Glorious Easter Morning! Seriously, folks, it doesn’t get any better than this! The very reason the church even exists is the stunning fact that Jesus defeated death and reclaimed the life-charged life for all creation.
Jesus, in all his resurrection glory and power, didn’t just stare death in the face but he literally entered into death – only to emerge more alive than ever before. Christ’s remarkable achievement means that we can confidently face both life and the end of life without doubt, without uncertainty, and without fear.
The Resurrection is (in equal parts) both victory over death and the transformation of life into new life.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: But it doesn’t stop there! Even more amazing is the effect Christ’s Easter Dance has on my life (and yours, too, if you’re interested) between now and the day our bodies finally give out and we transition into eternity. The transformational reach of Easter is to make life possible now, life in all of its fullness and literally soaking in love.
The transformational reach of Easter is to make life possible now, life in all of its fullness and literally soaking in love.
Showing up at church this morning to worship with my faith community is one way that I can raise my hands and shout “YES!” in response to God’s invitation to embrace all that is possible in life.
This is why we were created! We are designed for relationship with God. That first Easter morning re-calibrated the harmonics of our spiritual nature and set the stage for the whole world to enter the song.
Easter is a triumphant overture, a thundering introduction to life as God intended it from the foundations of time!
That’s a song worth singing and a story worth telling! Not just on Easter Sunday but every Sunday. Not just every Sunday but every single day of the week. Not just for today but for all of eternity.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:-12)
Derek & Geoff, circa 1963
Yesterday would have been my brother Geoff’s 59th birthday. So I drove down to Sarasota and had lunch with my parents. After enjoying my dad’s excellent cooking we sat down (with a cup of tea) to look through some old family photo albums.
It’s always a startling journey through time to pull out old photographs! My favorite was the classic school picture of Geoff and me together, taken circa 1963. We were both students at Harcourt Primary School in Folkestone, England. Gotta love the grins, the creative tie-tying, and the possible evidence of Brylcreem in the hair!
My next “pick of the crop” is this image of my dog, Lassie, taken sometime in the late 1960′s. Of course – and it’s the same with all of us and our family pets – we knew she was the best dog ever in the world. She was my great friend from around the time I was seven through the year I turned 18. Forget “dog-years,” eleven is a huge number in “kid-years” too.
A FAMILY: I was six-weeks old when this next photograph was taken. Look at my parents; my dad was still 27 and my mum was 24! What strikes me is how they had absolutely no clue as to what the next 18 years Geoff and I were both at home would look like.
I was about to write “when the dust settled in 1974,” but, to be honest, the dust never did settle. Fact is it never does. That’s the beauty, and the great challenge, of life as a family.
I look at this photograph, and I see the hope and the promise of a family grounded in love and in faith.
But life as Mauls turned out to be real: at times idyllic and at times difficult; beautiful, messy, joyful, fun, rich, disappointing, rocky, smooth, surprising, heart-wrenching, serendipitous, always soaked in prayer. It was nothing like the romantics like to imagine; it was (and is) everything like a real adventure of living as disciples.
EVERYTHING APPROPRIATE IN IT’S TIME: And so life continues. By the time Thanksgiving 2011 rolled around, the family photograph had grown to look like this joyful conglomeration!
Then, last year, Geoff’s journey took the sharp turn toward eternity. But now his daughter, Hannah, has added a toddler and an infant she and Andrew Roberts are fostering. Our Andrew’s Alicia has joined the family, and in June Naomi and Craig’s second child will be born.
There is a time. There is a season.
There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens: a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted, a time for killing and a time for healing, a time for tearing down and a time for building up, a time for crying and a time for laughing, a time for mourning and a time for dancing, a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces, a time for searching and a time for losing, a time for keeping and a time for throwing away, a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking, a time for loving and a time for hating, a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)
Your aim must be peace with all men, and that holiness without which no one will ever see God. Take good care that none of you is false to God’s grace, that no poisonous shoot is allowed to spring up, and contaminate many of you by its influence. (Hebrews 12:14-15)
So yesterday evening Rebekah and I were talking about The Last Supper, and the beautiful narrative account in John’s Gospel. Then she pointed out an interesting detail that I’d never noticed before.
It happens in Chapter 13, just after Jesus has washed his friends’ feet, all his friends. Jesus offers a piece of bread to Judas and, the text reports, “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night” (NIV). Or, more poignantly, “Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night” (The Message)
Judas allowed Jesus to wash his feet. But he did not, would not, eat the bread. So he left, bread in hand, and walked into the night to betray everybody.
Which brings me back to my initial scripture for this morning. The Hebrews text is a call for grace. Living in peace is living in the grace of God. Falling short of God’s grace causes bitterness and trouble. The end result of such a graceless witness is – and I like the translation in The Knox Bible – the “contamination” of many.
Today I’m wondering if Judas could have gone through with his betrayal if he’d stayed around for the bread and the wine? If only he had remained in the grace of community? Instead, bread in hand, he removed himself from communion with his friends.
break bread together
UNGRACIOUS SEPARATION: Here’s what I think. I think that removing ourselves from communion with one another is – to use the words of Hebrews 12 – being false to God’s grace. When that happens, poisonous shoots spring up, and the message of the Gospel of Love is contaminated, and people (both believers and those watching the witness of the church) are distanced from God by gracelessness.
Not only is it critically important that we maintain an open door for all people when it comes to sharing communion… it’s also critically important that we avoid the gracelessness of walking away from the table, bread in hand, and removing ourselves from communion with other believers.
This Church Belongs to Jesus. We’re all sinners, and we’re all humble recipients of God’s wondrous grace. Grace enough for all – DEREK
… I won’t be in the place I intend to be – spiritually – until I take a deliberate few moments with God and specifically invite Jesus to be my companion and guide for THIS day.
That’s because this following Jesus thing is a decision that must be made, and renewed, at the very least daily and, more practically, at ever-increasing intervals as each new day unfolds.
birthday pic with (much younger) Rebekah
AGING (OR NOT): The idea fits quite well with our discussion about age, and about (yesterday’s “birthday-post”) being the youngest 57-year-old imaginable. I think what I’m really talking about is having a young spirit. I am born anew… born again… born from above… each and every day that I invite newness into my life.
I often tell Rebekah that she’s obviously a lot younger than many people who are in their (chronological) thirties. And I mean that. It’s not flattery or rhetoric. She has a young spirit.
Here’s the thing: a young spirit is not an accident of nature, it’s a byproduct of renewal.
Here’s the thing: a young spirit is not an accident of nature, it’s a byproduct of renewal.
“Renewal” – To be made new again. Not dressed up; not rehabbed; not a cosmetic makeover; not some kind of a spiritual face-lift. But made new again. A new creation.
FORWARD: Owning a young spirit is also not about going backwards. I’m not talking about winding the clock back or living in the past. This is Jesus we’re talking about, not Peter Pan. Newness is always forward moving. When scripture talks about a “new creation” it’s not suggesting the old creation, dusted off and restored to mint condition.
And so – lest I stray any further away from the course I set in talking about Wednesday of Holy Week – my opportunity on this day is to be a young spirit, alive and vibrant, a new creation. Lent may be a journey, but it’s also a decision.
oday is the 57th anniversary of the day I was born. I know, there’s nothing unique about a birthday, people have birthdays all the time. But there’s something undeniably extra about today, and – being an analytical kind of a fellow – I find myself wondering why.
What is it about a regular day, just one among 365 I will have woken up to by the time 2013 is done, that makes March 26, 2013 stand out among the rest?
ATTITUDE: I’ll begin by saying that attitude counts for a lot. I woke up when it was still dark, and I walked Scout in the cool morning air, and I breathed that first wide-awake breath as a conscious act of gratitude.
And then, before we’d logged more than a few hundred yards, I read my morning devotional scripture; and what I read was this:
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
The good words filtered through my mind and down into the bedrock of my consciousness, and I thought about the imperative to shine, and I thought about the fact that Jesus didn’t say that he’d be doing all the shining so much as that I needed to be shining on his behalf.
SPICE: So I got home from the walk and poured a fresh cup of coffee to share with Rebekah and she had my birthday present waiting for me. Here it is, my marble mortar & pestleset. How cool is that? It’s the perfect addition to my set of cooking tools. I can’t wait to crush some garlic, pound some sweet basil, pummel a sprig of fresh rosemary, or grind some nuts.
Immediately, I experienced deep gratitude for my life together with Rebekah and the fact that we enjoy one another’s company so much. At the same time, the gift reminded me of the rich flavor and savory nuances of life, and how creativity and promise are built-in to the way we experience each new day.
HEALTH: Next, I drove to my doctor’s office for my annual check-up. Not only did I pass with flying colors but she actually complimented me for significantly lowering my “total” cholesterol, reducing the “bad,” and raising the “good.”
Obviously, I’m 57. But I am quite possibly the youngest 57-year-old I know. I’m young because I am so completely alive. This “Life-Charged Life” I’m always talking about isn’t a vague or merely metaphorical idea; it’s the deliberate practice of “Living Like I Mean It,” and living as a passionate “Follower of the Living Way of Jesus.”
FAITH: Which brings me back around to devotion, which is at the heart of the idea of Living Out Loud. Here’s the other scripture that touched me this morning:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
March 26 Sunrise
Walk in the Light!
Be the Light!
Live as Children of Light!
In gratitude, living into promise, and looking forward to another amazing year - DEREK