Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesus FAIL

As I celebrated Holy Week, I found myself pondering the same things that I seem to do each year. There is almost a dark “real time” anticipation of the events that transpired over 2000 years ago. I meditate and imagine what the week must have been like. I imagine the lingering excitement from Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the great hope that gripped the hearts of the crowd. I imagine the celebration as the crowds gathered for the Passover. But I also imagine the thoughts that must have been going through the minds of the disciples in the upper room and on Golgotha. Messiah had finally come. The Roman yoke of oppression was just about to be cast off and Jesus was going to lead the way! "Hosanna!"  But then things begin to radically change and unravel with the washing of some dirty feet and the eating of a meal.

Hearts began to sink. Anxiety levels escalated. Tears fell. It appeared to be the end of the line as Jesus unfolded the details of what was to come. As he predicted, He was arrested and beaten. He was rejected by the same people who celebrated His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And finally, on Good Friday, He was nailed to a cross, breathed His last breath and uttered, "It is finished." He died.  Finished? He was taken down from the cross and buried. From all practical perspectives, it was over, and as Jesus' disciples gathered together on that Sabbath before the Resurrection, the pain, fear and grief must have been overwhelming.

Was it really finished? Good Friday and Holy Saturday did not carry with them the anticipation, preparation and joy that it does for us today. For those who followed Jesus, it appeared that there was nothing to look forward to, except the same possible fate that met their friend. The end of the line, boys. "Jesus is dead!  And we're next!  You're going to get your wish, Peter!  Believe what you want, Thomas!  But you're doubting ass will be hanging on a cross by sundown!"          

"Where did things go wrong?”, they must have thought have thought. “How did we misinterpret what Jesus had been telling us over the last three years”?, they must have asked themselves. “Were we totally misled?” “Are we all fools? Morons?” “Was our mission with Jesus a complete failure?” FAIL! Their feet were clean, but their minds were cloudy as they waited. The anxiety must have felt like the weight of the world. Fear. Rejection. Anger. Confusion. All of these emotions must have been running wild as they mourned the death of their Rabbi. Their leader. Their friend. From the view of the world, this must have appeared to be the perfect failure.

Time doesn’t permit me to go on and on with the thoughts that flood my mind this morning, but I encourage you to ponder these things as well for one very simple reason. There appears to be two sides to this story. One side tells us that this was in fact, a perfect failure. This side leaves Jesus in His tomb and leaves the disciples defeated, broken, dejected, afraid and probably eventually dead. The other side of the story is victorious. Renewal. Transformation. Resurrection power. The power that took these eleven broken men that cowered in fear, and used them to transform the world. He is risen! This was not a perfect failure, but complete victory!

There are two stories to every story, isn't there? And as we observe Good Friday, each of us stand on the cusp of the breakthrough that changed humanity. From the perspective of Good Friday, and Good Friday alone, we live in a constant duality of existence. Good Friday leaves us in Chaos, fear and defeat. Good Friday blows a cold wind of disunity, rejection and separation. Good Friday leaves us isolated, cowering in fear, feeling disconnected from God and humanity. Good Friday leave us in fear of death. There is a division that exists with Good Friday, and it creeps in to pollute our communities, even with the realization of the Resurrection .      

As we walk through Good Friday, let us reflect on what Sunday will mean to us. Let us remind ourselves that the darkness of Good Friday will eventually be joined and obscured by the light of Easter Sunday. Easter brings order, peace and victory. Easter Sunday brings unity, acceptance and connection. Easter Sunday finds us in community with out fellow man, celebrating in courage as God's cleansing Spirit flows through creation and mankind. There is a oneness that exists for us on Easter Sunday as we see that Christ's victorious redemption applies to us all, without division.

But the questions remains for us all: Are we living our lives in shadow of Good Friday, or the briliant light of Easter Sunday? Do we cower in the upper room, defeated, disconnected and absorbed with grief? Isolated? Alone? He is risen, and if he is truly risen, then why do we not rise with Him? And if we truly rise with Him, do we not all rise together in complete unification?

As we celebrate Good Friday, let us remember that this shadow will pass over. Let us look forward to the unity and completion of Sunday. Death brings life. Let our vision be encompassed with the vision of Resurrection, not death. Let us join together as the Body of Christ, embracing each other as we suffer. Let us carry each others burden through Friday and journey together in unity.  All things are new, my friends!  All things are new!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday and Communion

It's no surprise that many churches today fail to acknowledge the deep spiritual significance of Communion, Eucharist or the Lord's Supper. Rather than the observance being the center of worship, it is typically tacked on to the end of a normal service. We quickly go through the motions with a somewhat fast food mentality, complete with plastic cups and prepackaged wafers. Doesn't exactly resemble a meal, or memorial for that matter. Whether observed every Sunday, once and month or every quarter, most Christian Churches incorporate Communion as part of their community of faith.  

Today is Holy Thursday, also called Maundy Thursday. If you didn't grow up in one of the liturgical churches, you've probably never heard of this celebration. It has several traditionally rich aspects, but the most significant is the commemoration of the the Last Supper that Jesus Christ celebrated with His disciples, the night before He was crucified on Good Friday. While Palm Sunday and Easter focus on the more joyful aspects of the Lenten Season, Holy Thursday, as well as Good Friday and Ash Wednesday, commemorate the more solemn and reflective acts of Christ and traditions of this season. Although these celebrations are more somber, they remain just as powerful and meaningful to the Christian faith.

The name “Maundy Thursday” comes from a Latin word "mandatum" which means “commandment.”  If you're familiar with John's Gospel, you'll recognize that the essential commandment in Jesus’ message is found in the story of the Last Supper, when He humbles Himself and washes the feet of his apostles just before the traditional Passover meal. Afterward, He commands his friends to “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). In some churches and traditions, the observance of this commandment, the act of feet-washing, is often performed by pastoral ministers as part of Holy Thursday service.

The Last Supper story, which developed to become the Eucharist, Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper, is described in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke), and expounded on in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Christians commemorate the Last Supper by sharing communion to commemorate the sacrificial death that Christ would eventually make on Good Friday. While different denominations may maintain different specific interpretations of this tradition, many incorporate a special communion into the Maundy Thursday liturgy.

It's believed that the Last Supper was a Passover meal and that has had a strong influence on the way that many Christians mark Maundy Thursday, and observe communion in general. It is not uncommon for smaller groups or entire congregations to celebrate the occasion with a traditional Passover Seder instead of or in addition to church services and communion. The Maundy Thursday Seder has been used by many as an occasion to remember and celebrate the origins of Christianity in Judaism and the strong ties that the two religions maintain.

As with me and my family, you may be observing Holy Thursday this evening. If not, let me encourage you to just spend some time reflecting on these events that took place over 2000 years ago. Remember the importance of the Last Supper, reminding us of Christ's body that was broken and His blood that was shed.  Meditate on the humility that He urges us to emulate as He washed the dirty feet of His disciples. And remember the command that we often conveniently forget, "Love one another."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lenten Reflections: Fifth Sunday of Lent

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:7

Peace be with you! 

"Imagine all the people living life in peace." - John Lennon

Peace is not something that is easily obtained in the world today. In many ways, peace is a priceless commodity because without it, nothing in our lives has any value. When we experience peace, nothing can shake us. When peace is not to be found, we wonder if it even exists.

Peace be with me?

We usually choose a fickle peace; a peace built on circumstances. We offer it on Sunday morning, and sell to to the highest bidder on Monday. We usually choose self-peace.    

God's peace is all encompassing. Self-peace is isolated. 

God's peace surrounds us like being submerged in the ocean. Self-peace comes from wading in to the knees. 

St. Patrick knew the all encompassing peace of God, for he reveals it to us when he prayed....
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,