Mom’s Night Out

MNO_OfficialPoster_LowRead Ephesians 3:14-19

Watching “Mom’s Night Out” with Shannon, which I was told is hilarious. It actually is pretty good. Shannon went to see it when it first came out with a crowd of church ladies (mommies, all of them) and they cracked up. Mom humor is all or nothing. The thing I notice about the film is that it emphasizes the fact that we are all normal. We all have problems. Life is sometimes a total disaster. No way around it. Failure is a reality for all of us. You should remember this. Seriously. A big part of life for every single one of us is all the stuff that goes wrong. I mean the stuff that goes way wrong. Yes, God’s in it too. The Kingdom of God is about love and family per the verses we’ve just read. Mention those two words, love and family, and you’ve got huge potential for things to go wrong… for all the right reasons. A few lines from the film that stand out…

1) “I’m a mess, but I’m a beautiful mess. I’m His masterpiece and that’s enough.”

2) “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

Amen.

Breathing on Easter Monday

Easter_monday_countriesRead John 19:19-23

Easter Monday is a holiday in all the nations indicated by this illustration. Often, outdoor egg rolling is part of the tradition. In Egypt, for Coptic churches following the Eastern rite, today is called the day of the “smelling of the breeze.” People enjoy the outdoors and eat outdoors. Other Eastern churches call it Bright Monday or Renewal Monday. The week is considered as one long day. Doors and windows of various church buildings, normally closed, are left open. The Resurrection of Christ has this effect on all who believe. The war is over. The sun has risen because Christ has risen.

The scene with some disciples that first Easter Sunday night involved the breeze of the Holy Spirit. Spirit, wind, and breath are all one word in the original languages of the Scriptures.

Today is a day for taking a deep breath and enjoying life and the God who gave up everything to give it back to us.

HE IS RISEN!

empty-tomb-copyRead John 20:18

Today is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ! We do this together, gathered in groups as believers all over the world! We sing. We pray. We read aloud the kept promises and whole-life response of ecstatic witnesses in Scripture. We rejoice. We believe in our hearts. We are free and saved. We wonder together what to do next. Our God is a God of new beginnings. He invented the fresh start. May He fill you with hope and joy today, as you behold Him risen with eyes of faith. He is risen indeed! Amen.

Barabbas

barabbas-2Read Matthew 27:21

Today is often called Easter Vigil. Jesus’ body, this day in history, lies dead in a borrowed tomb. Vigil means watchfully waiting. Someone who wasn’t waiting today was Barabbas. He was the thief and murderer who was released instead of Jesus. Jesus died in his place. Whether he took this into his heart for salvation is unknown, or, at least, uncertain. Some would say it is unlikely. What was his full name? Many believe it was Jesus Barabbas, which means, “Jesus, son of the father.” Wow! Isn’t that something? According to an article I read in Christian History magazine (Issue No. 60) years ago, he may have been considered by some in his time as a good leader. His methods were extreme and devilish, but times seemed to demand this kind of approach. This is where Jesus had let so many down, and still does. What a weak king he appeared to be today! He was now a dead king, and one whose death had lacked all dignity. His body, his reputation, his message, the loyalty and commitment of his followers, and his claims to be both king and (amazingly) God, were now all buried with him. Gone. Shut away. But Barabbas was still with us. Strapping and bold, he must have felt on this Saturday like he might be made king himself. The people had demanded his freedom! He won the crowd over some beloved rabbi. This had to be pretty heady stuff for this recently condemned insurrectionist. Today had to be a day filled with new worldly possibilities for Barabbas. His poll numbers had risen sharply, or so he may have thought. He is remembered to this day. Movies are made about him. If anyone was ever given a second chance by God, it is this man. Did he cherish it or waste it? What about you? If you are a believer, in one way or another, you play the part of Barabbas in your own life. Jesus takes your place on the cross and in the tomb. What are you going to do about it? Tomorrow is coming. A new day will arrive. Everything will change because of an empty tomb. Will you? Will I?

The Seven Last Words of Christ

14277146_mlThe seven “last words” of Christ from the Cross (with various prayers reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, © 2004, CRC Publications.)

1) “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Loving Father, to whom your crucified Son prayed
for the forgiveness of those who did not know what they were doing,
grant that we too may be included in that prayer.
Whether we sin out of ignorance or intention,
be merciful to us and grant us your acceptance and peace.

2) “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
O Lord Jesus Christ, who promised to the repentant the joy of paradise,
enable us by the Holy Spirit to repent and to receive
your grace in this world and in the world to come.

3) “Woman, behold your son . . . Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
O blessed Savior, in your hour of greatest suffering
you expressed compassion for your mother
and made arrangements for her care;
grant that we who seek to follow your example
may show our concern for the needs of others,
reaching out to provide for those who suffer.

4) “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
O Lord, I call for help by day, and in the night I still must cry.
Regard me, listen to my prayer. My soul is troubled; I am weak.
Without You, I am cut off as one whom you forsake,
forgotten near the pit of death.
Without You, Your wrath weighs heavily on me.
And my eyes are dim because I weep.
Without You, the darkness is my closest friend—
I am shunned and forsaken, all alone, without You.

5) “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
O blessed Savior, whose lips were dry and whose throat was parched,
grant us the water of life, that we who thirst after righteousness
may find it quenched by your love and mercy,
leading us to bring this same relief to others.

6) “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
O Lord Jesus Christ, you finished the work that you were sent to do;
enable us by your Holy Spirit to be faithful to our call.
Grant us strength to bear our crosses
and endure our sufferings, even unto death.
Enable us to live and love so faithfully
that we also become good news to the world, joining your witness.

7) “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Father, into whose hands your Son, Jesus Christ, commended his spirit,
grant that we too, following his example,
may in all of life and at the moment of our death
entrust our lives into your faithful hands of love.
In the name of Jesus, who gave his life for us all. Amen.

Maundy Thursday?

Read John 13:34-35

We come soon to the end… and to the beginning. The Cross – its experience, pain, and satisfaction of wrath – begins today, not tomorrow. Today there was betrayal. Today He was abandoned. Today He was sold out. Today He was arrested. Not just the mental and emotional tortures, but the physical as well, began this day and especially this day’s night. I prefer Holy Thursday to Maundy Thursday. Maundy is an Old English term for commandment. John 13:34-35 has Jesus commanding us to love one another. That certainly was on His mind as He climbed to the Cross, but it certainly was not and is not on ours. It is the first command we break. It is the command we break most often. We have no ability to respect this command outside of all the work Christ does for us on His Cross and through His Empty Tomb. Maundy Monday would be more theologically correct. Come Monday we have the means in Christ to obey Christ. Before then we only want to crucify Him and each other. The only authentic love found in Holy Week is God’s Love poured out for us. We have none in ourselves to give to Him or each other. That’s the meaning of the Cross

Holy Wednesday

shumate-hRead Luke 22:3-6

(Adapted from a prior blog of mine as well…)

Did you know that Holy Wednesday, today, the Wednesday of Holy Week, is also called “Spy Wednesday?” This is seen as the day Judas agreed to betray Jesus for thirty silver coins. Judas Iscariot is an interesting person in history. He is probably the most tragic and condemned man in history. Reflecting on his life and choices is helpful, but uncomfortable; it hits close to home for some of us. Here may be a few reasons why:

1) Judas thought he was smarter than Jesus. He believed he was no fool.

2) Judas thought he was better than Jesus. He was was right in his own eyes, more right than Jesus.

3) Judas developed a taste for stolen and quick money that overrode his spiritual values. It seems he was morally blind to his own sinful tendency to steal.

4) Judas was always completely alone. He still is.

5) Judas only lied. He hid in plain sight, the ultimate form of lying.

6) Judas knew the power of God (and was an instrument for it as a disciple), but he never knew the purpose of God.

7) Judas thought he could, would, and should get away with it.

8) Judas’ life was only about Judas. Even his bitter end points to this.

9) Judas is glorified by some in contemporary culture. This is no surprise, given our culture.

10) Judas looked to make the most of a bad situation; Jesus had failed and was a failure from a worldly perspective. Judas saw things going south and decided to take things into his own hands. (Evil often begins with this motive in the mix.)

Many believe Judas left halfway through Jesus’ final passover meal, the meal we Christians base communion on. I often pray that “the Judas within me” would leave when I’m taking communion. Judas is a mirror for what we are and can become when we abandon Jesus.