Saturday


This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.  As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law. Luke 23:54-56

Holy Saturday. The day Jesus was completely dead.

One of the concepts that I keep coming across this year is hope. The first emphasis of Advent is Hope. Since then, hope has continued to show up in conversations, books, and scripture studies. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to have hope, or to be hopeless.

In thinking about today, I was struck with the gravity of hopelessness that the friends of Jesus must have experienced on this day… the day after Jesus is buried. All of their hope for their future had been wrapped up in this man. Many of them really believed he was the only hope for their lives and their nation. He was the answer to their freedom. He was the one bringing about the kingdom of heaven. He was it!

But then he was dead.

Hope was dead.

Yet, if they had paid closer attention, they would have realized what was going on… Jesus told them this would happen (Luke 18:31-34). There was a greater plan that went even beyond that for which they could hope. Jesus had not actually left them without hope!

But Saturday still happened- I can’t imagine a day on which contrast between hope and hopeless was ever greater. In some ways, I believe I need Saturday to really understand Sunday. The hope that is resurrected on Sunday is made so much more significant because of Saturday! So while I am reminded what life could be like without hope, I am also encouraged to realize that God does not ever leave us without hope. Even on the worst day ever, there was still a glimmer of hope.IMG_0093


Good Friday 2013


IMG_2386Good Friday. The day that marks the death of Jesus. It is a day I have been looking forward to for a couple of months now. This weekend will mark the end of the Lenten Season as we celebration the death and resurrection of Jesus. The focus for many Christians the last 43 days, has been on our desperate need for a savoir. Many have sacrificed something as a constant reminder of the sacrifice it was for Jesus to live on earth and ultimately die.

Now we have reached Good Friday. By the end of the weekend, our entire focus will have shifted. From desperation to rejoicing; from despair to victory- but not quite yet. I am glad we know what is coming on Easter. But today is the time to live in the moment of Jesus’ death.

Here is Matthew’s account of the day Jesus died….

Matthew 27

New Living Translation (NLT)

Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders of the people met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,

“They took the thirty pieces of silver—
the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,
10 and purchased the potter’s field,
as the Lord directed.”

11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him.

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. 16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)

19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”

20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?”

The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”

22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

27 Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. 29 They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. 31 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

32 Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. 33 And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 34 The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it.

35 After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 36 Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. 37 A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. 40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.

45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

47 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 48 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. 49 But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, 52 and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 53 They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

54 The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

55 And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

57 As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, 58 went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. 59 Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. 60 He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. 61 Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

62 The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. 63 They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ 64 So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

65 Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” 66 So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.


Today’s Blog is Brought to You by….


Do you remember watching Sesame Street as a kid? Or maybe now you have a kid who enjoys a bit of time “where the air is sweet.” Either way, if you ever visited Sesame Street, then you know how nearly every episode is “Brought to you by the letter __.” One of the most famous letter sponsorships is the letter C. Cookie Monster is a serious star when the episode is brought Letter Cto us by the letter C! So each episode would emphasize learning a specific letter or number and it would show up in various segments through out the time. Quite cleaver teaching, really!

Recently I have felt like God has been trying to teach me something and it is like my life is being “brought to me by….” It amazes me and I really enjoy watching common themes rise to the surface of life (must be my Connectedness strength). Lately, I have thought that if someone could look into the lesson God has been teaching me, they could say, “This season of life is brought to you by PRAYER.”

Learning more about prayer has come up in so many pockets lately. Nothing extravagantly new has arisen. But the deep significance and importance of prayer is inescapable.

I found this in one of my readings during this Lent season. It’s an excerpt from a devotional by N.T. Wright, Lent for Everyone. It has been one of the things that is challenging me to take seriously my time in prayer.

Faith is like a small window through which you can see a vast landscape, and the landscape in question is the sovereign power of the creator God and the overwhelming glory of Jesus himself…. We stand at that window, doing our best to wipe it clean from the condensation of our own unbelieving breath, and holding on, as we do so, to those for whom we want to pray. When you read the stories of remarkable Christians down the years, and in our own time too, again and again you find tales of people who have stood at that window, gazing out on the landscape of God’s power and love, and gradually bringing the rest of the world, and the people for whom they were praying, into healing focus in relation to it. We need more people like that.

The most important Christians are not the ones who preach great sermons and write great books, but the ones who pray, and pray, and pray some more, sharing the quiet but effective victory of Jesus over all that defaces God’s creation.

What I have realized again, is that unless I actually make time, on purpose, to pray, it will not happen. That is kind of an obvious statement. But I have to admit that I am often guilty of saying I will pray about something, but then just thinking about it really quick while I’m headed to the next “thing.”  But if I do not make time to pray, then how can I ever help bring those around me into healing focus? Seeing God’s healing and restoration is something that I want to see! I believe I can help bring it about- but only by prayer.

You know, at the end of it, I think I my great hope is that when I reach the end of a day I can actually say, “Today was brought to you by PRAYER.” That would be pretty awesome.


More than sports


Tonight is the celebration time for our Upward Sports league here in Ontario. The last 11 weeks we have been practicing and playing basketball or cheer leading with a huge group of elementary kids. All of our coaches and referees are volunteers from our church and our community. They give a lot of time and energy to their team to make the experience great! Our goal is to use the sport as the avenue to share what we believe is the most important thing: God’s love demonstrated through Jesus. We love the sport- but the sport is not the only thing we are after.

I have a confession though. During the season, I can get a little too into the sport and the details of the league, and forget that it’s the moments beyond the sport experience that really matter. That is generally when God orchestrates a moment to remind me that this is so much more than just basketball or cheer. One of the those moments happened last week at the last game day.

IMG_2214We have a young man on our coaching team named Jeremy. Jeremy is a guy with special  needs. A few years ago, he started helping coach and has been a part of the coaching team since. During the off season he will stop those who he knows involved with Upward and ask when practices start! He is so excited about basketball!

This season he was part of the Liberty team, a 4th-6th grade girls team. It is really fun to see him at practices and games on the sideline cheering and coaching. And he is very faithful to come to practices and games! He even got a group of friends to come watch his game one week. That was pretty awesome.

So last week was our last game day and Coach Jeremy had something IMG_2208special for his team. He brought every player a homemade card with a message from “Assistant Coach.”

 

IMG_2209I got to watch as he handed out each card to each player- he even brought candy to give them. Each card was handed over, on purpose, to each girl from his team… It was a cool thing to watch. Each of the girls smiled, said thank you, and beamed as they read their cards from Coach Jeremy.

It made me think again that this is so much more than just a sports experience. We are creating a place where Jeremy can be part of a team; a place where kids can build friendships with a guy like Jeremy; a place that, hopefully, shows God’s love no matter what walk of life we come from.  It has got to be more than just basketball and cheer… This is why I like being part of Upward Sports. When we do it right, it helps facilitate (through sports) an atmosphere that pushes us into what really matters in life.


Words Are Important


Something really awesome happened on Sunday. We were reading from John 13 and one of the kids caught what seemed like a very little phrase… Here is what happened.

We were going along, reading a little at a time, and asking questions; Who are the characters? What is happening? What is the setting? We started at verse 21 and we were headed to chapter 14 verse 1, when one of the girls suddenly had a very perplexed look on her face.

“Wait!” She interjected, “Wasn’t it already night time? Aren’t they at dinner? Why does it say ‘and it was night?’ Why does it need to say that?”

Enter awesome moment!

“Well,” I said, “The writer is using his words on purpose, every word is trying to help us understand something. So what would ‘it was night’ help us understand about what is happening?”

This led us into a whole discussion about what “night” communicates to us…. Our basic conclusion: the things we are generally the most afraid of seem to happen at night, when it’s dark. We tend to be the most nervous and scared at night. DSCN5705.JPG

At this point of the story in scripture, we decided the author is trying to help us understand that this is one of the darkest, scariest moments for the disciples… Jesus is even described as “troubled.” Jesus knows what is happening next, but the disciples are still clueless! But they are getting nervous about things… they are headed into one of the scariest times of their lives. But that is what makes Jesus’ words in John 14:1 so amazing.

In the middle of the scariest moment, Jesus says this:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

When we understand and really look at the words in the passage, I think it brings a new significance out for us. I’ve seen and heard John 14:1 a lot. But the time on Sunday really paying attention to the words around it was significant.

IMG_0530As we wrapped up on Sunday, I asked one last question, “What does this mean for us?” This is what we concluded: In the middle of the night, when everything seems to be the most threatening, the scariest, the darkest, we need to hear Jesus say, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” We don’t need to be overcome by fear; we can trust Jesus even in the darkest time.

It was a really good lesson in children’s church on Sunday…


Forgiveness


I have been learning more about prayer lately. The things I am learning are coming a lot from our time as a congregation praying. We have set aside time on Tuesday mornings to gather and pray. It has been incredible.Prayer

Learning to pray is significant. So significant that the disciples actually asked Jesus to teach them. Prayer was a very important part of Jesus’ activity. There are moments in scripture that describe him going off to pray all night. In Matthew 6, Jesus gives instructions on how to pray:

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:5-15 ESV)

I have to admit that I struggle with that last part…. The part about my forgiveness for others influencing God’s forgiveness of me. One of the readings I came across during this Lent season described the connection between prayer and forgiveness in a very good way. It helped me so I wanted to share it with you.

If prayer is about heaven and earth coming together at one time, in one place, within the lump of clay we call ‘me’, then it’s going to change this person called ‘me’. In particular, it’s going to make me a forgiver. Jesus was quite clear about this. All of us have been hurt, wounded, slighted, annoyed by other people. How much more have we ourselves done that to God! Yet we want him to be with us, to hear us, and — yes! — to forgive us. How can we not be forgivers too?(N.T. Wright, Lent For Everyone,Day 7)

God is willing to forgive me. So why would I not forgive others? And how could I approach God without humility, knowing I am forgiven? And if I have been forgiven, then as I pray, I am changed and forgiving others is a natural response from time spent talking to the one who forgives me.


God the Father


Here is a thoughts from our John reading today….

One of the things that is standing out to me as I read through John this season, is the relationship between Jesus and God. Jesus was very serious about doing only what his Father wanted. Jesus really did have a very deep Father-Son relationship with God.

Part of this relationship is described to us in John 14:8-14. Jesus, at one point, says to Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” Jesus will not do anything without knowing that it is what his Father wants him to do! It’s an amazing relationship…

It makes me wonder what would be different for me if I worked on deepening my relationship with God…

John 14:8-14

English Standard Version (ESV)

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.