right.  I am so ashamed and so afraid.  Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God.  How could they have treated him this way?  What happens now?  Jesus is dead.  Will they arrest me and the other disciples next?

I was so full of hope when Pilate asked if he should release Jesus.  Yet the crowd shouted that the criminal Barabbas be released.  What were they thinking?  They would rather a criminal be released than the son of God.  Barabbas is nothing more than a bandit who preys on the helpless.  Yet they would have him released instead of Jesus.  

And Pilate.  I wonder if he was really afraid.  He had Jesus flogged.   Perhaps he thought the crowd would let him go after that.  Those soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. 

Pilate said he could find no case against him, yet the crowd kept yelling, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." 

Pilate tried to talk to Jesus, to have him defend himself.  But Jesus wouldn’t do it.  All he said was, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." What did he mean?

Pilate kept trying to release him, but the crowd wouldn’t let up.  They questioned Pilate’s loyalty to the emperor.  After that, Pilate had no choice, he allowed Jesus to be crucified.

So they took Jesus and made him carry the cross by himself.  They took him to Golgotha. There they crucified him between two criminals.  Pilate had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." 

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic;  the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill scripture.

Just before he died, Jesus saw his mother and one of the other disciples standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother."  He was worried she would have no one to care for her I guess.  I guess he knew better than to have me care for her.  Me, the disciple who denied him. 

When Jesus said he was thirsty, they gave him some wine.  Then he said, "It is finished." That was it, then he died.

What happens now?  Jesus, son of God, the Messiah is dead.  And I have denied him.  Not once but three times.  What is to become of  me?  Of all of us?  Will we be arrested next? 

They have taken Jesus’ body to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea since it is the day of preparation.  

What happens next?   I am so afraid.  My lord and my savior is dead.  What is to become of me?