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26 March, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
Wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13
For many of us, Saturday is our favorite day of the week. It’s family time. We’re off work, or at least we tend to work a shorter day. There’s no church (am I allowed to say that as if it is a positive?). Saturdays are a relief from the daily grind and an opportunity to have fun, to go to the shops, to be active. But during Holy Week, Saturday has become a day of anticipation of Jesus’ resurrection. The church has longed celebrated Holy Saturday as a day to be quiet as the church lays in wait with pregnant anticipation of the life that will come.
I tend to believe that the disciples really didn’t have the hope of something happening on the Sunday. I think they were still living in confusion, hurt and sorrow. We can only imagine all the emotions that would have been experienced that first Easter. The deep sadness as they saw his limp body taken from the cross. The news that Joseph had done the right thing by him and buried him properly, the way he deserved. Then the anger! ‘Deserved! He didn’t deserve any of this’, your lungs would explode with the indignation of the indecency against the most decent man you had ever known. Yet, if you’re one of the disciples there is nothing you can do, save lay low and hope. Doubts are knocking at the door making you wonder what happens now.
When a loved one dies you hope there is life after death, but so often you share the question with the disciples that first Easter weekend –– what happens now? In church settings we are told that Jesus’ own resurrection seals the hope for all of us, for it is by his resurrection we know it is possible for one to rise from the dead. He told his good friends Mary and Martha that he was the resurrection and the life, and then proved it by inviting Lazarus to come out from his grave. He said anyone who believes would have life. We believe. We especially want to believe when it is our loved one who has died. We desparately want to believe when we are peering over the edge of our own death precipe. Do the doubts that sneak into our minds steal that reality away?
The doubts can’t whisk away fact. There’s a resurrection that we will experience whether we believe it or not. Facts are not true or false based on belief, they are based on reality. It is reality that there is life after death. Scripture tells us we will all stand before judgement. Sinners will stand forgiven because on Good Friday Jesus bore their judgement. What our beliefs do is help us get through the Saturdays of life with anticipation rather than with despair, fear and dread. This belief pulls us to the edge of death, whether its ours or someone else’s, waiting with wonder. Belief turns doubt into wonder. I wonder what it will be like. Maybe our series this week should have been called from doubt to wonder.
Postscript: Since writing this blog post a week ago, my dear Dad passed away on 23 March. I’m pretty happy life after death is a reality. I sit and wonder, slightly envious, full of thankfulness….
25 March, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14,15
I would expect that there are very few people reading this reflection who doubt the death of Jesus? It seems to be a well documented fact; even a secular historian cites a man named Jesus being killed by Romans. Although we don’t doubt the event happened, we may doubt it’s meaning, or whether it’s good, or whether it’s sufficient. Maybe we have more doubts than we think regarding his death.
The Bible encourages us to believe that Jesus death on the cross was significant for all of humankind as it brought forgiveness of sin, gained victory over evil, satisfied our need to die, and was the most inspirational example of love. And yet, we still feel guilty, evil seems to be still alive and flourishing, our loved ones still die, and God killing his son is considered more controversial than inspiring. What appears to be our reality runs contrary to scriptural truth, and the contradiction breeds more doubt than it does belief.
And what about the doubt that the death is good? Many are puzzled that we glibly call the day when the world killed Jesus ‘Good Friday’. Recently, I was trying to explain it to some children and I could see the skepticism in their face. They were not being skeptical it happened, but that a death was called good. I felt like a cheap salesman trying to sell a used teabag to a Brit with the pitch that a watered down version is significantly healthier. Yet the Scripture says it is better that one should die than all perish. So if Jesus death keeps us all from perishing, that’s good; isn’t it?
‘But is it good enough’ we hear whispered at times; strangely sounding like the voice of our own doubts. Can it be possible that a death 2,000 years ago can meet the requirement of a holy God who had pronounced death as a deserving end to all humankind? To answer our doubt about sufficiency we want to insist on some good works. ‘Go to church, avoid cheating, be kind –– that will ensure salvation’. Again, that’s the voice of doubt. Listen to the voice of Christ: ‘it is finished’. Really?
What do we do with these doubts? We ought not ignore them or suppress them. Ignoring them will make them raise their voice from a whisper to a shout. Suppressing them will cause them to spring back larger, more unmanageable, and with a bit of an attitude. Address the doubts by laying them before God, the Holy Spirit, in prayer. His responsibility is to lead us into all truth, to comfort and to guide. For the questions God wants us know the answers, the Spirit will reveal the truth we need to know. He will comfort when the answers are not yet forthcoming, and he will guide us along the difficult path from doubt to belief.