Posts Tagged resurrection
I had the strange and embarrassing experience a few months ago of becoming emotionally overwhelmed in the midst of reading a bedtime story to my daughter. Most evenings, one of us reads aloud to our kids as they settle down for bed and on this particular evening, without any warning, I lost my composure, forced my way through to the end of the chapter, then quickly ran into the bathroom and then I began, what can only be described as sobbing. I’m pretty sure that my six year old daughter, snuggled up against my side, methodically brushing her freshly washed hair, was oblivious to my pregnant pauses, tightened jaw and voice cracking. “Dad,” she said impatiently, “keep reading.”
We had a hard year of loss and disappointment and on this particular evening, I had some specific situations on my mind. Our friend, Nate, was in the ICU with a grim prognosis. Just the previous weekend, he had been on the schedule at church to play the trumpet and now, desperate prayers were offered in our church community, interceding for a miraculous recovery. I was also thinking of a child in Fort Wayne, IN, who is my first-cousin-once-removed. Silas Ward was the second adopted child of my cousin, Sam and his wife Sara. When they brought him home he was a normal baby, but after the first year, they noticed a delay in some of his development. Problems eating and weak muscles pointed to a mysterious problem that had doctors baffled. Eventually, they determined that Silas was born with an extremely rare neurological disorder called “Leigh’s Disease” which was slowly destroying his brain cells. This fall, my cousin said goodbye to Silas who only lived to be 2 years old.
The night I wept, our bedtime reading was from “Prince Caspian” from the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. The stories are an allegory for the Kingdom and the gospel of Jesus, who is portrayed symbolically by an enormous and powerful lion named, Aslan. In “Prince Caspian”, the wondrous and magical creatures of Narnia had long been forgotten and been replaced by drab, empirical and secular humans known as the Telmarians. The chapter I was reading that night was the story of the incarnation of Aslan back into Narnia. The giant lion, with an almost kitten-like joy, bounds through the streets of a small village leading a teaming crowd of magic creatures as the dumbfounded Telmarians stand in amazement. Much like the life of Jesus we find in the gospels, this savior goes through the town healing, delivering, and redeeming. My favorite example is when Aslan finds a boy being beaten by a man with a stick. Aslan turns the stick into a bundle of flowers, then he turns the man into a tree rooted into place as the boy begins laughing and dancing. The chapter ends with the discovery of an elderly woman who is about to die when Aslan speaks and the disease leaves her. She sits up, healed and filled with joy and wonder at seeing Aslan.
As I’m reading this, I feel the presence of Christ in the room with us. As amazing as Aslan is, he is only a copycat of the actual glory of the incarnation of Jesus. I saw in the story, the deep brokenness of my own heart in such tragedy and loss juxtaposed with the unmeasured joy that comes in the wake of the eternal life and healing of Jesus. In wonder and adoration like Mary Magdalene after the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, I wept at the feet of Jesus. There with my daughter in the dim light of her bedroom, my eyes and my heart were opened to come and behold Him, born the king of Angels.
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
You didn’t get to play one last Sunday with us. Death was not supposed to take you like a thief, suddenly, without giving us a chance to think a minute. We knew a lot of good times together in worship. I never got to tell you that your place in our team was more than just a trumpet. You were a joy to have around… most of the time. I know you could get under my skin. You had the wonderfully annoying ability to turn everything I said into an insult. I’d say, “The horns sound great today” and you would reply, “Oh, now we sound good; not like last week.”
I miss you, Nate. Death stole you away like a thief, and yet one day, in the twinkle of any eye, THE TRUMPET will sound, we will be raised imperishable, we will be changed. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you notice that it’s passion week? This year was a little sneaky. Late enough that it wasn’t noticeably early. Early enough that it came up too fast. Not to mention the fact that the St Louis climate passed from spring to summer in the middle 2 weeks of March. Never-the-less, we are going to celebrate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday this weekend and I’m stoked!
For Good Friday this year, we are focusing on Freedom. The work of Christ as the true Passover lamb has set us free from our slavery to sin, set us free to be God’s chosen people, and set us free from all forms of oppression. Sonship, reconciliation, and justice! I opted to keep the band a little more scaled back and to have a lot of singers. Songs that I picked are mostly easy to sing and full of good, meaty content. The choir is bringing a couple of tunes to wrap it up, but they are also easy to sing along with. You can get a glimps of the set list here.
Resurrection Sunday (Easter) will be a little different for us this year. We’ve outgrown the ability to have one combined service preceded by a big breakfast. We will have to do our usual 2 services which means a little less music than usual. The music on Resurrection Sunday is pretty much the same every year with a couple of songs that are non-negotiable. In our case, those songs are “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and “Death Is Ended”. The choir will be also be performing a tune that Mattie Moss Clark wrote and Ashley Cleveland covered called “Going To Heaven To Meet the King”. You can check out the full song order here.
The apostle Paul wrote that if the resurrection of Jesus Christ never happened then Christians are total losers (in a manner of speaking). This is a particularly offensive thing to say especially in the world of subjective truth. Because it basically contends that we, the followers of Jesus, must be correct in our truth claims and if we are not then we are absurdly confused and misguided. This implies that people who hold to another religious affiliation are in fact wrong. It is in bad intellectual form to make such a truth claim and to assert that we don’t have the option of being wrong. I mean, can’t we all just agree to disagree?
The cross of Christ and his resurrection are pretty offensive stuff. This is one reason that I fund it surprising that so many people choose to attend a worship service only twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. These are the most offensive times to be in church! The combined concepts of the incarnation and the resurrection (throw in the atonement which can also ruffle a few feathers) and you have a pretty offensive religion. Come to church in the summer during a sermon series on finances or marriage. That’s a nice safe option. I suppose this might be why so many churches are shying away from being so preachy about the whole “Jesus lives” message. It’s easier to sell Jesus as a moral example.
Despite it’s offensive nature, the story of the resurrection must be faced by every believer in Christ and must be dealt with honestly. We might be able to disregard a few miracles here and there, but the claim that Jesus did not remain in the grave, but rose again and now lives and rules from heaven is too central to our understanding of who Jesus is and what his ministry means for us to rationalize away with our super-cool, sciency powers of logicfication. Either Jesus is a alive and is King of kings, or else he’s a loser of the highest order and anyone who drinks the kool-aid of such a loser is an even bigger loser.
So is he alive? If he lives, then he alone is worthy of our worship. If he lives, then death is no longer the unstoppable force the rules our lives. If he lives, then the power of sin is reversed and the world order has been flipped back to it’s intended progression toward a vast, multicultural wedding feast. If he lives then my own broken, ragged heart has hope for something better and more grand than the instant self-gratification promises that this world has to offer.
I would have loved to have written something insightful this week about the awesome significance of Jesus death and resurrection but I am way too bogged down with:
a) preparations for worship services this weekend (including the fact that we are supposed to take time off for the holiday).
b) gardening at home because the most glorious springtime weather has hit St Louis.
So, let me simply give you the words of my compositional hero, Isaac Watts:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did ever such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!