Easter: A Beginning

Today is Easter! Each year we take time to remember the events of Good Friday and Easter to remind us that God sent Jesus to die for our sins but that death is not the end and that through the Resurrection we’re promised eternal life if we believe.

The day known as the Resurrection, the stories tell us, and the days following to the day known as the Ascension were days when Jesus appeared to many different people proving his Resurrected status. Many believed simply because others had told them it was true, but some, like Thomas, had to see for themselves. Having faith or belief in things is important, but in this case we do have to see God for ourselves, we can’t have faith on behalf of anyone else, we have to each believe and commit to Jesus by ourselves.

The journey continues this way: we need the support and encouraging stories of other believers, but we also have to have our own experiences with God. We need to make time each day to personally connect with God, as well as take time each week to connect with and support other believers. Some who saw Jesus after His resurrection were with others, yet some were alone. Jesus knows that some things in life need to be done alone, and others are better when we’re together with others.

But Jesus’ Ascension wasn’t an end, but rather his Resurrection and Ascension were a beginning. As much as it’s our “job” to tell people about Jesus, it’s even more important that we keep the conversation going long after the initial conversation and/or conversion. Jesus came to earth to complete one chapter in life and begin another. His return to Heaven wasn’t because His time was a failure or the work was done. He returned to heaven because He had done His part and now it was our turns to do the work and continue writing the story.

Easter is the beginning of a new story of hope, a new way that God wants to connect with us, new hope and potential for each person. But it’s only the beginning, and it’s up to each of us to continue the story. It may seem dull to you between the holidays of Easter and Christmas, the 7 odd months that we have to wait between “the good stuff,” 7 months that don’t always seem to matter. But the truth is that this is a lot like our lives. We’ve got high points and quiet days. Busy weeks and slow seasons. Times when things fall into place and others when they fall apart. We may remember the high and low points most, but often it is the times in between that matter most.

I encourage you to see today and each day as a new opportunity for Jesus to show you something important, even if it’s as simple as a basket full of plastic eggs, rainbow after a rain storm or bagel from a coworker, and a new day for you to live out God’s purpose for your life and celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead for you and me.

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The Adventure of Easter Eggs

As many people are, I’m thinking about Easter coming up on Sunday. Whether you celebrate it more as a spring holiday and just get together with friends and family, or it’s a religious day for you, something that’s very traditional and well-known are Easter eggs. People, churches and towns around the US will gather up little plastic eggs of bright colors and hide pieces of chocolate or candy and little stickers and toys inside of them and then scatter or hide them around the house and yard for little boys and girls to find.  Maybe you’ve had the fun opportunity of filling the empty eggs with the surprises for the boys and girls.

If you think about it, Easter eggs are a lot like each of us: you never know what’s inside until you open up the egg. Sometimes you’ll find it filled with treats that you would rather trade with someone else and sometimes you’ll be thrilled with the surprise inside. Part of the gift of Easter eggs though, are the adventure of finding them, or of getting to know the other people that we share this world with. Just because the egg is yellow on the outside doesn’t mean that you’ll find the same thing on the inside all the time, or that it will always be your favorite filling because you love yellow.

As you finish this week working on victories, I encourage you to not judge people before you get to know them. Apply the breaks a bit to your speed through life and take the time to get to know someone before you jump to a conclusion about who they are or what role they may play in your life and success.  Maybe even take the time to get to know someone that you’ve not connected with in a long time or never really took the time to develop the relationship beyond a surface level.  The way you treat others can have a big impact on your ability to achieve victories, personally I’d rather have a team I can work with than find myself alone trying to be everything for everyone.

Cross Reflections

As we look ahead to Good Friday and Easter Sunday I was again reflecting on the symbol of the cross that we’ve used since the first Good Friday throughout our churches, on rosaries, around our necks on chains, in stained glass windows, and in paintings as a way of remembering Jesus and showing our faith in Him. There’s always been some discussion as to why we focus on the cross rather than other things that would be symbolic of Jesus and the salvation Christians have.  After all, we could be using a rock or dove, or angel wings as a much more easily recognizably positive symbol.

As I was thinking about it, the one thing that I was reminded of is that as much of a symbol of pain and suffering as the cross is, it’s also a symbol of hope. Each and every one of us go through challenges in our lives and there are times that we wonder if we’ll get through them. Jesus experienced a big challenge of facing death on the cross in His life, and seeing the cross is a reminder to us that as much as we will be challenged, as much as we may have to sacrifice, if we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons, we’ll see a great reward.  There isn’t any greater reward than knowing that Heaven is waiting for you.

So if you’re going through a challenge today, I encourage you to stop and remember the cross. Sometimes you have to go through your darkest of nights to get to the best and brightest of days.  There may not be a pot of gold waiting for you at the end of this dark path, but the victory will be worth the effort.

Daily Victories

We celebrated the official day of Easter a little over a month ago, but people of the Christian faith are always celebrating Easter because it signifies the hope that we have for life today, tomorrow and forever. Easter gives us the motivation to keep going even when we’re faced with the challenges of life. In some ways just the action of Jesus coming back to life is enough to bring us hope, but He went beyond that and gave us the opportunity for eternal life, because Easter was more than just Jesus rising from the dead, it was Jesus overcoming the grave and the death that could be the end for each of us, if not for His sacrifice.

The two fold challenge is that while we have the ability to live our lives in victory every day we are faced with all the stuff going on in the world. First, it’s hard to always be upbeat and see the victories of life when life is going down the tubes, and second, it’s really not right to be the happy-go-lucky person when there’s a big tragedy going on. God understands the need to take time to cry and mourn, there’s nothing wrong with dealing with those emotions in this world, as long as the sin remains in our world.   While there’s a tragedy in someone’s life somewhere in the world every day, I would hope that the good days far out-count the bad ones in your life.  And even in some of those not-so-great situations you still can choose to have a positive attitude, it may be what helps you retain your sanity through the challenges.

But when you’re not experiencing a tragedy, and the world that you live in isn’t being affected by one at the moment either, there are lots of opportunities for victories.  Victories can be found in big and small opportunities, from finding a bedspread you and your partner both like, to finding the perfect parking spot, to your home cooked meal turning out great, to the kids doing their homework without complaint, to completing the assigned task at work on time.  Those may seem like little things, but they’re the kind of thing that we run into on a daily basis in our lives, victories aren’t just about the big things in our lives like Easter.  Jesus performed many miracles before Easter that were pretty awesome to those people. so why should your ordinary victories be any less victorious than the big ones?

I encourage you to find at least one victory each day to celebrate.  If you can’t find one good thing that happened in your day, one thing to celebrate, one thing that amazed you, or one person you’re thankful for, we need to have a serious talk about your attitude and what’s going on in your life.  What victory will you encounter today?

“Wherever in your life is victory; there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is joy, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is wonder, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is resurrection, there is Christ calling you to follow him out of death into his larger and more glorious life.” Br. James Koester

Easter Today and Tomorrow

Today around the world people will be celebrating Easter.  People who rarely attend church will wake up early, families who don’t always see each other will travel distances, and countless eggs will be hidden and later found (sometimes even days or weeks later).  For people of the Christian faith we celebrate with a specific reason: Jesus is alive.  And more than that, Jesus died, rose again and has taken away the sins of the world.  I’d say those are some really good reasons to celebrate.

As I was thinking about what Easter means, it got me thinking about the word tomorrow.  Easter really is all about the concept of tomorrows, and all the tomorrows we’ll have, because with Easter we’re offered a tomorrow that’s promising, and filled with hope and worth living for.  Before Easter happened we had hope that someday maybe God had a good plan for us, and we worked through each day and the challenges therein clinging to that hope.  But with Easter that promise is partially fulfilled, or at the very least revealed.

So today as we celebrate Easter we’re each given the opportunity to accept that hope and believe in that revelation and resurrection.  To accept that God is with us in the here and now and celebrating with us. That He knows what’s going on in our lives, both good and bad, and that He knows what our future holds too.  We have a choice with how we choose to live our lives today and what we do with the time we’re given while we’re here on earth waiting to be called Home.  For the time being the challenges will remain, but we can choose to focus on the hope of Easter and the promises that Jesus brought to life when we have to face them and the not-so-good days.  I’m celebrating today, are you?

“We are the resurrection people.  We have hope.  We choose joy.  We overcome, always.”
“I want to live well in the here and now.”
Holley Gerth

Working on Wait

Today in some religious circles is the day known as Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross.  It’s a difficult day for us to think about, and it was a difficult thing for the people Jesus lived with to witness, and even more difficult for Jesus who was human to experience.  He felt what we would feel if we were crucified, He didn’t hide from the pain or use his powers as the Son of God to deflect or bypass it.  From all the records we know it was a brutal experience, which was kind of the point.  But Jesus knew what He was getting into going in because He’s Gods’ Son, and He also knew what was yet to come: the Resurrection and Easter Sunday.

We don’t always know what the end result will be in situations in our lives.  Sometimes we hope that the end we want is what will happen, sometimes we just hope for some kind of good result, other times we’re resigned to what is most likely to come.  There will always be a result, sometimes it will be what we want or hope for, other times it’s not.  But what we have to do is what Jesus did for 3 days: wait.

It’s not easy to wait, especially when we’re anticipating good things like Easter baskets or Christmas morning.  It’s also hard to wait when we know we’re faced with a not so good ending like the death of a loved one from a disease or the loss of our job when a company takes ours the one we work for.  In our fast paced world we like when things move at the speed of the internet or a fast food restaurant.  One of the reasons we wait is because while we could have a result quicker, sometimes to get to the best result it takes more time.  We’ve managed to do a lot to make things work better and happen faster in the world with all of our innovations, but two of the things we haven’t affected yet is the ability to affect the days and the time.  We’re still bound by the rules of the universe when it comes to them.

But there’s no rule that says you have to be miserable while you wait or not work towards good outcomes even if the only likely result that can occur is not a happy one. But we can make all the moments up to and following that event good ones.  I think one of the things that helped Jesus through His suffering was knowing what was on the other side of it.  We may not know what’s on the other side of our pains and life challenges, but we can certainly have the attitude that whatever it is, we’ll be able to work through it with God’s help and the help of the people in our lives.

God is Good

This week we’ll be deviating from the usual topic schedule slightly in anticipation of Easter on Sunday and this being Holy Week.  I was reading my emails today and up popped a blog post with a phrase just about every Christian has heard before.  Sometimes when we hear it we roll our eyes or feel tempted to, sometimes hearing it frustrates us, and other times we’re thankful for the reminder.  The saying?

“God is Good All the Time”

In considering Holy Week I thought this was an important topic for us to talk about.  Yes, Holy Week happened because of how good/generous/loving God is, but I know I have a hard time connecting the pain and suffering that Jesus went through with “good”.  I also have trouble with this topic thinking about all the suffering and hate in the world.  Can God really be good all the time if there’s this much pain?  The technical answer is yes, God is God, He can be good all the time.  It’s hard for us to understand how a “good” God can let us go through what we do though.

Is it technically our fault that Jesus suffered as He did and we suffer as we do, yes, it is.  But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it or intentionally choose to torture myself with suffering. Bad doesn’t have to be the in and out and up and down of my life.  So how can we see God’s goodness through something as difficult as a crucifixion?

We may not see it in the crucifixion, but we do see it in the hope that is presented through Easter Sunday and the Resurrection.  Many people have questioned as to why the cross has become the recognizable symbol for the church rather than one that’s more in line with a positive message.  One reason is that the cross certainly is a recognizable icon while something that represents the tomb would look more like a piece of jewelry or just a rock.  The cross is also a beginning, it’s the beginning of hope for everyone who believes, but that hope is only fulfilled by the resurrection.  In a way the cross is a reminder of how life is, that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that we need the rain and rest times too.

So as we begin Maundy Thursday and head into Good Friday, if you’re dealing with some dark nights here as Jesus was so many years ago, I encourage you to keep pushing through, God doesn’t give up on His people and does have an amazing hope and future planned for you.