Archive for April, 2009

In the light of the Resurrection

Friday, April 10th, 2009

In the light of the resurrection John 20_1-18


The excitement of the first Easter begins where the Good Friday finished, in the dark.  John records ‘Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…’  While it was still dark!  The Sun had yet to rise and shine on Jesus’ tomb, was yet to shine on Mary and the other women walking to the tomb, yet to shine on the sleeping disciples.  Those closest to Jesus, those who loved him, and saw him crucified, remained in darkness.  Not only was the sun not shining on this new day, but the faith and hopes of Jesus’ followers, including Mary Magdalene, were darkened by grief and unbelief at what they had just witnessed and experienced. 

They were living in the dark of deep loneliness, their Lord and friend had been crucified.  They couldn’t deny the facts.  Jesus was dead and buried and along with him, their hope of salvation.  Perhaps, I suspect, that in some way they all felt guilty for not trying harder to stop Jesus crucifixion.  But its too late for ‘should haves’, death is the end, its final.  All the hoping and all the faith in the world could not bring Jesus back; John was right to begin his account in the darkness.  It was indeed a dark morning for Mary and the disciples. 

Yet haven’t we all experienced a dark morning, when we don’t want to face the day.  A time of the darkness of our soul, when death or illness, or fighting or something we have done or said has separated us from those we love?  The guilt we feel over not handling the situation properly haunts us, yet, like with the disciples its all too late for ‘should haves’.

The good news of Easter is that Jesus doesn’t stay in the tomb, the sun does rise, there is a new day and there is a new beginning.  Jesus has no intention of leaving his friends, including us, alone and in the darkness of loneliness, guilt and separation through sin and ‘should haves’.  By the power of God, he is raised from the dead, raised from the tomb and raised into the lives of Mary and the disciples, raised to life for all of us who walk and live in darkness.  When Mary arrived at the tomb it was still dark, but as she looked around, saw the evidence, not only did the light of the sun begin to shine, so did the light of Jesus resurrection. 

Jesus could have simply just appeared to Mary and the twelve where they were sleeping.  He could have just walked into their lives, and showed himself, but instead, he chose to draw his followers out into the darkness, out to the tomb, out to where they thought he was dead, to see for themselves that God brings new life in the midst of suffering and hurt. 

For our sake, and for the sake of his disciples, Jesus wants to leave no doubt that he has risen.  No doubt that he has the power over death and darkness.  No doubt that the words of his father have been fulfilled ‘I will glorify my name through your death’.  Jesus assures faith by leaving a long testimony of signs which point to his resurrection. 

The stone is not just rolled away, it is thrown from its moorings, an impossible feat for a few men secretly trying to steal Jesus body, while the guards are on duty. The linen cloth still lay wrapped, not touched or damaged in any way, to show that Jesus body had not been stolen or disturbed by vandals, but rather, that he rose through them.  The head piece, that once covered Jesus bloodied head, now lay folded and separate from the linen.  Robbers or the Jews would not have been concerned to do this.

The two disciples looked and saw the signs and believed, yet their faith was weak.  Mary looked into the tomb, saw the evidence but could not believe.  The horror of Jesus death could not be over come, even with such powerful signs and wonders.  Sometimes hurts are too deep.  We are no different.  Sometimes our suffering is so dark, that we fail to see the signs of hope Jesus sets before us.  The people who help, the prayers people pray, the friends who support without judging.  Something even more powerful needs to happen before the light of Jesus forgiveness shines in our hearts, and it happened to Mary and to the disciples.

Jesus speaks a personal word of hope when he calls them by name from the darkness of unbelief in the resurrection light of faith and hope!

Jesus says ‘Mary’.  She hears her name and believes.  The darkness has been lifted by the power of Jesus personal call to her.  By hearing Jesus words, she now knows for certain that he has risen and he has forgiven the past and lives eternally to bring her into his kingdom as foretold by Isaiah ‘He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.’ 

Jesus has a personal word for you and he calls you by name into his kingdom as he has promised ‘surely I will be with you always, even to the very end of the age’.  He could do this anywhere and he does it most clearly in baptism and Holy Communion.  Often however, he will call you by name in the midst of your suffering, drawing you away from all comforts and supports, out to where you though God was dead; out to where there appears to be no hope, just like he did with Mary, Peter and John.  It is often in our suffering that we are open to reading the bible and hearing his word and this is where Jesus speaks our name, gives us hope and assures us that has risen to have power over sin, death and the devil. He did it with Mary and the disciples, why wouldn’t he do it with you? 

Hear, believe and rejoice today in the gospel by which you are saved ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’. 

 

 

 

 

The thirst of Loneliness

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

The thirst of loneliness John 19 28-30


On the cross, Jesus plunges headlong into the abyss of loneliness.  The darkness which covered the land; the hiding of the sun, of light and warmth was nature’s way of representing the utter helplessness felt by Jesus in the ‘darkness’ of being all alone on the cross.   The dark feelings of loneliness did not happen in an instant.  It was a progression; a succession of events which lead Jesus into the depths of loneliness. 

We can follow this succession in Jesus passion.  We can follow the events which led to the point of Jesus’ crucifixion and feelings of utter loneliness and darkness on the cross for our sin, when he cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  We can see that one by one, people leave Jesus to die alone; only the nails that pierced his hands and feet are supporting him…every other support has gone; even his Father in heaven leaves because of his wrath against sin.

The progression into utter loneliness, known as the darkness of the soul, began with the kiss of a friend, a betrayal.  Then, from that moment on, one friend after another, in turn, walked away from him, a succession of hurts, rejection, accusations, lies and murderous intentions lead Jesus further into the abyss of loneliness, even depression.  In his neediest hour, when he is hurting most, suffering for the sins of the world, for you and I, his own mother had to leave him; given over to another son.  Jesus said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”

Finally, the sun itself removed its light and warmth from Jesus, leaving the world in darkness, a darkness to match the darkness of his soul; the utter loneliness, to die for our sin.  The horror of this moment is foretold in Isaiah ‘he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’  Jesus thirsted for compassion, yet received only sour wine…the results of our sin.

Many of us, while never knowing the true anguish of Jesus, can certainly relate to the darkness of soul; utter loneliness; ‘depression.’   For some of us, our lives have been a succession of betrayals, of friends leaving us, of hurts or even sickness, which have led us to a point of despair.   And this despair or depression is the ‘the darkness of the soul’ and is as real for us as it was for Jesus. 

Kind David experienced it, saying in Psalm 88 ‘You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.’  It is part of our human condition.  It is the hallmark of sin and evil.  You and I are born sinful and therefore born into a daily reminder, that in our suffering, in our sinning, we are in the grip of ceaseless futility and crushing, mindless darkness. 

Yet a profound realization comes to us through despair.  It is the realization that there is no meaning, no value, no worthwhile activity, nothing of any value within us or the material universe, no beauty, no love…none of these contain value in themselves.  Meaning and value is above and beyond; it is in God alone.  Meaning and value lay in the suffering servant Jesus. 

 

While many of the believers had left Jesus at the cross because they could not see any sense in his suffering; while Mary his mother wept because of the hopelessness of it all; while Peter hid his face at the obscenity of knowing a man being crucified; there was one man who could see Christ as his saviour.   He could see and receive Jesus because he himself was suffering.  The thief of the cross. 

 

He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” His suffering taught him that everything, even life itself is futile.  His pain, his darkness, his anguish, his recognition of sin led him to trust in Jesus, who was suffering in his place, who was his saviour, and Jesus never disappoints faith ‘”I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

 

To redeem us from our darkness, Jesus had to first conquer it for us.  He had to be sacrificed to it and then in death strike a fatal blow to its heart.  The cross is now a light that shines in the darkness.  St Paul says ‘the cross is the power unto salvation.’ 

 

You may have previously suffered in the darkness of loneliness and despair, or you may be currently living in the midst of darkness of the soul, or it may come to you one day.  At this very time, when we can’t see a way out, a purpose or meaning in our suffering, is when Christ comes to us and preaches a word of good news to us ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  By faith we look past our suffering and darkness into the light of the cross.  By faith, together with the thief we trust that when Jesus said ‘It is finished’, our darkness is only temporary, and that by his death he has won for us the victory of eternal life.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kadaysh

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Maundy Thursday Luke 22 7_16

 

The Kadaysh

light candles – fill wine glasses and explanation


All.     Why is this night different from all other nights?

 

Explanation

Luke records ‘Then came the day of unleavened bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed’.  On this night, outside among men, and inside among God’s people, together with this meal, Jesus is being prepared as the new Passover lamb.  To replace the temporary and continuing sacrifice of the original Passover lamb in the Temple.  He is replacing the old Passover with a new purpose. Jesus took this meal and made it his meal; this is Jesus’ Passover, because on this night, he is the one who must be sacrificed and it is he who stands on the threshold of a new era of salvation.

 

Tonight we have before us Traditional Passover food, the same food Jesus and the disciples would have ate.  Except we as Christians have a different emphasis, a deeper purpose, yet in a way, we have the same meaning to the meal as the Jews. 

 

All:      What is the meaning of the  herbs dipped in salt?

 

Explanation

 

• Maror: bitter herbs, usually horseradish or romaine lettuce, is used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.  The Charoses: a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon, is a reminder of the mortar used by the Jews in the construction of the buildings in Egypt as slaves.  The people of Israel were horribly treated as slaves.  The harder they worked the more the Egyptian king forced them to work.  Many could not keep up and were flogged and even killed.  There was no way out.

 

We too are in slavery.  St Paul writes ‘When you were slaves to sin, what benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!’  We are born into bondage of sin which holds us as slaves; it is our master.  No matter how hard we try, we cannot fully and completely fulfil what God demands of us; Sin has us in bondage and it is killing us, as Paul writes ‘the wages of sin is death’.  Just as the Jews where in bondage in Egypt and needed rescuing by God, we also need to be rescued

 

All      What’s the meaning of the beitzah?

 

Explanation

The Beitzah: a roasted egg, is a symbol of life and the perpetuation of existence.  And the Karpas: a vegetable, preferably parsley or celery, represents hope and redemption from God; served with a bowl of salted water to represent the tears shed in slavery and calling out to God.

Our hope of salvation is Jesus Christ As Paul writes ‘God has chosen to make known among us the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  While we still have tears, we live in the hope of Jesus Christ, for he is our redemption from our bondage to sin.

 

All      What is the meaning of the unleavened bread?

 

Explanation

• Matzoh: Three unleavened matzohs are placed within the folds of a napkin as a reminder of the haste with which the Israelites fled Egypt, leaving no time for dough to rise.  Deuteronomy records ‘You shall eat no leaven bread with the Passover meal; seven days your shall eat it with hurried flight- that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you come out of the land of Egypt.’

 

This is the bread which fed the Israelites as they were freed from slavery.  It is also the manna sent by God to feed the Israelites while in the desert.  The Matzah is both a bread of freedom from slavery and a bread of life which will feed them in the desert until they reach the promise land; a bread of salvation and of life.  In the Last Supper, Jesus takes this bread and says ‘take and eat this is my body which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  With these words, Jesus is the bread which will now be eaten as the true bread of salvation and life.  His body, in which we feed is the bread which will bring us out of slavery, from our bondage of sin, and his body is the bread which also feeds us until we reach the promised land; the New Jerusalem.  He is the bread of salvation and life.   

 

All      What is the meaning of the Roast Lamb?

 

Explanation

Zeroah: traditionally a piece of roasted lamb shankbone, symbolizing the paschal sacrificial offering.  Passover lamb was to be without blemish and with no broken bones.  It was to be slain and its blood was sprinkled on the door posts, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.  In the meal Jesus is holding, the paschal lamb, or Passover Lamb was sacrificed in preparation for the meal at 3pm in the temple.  The blood of the lamb was then sprinkled on the altar and on other holy parts of the inner sanctuary to pay for sins, and is also a reminder of the blood which saved Israel when the angel of death passed over the people; the sacrifice of the lamb saved them from death.

 

Jesus is the new Pascal Lamb; without blemish and with no broken bones.  In this meal Jesus is preparing himself for His death on the cross; to be the new sacrifice for our salvation.  His blood is poured out for us so that the angel of death will pass over us. Jesus blood is now the blood which is sprinkled on all of us to pay for our sins; Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.   

 

All      What is the meaning of the wine.

 

Explanation

 

The cup of Wine: four glasses of wine are consumed during the meal to represent the four-fold promise of redemption.

 

This is the cup Jesus took and said ‘Take and drink of it all of you for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.  The wine in the cup which was the promise of redemption, is now fulfilled in the blood of Jesus.  The blood of the Passover lamb that was sprinkled on the altar for the forgiveness of sin, is now Jesus’ blood, in, with and under the wine.  The promise of redemption is Jesus and he gives us his blood to sprinkle on our hearts to purify us and cleanse us of all our sins.

 

 

Yes, this is a special meal of utter importance for us who believe in Jesus; a meal which gives us salvation from sin and death and a meal that gives us life eternal.  So let us now join with Jesus and share in the meal he is hosting, and eat and drink the body and blood of the sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world.