Sunday, March 23, 2008

Good Friday and Easter Sunday Services

Our usual blog writer is on a trip, leaving me, his wife, to attempt the blog. I found the Good Friday service so powerful that I was completely immersed in the solemnness of the commemoration of Jesus death, and only remembered two-thirds of the way through it that I should be trying to take notes for a blog. There were a series of Scripture readings by various people in the congregation about the death of Christ, followed by reflections by Pastor Brad. Each time a reading was finished another candle was blown out and the lights dimmed until we were in darkness. We departed in silence, with none of the usual cheerful greetings and chatter. Darkness had fallen outside as well. Walking to our cars I truly felt that I had just been present at someones death.

Easter morning began with a generously supplied breakfast of various egg bake dishes, muffins, and fruit. The basement was so crowded a table was set up upstairs to accommodate everyone. Brooke had organized an Easter egg hunt for the children.

The service began with a question from Pastor Brad, "Do you feel it?... Do you feel the power of the resurrection in your life?" We often minimize the Gospel to be the "minimal entrance requirements" to get into heaven. Jesus had one message, one Gospel, The Kingdom of Heaven, which was to make "up there" come "down here."

We sang a series of joyful Easter hymns, then welcomed into membership thirteen new members. Paula Saxin gave a children's message, for which it seemed like dozens of children streamed forward. She told a well known story about Jesus' life, throwing in some not so true aspects, to see if the children were listening and would notice and correct the fallacies. They did a good job. Then just before the message Dana sang a stirring and lively Amy Grant song, Sing Your Praise to the Lord.

We Are Risen
Brad began the message by stating that there are plenty of explanations that make the empty tomb believable, but that would not be the focus of the message today. Rather, what difference does the resurrection make for you or for me?

In 1943 there was a man named Gerkner Joerg, a German soldier who served under Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, The Desert Fox. A British man captured Rommel's crew and Joerg was put in a prison camp in the U.S. In 1945 he slipped past a guard and ran. For years afterward he continuously was on the run to avoid being found out. He became a tennis instructor, then a ski instructor who helped to save many when there was a train wreck in the Donner Pass. After 20 years of running and moving from place to place one day his wife said, "Why?" and he finally told her the true story about his escape from the prison camp. She said, "You need to go to the department of immigration and naturalization now. THE WAR IS OVER!" He did go, and they made him a U.S. citizen. How many of us live under pressure and condemnation and don't even realize that through Jesus' death and resurrection we have been given life and redemption.

For the disciples, the dream of the kingdom being near that Jesus had incited in them was crushed when He died. At that point they had no hope. They needed something to hang onto.

What difference does the resurrection make? Where do you find hope in the failed situations of life? We have the hope of resurrection. That hope is not only life beyond the grave. Hope overturns a variety of disasters in our lives...
disasters of faith,

Peter failed by denying Jesus. His disaster was one of faith, but later (as told in John 21) Jesus reinstates Peter to his new vocation. Maybe you have fallen short. Because of the resurrection there is hope and forgiveness.

Mary Magdalene saw Jesus, who had accepted and loved her, die and be placed in the tomb. She had nowhere to go, she faced the disaster of abandonment, but finds that in the resurrection is the promise of God's presence.

Thomas' "disaster" was that of doubt. He stated that unless he sees the marks in Jesus' hands he will not believe. But Thomas was not only a doubter but a confessor. When Jesus shows him his hands he says, "My Lord and my God!" If you have doubts keep asking questions because beyond the doubts is a serious faith.

The disciples were all experiencing the disaster of confusion. In Matt. 28 Jesus appeared to them and they worshipped Him but some doubted. Directly thereafter Jesus commissioned them to go make disciple of all nations. Beyond the disaster of confusion is a mission.

Why did Jesus do it? Why did He die for us?

In 1878, Victoria was Queen of England. Her third child, Princess Alice had a 4 year old son who contracted black diphtheria and was quarantined by the doctors. His mother was strictly warned not to go near her son. One day she overheard her son ask the nurse "why doesn't my mommy kiss me anymore?" It broke her heart, and she ran in and smothered him in kisses. Within a week they were both buried. Romans 8 reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Jesus smothers us with his love, like Princess Alice did her son, even though it cost Him His life .

No comments: