We Are Healed

Today is Easter Monday, it’s the day after Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead. It’s another day of celebration, just like every day is because Jesus has saved us from our sins. There are so many things we could talk about on Easter Monday, but the passage that stood out from of all of those that I read over the past day or so that came through apps, emails, sermons and other sources is Isaiah 53:4-5:

“Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”

Easter is all about hope, it is the promise of a blessed future, it is one of the biggest and best gifts anyone could ever get. But sometimes we forget the connection between Easter and Good Friday and that’s the forgiveness we’re given, the clean slate, the opportunity to heal from our past. There is pain and suffering in our world, something that will continue until we’ve finished this life. We talk plenty about the suffering, but we don’t talk about what should come next as much, and that’s healing.

I know that Jesus is God’s son and therefore could never be only human, but during the 30 some years that He spent on earth He was ‘fully human and fully divine’. So the days following Easter and the Resurrection were important for multiple reasons. First because Jesus had to prove that He had risen, that He wasn’t dead and that Salvation has been realized. Second, I think it was important for Jesus to have some time to say goodbye to those who had come to mean so much to Him on a very personal level, and have some time to heal from what was undoubtedly a very traumatic experience for Him and those who loved Him.

Yes, it’s important to move forward in our lives after bad things happen, but there’s no shame in taking time to heal, and getting help if you need it. Sometimes that help means reaching out to other people, other times the only one that can help us find any peace or begin to heal is God. If we’re honest about it many of us have something in our past or even our presence that needs some healing. If that’s the case for you I would encourage you to accept the healing that Easter brings and begin to work on healing your hurts.

It Is Finished

Today we take a moment to be quiet and remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for all of us. It’s humbling and sobering that death is the only way to be saved, and not even our death, but the death of another. Jesus’ death on the cross is one of the final steps of His mission on earth. He has worked through childhood, teenage years, young adulthood and 3 years of active teaching and ministry. The events leading directly up to Good Friday include visiting the Temple and ranting against those trying to take advantage of people there to worship, riding the streets of Jerusalem on a donkey with the crowds shouting ‘Hosanna,’ one last Passover supper with His closest friends, betrayal by one of those friends, trial in front of the spiritual leaders, trial before Governor Pilate, carrying His cross to be crucified and then the actual crucifixion and death.

Jesus lived more in his 30 some years that some of us do in 3 times that many years. He certainly endured more in these weeks and days than almost all of us ever will. Jesus had a closer relationship with God than any of us ever could, and yet on this His darkest day He felt like some of us do, that God had forgotten Him, was ignoring Him, or didn’t care any more about Him.

The book of John in the Bible shares that Jesus’ last words were “It is finished,” and for 3 days He was dead. It seemed like the story was over, there was no victory to be had. Everyone was shocked that He died and that it didn’t seem like He was who they thought He was, who He said He was.

In some ways His work was completed, He had finished the task He came there to do, dying for our sins. Being free from our sins is a huge deal, it’s not something we can do for ourselves and not something just anyone can do for us. It’s not something that can be taken from us, it’s a gift to us at the price of Jesus’ life. But Jesus went and did one better, He rose Easter Sunday morning and gave us the gift of eternal life.

So today I encourage you to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made and how He has freed us from our past, closing the book on those chapters of our lives.  We don’t have to look back, we don’t have to let the past dictate our futures.  Maybe today is the day to let go of something that you’ve been holding on to for too long, or something that has been holding you back.  If Jesus was willing to go through death to free us for all eternity, surely we can work through the discomfort or fears that we feel about breaking from our past.  After all, Easter Sunday followed Jesus’ death 3 days later, so we should have hope that our free futures would be just as bright.

Standing in Sacred Spaces

As we head towards Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Passover and Easter Sunday, it’s a time when many people are planning to attend church, even if it’s not something they do on a regular basis. Some will make a point to check in with a TV or online church service, while many others will take the time to go to a physical church or synagogue. During this “Holy Week” people attend church more frequently than they normally do, some going 6 or more times. And that’s great, if you have the opportunity and feel moved to attend church you should.

But the Bible doesn’t talk about Jesus going to traditional church services. Yes, He did lead many spiritual sessions and taught in front of many crowds in a whole variety of places from boats to hills to water wells. But the two most notable times that Jesus spends specifically alone in God’s presence are the 40 days that He wanders the wilderness, and the hours He spends in the Garden of Gethsemane the night He was arrested. In preparation for the biggest hours and days of His short life Jesus takes time in a garden to stop, reflect, and pray. For Jesus this simple olive garden was the sacred space where He felt closest to God.

Yes, go to church this weekend, be with people who share the faith with you, celebrate the resurrection with other believers in the space you all call God’s home. But I also encourage you to spend some time in the places and spaces that feel sacred to you, where you have personally connected with God. Maybe that’s going to a church during an open prayer time where people are allowed to just come and go and say prayers or just sit in God’s house. Maybe that is a park or garden or other outdoor space where you go to be alone and let it be just you and God. Maybe it’s a dedicated spiritual space like a retreat center, monastic or other spiritual community that people spend their days and lives in and welcome the community as well. Whatever your sacred spaces are I encourage you to find time to visit them this week and connect with the God who gave you life, has forgiven you and has given you eternal life.

Life Fulfilled

Lent is only part of the story, and leads to the good stuff, the main event, the finale if you will. Lent is all the studying you do before that big test, all the prep you do before that big meeting, all the cleanup you do before the guests. It’s important because of what it leads to, what it prepares you for, not because of what it itself is.

Each day with each choice we make, each interaction we have, each step we take is all writing our story. As people of faith we have God helping to guide the story, leading us to meet the people we need to meet and be there for those who need to meet us, bringing us through the experiences we need and others need us to have, and generally supporting us through the humbling, sobering, heart breaking moments of real life.

And that’s what it comes down to. What would people say if they were to read your story? In one of my Lent devotionals that just finished were the following words:

“At the end of His life, Jesus says” ‘it is finished.’ He looked back on His life and decided to lay down His life. It as if this reflection now takes Him to a place of contentment where He can die. This is significant. Jesus died as He lived – fulfilled.” Mosaïek Church

Good Friday and Easter are both crucial because they do show that Jesus fulfills His life purpose and the promises He made when He came to earth. But technically Jesus only had to do the 3 days of Christmas, Good Friday and Easter to fulfill that promise: He lived, died and rose again. It’s those 30 some years in between those 3 days that Jesus intentionally chose how He wanted to spend His time, and as the quote above says, He chose to live every moment to the fullest.

I believe that what we read in the Bible is only a fraction of the amazing things Jesus did on earth, the personal interactions He had with people, the lives He touched. Jesus may have only been on earth for 30 some years, but He made the most of each day, experience, relationship, interaction and opportunity, especially the last few years. But even with all the ways that Jesus lived, I think the way He really filled in the moments were best seen when He took a moment to talk with someone one-on-one, or in taking time to love on the children, or never giving up on the Pharisees, and even in the moments when He was so very human like when Lazarus died or He took a nap on a boat.

Life is made up of countless moments big and small. Just like Jesus you’ve got a choice: you don’t have to live a fulfilling life, but if given the choice why wouldn’t you?

(This is a bit of the weekly devotional I sent out this week, click here if you’d like to learn more or subscribe)

The Party Before The Win

Today I have more of a question to think over with you than the usual reflections. I’m thinking about the fact that the celebration of Palm Sunday (which is happening this coming Sunday) comes before the sobering events of Good Friday which are followed by the celebration of Easter. How often do we celebrate before the sad event and after it? Why did it happen this way?

Let’s start with a bit of context and a timeline so we’re all on the same page. After being on earth for some 30 years, and doing public ministry for 3 years Jesus’ time on earth is wrapping up. In the Bible Palm Sunday (also known as the Triumphant Entry) happens less than a week before the Last Supper (the time of celebrating the Passover and the initial event of the Lord’s Supper) which comes right before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, which comes 3 days before His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. During Palm Sunday there was a large crowd that gathered and shouted “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord” while they spread garments and leafy branches on the road for the donkey to walk on that Jesus was riding on. Then a week or so later we get to Easter on which a few women find the tomb Jesus had been buried in empty, they have a brief encounter with Jesus and then they tell the apostles what had happened (Jesus eventually appears to them and others before going back to heaven some 40 days later).

So back to the question: why this big Palm Sunday celebration? It almost feels like you’re celebrating the winner of the big sports event of the year before the event is played. Maybe because God knew how much cover-up from the government there would be after the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, so there couldn’t be as public an event. Maybe because Easter was meant to be a more holy celebration and not a party. Maybe because Palm Sunday was for everyone but Easter is only for those who believe. Maybe because God enjoys a good celebration as much as we do and saw an opportunity to reveal (and celebrate) the truth. Maybe it was to just give Jesus the proper recognition of who He was.

I invite you to share your thoughts on the party before the party, and to remember to celebrate the King this Palm Sunday.

Ready for Blessings

Lent is a time for reflection, both on our relationship with God and on how we’re living our lives, and often that opens up to some very sobering realizations. But as I was reading one of the Lent devotionals I’ve subscribed to, they shared a passage and a perspective that got me thinking. The passage they shared was one of the many about the story of Abraham, or at the time he was known as Abram. The passage from Genesis 12 shares God’s promise to Abram, that God was giving Abram and his descendents the land of the Canaanites.

Abram/Abraham went through many tests and trials in his lifetime, he wasn’t perfect and made some cringe-worthy decisions and mistakes. But he was one of the few who had a very up close and personal relationship with God, and God gave him some of the biggest blessings anyone in the Bible got, including the blessing in Genesis 12, of lots of land.

Maybe the realization that you’re coming to in this time of reflection and evaluation, is that you’re not asking God for the blessings, especially the big ones, or expecting that God can send blessings your way. It’s not about being stuck in the challenges of this life, but about believing that even when life is challenging God is still sending blessings your way daily, including big ones. Maybe it’s time to remember that after these 40 days of searching and humility and the death of Jesus we get to the celebration of Easter and Jesus’ resurrection, which is a gift and promise of eternal life to all who believe.  I’m ready for some blessings, what about you?

Getting through Lent with Grace

We’re a week into our journey of Lent for this year and I’m working through a couple of different Lent devotionals. I’ve been enjoying them because they each bring a different perspective to this journey that we’re on and to spiritual life as well. One of the things I struggle with regarding Lent may be something that you struggle with as well, and that’s the continual focus on our sins. I know it’s important to recognize our sins, to ask for forgiveness of them and to make changes in our lives based on not living those sins, but it’s not exactly encouraging to talk about our failings all the time.

Maybe it’s my fault because I’m immersing myself in Lent and not just reading one devotional each day, since it gives me a lot more exposure to the topic of Lent and those that go along with it like looking at your failings. On the other side of the story sometimes it’s good for us to really take a solid look at all aspects of our lives. About how we treat people, how we use our resources, how we treat ourselves, how we think, how we worship, how we go through our day-to-day lives. Taking 40 days out of 365 to make sure we’re leading lives God would be proud of isn’t so bad.

Since we’re human we know we’re going to mess up as we go through life, it’s a consistent messing up-seeking forgiveness-healing cycle. The reason we can do the solid 40 days of Lent and reflecting on our imperfections is because we know that after doing the hard work there will be a great reward, and that’s the celebration of Easter and the promise of God’s eternal love. Whether this Lent journey speaks to you and invites you to take time for reflection more frequently throughout the whole year, or you just take this time to experience God’s grace and love, I encourage you to be open to whatever God will be showing you.

“Lent is a time for us to take an honest look at ourselves and receive the grace of Jesus’ healing love.” Loyola Press