Category Archives: Easter

After

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come far. The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

So, did it change you?

Did it challenge your faith, make it grow?

Or frighten you into doubts about your views of God

Did it make you less likely to give up your faith in time of adversity?

I think Easter does all these things. We are reminded there is truly evil, greed, desire for territorial protection and fear run deeply through humanity’s being. It’s frightening when we are forced to watch the innocent suffer. It touches our emotional core. We can barely contain our question of “Why?” and “How long God? How long must this go on?” And we pray “If possible let this cup pass from us.”

Or today we’d say “Really, God?” or “Come on, God, Seriously?” and “Are you really letting this go on?” And our faith is rattled.

But we have an example of a graceful meeting a crisis head on. From the time in the garden when Christ’s acceptance that the cup would not pass from him to his last words of the cross, we see how serious adversity can be handled.

But we protest, “Jesus was divine.”

True, we don’t fully understand how that worked, but we have hope because the same power he drew from is also the power available for us to draw strength from.

Bear with me here, I am not changing the subject.

Just as Jesus was not alone in his inner life, we are not alone in our inner lives. I use the ‘inner life’ term on purpose. It’s the place hope or despair, courage to face or fear to deny, acceptance or rejection, tolerance or prejudice, worthiness or unacceptability, competence for life or inability to function all live and call out for help. If the inner life’s needs are not met, a restlessness remains even after all of our other needs are met. That restlessness drives to a place where we never experience contentment. We are always searching.

Many times we substitute, mistake or misunderstand a physical presence as the way to fulfill our inner life needs. Perhaps, more precisely, we want to believe another’s physical presence also should satisfy our inner needs.

While the power of the physical presence and touch can satisfy physical and short-term emotional needs, it will not solve inner life needs. Many of life’s dramatic traumas are caused by the battle between seeking solutions to inner life needs in the physical world and not finding them.

Bitterness, disillusion, and cynicism invade our inner lives. Seeking wealth and power, oppression, greed, violence on different levels, and self-promotion are some of the actions that grow out of that discontent inner life.  This makes the healthy things impossible: the things that drive us to do well in all we do, do things right, or make a success of our work, be a positive voice of change and a witness to God’s goodness and love.

Here’s how the two are connected. When we finally put a finger on our own chest and say, “There’s something wrong in here,” we can have hope things can be different.  We can believe there is a power available to us to help us change what is wrong. That power is the same power God brought to bear to raise Jesus from the dead.

God has the power to meet the needs of our inner lives. When we look to God for completion of our lives, the struggle between spiritual, emotional and physical natures can be calmed. True peace is finally a reality. It changes how we act, what we do, how we treat people, and what we are no longer afraid of.

The only bad news here is that only a spiritual answer can solve the spiritual, inner life problems.  And if we allow it, God will resolve the conflict between the negative and positive forces that battle in our inner lives.

Because of the work Jesus did at Easter for the forgiveness of sin and, through the power of resurrection, we can live confident, productive lives full of love, action and peace.

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Post-Resurrection People

In the days following your resurrection you appeared to many different people:

You appeared to Mary Magdalen, The woman of many sins: a forgiven sinner.

You appeared to Peter, The very man who, under pressure, denied he knew you.

You appeared to  the travelers on the road to Emmaus,

Discouraged, sad of heart, defeated of spirit.

You appeared to the disciples in the upper room,

Hiding, frightened because they thought you, their leader was dead.

And even Thomas.

You appeared to him. He who needed proof to believe,

Who wanted to believe, yet was hesitant.

 

One of my novels is a novel inside of a novel. The main character was reading a novel. Both were important to the story line. I tried writing both at the same time, and realized it was impossible, so I wrote the two novels separately, using two different styles and two different voices.  When I spoke of the first novel I spoke as me, and when I talked about the novel inside the first novel, I spoke as the character of the first novel to whom I attributed that novel. My husband would tell me I sounded multi-personality-like.  Even now I sound like two different people.

Indeed, I sometimes think, half-seriously, that there are two people in me. One is the person who loves people and enjoys being with people. The other is the hermit – the melancholy creative person who wants nothing but to be left alone. While not a clinical multiple personality problem, I suspect all of us have distinct sides to our personality.

In fact, as I look at the list of people you appeared to after your resurrection I realized I have resembled many of them at one time or another.

I am a forgiven sinner. Yet a times in my life I struggle with temptation.

I know who I belong to, but at times, by my actions, I betray or even deny my faith under pressure.

I’m often ashamed about how easily I am discouraged, how often I am sad, defeated in spirit. In all the confirmation you send my way in life, one rejection one negative comment sends me down the path of discouragement.

Then there are times I withdraw from the community, frightened I am not equal to the task before me. Doubting I am the person for the job. And I need proof you are with me.

As with all the people you appeared to after your resurrection you come to me in spirit. You forgive, reassure, send people into my life to keep me on track, and by your presence let me know you will always provide the strength needed to live victoriously.

As a post-resurrection person, I learn you are constant in your relationship with me, no matter which of these people I resemble today.

And so I pray:

God, Help me embrace my faith in the power of your resurrection so I become fearful, worried, unsure of myself in my walk with you. Thank you for your constant presence and encouragement. Help me continue growing beyond the pulls of all the  influences around me.

 

 

 

 

Holy Week Mixed Feelings

I have come to dislike this time of year.
And I feel guilty about it.
So, as I have learned to do with God’s guidance,
I went looking for the reason so I can resolve this love/hate/guilt mix of feelings.

I know I quietly have opted out of attending the big productions of Easter plays
Large churches and theaters love to put on this time of year:
The special effects, the echoing sound of the hammer hitting the nails,
The agony so effectively portrayed became too much for me.

I realize in our desensitized society we feel we have to get people’s attention.
We compete with some pretty fantastically well done productions.
And we’re afraid our simple story of death and resurrection
Will get lost in the hubbub of loud, flashing messages.

But all this concentration of the crucifixion alone just made me cringe.
Have we forgotten the end of the story? I asked.
Resurrection doesn’t need that big of a build-up, I raged.
Don’t you know the beginning of a story when you see one? My inner writer demanded.

And this year I got a new perspective.
The people who experienced the birth a death and resurrection of Christ
Didn’t ever know the end of the story.
My pastor says we must experience Christ’s journey through that week to appreciate Easter.

And my devotional talks about sitting down to eat lunch with Lazarus after Christ raised him:
“So,” says a guest, “How was your week?”
Lazarus says, “I was quiet ill, I died. Had a funeral, and several days later Christ raised me.
How was your Week?” (Disciplines 2013)

I shook my head and started again.
Christ would say, “I taught, did some miracles so people could believe,
I was betrayed by a follower, I was arrested while I was trying to pray,
Many of my own people turned against me, I was tried.

Because people were afraid of my message from my Father,
They convicted me of treason,
A great deal of pain was inflected upon my body, and my best friend denied he knew me.
I was crucified.

But my Father was faithful!
He used his great power and restored life to me
So everyone could believe
And come to know my Father, God, as I know him.

“So, how was your week?”
“Well,” I stutter, “I went to Services Palm Sunday, have daily read scripture and prayed,
Had a flood because of a faulty hook up in my washer,
Am planning to do my little volunteer thing, and go to Maundy Thursday Service,
And I’m planning to attend the Sunrise service.”

And I realize I didn’t acknowledge Christ’s grief, his hurt,
His humanity, his pain, betrayal and forsakenness.
Some of these are things I understand as a human – with daily pain –
As a pastor’s wife, a woman unable to have a child, musician, and writer.

And I guess I just don’t want to acknowledge them again and again.
I know all the bad parts. I read Christ’s experiences in the scripture.
But I want to skip straight to the glorious end of the story,
And for a writer, that’s not even good story telling.

So, what do I do now?
I will read, search, and dwell on the reality of Christ’s week.
I seek a deeper understanding of contrast between
The awfulness of pain, betrayal and crucifixion and the glorious resurrection.

And I can’t be afraid to acknowledge to pain.
Not give into it, not let it control everything,
Not let it ruin emotional on it ruin the end of the story.
But not skip over the bad parts.

And know things don’t end there.
The hope of Easter is always present.
That’s why we don’t despair.
But unless we know the anguish of the week, Easter is just an extraordinary event.

I need to understand that even Easter is not the end of the story.
It’s the middle, followed by:
Teaching, growing, miracles, assurance,
The founding of the church, believers spreading all over the world…

And the same power and presence that raised Jesus to life
Comes to us today, in our desensitized, flashy, refusing to acknowledge our need for God culture,
With the same hope-infusing, life-giving power Christ experienced at the end of his week.
I know the story. I acknowledge it all. Now, God, I am here. Change me and make it real to me.

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