Monday, March 19, 2018
Sunday, March 18, 2018
This happened on a Friday and his death occurred in the afternoon. All four Gospels state that a Joseph of Arimethea went to the Roman ruler Pilate and asked to have the body of Jesus so it could be cared for before the Sabbath began at sundown. The violence is over, the crowds have thinned out. Joseph comes and retrieves Jesus' broken body for burial. The Gospel writers emphasize that there is a burial; there is no doubt that Jesus really died on the cross.
The Jerusalem area has many stone tombs from the time of Jesus. Rock quarries were plentiful and tombs were carved out with small entry passages.
A tomb itself may consist of a rectangle room with ledges, or shelves where bodies would be placed. Extended family members (children and adults) would be buried in the same tomb. About a year after a burial, the bones would be gathered and placed in another area or in a stone box. The shelf then could be used for another burial. It is said of the tomb that Joseph provided that there had not been a burial in it; it was newly cut from stone.
There is a family tomb from the first century that was excavated in Jerusalem in 2000 which contained several remains, including those of a young man.
What was very unusual about this burial is that there were remnants of his burial cloths that had not completely deteriorated. There appeared to be three or four cloths, some from linen, and one from fine wool. It was speculated that the young man was from a family of wealth.
We don't know many details about Jesus' burial cloth, only that is was a clean cloth of linen.
To provide the burial clothing was an act of love from Jesus' friends. They did what was needed to take care of his body. They responded even though their grief must have been tremendous after witnessing his death on the cross.
A saleswoman came to their rescue and quickly understood their task. She stepped in and helped them find everything that they needed. She was very grateful to her for her attentive care and compassion for them on that sad afternoon.
Sadness and disbelief surrounded the cross. For the disciples of Jesus, his family, and those who followed him, the cross was a sign of broken dreams, hate triumphing over goodness, sin having the last word.
The cross robbed them of their Lord. The one who had healed so many, who had shared about God's love, who had promised abundant life, was gone.
Even though we know the rest of the story, I don't want us to turn away from this scene just yet. Something important has happened. Love for the world propelled Jesus forward even if it meant death on a cross.
There is an ancient devotional practice called the Stations of the Cross where one walks from station to station, reads Scripture, and remembers an action that happened to Jesus in his last 24 hours. In the modern Stations of the Cross, the first station begins in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus praying , and the last station #14 is Jesus’ burial.
Mark Roberts has written a devotional and prayer to be used at each station of the cross. This is his prayer for the Station of Jesus Burial: “I'll never be able to understand fully the wonder of your death, Lord. But I can grasp the fact that your real death opened up the door for me to experience real life.”
There is a song, I believe, that can be heard faintly at this final station. The words go: “Death, where is they sting? Grave, where is thy victory?”
But the melody continues. The reason that we can sing the song is because Christ has overcome death for us. We still know sorrow and grief but we mourn as those who have unbelievable hope.
I was reading about a common image for Easter in the Orthodox Church, but one that was not familiar to me. This powerful icon of the Resurrection depicts the risen Christ reaching out, beginning with Adam and Eve, pulling them out of a tomb and into new life.
Not only is Christ risen, but he is bringing new beginnings to all people, to all creation, to us. No matter how deep the darkness, the light and power of Christ enters, chains are broken, the doors to the prison of death and defeat are flung open. This is why this robe of Jesus isn’t just a burial robe. It’s a redeeming robe!
We are all lifted up by Christ from despair to joy!
Oh, but back to my friend’s story about finding clothes for her mother-in-law. She said that they found a beautiful pink suit for her to wear as her burial clothes. That person picked that color because it was a suit fit for an Easter celebration!
She said that even with heavy hearts when they gathered for her mother-in-law’s funeral, and with tears in their eyes, they knew deep down. They knew deep down, that death wasn’t the last word.
The color pink reminded them that the last word isn’t death. The last word is “resurrection.”
Thanks be to God!
“I'll never be able to understand fully the wonder of your death, Lord. But I can grasp the fact that your real death opened up the door for me to experience real life.”
Saturday, March 17, 2018
This chapter in I Corinthians depends on the readers having the particular Jewish worldview that there is the present age and a time is coming when heaven and earth will fully overlap and sin and death will be no more. When heaven and earth come together completely, God will raise up the faithful and give them resurrected bodies. Jesus' resurrection was a foretaste of what awaits God's people at the close of the present age. When people are given resurrection bodies, they will be changed and transformed and this will happen in an instant.
Many people today misinterpret this passage because our culture's worldview has changed significantly since the Jewish worldview of the 1st century. Their worldview believed that heaven and earth were two separate parts of God's creation. Today, we often see heaven and earth as far away from each other. The Jewish worldview believes that they are closer than we think and the future hope is that one day they will fully unite.
Monday, March 12, 2018
[During yesterday’s sermon, “Come, Touch the Honoring Robe,” the congregation passed around Dewey, the Donkey. This toy donkey became a symbol of the gifts that we have to offer Jesus. In a clever theological move, a parishioner placed Dewey in the offering as the plates were being passed. He ended up on the altar during the doxology and the offering prayer of dedication. This week, Dewey is helping us to think about the question, “What are the donkeys/gifts that you have to honor God and bless others?” Who said the season of Lent can’t be fun?]
O God, I’m not sure where Dewey the Donkey is right now, but I’m sure he is in good hands. Thank you for reminding us this morning about the unnamed person who offered his donkey for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem. Thank you for reminding us about the robes that people placed along your path as a way of honoring you as well.
Like the unnamed person and the crowd from the Palm Sunday story, lead us to touch your honoring robe during this season of Lent. Lead us to offer the gifts we have to be a blessing to others.
Thank you for the many gifts, large and small that were given by so many people in this church to help us provide a meal for the Good Works Outreach meal this past Friday night.
Thank you for the the many donations that are helping us to provide meals for the different college groups that are staying at our church over their spring breaks this month to work at Habitat for Humanity.
Thank you for the church member who has offered to do volunteer work in our church office each week.
Thank you for blanket makers, flower arrangers, flood bucket packers, faithful givers, choir members, ushers, greeters, Tuesday prayer team members, Sunday School teachers, small group facilitators, and so many others who offer whatever they have to honor you and be a blessing to others. Thank you for all gifts great and small because any gift given in your name is a way of honoring you.
O God, we ask, “what gift can we bring” and your answer to us is to give like you give; fully, completely, unconditionally, and lovingly.
This is how we touch the honoring robe of Jesus and it is in his name that we offer the prayer he taught us to say together…
“Our Father, who art in heaven…”
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Yancey goes on to write, “In contrast, in Jesus’ triumphal entry, the adoring crowd makes up the ragtag procession: the lame, the blind, the children, the peasants from Galilee and Bethany. When the officer looks for the object of their attention he spies a forlorn figure, weeping, riding on no stallion or chariot but on the back of a baby donkey, a borrowed coat draped across its backbone serving as his saddle.”
The story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a familiar one for many of us. We hear this story year after year. But the great thing about God’s Word is that even the most familiar story can become fresh if we listen carefully, and sometimes even in familiar accounts you see things in a new way.
The second thing to keep in mind is that in that time period, it was an honor to have a rabbi ride on a donkey you owned. In other words, they allowed the disciples of Jesus to take the donkey as a matter of pride.
Now these are all valid explanations about Jesus borrowing the donkey, but I’d like to suggest another possibility. I think this man was willing to loan his donkey to Jesus because the disciples had referred to Jesus as their master. Once it was stated that "The Master needs it", the discussion was over.
I think the owner of the donkey had faith. I also think he had come to three conclusions that apply to how God reacts to those who seek to follow after Jesus.
They were a burden-bearing animal, which meant they could transport things. They were doing what trucks do today. They were able to help care for the land. They were doing what tractors do today. They were a means of transportation. They filled the need that cars fill today.
This matters because I want you to see that this is no small gift and this is what the Master needed, so this is what the Master was given. God doesn’t ask us to give what we don’t have. God invites us to give what we do have. We may not feel we have anything significant to give, but God sometimes takes what we already have and uses them in great ways.
Moses was asked to give his walking stick. Rahab gave a corner of her roof to hide the spies. David gave his sling shot. The widow at Zarephath gave the last of her oil and flour to make a meal for Elijah.
Following in the donkey owner’s example, the one who seeks to be a follower of Jesus knows that everything we have belongs to the Lord. Everything we have has been given to us as a gift from God. Everything: our time, our talents, our resources, they have been entrusted to us so that we might use them for God. Stewardship is not just about giving money; it is about managing what God has given us well.
I wonder what God thinks when we waste the gifts that have been given to us. Listen to these words from Christian author, Max Lucado:
Maybe you have those questions, too. Each of us has a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story farther down the road. Maybe you can greet or hug or set-up a computer or serve a meal or write a check. Whatever you have, that’s your donkey. And whatever it is, your donkey belongs to the master.
No gift is too small or insignificant when offered sincerely to God and for God’s purposes. And all our gifts really do belong to God. We are invited to offer our gifts to the Master.
God has given us many things: our talents, our resources, our time, our children, our jobs, our interests. They belong to God. God has given them to us as a gift. They are ours to use, but God can ask for them back at any time. At any time God can request that what He has given be returned in some fashion. He can do this because He is the true owner; and we are the stewards.
And finally, a follower of Jesus knows that the value of what we have will be multiplied when it is placed in the Lord’s hands. The man gave his donkey, even though it was valuable to him. But look at how much more valuable it became when placed in the hands of Jesus.
The person who gives their time to read to or visit with people in a nursing home may feel like they are doing little, but it certainly means a lot to them. The Sunday School teacher who prepares a bible lesson is helping people to grow deeper in their faith.
The person who takes the time to jot a note, to make a call, to stop by and visit may feel that they don’t have much to offer, but by giving what they have, God is using their efforts to encourage someone who is weary, to comfort someone who thought they were alone, or to reach someone who was drifting away.
This past week, I was reminded again why I am super blessed to be your pastor. Check it out!