Thursday, March 28, 2013

good friday reflection

Good Friday Reflection

We are all familiar with the typical Madonna and child image in which we see Mary the mother of Jesus in all her glory carrying a young Jesus.  These majestic and happy imagines fill us with warmth and remind us just how human Jesus was.  But as we take a look at Michelangelo’s rendition of Madonna and Child, chills are sent through our body.  Instead of the vibrant Mary; we see a slumped, distressed and shocked women trying to hold up the limp body of her child.  The pain of losing a child is so great that the weight of her loss is bringing her own body down.  The Bible passage echoes in my mind that at the foot of the cross stands: “his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” 
            As I stand at the foot of Jesus’ cross on Good Friday, I stand in solidarity with the Marys.  I am not thinking about Easter Sunday and Jesus’ glorious resurrection; although I know it is to come.  I am not thinking about the fact that scriptures must be fulfilled.  Instead my heart is bleeding, my eyes are stinging and my body is aching.  I feel as if the weight of Jesus’ body is weighing me down and that his death is looming in my hands.  For if we, as humans, had not had so much sin we would not have needed redemption.
            We have all been in the shoes of one of the Maries.  We have been the loved one of a dying family member.  We have sat at the foot of the bed watching, waiting, praying and pleading with God as our loved one slowly left us - leaving us at the foot of the cross full of solace and with the weight of our own sorrow dragging our bodies to the ground.  The grief of the loss so great that our bodies explode in sorrow and we are left holding their limp bodies.  On this holy day we cannot help but be reminded of the holy moments of death.  These are the moments that define our faith and often bring us closer to God.  And this is the moment in which Jesus’ Ministry was defined. 
            For it is not Christmas but Jesus’ death and resurrection that defines us as Christians, it is not the warm and fuzzy picture of the Madonna and Child that gives meaning to our faith and religion but it is Jesus on the cross.  It is the happenings of a few short days that begins on Good Friday.  It is the journey of these three women; not only the pain they feel at the foot of the cross but the relief they receive in coming to know that Jesus is in fact not dead.  Today is for us the beginning of the journey.  We are feeling the sorrow today at the foot of the cross.  We are remembering our sins that placed Jesus there and continue to place people there today.  We are feeling the sorrow and weight of Jesus’ body as we try to hold up his life the best we can.  Yet, each time we place a loved one in the ground we are reminded of the life that is to come thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross. 
            As we sit today, observing Good Friday, let us not leave Christ on the cross but instead wrap Jesus in our arms as Mary does in this sculpture.  Let our love for Christ and our dedication to his life transform this image into something that we long to see.  Let us lift this image of our Christ into our memories so that we may truly know the journey that he took for us and we will one day take.  Let us remember his death, let us hold Jesus’ death in our arms feeling the weight of the burden he suffered on the cross.  Today, in solidarity with the Maries, let us grieve the death of our Teacher knowing that in only a few short days we will be celebrating the resurrection of our Redeemer.       

Jesus Died For Your Sins - so what?

In an age when intelligent revolution has solved many of the mysteries of the world, it seems uneducated, silly or even stupid to believe in a man who was resurrected?  Doesn't the very idea of coming back from the dead seem implausible?  Is it this very concern of fearing the judgment of stupidity that has left us unable to speak about our faith with others - the birth of the ideal that Faith is private?  Surely the idea of a man coming back from the dead is something that needs a lot of faith to believe in and isn't for the faint of heart.  The whole, fully divine and fully human notion of Christ seems also a far stretch from the realities of what we know about humanity.

So why believe?  Why is it important for us to spread the Good News (the Gospel of Christ)?  Why is it relevant today? Why celebrate Easter Sunday?

Because Jesus' resurrection was more than just about the forgiveness of sins or the fact that we were all made worthy of God's love (although those are pretty BIG!), the resurrection is about the new and wondrous relationship that was created with God through the revealing of the Trinity.  It was about the new way in which God was about to interact with humanity.  It was about Jesus not just being a earthy king but through his fulfillment of scripture and resurrection, offering the hope of the Kingdom to God to those living on the Earthy kingdom - bringing the Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of Earth.

Jesus brings hope that the few seconds that we live here on earth does get lost in the grandness of the university.   Jesus' resurrection is relevant today, because as Christians we should be spreading and bringing Christ out into the world.  Because Jesus' rose, because the Trinity was revealed to the world, we are able to bring Christ into the world.  We are able to do more then teach people about Christ, we are able to experience Christ ourselves and share that with others.

Easter Sunday is the time of year in which we remember this commission.  That we remember that God fulfilled his end of the covenant.  From Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Moses, To Solomon and the prophets, Jesus was the fulfillment of the promises God made to his people.  If there was no resurrection, if Jesus had just dead on that cross and been buried, would we have a Christian church today?  Probably not, it was in the resurrection, the revealing of the Holy Spirit and giving it to humanity, it was the whole story of Jesus that made him our Savior.   Without Easter morning, there would be no Christian faith.  And YET it is Easter morning that we have the most trouble sharing.

The argument of when Jesus' became divine doesn't need to be a part of this - because either way Jesus' resurrection changes things.  It gave new meaning to our lives here on Earth because of the promises of the life to come.  It gave new definition to our Spiritual life through the revealing of the Trinity and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It gave new life to our relationship with God, by making everyone worthy of forgiveness.

Is Jesus' death still important to our lives today?   YUP because without his resurrection, our Spiritual relationship with the divine wouldn't be what it is today.  We wouldn't have the understanding of worthiness of all people.  What is truly sad about our lives today is that we care more about the judgment of others and the feeling of belonging in this world then we care about God's judgment.  We care more about our relationships in the here and now instead of creating a strong relationship with God.  We care more about the material then we care about our Spiritual heath which is leaving us Spiritually lacking.  Easter morning is more important now, then ever before.  We do enough in society that puts Jesus up on that cross, we have enough sin to raise Jesus' on the cross plenty of times over - but do we have enough faith - enough love of God - to believe?  To raise Christ up in our own lives and live for and into the resurrection?  This Easter, let us spread the Good News that Jesus Christ has risen!  That our Spiritual lives are forever changed and we welcome the coming of the kingdom of God.

Monday, March 18, 2013

No Church Sunday, but Reflection Monday

Gospel John 12:1-8
1Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5"Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." 

After a long day yesterday, I realized that we should have an extra blog this week, since we had to cancel church yesterday.  Since it was Russ' turn to preach and he only uses bullet points, I didn't publishing them would do much help, so I am putting this together. 

The one thing I have always seen as an interesting paradigm in this passage is the contrast of scents. At the beginning we have Lazarus who was raised from the dead.  And we get the vivid image of death and for me that always comes with smells, perhaps too much time spent working in a hospital.  The hygiene was poor at best during these days and people used flowers and perfumes to cover over the odors.  And we all know that usually trying to cover up an odor only brings on a bad odor of its own.  So in the beginning we have the scent of death which moves to the vivid image of Mary taking out the perfume and anointing Christ. We can imagine the scent - the overwhelming scent - engulfing the house and overpowering everything.  We can smell it overpowering the death that is represented by Lazarus - what a powerful thought.  Here Mary is offering the best perfume to Jesus and further she is honoring him with an anointing.  And then the moment is broken up by the smell of deceit coming from Judas' corner.  We don't need what is in the parentheses to know that Judas is going to betray, we know the ending of the story and it is because we know the end that this passage has such meaning. 
 Jesus will overcome death, a death that will be clouded in deceit and betrayal.  A death that although expected (and here predicted, since Mary didn't wait till Jesus was dead before she anointed him with his own burial perfume) was not what everyone hoped for.  For Jesus was the king that not everyone knew they needed.  Through Jesus’ death a new understanding of Grace came – one in which Mary already understood and Jesus’ disciples still needed reminding; for this is the same Mary who already taught us a lesson when her and her sister hosted Jesus earlier. 
As we continue this week on our Lenten journey – thinking of identity we should ask ourselves who are we? And where will we be on Psalm Sunday? In the stench of the crowds who are waiting to turn their backs on Christ?  Or is our faith lingering in the perfume that was used to anoint Jesus proving his defeat on death?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wastefulness vs. Acceptance

This past Sunday I preached on the prodigal son and discussed the concept that we are all wasteful and that we all waste the love that God has given us in some ways - so I challenged you to think about when we squander God's love or perhaps God's forgiveness.

I was thinking about the wastefulness this week as I once again emptied my fridge of leftovers.  Each night with good intentions I put the leftovers from dinner in the fridge, at the time believing that someone will eat them tomorrow.  But at the end of the week on garbage night, I usually end up tossing more leftovers then what was eat.  I feel very wasteful -

I can't help but think how do we also waste God's love like we waste our leftover food.  We have good intentions to pray - good intention to communion with God - intentions to go to church or to invite someone to visit our and yet at the end of the day, we don't.  We go to bed tired, we don't extend he invite and we fail at accepting God's grace.

So where are you wasteful? 

Friday, March 8, 2013

mid-lenten lapse

While up late in the evenings with Ian, I did a lot of reading those early days.  One such reading was a very interesting look on habits, I can't remember the title.  The study basically talked about how habits develop...

Usually during Lent we tackle a habit - be it a habit that we are trying to give up (like coffee or swearing) or a habit we are trying to adopt (like praying).  Either way Lent is a prefect time to tackle this because according to research 6 weeks is the magic number and Lent is 40 days + Sundays ... 6 weeks is the magic number for pattern to become a habit.  Adopting a new habit is a bit easier then changing an old, but either way 6 weeks is the normal.

And here it is week 4 of Lent and my new "habit" of writing a blog on Wednesday has lapsed, for today it is Friday.  And if I do recall correctly there was one week I was already behind once before.  You see, we as humans are pretty hard to change!  We get into patterns of habit and then our brains shut-down.  In fact when brain scans are taken, they show that when we are participating in our habitual behaviors the part of our brain that deals with more automatic behavior (like breathing) is working.  We are thus being less "mindful" to use a recently coined term.  And in some ways and for some things that isn't a bad thing. 

But it is when we are trying to better ourselves or our relationship with God for our very selves are working against us.  It is easier for our brains - without thinking - to cycle back into the pattern that it knows.  It is easy for our lives to remain the same and unchanged even if that isn't the best way to live because changing our habits requires a lot of effort and a lot of mindfulness.  Connecting with God, although could be automatic, shouldn't be something that is none mindlessly like a habit - for if it is, then are we truly listening and being open to the Holy Spirit? 

I challenge us, not just this lent but for the next 6 weeks and the 6 weeks after that, to rethink our patterns and to find ways to include mindful prayer into our lives.