Monday, March 24, 2008

Hope Is Alive! - Easter 2008

"I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me."

"The year that is drawing toward the close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. These bounties are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come."
Abraham Lincoln

In that quote from Abraham Lincoln we can see Good Friday & the difference Easter makes.

Oilers won yesterday. Are they going to make the playoffs? Who's back on the bandwagon?

Who was left on the Jesus bandwagon at the crucifixion?

Luke 23:49-53

Joseph- true courage. He certainly stood alone at a low point- everyone who had been close to Jesus - “Stood at a distance, watching Jesus.” What was going on that they watched? Jesus surrendered to the Father one last time, and a centurion acknowledged Jesus was God.

It has been said that the meaning of grace comes in three parts:

"Grace means you don't do anything; you don't do anything; you don't do anything."

We can only really understand the true nature of this unless we come face to face during a time of utter brokenness. An incredible rescue!

What was Jesus, what was God up to? Where are we in response to that?

Flowers as facets of atonement. ‘Jesus paid it all.’ What does it mean?

Someone needed to pay the price for justice to be upheld. Our selfish bent needed to be accounted for- & Jesus took care of it.

When we do something wrong we feel guilty. Jesus covered over that, too, and removed our shame.

Jesus showed us how to live life to the fullest- surrendered to the Father & His love. These three facets make up a beautiful arrangement of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

God says through the words of Scripture, “Do you want to know who I am, what I’m about? Let me tell you a story.”

In the book of Hosea, God tells Hosea to enter into a marriage, a living story of sorts, to illustrate the way God feels about Israel & all of us.

God tells Hosea to marry Gomer because what happens in his relationship with his wife will mirror God’s relationship to Israel. Things go horribly wrong. Gomer cheats on Hosea. Not once, but repeatedly and openly. Hosea’s love is unfazed by the humiliation and rejection he receives from Gomer.

At various points he showers her with gifts to win her love again. She takes them and gives them to her lovers. He devises romantic schemes- to ‘take her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her’ (a romantic picnic with personally written love poems) to woo her back. Gomer isn’t buying it.

Hosea can’t stop loving Gomer. She rejects him at every turn. This isn’t just a story about two people. Remember, the whole point here is God saying, “This is me. This is how I love you!” Where any spouse would reject the one who had caused so much pain, Hosea loves on. Of course he does, his love mirrors God’s.

Things unravel for Gomer. One can rely on looks and sensuality for only so long. Eventually she becomes a prostitute. Even that dries up. In ancient Israel, if one becomes so destitute your debts can’t be paid; you could sell yourself as a slave. That is what it comes to for Gomer.

Hosea shows up for the sale & he makes a bid. Hosea says something unbelievable to her. “I have bought you, not that you should call me master, but that you would call me Husband.” After everything, Hosea’s still bent on reconciliation! Still bent upon a return to a relationship of love!

In Luke we hear Jesus tell about a Father & a wayward son.

Ancient Jewish culture had a very strict sense of honor. To be the male head of a family was to be the center of a world built around the giving and maintaining of your honor. If a child shamed a Jewish father, maintaining honor took precedence over familial love. True disgrace brought literal exclusion from the family. A father would hold a funeral for the offending child. All mention of him would be forbidden. “How is your son?” “What son, I have no son. My son is dead.” That is the way of honor (similar to ‘saving face’).

How shocking then when Jesus tells a story about a very different Dad. A Dad whose youngest son has come to him demanding that the father liquidate his assets so the son not have to wait until the father’s death to get his share of the family inheritance. Basically, “Dad, I wish you were dead. All you are to me is an obstacle to wealth.”

The father does it. And, what’s even more amazing, he doesn’t have the expected funeral for his insolent son.

This story isn’t about the son. It comes as the last of a group of three stories (the lumping of three ideas together being profoundly significant in Jewish culture) all of which are on the same theme. Something precious has been lost and the one who has lost it will not rest until it is found. A shepherd with a lost sheep, a woman with a lost coin, a father with a lost son. This is not a story about the son, but about the Father.

He lives the highlife for a while, but the money runs out and things get desperate. In the end, he takes a job working for a pig farmer, standing up to his knees in pig manure envying the slop they have to eat. He thinks to himself, “Even slaves in my father’s house had it better than this.”

On his way home his father rushes out to meet him & throws a party. Talk about being surprised by hope.(Thanks to Steve Sherwood)

If we’ll let God speak to us through these stories He will. Look at how He spoke to two very discouraged followers of His after the crucifixion:

Luke 24:13-35
That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"

He said, "What has happened?"

They said, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn't find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn't see Jesus."

Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: "Stay and have supper with us. It's nearly evening; the day is done." So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. "Didn't we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?"

Come near enough to the cross of Christ to feel its sparks land on your skin and set your heart ablaze.

It is not that Christ did not do enough, but that he invites us to participate with him in the salvation of the world. When Jesus calls us, he calls us to come and die. We will die anyway. The question is whether we will die senselessly or as companions and coworkers of the crucified and risen Lord. Richard John Neuhaus

“Acts 29- Another Day Another Riot.”

Acts 29. He is telling a story in our midst, writing new chapters through each of our community and us. His community.


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