Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter - Celebration and Reality

This is a love letter.

First, this is a love letter to my G-d, the Creator and Lord of the universe. I wouldn't be writing this without his presence in my life. All honor and glory to him, for ever and ever.

Second, this is a love letter to my wife.

Easter, as a holiday, has come and gone. We're now in the first week of Eastertide, barely inside the front door, as it were. What we celebrate at Easter, the holiday, and during Eastertide, is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus the Messiah from death. Rebirth, regeneration, renewal - these are themes that are always present during this time of year.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Is Risen

He is risen...

He must be risen. He's not there in the grave anymore. I, Simon, have seen the grave, the wrappings rolled up and at either end of the burial slab. The grave was empty - he wasn't there.

The women went there early this morning, to anoint the body, they said. I wonder how they expected to do that. The High Council of our nation had gotten guards to be posted there. It was said that the guards were there to keep us from taking his body away.

And yet... And yet, the women were able to see inside the grave. The heavy stone had been rolled away, and the guards were like dead men. They were dumbstruck, unconscious. They were no guards at all.

The grave was empty. The women saw a young man dressed in white, who told them that the Master was not there, and that we would see him soon. He wasn't there. He was not there.

How could this have been? How can the dead rise? We were told that he had died. John was given care of Jesus' mother. He was able to brave the top of Skull Hill, to actually stand there as the Master died on that cross. He was able to do that. I wish I had had the courage...

I have learned about myself from all this. I have learned that I am not as brave as I thought. I have learned that I am not as strong as I thought. I can never forgive myself for what I have done. I did not believe him. I denied him, just as he told me I would. I ran like a coward when the soldiers came and took him away. I can not forgive myself for my weakness.

He called me Peter - the Rock. How little he knew me. I am nothing like a rock. I am a weak, fearful person. Call me Simon; don't call me Peter. I am not a rock.

If he is risen, then everything is changed. Everything he told us, somehow, it must make sense. I haven't been able to understand it all. I may never understand.

I will try to be strong. I will probably fail. I have learned that I can fail despite myself.

If he is risen, then everything is changed, everything is new. What was true then, is not true now. I must understand - I can not live with myself if I fail to understand. Three years of being with him, day and night, three years of eating and drinking, listening and speaking, three years of living with him in all sorts of places. I must see it make sense.

So. I must understand this new thing, and I must live for the next day. If he has died, and then risen alive, then death is no longer a finality. Death holds less terror. Death is not an end.

So. I am Simon, called Peter, a simple man trying to understand my Master, who was called the Son of Man, and the Son of G-d. I will say that this is true. I will act as if it's true. I will believe. I will have faith.

He is risen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He Said...

He said...

He said he was the way.

    We knew he was special;
    We knew he was unique.
    Nobody taught with authority
    The way he could speak.

    He commanded the demons,
    He commanded the storms.
    He welcomed the people,
    Regardless their forms.

    He broke bread with sinners,
    And scandalized scribes.
    We heard that his betrayal
    Was paid for with bribes.

He said he was the truth.

    He called us little children.
    He called us his flock.
    He said he was Son of Man,
    Son of God, the Majesty, the Rock.

    We heard when he faced Pilate
    He affirmed his true state.
    Even so, Pilate condemned him,
    A sacrifice for those who hate.

    Pilate would not accept
    That truth might be this man.
    Even as he was handed over,
    He said this was God's plan.

He said he was the life.

    We walked with him three years,
    Throughout all this land.
    Healing, preaching, and teaching,
    Inviting and lending the Master's kind hand.

    We had such confidence,
    In the kingdom he proclaimed.
    We saw acts of power,
    For the blind, deaf, and maimed.

    We had such hope,
    That the new kingdom of heaven,
    Would set things aright...
    But now we're eleven.

He said he would be put to death.

    One of us, our own friend,
    Gave him a kiss in the garden.
    The soldiers took him away;
    He was condemned with no pardon.

    We watched from hiding,
    As he was beaten and jeered.
    When he was put before the crowd,
    They - all of them! - cheered.

    "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
    Was the cry of the hour.
    He was without friend or defender,
    Sentenced by Roman power.

He said that he would rise again.

    We can look now,
    At the bloody cross where he hung.
    His body has been taken,
    But no dirges will be sung.

    Somebody has taken him,
    Prepared him for his tomb.
    We are waiting and watching,
    Anticipating our own doom.

    It's so hard, so hard,
    To believe it ends this way.
    The night is covering us now;
    Tomorrow will be fearful day.

He said he was going to prepare a place for us.

    So we cower in fear,
    Not knowing what to think.
    We did not see the new kingdom;
    No, it's bitter wine we drink.

    Tomorrow we will see
    What we must do, where we must go.
    We must make plans for ourselves;
    There may yet be a blow.

    We sit this night in numbness,
    Still failing to comprehend
    What he meant by all he said.
    All is gone, and this is its end.

Psalm 88:18 NET Bible

"You cause my friends and neighbors to keep their distance;
those who know me leave me alone in the darkness."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ecce Homo

The Cross...

    Planted in the stoney ground,
    Blood sprinkled, pooled around,
    Dust, sand, fractured rock,
    Flinty faces, mouths that mock.

The Feet...

    Hanging limply, nailed to wood,
    Sandals missing, no more are shod.
    Journey over, the burden done,
    Battle finished, victory won.

The Hands...

    Fingers bloodied, palms scarred,
    Bearing wounds, iron nails have marred.
    Grappled with Satan, the victory sure,
    Foe defeated by the pure.

The Arms...

    Stretching outwards, embracing all,
    Open wide, overcoming the Fall.
    Raised above the redeemed earth,
    Proclaiming now a second birth.

The Head...

    Crowned with thorns on wounded brow,
    Fallen forward, no life there now.
    The cry was uttered, "It is done!"
    At the  cost of God's own Son.

The Body...

    Suspended heavy from the cross,
    No beating heart, all breath is lost.
    A tear is opened in his chest,
    Flows there mixed blood and water blest.

Behold the Man...

    Our Savior finished what he'd begun.
    The race was over, the prize was won.
    From life to death, and back again,
    Eternal life to children of men.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good Friday, Minus One...

The most holy chamber's veil rending;
Climaxes soon the life of Son of Man.

Execution's fallout soon besetting;
Disciples feel Sanhedrin's awful ban.

A Death breaks sin's iron ceiling;
God-man does what no other person can.

Bread and wine a covenant token;
A Meal shared now saves fallen man.

Master's death impact now bating;
Followers know not what to plan.

Something wonderful is about to happen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good Friday, Minus Two...

So this is our story so far...

Jesus has been an itinerant rabbi for the last three years, going around Roman-occupied Judea, followed by a motley crew of fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and ne'er-do-wells. He's been preaching about the kingdom of heaven, saying it's real, here and now, and is going to come in even more fullness after some spectacular event in the near future. His followers haven't been able to make sense of these proclamations, but they've nodded and figured that sooner or later he'd make himself clear.

The Passover, the most holy festival of the Jewish nation, is coming up soon. Everyone goes to Jerusalem to celebrate this greatest of holy days. Jesus and his disciples have come as well. His entry into the city was nothing if not unusual - he came riding in on a donkey's colt, an animal that had never been ridden. People lined the road, throwing their cloaks onto the roadway and praising g-d to the highest heavens. They declared Jesus to be "he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

The Roman soldiers guarding the city were on alert for signs of unrest, for any kind of incident that would upset the stalemate that endured in Judea. When some of them saw Jesus riding in with the crowds acclaiming him, they sent word to Pontius Pilate, the governor, that there was something unusual in the air. Pilate was prudent, and he made sure that he was kept up to date on the circumstances about this man Jesus.

Jesus didn't do anything to maintain a low profile either. He drove merchants out of the Temple courts, where they had been selling sacrificial animals and changing Roman coins into the Temple currency. This got the attention of the Sanhedrin, the high priests and their lieutenants, and they began to make plans for their own response to Jesus and the excitement surrounding him.

Soon, Thursday will dawn, and it will be time to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus has already planned to dine with his disciples. He's going to announce something to them, something they will have trouble understanding. Earth-shaking events are in the wings, but no one knows at this point what their effect will be.

The world waits for the next scene in this drama, as do we.