Thursday, April 26, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Hid In Christ

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I'd like to introduce today's guest blogger, Adrienne Trevathan.  She is the Director of Christian Education at Northminster Presbyterian (the church where I interned during seminary).  She is a 2009 graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary where she attained a master of divinity.

Our lives are hid with Christ in God.

Scripture:  Colossians 3:1-3

There is a lot at stake when we talk about our beliefs about resurrection.  There are many different ways to speak of the resurrection of Jesus, and different meanings we attach to it.  What has struck me particularly this year is the idea that when Chrsit rises from death, we also rise with him.  In the same way that we observe Lent and remember the suffering of the cross, we ourselves “rise” in a sense as we welcome Easter.   There is something about our identity that is hidden in God, that we uncover (and continue to uncover) as we live as followers of Christ.

When we live as people with hope, who willingly follow someone who knowingly walked into death and danced right out of it, we come a bit closer to finding our true identity.

When we surround ourselves with others who join us in making this proclamation, “He is risen!,”
we are able to understand the deepest part of ourselves that God is preparing to use to address needs in the world; needs not only of our brothers and sisters, but of all creation.  The groaning of creation is matched by the longing within us to make meaning in life.  We have the responsibility of cultivating the Spirit in our lives so that we are able to recognize and respond those signs of new life when they spring up (often in unexpected places).

When Christ rises, we rise – together.  Our identity is no longer static or predictable; what we can become together is a mystery and possibility.  It is a reason to rejoice.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: The Bloody Cross

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Today's guest blogger is the Rev. Dr. Mark Teasdale.  He is the E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical in Evanston, Illinois.  He completed his master of divinity at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. and his PhD in American History and Evangelism from Southern Methodist University in the Dallas area.

Scripture:  John 19:33-34 

33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

Many people are understandably uncomfortable with the bloodiness of the crucifixion. Specifically, theologians have grappled with the fact that the Father demanding that the Son undergo such a gruesome experience makes the Father into a monster, demanding the torture and anguish of the Son in propitiation for the sins of humanity. Certainly, if the passion and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was nothing more than a means of satisfying the Father’s need for blood to be shed, this would be deeply disturbing. However, a different perspective can be taken to this.

The world is a bloody place. Not a day goes by in which the news does not relate of some atrocity or tragedy that has resulted in the often gruesome deaths of innocent people. Bombs fall on civilians, children in their homes are shot accidentally in the midst of gang conflicts, murders, suicides, and torture abound. The sin behind this spilling of blood is truly monstrous. It leads people of all stations, ages, races, and religions to a terrible end and seems to attest to the fact that might ultimately triumphs over life. Life cannot withstand the violent assault – it must spill its blood and admit defeat.

God offers a different view of this in Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” The shedding of blood, stated God, was for the atonement of those who had sinned. The one killed carries the ultimate power of testifying for the redemption of the killer. This is the context in which Jesus suffered and died: He was not seeking to satiate a bloodthirsty God, he was voluntarily allowing his innocent blood to be spilled that he might claim the authority to forgive those who had transgressed the will of God. Moreover, in claiming the role of the victim, Jesus was empowering every victim of violence to stand over his or her killers with the power of forgiveness. Victims no longer, they hold the destiny of their killers in their hands and can offer them peace through their blood.

God’s demand for the blood of Christ was not to fill the divine desire for blood, but to declare the bleeding ones as the ultimate victors over those who made them bleed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Power of Death & Resurrection

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Left, Tou Yang

Today I invite to my blog Tou Yang who will be my guest blogger.  He will take a few minutes to give you some background on the Roman world and what Resurrection means to him.  Tou is a student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and an intern at Christway United Methodist Youth Ministries.

The Power of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection In Everyday Life

The Roman Empire used violence as a way to control large populations throughout their conquered lands. One example of this violence was through crucifixion on a cross such as endured by Jesus. Crucifixion was not only seen as a consequence for not conforming to Roman law but it was also a form of humiliation to the individual and the individual’s family. This act was meant to oppress the very spirit of the people and to dehumanize the non-Roman citizens. This made Jesus’ crucifixion not only physically painful but also psychologically painful to the local population and Jesus’ family.  

Jesus’ resurrection was proved God’s victory over death but just as important it gave hope to the followers of Jesus that victory was possible in the face of Roman oppression. “Carrying the cross” was no longer something to be feared but instead became an empowering image and a sign of hope over the punishment of death. Even though Jesus’ movement was broken with the death of its leader it was made whole again both physically and spiritually by the news of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. The fact that Jesus’ death did not mean the end of his believers or the end of Jesus’ ministry gave inspiration to future apostles such as Paul to share Jesus’ message with full confidence.

Jesus’ victory over the cross and oppression is still a powerful and relevant message for today. Everyday hundreds of millions people all around the world face oppressive social and political systems meant to destroy the will and beliefs of the individual. Through Jesus’ example there is hope for redemption and restoration even in the worst conditions. Not that suffering should be a part of life nor that oppression is needed to understand the resurrection of Jesus but that suffering and oppression is not the end of life. That even when we face the brokenness of everyday life no matter big or small we can be reassured of God’s ever restoring power and victory over oppression. The power of Christ’s death and resurrection is not only connected to an event that happened 2000 years ago or a future apocalyptic event but can be understood and relevant everyday of our lives.  That is the true power of Easter. That is the true power of the love of God. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Is This Easter?

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Today I invite my wife to be my guest blogger here on "virtues."  Rev. Carrie Carnes is the pastor at Chenoa United Methodist Church which is just 25 minutes North of Bloomington-Normal, IL.  She will graduate from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary next month, although she finished her classes last summer and has been serving at Chenoa as a full-time pastor since.

This isn’t what Easter’s supposed to be like, is it?

Scripture:  Mark 16:1-8

Throughout Lent, we sang “Lord Who Throughout These Forty Days”.  It’s a great hymn about Jesus’ time in the desert. The hymn reminds us that when we are in barren places- Christ is with us. When we find ourselves in those wilderness places we often feel alone and it can be difficult to see God walking with us. During Lent we inspect pain, suffering and sin with the assurance that God is with us- and with the knowledge that Lent ends with Easter.
Scott and I had a rough Lent; especially the first part. We were in the wilderness. Scott had brain surgery in February. As we returned from the hospital and subsequent stay at the Berry Family Convalescent Home and Pet Boarding Center (what we call may parents’ house). I was ready to go. I wanted to dive right back in to everything. But then Scott got the flu and I had to find someone to fill in for me at the last second that first Sunday. We had to make unplanned trips back to St. Louis. Scott’s recovery plateaued. We were in the wilderness. I wanted so badly for things to be normal again but nothing seemed to be going right. Towards the end of Lent things looked up a little. I felt like I got my groove back. I felt refreshed and could feel the Spirit’s presence with me more and more. Holy Week was wonderful, and Easter Sunday brought such joy. I felt like I had lived liturgical cycle and was filled with new life. Plants and plans were budding. 
And then it happened. Scott started in with intense migraines again. We wound up back in the hospital Saturday. We were transferred back to St. Louis Sunday and informed that Scott needs yet another surgery. I feel like we went back to the beginning. Lent’s over. We’re not supposed to be in wilderness anymore! Lent is 40 days, so I found myself wondering: did we take a wrong turn? Have we gotten lost? Will we become like the Hebrews stuck in this wilderness 40 years?
After the news sunk in, and after a little sleep I began to feel a little more hope. I’ll admit however, that I’m not quiet ready to sing “Alleluias!“ just yet. Though in churches we rightfully celebrate the resurrection with great joy; if we take time to read Mark’s account of the resurrection noticeably absent is the joyous celebration. Mark instead describes the morning with great fear, showing us the darker side of the resurrection.The women have just witnessed their friend and leader crucified. All the other disciples have fled in fear and while the women have remained, it seems safe to assume that these women have remained not without fear- but despite their fear.  The women nervously venture up the hill to the tomb. They discover the tomb is empty and are greeted by this young man in the white clothes of a martyr. He tells them “Don’t be alarmed”- now he wouldn’t have had to say this if they weren’t alarmed would he? He instructs the women where to go to find Jesus, “...he is going ahead of you into Galilee”. In saying this he is sending the women back to the very place where the Gospel began- where he first called the disciples. I wonder if the women also thought, “So its like we’ll be starting back at square one.”  Then the Gospel ends with its final two chilling sentences, “Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
When I read that Easter passage, it’s hard for me to imagine lilies, Alleluias and the bright festivities. This passage is filled with challenge and dread. The women are not venturing out into the Lenten wilderness, but there is a terrifying journey that lays ahead of them. 
During Easter we celebrate the resurrection. The past couple of days have reminded me that Easter is not just about the thrill of an empty tomb and new dresses. While God is creating new life all around us, that life isn’t easy. It’s still filled with pain and challenges, disappointments and starting over. And some days that sucks. But just as we are assured that Christ is with us in our Lenten wilderness moments so too does that angel at the tomb assure us that the risen Christ has gone ahead of us. When we are faced with frightening new starts and begin tedious new journeys we can hear again the angel’s words, “You will see him there”.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Live In Sunday!

Live in Sunday!

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Today's guest blogger is Rev. Dave Wilkinson.  He is a deacon at First United Methodist Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin and is the founder and editor of an inspirational e-mail ministry and blog called “SOUND BITES: Something to Chew on That Is Good for the Soul.” It was begun in memory of his son, Dustin, on the first anniversary of his death.  You can follow SOUND BITES Ministry™at their blog:

Trust In Christ:  Live in Sunday!

On Good Friday in 1998 my wife and I buried our son, Dustin. He had died at the age of 16 as a result of a brain tumor. His cremains were placed in the ground and we began our grief journey. No parent should have to go through that experience. The death of a loved one or close friend is hard enough. The death of a child is a pain like no other. So I had some sense that day of what the followers of Jesus must have felt. On the first Good Friday they buried Jesus in a tomb, sealed it shut, and began their grief journey. I can imagine that Saturday for the Christ-followers was a day filled with grief, bewilderment, hopelessness, numbness, and quiet conversation.

Fast forward, then, to January, 2009. I found myself leading a worship service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. We stood there in the beautiful surroundings with other Christ-followers from around the world. Our group pulled aside to spend some time in reflection prior to receiving communion. I shared with them some of the feelings the disciples must have felt on that Saturday. I explained that that particular day, January 21, was our son Dustin’s birthday and I shared some of his story with them.

I also shared that as Christ-followers we do not need to spend our time in the grief of the “Saturdays.” Instead, we 21st century pilgrims, just as the 1st century disciples, found the tomb empty. “He is not here. He is risen,” declared the sign at the empty tomb. He is risen indeed! And we can live in the grace and hope of Easter Sunday because Christ overcame the grave. He overcame the grave so that we might live… so that you and I might live… so that my son might live.

1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 reminds us: “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Where do you find that you dwell most of the time? In the sorrow of Friday, in the hopelessness of Saturday, or in the victory of Sunday. Because I trust in Christ, I choose to live in Sunday.

The greatest love that anyone could ever know
That overcame the cross and grave to find my soul
And 'til I see You face to face and grace amazing takes me home
I'll trust in You
(from “Till I See You” by Hillsong)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: A Message for All-Time.

Today's Scripture: 1 John 1:1-2:2

We will look more closely at just a few of these verses:

2 The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. 3 What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete.

Think about it for just a moment. It would not have been very difficult to believe in Christ just after the resurrection. Oh, it might have been difficult to believe, i suppose, but it had just happened! I mean, if there was a time when it was easier to believe, that would have been the time, right? If we read the gospel of John we find that Christ has appeared to the disciples. It seems assured that Christ has, indeed, risen from the dead!

But for the next few generations of Christians it must have been increasingly difficult. There were not any gospels for a while and stories were handed down, but Christ wasn't there to be seen or touched.

The problem that becomes apparent in this scripture is that people were mixing up the message of Jesus Christ and so 1 John attempts to put the message of Christ back into order. "We have seen," and "we you." Those who knew something about the life and death of Jesus are writing these words to ensure future generations of Christians will understand the message of Christ.

Resurrection and New Life is not just for one time or one group of people. The message of New Life in Christ is for all times and all peoples. This letter is written to us that we might know Jesus' love. Christ overcame death and so might we!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: The Why Question

My guest blogger today is Rev. Dr. Larry Duane Pickens, Esquire, an Ordained United Methodist Pastor in the Northern Illinois Conference.  He holds degrees in Political Science, Theology, Divinity and law from North Park University, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (my own alma mater), Bossey (Switzerland), Chicago Theological Seminary, and DePaul University.  Larry has pastored churches in New York and Illinois and led a global agency of the church from 2004-2008.  He is a distinguished pastor, lawyer and United Methodist who has spoken from pulpits and in front of national constituencies.  Please welcome to my blog...a friend and colleague, Larry Pickens!

The Why Question

It is said that if we are to plumb the depth of our lives, we must learn how to ask the why questions. It is the why questions that demonstrate with clarity, I think, the conditions of our souls and the nature of our existence. Perhaps, when we ask the why questions it represents the time in life when we are most honest with ourselves and God. Why questions- "why is there violence and injustice in the world?" "Why do bad things happen to good people?" "Why do the unrighteous prosper?" And the ultimate question, "Why is there suffering and death?"

The resurrection is also grounded in a why question that is posed to both Mary and Mary Magdalene. What is their reason for going to the tomb following Jesus' death? Perhaps they were still in shock, suffering from some form of past traumatic stress syndrome, which drove them to a tomb with spices designed to ameliorate the smell of a rotting corpse lying in a tomb that was purportedly sealed by a boulder?

I would like to think that it was hope that drew these faithful women to Jesus' tomb. The hope, inspired by Jesus' ministry of inclusiveness, carried these women to the tomb in a death defying act of love and faithfulness. The why question that is posed in the tomb. Hope is a stubborn thing that sometimes grows frail but is very hard to kill. It was a stubborn hope that moved these women to the tomb. They became instruments of God's death defying will represented in Jesus' victory over the grave.

Diana Butler Bass has recently written a compelling book that is titled "Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening." In an age when we find ourselves trying to repair creaking old church structures, Bass challenges our thinking, calling us to spiritual transformation and resurrection. She is calling us to make all things new for an age that still has its hope grounded in Jesus Christ. She states that we are at a critical stage in a completely new spiritual awakening, a vast interreligious progression toward individual and community transformation. Resurrection in our denominations and our local churches is grounded in the life giving and service driven gospel to which Bass speaks. But such compelling transformation is again grounded in the why questions of our lives.

I hope that you too are asking the why questions. But more so, my hope is that you are walking toward renewal, transformation and yes, resurrection with a stubborn hope.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Giving Up A Son

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After Mike shared about the loss of his own son, I realized that I am not nearly articulate enough to bring something that will be new and profound to this Holy Saturday.  Please, if you haven't already, read Mike Rayson's words from Friday's post, and then, I invite you to contemplate what it would mean to give up your own child.  Seems impossible to most of us, doesn't it. Take a moment to read some scripture of a father who was, indeed, ordered to give up his son:

Scripture:  Genesis 22:1-18

Friday, April 6, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: A Good Friday Homily

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Rev. Mike Rayson, a United Methodist pastor here in Illinois is giving this homily today at Westminster Abbey in London as a guest preacher.  He has agreed to share his message here as part of my guest blog series on Resurrection and New Life!  (Thanks Mike!)  You can find out more about Mike, his wife, and their ministry by clicking here:

A Good Friday Homily by Rev. Mike Rayson

Grace and peace from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, our Bishop Gregory Palmer, and from the good people of St Paul’s congregation  in Brighton Illinois, where I am currently appointed to serve together with my wife, the Reverend Amy Rayson, and our children Laura and Oliver.

Since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, it has become for us the bearer of good news and of bad.  Serving a vibrant and growing congregation means that the phone in my home rings several times each day.  A church member who wants a friendly chat… A troubled soul seeking guidance… A local needing assistance with food… and sometimes news of illness, hospital admission, and even death.

It was the ringing of a phone one Monday morning in May 2007 that brought such news to my family.  I’m sorry… your son, 11 year old Samuel, has been tragically killed.  It was the beginning of a lifelong journey of pain for me, a truly Psalm 23 experience of moving through the valley of the shadow of death. 

They say a clergyperson shouldn’t officiate at the funeral of a family member… but for me, as Sam’s dad, I knew I must.  He was my son, and as I had served him in his life, so to I would serve him in his death. 

The most harrowing and traumatic moment of my whole life happened that day.  Not when I gave the eulogy… led the gathered faithful in prayer… or read from Matthew’s gospel of the one sheep who wandered away… but when I, as pastor and as daddy placed my hands upon the body of my child and recited the words…

Almighty God, into your hands we commend your son, my son, Samuel Thomas William Rayson.  Born March 28th 1996 in Port Lincoln South Australia, died May 14th 2007 in Geneseo, Illinois.  This body we commit to the flames.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust 

Nothing ever prepares a parent to bear the death of their child.  We use the word widow for one who loses a partner… orphan for those who have lost their parents… yet our English language does not provide a word for a parent who must live and grieve for their child.

Nothing could have prepared Mary, the Mother of Jesus, for this.  No broad shouldered support she received from the disciple John at the foot of the cross could have made the events of that terrible day in Jerusalem any easier to bear, as she watched her son put to death at the hands of a blind regime who wanted to hold fast to their religious power and authority.

In the heat of the afternoon on a hill of shame, a mother watched.  Whilst the world cursed and crucified the babe she had nursed at her breast, a mother grieved.  As the boy who had played at the feet of his mom was tortured and terrorized, scorned and shamed, despised and denied - the light that shone in a mothers proud eyes was extinguished, leaving in its place a wounded and suffering woman.

In the death of Christ, God Almighty embraced everything Mary experienced - the worst that we could ever experience; throwing his arms around our lost-ness, our shame, our sin, our alienation, and our pain… all the while whispering a simple word…

No… No… NO…

For this son of man, sent by God, truly God, came to seek and to save the lost, to embrace the darkness with the light of life… to redeem the tears of a woman whose heart had shattered at the vision of her son’s death.  ‘No’ cried God – this was not how it was meant to be for her, or for us.

In the words of theologian Dr. C Baxter Kruger, “there on the cross, he penetrated the last stronghold of darkness.  There he walked into the utter depths of our alienation.  There the intolerable No!, shouted by God the Father at the Fall of Adam, found its true fulfillment in Jesus' Yes!  "Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit," as he took his final step into Adam's disaster.  Jesus died–and the Fall of Adam died with him”.

As a Dad, grieving for a little boy, my tears have truly fallen… leaning on the arms of her son’s beloved disciple, the tears of Mary, the mother of God must have fallen… and I know your tears too have fallen in the presence of death as you have encountered it.

For it is the thief says Jesus, who comes only to steal and kill and destroy;yet it is in the cross, underscored by what C.S Lewis’ referred to as ‘the deeper magic’, that Jesus has gathered back the tears the thief has stolen from us, and proclaimed that we are made for something beyond than the cold hands of death.  Something more than mere extinction or annihilation.  Something above the hands of time.  We are made for life and life more abundantly.

And so it is we wait… silently, painfully, expectantly… for that Sunday bloom of sheer grace and liberating life to rain again upon our broken and weary souls.  For as sure as the sun will rise on the dawn of tomorrow and as certain as the daffodils bloom each February and March, so death will NOT have the last word. 

Not for Mary, not for me, and most assuredly not for anyone who trusts in the one who died for us all.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Christ At Your Feet

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Scripture:  John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Let's focus on just one piece of this scripture:
  “No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”
   Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”
  Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”
  Jesus responded, “Those who have bathed need only to have their feet washed, because they are completely clean. You disciples are clean, but not every one of you.”

Peter has an interesting reaction to Jesus, in this scripture, doesn't he?  He first refutes Jesus, right?  Jesus goes to wash Peter's feet and Peter says, "No way!"  Then Jesus tells that he must wash Peter's feet and Peter wants more than Jesus offers.

It seems to me that a follower is pretty full of himself if he orders his leader around like Peter seems to do.  I wonder how we respond when we see Christ at work in this world.  Do we act like Peter or do we participate with Christ in the work He plans to do???   I mean, when we see the chaos of a soup kitchen do we accept that Christ is doing that work?  When we watch children at play do we really believe that Christ is shaping those lives?

First Peter denied Christ his chosen activity and then asked for more than Christ was offering.  Do we do this today?  Do we ignore Christ when it suits us (yes, the homeless man invisibly sleeping in a drainage ditch across town) and yet ask why God isn't doing more to fix our world?

If we learn nothing else from Jesus' teachings, we should at least know that Christ placed a high value on humanity.  Jesus came to life, did ministry, and died on the cross not because of how little God valued humanity, but because of how very much God valued our earthly life.  Here in this scripture, Christ is kneeling down to care for His friends and followers.  Today, still, Christ kneels down to wash our feet and his tears fall upon our flesh because fail to take part in His Holy mission.

As we journey with Christ towards the cross and Easter Sunday I ask that we keep our eyes open.  I beg that we, as people of faith, would keep our eyes open to the injustice that plagues this world and to take part in the work Christ is trying to do.  As a person of faith I beg you:  be the hands and feet of Christ so that we can take part in washing the feet of this world.  That we would participate in giving the world the gift of Christ.

Peter didn't need to be washed.  Peter needed to have an experience of Christ.  There are so many people of this world who need to feel Christ at their feet, will it be you or I who will help them feel Christ in their lives this Holy Week?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Betrayed

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Scripture:  John 13:21-32

In the scripture today Jesus is said to know that one of his disciples will betray him.  I want you to take a moment to consider this.  How many of us would ever knowingly keep someone who will betray us in our group?  I mean, if I know someone is talking behind my back or acting jealously (etc.) you had better believe that I will stop confiding in them.  If I know that a friend does not have my best interest at heart, you'd better believe that I no longer consider them friend.  My interests have to be important to my friends, right?  My needs have to be a concern for a true friend.

Christ does not define life or friendship as you or I do.  As Jesus approached the cross, he began to make it very clear that Life is far more than what we can see or experience.  In those last days of life, Christ showed us that there is more to experience than this lone world.  When Judas is invited to continue at the meal, in fact, invited to 'do what he must do' but quickly...Judas is shown that he is still cared for.  Jesus remained committed to Judas even when Judas was clearly not committed to Jesus.

There will be many times when we will betray our God.  It is part of being human, by the way.  Our God will be hurt and saddened by the decisions that we make and the things that we choose to do, yet God does not send us away from the table.  Jesus not only continues to eat with Judas, he actually dips bread and feeds Judas.  Jesus feeds the one who will betray him!?  I want to suggest that this is what happens for us at communion.  Communion is the act when we come forward in church and feed upon bread and juice as a sign of being fed by Christ....when it comes to that act, we are much like Judas.  We are imperfect human beings, yet God sees beyond us and our limitations.  We will mess up and betray God, yet God will still love us, feed us, commune with us.

During Holy Week consider what it means for us to still be at God's table after all of these millennia.  What does it mean that Christ still communes with us?  What does it mean that Christ offers body and blood for us to partake in?  What does it mean that God does this knowing that we will commit betrayals?

Christ invites all of us, even though we will mess up, to walk with Him to the cross.  Christ invites all of us to journey the Easter  experience and to know his love.  Will you journey with Christ this Easter?  Are you prepared to be loved in a new way this Easter?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Approaching New Life

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Starting today I want to focus on the Easter experience.  For those who might not be sure what that means...I want to focus on what it means to have new life.  Do you have a story or reflection on what it means to have new life in Christ?  Please email or comment below so that I can publish your reflections during the season of Eastertide (Apr. 8 - May 26)

Scripture today:  John 12:20-36 (CEB)

I want to focus, especially upon this part of the scripture:

Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One[a] to be glorified. 24 I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me. 27 “Now I am deeply troubled.[b] What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. 28 Father, glorify your name!” 
As most of my readers probably know, by now, I have been re-appointed to First United Methodist Church in Normal.  In case you aren't familiar with the United Methodist Church, it works like this:  Each year I am told whether I will be staying at the church where I am appointed or whether I will move.

Finding out that I was moving was a strange situation because everyone at my current church is naturally curious about where I am going (and when) and people naturally expect for me to be excited, but on the other hand I am leaving behind a community of people who I care about.  I think about Christ, in this regard.  I think about how mixed up Jesus and those who believed must have felt as they approached the cross.  It must have been exciting for Him to go on to God's glory and yet heading toward one's own death and suffering just simply isn't!  As Christ moves toward the Easter experience, toward being killed, he admits that there is real trouble upon his soul.  He says, "What Am I supposed to do,"  "Should I want this or not?"  When you read this passage you can feel Jesus' mixed emotions about what lay before.

We will come to many moments like this in our lives.  We will all have times where we wonder about the road ahead.  For me, I must worry about how I will work with a new church and if you think I look forward to packing boxes, then, think again!  Yet, I face the packing because it is what I must endure in order to experience a new life.  I must let go of relationships and people who I hold dear in this Pontiac-life, so that I can experience the new life (the Normal-life?).  God seldom calls us to turn away or to turn back, you see.  God calls us to walk forward and step out in new ministry.  As we prepare for Easter we must ask ourselves, "What is God calling me to do," or maybe:  "Is God calling me to a new life this Easter (to do something new)?"

Monday, April 2, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: A New Blog Series

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A new Easter series from April 8 (Easter Day) - May 27 (Pentecost).  I have invited a number of friends, scholars, pastors, lay people, and even some bishops to share devotions about Resurrection and Eternal Life.  Over the next few weeks you will hear from me and many guest bloggers as they share about Easter from a variety of places, ages, and world views.  Be sure to come back often.  I'm already giddy with anticipation about some of the people I've lined up for you all!!!

If you would like the opportunity to contribute, simply send me a devotional (1/2-2/3 of a page maximum) and I will be glad to consider it: