Woman In The Night: The First Witnesses

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 24:1-12.

My extended family is in the process of cleaning out my grandparents’ home as they have now transitioned to assisted living. I am honored to have brought home a chair that my Nonnie read to me in whenever I stayed with her as a child as well as a crown of thorns that was planted in her back yard under a big oak tree.

Y’all…

I have never prayed for a plant so much in my life as I have prayed for this plant over the last month.

Channeling the plea of the late Chris Farley, “Be strong, little roots!”

We brought home the crown of thorns attempting to root it in a pot with fresh and nutrient rich soil. For weeks it dropped leaf after leaf after leaf. This plant cannot die! It was (is!) going to be the plant we move with us wherever we go to remind me of my grandmother – a legacy of the travelling plants I carry on after my mother, who moves a rose bush from her grandmother’s house to every new home she and my father share.

I see this plant and I hope.

I hope and hope and hope.

Y’all…

There’s new growth on my Nonnie’s crown of thorns. And it is beautiful.

Just in time for Easter.

I hope you will join us this Sunday as we celebrate the new life in resurrection. We gather for Sunrise Morningsong Worship in the Courtyard at 7am. Join us for Easter Family Breakfast in the Fellowship Hall at 9:30am. Traditional Worship will conclude our Easter Celebration at 11am in the Sanctuary. Bring flowers for our Courtyard Easter Cross and have your picture taken.

Our God is making all things new. There is new growth in each of us. And it is beautiful.

Just in time for Easter.

Prayer: “Woman in the dawn, care and spices bring; earliest to mourn; earliest to sing! Come and join the song, women, children, men; Jesus makes us free to live again!”* Amen.

*“Woman In The Night,” The United Methodist Hymnal 274.

Advertisements

Seven Questions of Faith: Is There Hope?

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 24:1-12

I spent time with my niece last week. Addison helped me prepare a side dish that our family would share at dinner – sliced squash and zucchini on the grill. She was in charge of seasoning; in complete honesty it was her idea to add the red pepper flakes, Anna and Gramps (Mom and Dad)!

(Okay, maybe not complete honesty…Addison had an accomplice!)

After dinner Addison wanted to show me her latest achievement. At the age of almost nine months, Addison is starting to walk. She has a variety of “push toys” that she can position herself behind and then totter all over the house. She pulls herself up and stands next to furniture. She will take steps while holding onto the hands of loved ones. And she loves to dance to the hot dog song, a popular tune on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

At times Addison takes steps without fear. At other times she is a bit more timid. What does not change is that she steps. Addison moves forward.

Mixed with fear and timidity, Mary Magdalena and the other women approached the garden tomb. The shadows that lingered since the Sabbath began are finally starting to fade.

Deep blue becomes gray. Gray becomes pale blue. Pale blue gives way to light.

And the women step forward.

They come to the tomb; yet, their intent on being there is not looking ahead but behind. They come to finish preparing Jesus’ body for burial and to their astonishment, Jesus is not there! He suffered and died and left his grave clothes behind.

He is risen, just as he said!

Confident of their next steps, the women leave the garden and hurry to the disciples. They witness to what they have seen, and yet many of the disciples, who had physically moved forward but were still looking behind, did not believe.

Peter is the first to wonder…

He left the safety of the disciples’ hiding place to venture to the tomb. He stepped forward, clinging to his faith.

Could it be?

It is.

We that journey with Jesus this week will take many steps – to the upper room, to the garden, to the governor’s house, to the cross, to the tomb. As we journey may we look forward rather than behind. Looking forward will draw our attention to the present moment.

Gone are the shouts of praises and waving of palm branches.

Prepare for the Last Supper.

Then prepare for death.

And once that death has occurred, my friends, do not look back at it.

Honor the steps that you take, be they fearful or timid or heavy or tearful or have some other character. Whatever their character, take steps. Be present.

And prepare for resurrection.

Prayer: *Merciful and everliving God, Creator of heaven and earth, the crucified body of our Son was laid in the tomb and rested. Grant that we may await with him the dawning of the third day and rise in newness of life, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.”*

*”Holy Saturday,” The United Methodist Book of Worship 367.

 

We See Him – Witnesses of Change

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 28:1-10 and Acts 10:34-43

It seems like I have been waiting for Easter Sunday forever.  Life as a pastor makes a person hyper aware to one’s proximity to certain holy days.  It is always easier to prepare for Christmas Eve…I know when it will happen.  But Easter…Easter is another holy day entirely.

The day we celebrate Easter shifts every year in accordance to the lunar cycle and to keep it near the celebration of Passover.  Last year Easter was “early” – the last day of March.  This year it is three Sundays into April…and I am ready to celebrate.  I am anxious to shout a word that begins with “Alle” and ends with “luia” that I have kept from my vocabulary since the first Sunday of Lent, thereby participating in the early church tradition of not saying that word during the Season of Lent.  That word is a proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven is established on the earth and during Lent we earnestly pray and crave for the Kingdom’s coming.

On Easter we relish as we utter that word – the Kingdom is come and it is an eternal one, free from the bondage of sin and death because our Christ has defeated the grave.  Our Christ is victorious.  Our Christ leaves the grave, not so that he cannot be found and not so he can play his version of hide and seek.  Jesus is not hiding, but he calls those who are faithful to him to seek him.  And where will we find him?  Why among the people, of course.  His ministry is not done.  He wants us to see that even in the present Kingdom ministry, service, sacrifice, care of neighbor, will of God must still be done.

We leave the tomb for it is empty.  We meet Christ in the world and see what he is doing.  And then we join him in it.

One of my favorite praise songs for Easter is Christ is Risen by Matt Maher.  This particular video combines the lyrics and orchestration of Maher with the incredible spoken word talents of David Bowden.  In his spoken word Bowden describes where Christ is present after the resurrection and the healing that Christ brings.  My everlasting hope is that Christ will always be present in these places and that his presence will draw his faithful nearer.

What holy day follows Easter?  Pentecost…the birth of the church…the day we celebrate the receipt of the Holy Spirit…the day the church collectively commits to carry forward the ministry, service, sacrifice, care of neighbor, and will of God because Christ has gone ahead of us into the Kingdom.  We commit to these acts until he completes his Kingdom here.

Prayer: “Almighty God, through Jesus Christ you overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life.  Grant that we, who celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may, by the renewing of your Spirit arise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”*

*”Easter Vigil or Day,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 320.

 

Embracing Resurrection – Be The Change

Sunday’s Scripture Readings ~ Luke 24:1-12 and John 20:1-31

It’s Tuesday of Holy Week.  I am “in the weeds” of worship planning and studying and sermonizing for Easter Sunday.  Usually in The Sunday Stiletto I offer marinatings from the sermon to be shared on Sunday…

But this week…

I’m not doing that.

Why you may ask?  Because I don’t want us to race towards Easter.  In the liturgical calendar of the church we celebrate Palm Sunday and then the next week we celebrate Easter.  That makes sense because Jesus entered Jerusalem and then a week later he was resurrected.

But when these are the only two moments in the Passion narrative that we visit…well then we miss a whole lot.  Some of us celebrate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and that’s great.  I would encourage you, though, to back up a little more and marinate on the teachings Jesus offers us on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday.

There is some good, strong, firm, heavy, important, life-giving, life-saving stuff in there.  And the only way we know that it is in there…is if we take the time to read it for ourselves.

Remember Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey; therefore, he couldn’t hurry down mainstreet Jerusalem because the word hurry isn’t in a donkey’s vocabulary.  Donkeys don’t gallop or dash like horses.  Each step of a donkey is calculated and measured and intentional.  Their steps and movement are their own decision not the decision of the rider.  I believe Jesus’ four-legged companion and transportation device moved at a sacred pace, which is the pace that Jesus used throughout his ministry, making calculated, measured, and intentional steps.

Jesus continues this sacred pace in his final days.  For the remainder of this Holy Week I encourage you to take a page from the donkey’s book and join Jesus in their sacred pace towards Calvary, the tomb, and then finally a stone rolled away.

And do a little reading while you’re at it.

Prayer: Gracious God, as we enter this Holy Week, strengthen us to move beyond the festive parade of palms and to follow Jesus into the way of the cross, that united with him and all the faithful, we may one day enter through the gates of righteousness into the eternal city, the New Jerusalem, where we may praise you with Christ and the Holy Spirit forever.  Amen.*

* Prayer from Feasting on the Word: Liturgies for Year C, Volume 1, 131.