My day today started with a resounding thud and went downhill from there. No, I’m not going to subject you to an itemised list of disasters, nor a lengthy rant! I’m sitting here in my car in the sun and reflecting on just how much sweeter the day has become!
Bright things that happened today have been all the sweeter for the sour with which they are contrasted. The beautiful warm and sunny bus duty sweeter after the cold rainy one last week. Visits from grateful students and kids stopping me in the hall to tell me they miss me sweeter because of those who were rude in class.
Sure, my day would have easier without the sour moments, but it would have been nondescript, even boring. I remember when I was pregnant and not feeling well the. Books all suggested a bland diet. This didn’t work for me. I was totally uninterested in eating bland food, and so I didn’t. In the end I went back to my moderatly spicy diet and dealt with any stomach upset may come along.
Without the sour taste of guilt and fear at the cross, the resurection would just be a typical morning wakeup. I don’t think there is really any place for bland in faith. Bland can be the reason people drift away from churches and beliefs which were once vibrant. It doesn’t mean we need to break our the fireworks or anything. It isn’t about creating spectacle, but rather in watching for the sunrise out of our dark moments.
Sunday Hymn page has been updated.
Here’s a daunting thought I came across the other day when reading Walter Brugemann’s take on the creation story in Genesis. The people for whom the creation story was written were people in exile in a strange country in which statues, idols, and god/kings were routinely worshiped. Into this setting comes a story of the one God who allows no idols at all. The only image we have of God, and this is the daunting part, is us!
Normally I think of being created in God’s image as some sort of privilege, but taken the other way, as bearing his image to the world, is a whole other light.
Think about yourself as God’s image in this light as you go through your day today.
If you use websites like Facebook, Twitter, and even WordPress you will be all too familiar with the experience of loading up a page and being confronted with a whole new format! Today when I logged onto WordPress and hit the button for Write a Post, the image on the screen, the location of buttons and tools etc. were completely different! It is the computer equivalent of walking into your living room to find that all the furniture has been rearranges and some of the things you use regularly are hidden from view. Do we survive it? Of course! Do we like it? Absolutely not!
This is not to say that we don’t quickly adapt to the new layout and months later we probably don’t really remember what it used to be like. Every time Facebook changes the format there is a several day flurry of complaints. We are creatures of habit and regardless of how we may pride ourselves on our flexibility, change causes anxiety.
One of my best friends has Multiple Sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair now for over five years. Before that there was a lengthy period during which she used a scooter and only stood to transfer from one seat to another. My point is that it has been close to ten years since I have seen my friend standing up. For the most part I never really noticed this. I was aware, obviously, of the chair but didn’t really think of seeing my friend any differently.
The other day I happened to be visiting her when she was getting a chance to use her stander. For those who may not be familiar with physio-therapy tools, this is a device which levers you into a standing position and holds you there. For the first time in such a long time, I saw my friend standing on her feet and I realized how much my idea of her had changed. I was taken aback and immediately commented, “I forgot how tall you are!”
Sadly, this was not an instance of miraculous healing. She was back in the chair before I left and had not been in any way able to walk around, but still…
As I was driving home that day I reflected on what had happened and realized that this experience has transformed my view of the stories of healing in the New Testament. I took the place of the men who took their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing, even risking life and limb to get him up on the roof and lower him down to Jesus. They knew they hoped for healing for their friend’s body, but imagine how meeting him at the door of the house when he walked out on his own! How much their view of him must have changed, and how much their friend’s experience would have healed them!
There was no change in my friend’s physical condition that day, but I will never again read the following passage in the same way. I have seen it from an different angle and my point-of-view has been forever changed!
Jesus Heals a Paralytic
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’
With Easter so near we can almost taste the chocolate, many of us have gone from weeks of reflection on our relationship with God through Christ to lists of to-dos for special family meals, and to-buys for Easter baskets for our kids. Those with little girls may be out buying that perfect Easter dress and with little boys maybe getting little dress shirts and ties. As with other special days of celebration we like to make a fuss.
With our kids a little older now, we don’t really do much with baskets or egg hunts any more. We aren’t hosting a family event, so the panic clean-up is not under way. The biggest sign that we are only 3 days away from Easter morning was last night when my husband arrived home with a huge box of bacon. For years he has helped to organize the sunrise breakfast at our church and, for many of us, bacon plays a central role in the event. At this point, the decisions about worship have all been made, the anthems planned and as practised as they are going to get.
It is time to let go and let ourselves be swept away in the story and the emotional roller-coaster of this four-day period. We will rise from the Passover meal with Christ on Thursday night feeling at the same time so close to him and confused by what he has said will happen. Afraid that he will be leaving us, worried that we might deny him. We will be horrified by the treatment he takes and the cries for his crucifixion, we will feel immense guilt as we see him hanging there on the cross, an innocent man. Our sense of loss and grief will overtake us as we hear the words, “It is finished.” This will be followed by a lost day in which regular life continues but feels like it shouldn’t. And then there will be Sunday.
On Sunday morning we will rise to go back into our churches which were last seen in a moment of deep grief and pain, and be lifted up on the amazing wave of the news, “He lives!” Let yourself feel it all this Easter weekend, and remember it throughout the rest of the year, for this is why we are Christians!
Posted in anticipation, church, Faith, Reflections
Tagged choir, Christianity, cross, Easter, God, Good Friday, Jesus, Maundy Thursday, sin
Today marks the beginning of what many call Holy Week. This week contains within it the whole of the Gospel message for God’s people. Today is Palm Sunday. You know the one, people lined the already busy streets to catch a glimpse of Jesus, or at least to see what all the fuss was about. In a way it represents the height of our misunderstanding of the role and nature of Messiah.
When a Roman legion returned from a successful campaign the city of Rome held a Triumph. A triumph was basically a hero’s parade in which the legion in full regalia, and toting along any captives and slaves, rode and marched through the city streets. It was the only time that a legion was allowed to be in the city en masse. The people of Rome would be lining the streets, cheering and waving to the conquerors who had either protected them or fought to gain them new territory. There was no personal benifit for most of these people but it was a great chance to celebrate!
When Jesus entered Jerusalem the people held in their hearts and minds all the dreams of the Messiah coming leading a legion of sorts and driving the Romans out of their city and their land. To them it was a triumph, they seemed to miss or ignore that he was not riding a fine steed, but a young donkey, and he was not armed or wearing armour. Perhaps we needed to be completely blind to who was really coming into Jerusalem in order for the story to work out properly.
So, even as you wave your palm branch and sing Hosanna this morning, enjoy the party but remember that the real triumph awaits us in seven days time.