Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Easter Expectations

Meet RaeAnn Beebe!

Rev. RaeAnn Beebe is the pastor at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  She is a 2010 graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois where she was a classmate of mine!  I thank RaeAnn for sharing this devotion and hope that you all enjoy it as much as I did!

This year the congregation I serve started our Easter Sunday worship in the narthex. We heard the story of the women going to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body only to find the tomb was empty. We rolled away the stone and entered the empty sanctuary together singing “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!” Experiencing in some small way what it might have been like for the women so long ago. Or at least that is my hope as I am writing this well before Easter Sunday.

We have become so familiar with this story that I think sometimes the awe and mystery just isn’t there anymore. We know before we arrive at worship that the tomb is empty. No surprises, no awe, no excitement. We expect the tomb to be empty.

Expectations. Maybe that is what the awe and mystery of Easter is all about. The women went to the tomb expecting death. They were prepared for that. They had prepared the necessary spices ahead of time and were on their way to perform the proper ritual of burial. But they didn’t find what they were expecting. The stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. They had forgotten (or didn’t believe) that Jesus had told them he would rise on the third day. They needed reminding of this promise.

What are our expectations of Easter - and the whole Eastertide for that matter?  Do we expect our lives to be any different? Has the story become so familiar that we don’t have expectations anymore?

May this Easter and the days following not be the same as every other year. May it be the year you experience the awe and mystery of the empty tome and the Risen Christ. May your expectations be turned from death to life.

Rev. RaeAnn Beebe

Image found at:  http://www.ely.anglican.org/

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Living God's Grace into the Future!

Today's Scripture: Ephesians 4:17-24

  So I’m telling you this, and I insist on it in the Lord: you shouldn’t live your life like the Gentiles anymore. They base their lives on pointless thinking, and they are in the dark in their reasoning. They are disconnected from God’s life because of their ignorance and their closed hearts. They are people who lack all sense of right and wrong, and who have turned themselves over to doing whatever feels good and to practicing every sort of corruption along with greed.
  But you didn’t learn that sort of thing from Christ. Since you really listened to him and you were taught how the truth is in Jesus, change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit  and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.

This scripture comes across as being a little holier-than-thou, doesn't it?  It reminds me of those preachers who prey on people's guilt:  "You're a dirty rotten sinner, now let me tell you how I think you ought to act."

But as I read this, I read something else in the scripture:  The old life is one of pointlessness, is dark, disconnected, hard-hearted, and filled with ignorance.  I can think of many times in my life when I experienced those things.  I hated it. Even the times that I didn't recognize the darkness and trouble in my life, I look back now and remember the empty feeling.  I don't think people want to live in darkness and pain.  I think people want a hope-filled and focused life filled with love.

We have a way out of the trouble and darkness.  Christ has shown us glimpses of what this world can look like and Christ shows us what love looks like.  The writer of Ephesians is inviting us to that freeing love.  We can let go of the problems and pain of the past and we can act with Christ's love and experience freedom.

For me, this is the Easter experience and that is what I want my life to look like going forward.  I hope you'll join me this easter as we let go of acting in ways that hurt (us and others) and will strive to live God's grace into the future!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Season of New Life

Today's scripture:  1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing. I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time. I’m the least important of the apostles. I don’t deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church. I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me. So then, whether you heard the message from me or them, this is what we preach and this is what you have believed.

This message of Paul is of Resurrection and New Life.  Paul is talking about Christ’s bodily resurrection, but he is also talking about his own experience of new life.  For Paul, experiencing Christ gave him something deeply personal and connected him with God in an incredible new way.  Most importantly this inward change brought an outward change as well.  He was convicted of the message of Christian-Jews, but he also changed the way in which he lived his daily life.  In fact, he became a wholly different person.

During the Season of Easter which starts on Easter Day (March 31) and runs through Pentecost (May 18) we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.  What does that mean?  God came to experience humanity, to experience all the facets of human-ness in order to love and be loved in a deeper way.  The experience of Easter is about experiencing God’s love in a personal way and the freeing experience of a new life in Christ.

For the remainder of the Easter Season you will hear stories of Resurrection and New Life from me and my friends through this blog.  Perhaps over the next few weeks you will be impacted in some way by the message of Christ and experience, through these writings, New Life!


Graphic created by Scott Carnes for First United Methodist Church, Normal, IL.  Copyright 2013