What Happened on Easter Saturday?

Here’s a pondering for you:
What happened on Easter Sunday?
Where were the disciples? -Probably hiding.
What was Pilot doing?
What was Mary doing?  – In Mourning no doubt.
What of the women disciples?  -Most likely preparing to visit the tomb the following day.
It was Sabbath after all.

What of the soldiers who stood at the foot of the cross?  Where were they now?
The one that is hardest to answer, because none of us has seen the spiritual realm – Where was Jesus?  What did it take to come back?  What were the reactions of the Angels and that of the Fallen Angels, and they of Satan himself?

What exactly happened on this day?
Some might say, “well it isn’t for us to know.”
I might contend that this entire salvation story is because of us – as people fallen.
I just wonder if Jesus went to hell, what took place there?
I would love to be the proverbial fly on the wall during that encounter.

angelsWe always talk about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and that of His wondrous resurrection, but perhaps the most amazing feat in this whole story of love and redemption is what took place beyond the veil.  Beyond our human, mortal vision.  How Jesus vanquish death, conquered sin, and, though the final battle hasn’t happened yet, ultimately beat the fallen angels – they never stood a chance as Creator took back what was rightfully His to give and take away.

What happened on Saturday?
Ah, don’t underestimate Saturday.
For though we see Sunday as victory, as well we should,  on Saturday (Jewish Sabbath) we ought to consider and contemplate that beyond the veil Jesus standing in victory within the spiritual realm as well.

Something more to ponder today!
Don’t you ever wonder too?

Redemption’s Call (An Easter Poem)

…And then it came to pass
that my heart was rent and broken,
turmoil spilled the spoken word
with nail and sword they killed my Lord. free

The veil was torn
redemption born
the Lamb was made to bleed.
For He stepped in
relieved my sin
and we are free indeed.


As the cost explodes the night
no grave can hold Eternal’s light
For we’ve been bought –
from blind to sight
The God-man, love’s true might.

And here we are – a second chance
from sin’s cold grasp to love’s first glance
the choice is ours, redemption’s call
His blood can cleanse and heal us all.
…His love WILL heal and cleanse us all.

SES
3/24/16


 

A Pondering: “Walking Into Good Friday”

This week, I want to focus on our memories of Good Friday.
Easter Sunday you ask?  -We’ll get to that.
But this week let us zone in on the influence these Fridays (the ones we can recall from years past) have played into our lives.  I share with you a glimpse into my 11 year-old self…enduring Three Hours of the Cross: pew

I remember as a boy being told that we would be going to a meeting that would last at least three hours.  I remember my dismay and outrage at such a thing.  I thought to myself, “why would anyone want to sit for three hours in a church service?”  I remember falling asleep during a particularly long quiet part of the service.  This three hours of the cross was truly agonizing to an 11 year old.  I was impatient.  I understood the symbolism, but three hours?

Of course I didn’t get it.  Most children at that age couldn’t tolerate sitting through another service in the week, let alone three hours.  But what I didn’t know then, I know now.  I recognize what that service was suppose to portray.  I understand the meaning pew2behind it now.  I can still feel those uncomfortable chairs to this day…yet it doesn’t compare to the backbreaking anguish of the cross Jesus faced.  I can recall how bored I was (again I was 11).  I had pen and had probably written on every service of the service program.  There were some wonderful musical pieces share that day.  For the life of my I cannot tell you one of them, for they are lost in my memory.  I do not remember anything about the content of the service, because I was so consumed with my own comfort and attention.

I do remember with startling clarity the ending of the service.  arms
As I lovely call it now: the “it is finished” benediction, and with a exhalation of jubilance in my new found freedom – I bolted swiftly out of that hall, like a gazelle from the clutches of a lion.  I was no longer a prisoner to the pew, pen and church bulletin.  I. Was. Free.
I recall how fresh the air felt on my face felt when I stepped outside.  I felt like prisoner on parole…I was walking free again.  It’s funny how a three hour service can feel like a prison to an 11 year old child.

I confess this memory has very little to do with the cross than it did with an 11 year old selfish child.  Perhaps the only thing this memory shared with a cross was the perceived agony of three hours.  Yet I still remember it vividly, and isn’t it odd, that I now remember it with such admiration and fondness?

How about your memories of of Good Friday? friday2
Share them with us.  Describe the place you participated in a service.  Where were you?
Tomorrow I will share another memory of another Good Friday service that I can recall.

The purpose?
fridayPerhaps we missed something along the way.
Perhaps as we ponder it together, we will recall how we felt then, and engage in our emotional and spiritual state today – here and now.  Maybe, like me, you will see just how far you’ve come.  And as we discover ourselves in these tales retold – I believe we discover once again Christ’s humble and loving sacrifice for us.  We discover His suffering, shame, and gift to all those who would seek Him.

Ponder with me this week.
Do you have a recollection or memory?
Comment below, share and join the Good Friday Ponderings!
Hastag – #Goodfridayponderings

A Pondering On Palm Sunday – Do We Get It?

I wonder how wrong we get it sometimes?
What I mean is the gospel story is for the whosoever, but are there times when it think we know who that “whosoever” is?   Didn’t Samuel think he knew who the next king would be that God was appointing?  -He wasn’t even close.  How close are we to fully understanding the grace and love of God?  Do we quickly gloss over the “love your enemies” for a more palatable gospel sometimes?

They Didn’t Get It…
The crowds gathered to welcome a king on that day… palm3
They closed in on that narrow street, waving their green tendrils of palm fronds and carefully placing their cloaks on the ground for Jesus to enter royally into Jerusalem.  The trees leaned in as if to pay attention to the happenings on that day.  Somewhere, further down, a dog barks feeling threatened by the surging crowds.

Jesus on a young colt passes by.
His expression isn’t regal and joyous, is it perplexed?

Songs and chants break out, as if to celebrate his arrival.
Do they know who He truly is…do we?
The Passover crowds repeat a mantra as Jesus passes,
Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
Is this final acceptance of Messiah?
No, not in the way that Jesus had come.

The people wanted a hero to save them.  romans
They were looking for a warrior king to deliver them from Roman oppression.
Other “messiahs” had come.  All of them with the sword in hand and a thirst for blood in their words.  They all had met a gruesome end, perhaps this final outcome is the only similarities to Jesus.   For while these messiahs had come to shed blood, it wasn’t their blood that they wished to spill.  How different a Savior is Jesus though?  For His entrance into Jerusalem is marked by rejoicing from the ones who would soon cry “Crucify Him!”

palm4Jesus rides through the victory chants and “pats on the back“, and He knows that this road to salvation and deliverance will cost so much more than the crowds understand.  This moment will burn into the memories of His disciples.  When the scales fall off and true comprehension of it all finally sinks in.

Amongst the welcoming revelers, a few Pharisees had gathered.  They were appalled at the celebration chants and singing.  They piously run up to Jesus and tell him to quiet His disciples.  They try to keep the peace, for they do not wish to tip the balance of power that is currently in their favor.  Jesus looks at them and says “I tell you, if they remain silent the very stones will cry out!” He understands their longing.  He comprehends the political tension in the air, conflict is pressing tightly in.  There will be no stopping the momentum of rejoicing today.  For although the people cry out for a king, Jesus had come to give them something so much more – the King of Kings, ever present with the whosoever.

They didn’t understand it.
The people wanted a rebellion.
They wanted war and a show of force against the mighty Roman empire.
They desired a war path that led to their deliverance.
Jesus wept over the city.  He knew that to many, His message would fall on deaf ears, and it pained him to look out into the city.  He mourned over their choice.  He could see the day fast approaching that would lead to their demise – and He wept.

Do We Get It? 
Do we comprehend what Jesus has done and is doing today in our world?
How much of what He wishes to accomplish with His people falls upon deaf ears?
Do we interpret His intentions incorrectly?  Are we too bent on our own motivations and expectations to simply stop and listen to His holy presence as He attempts to whisper into our lives His will for us?  God’s presence is still here with us.  He is still moving and active among us, but do we get it?  Are we listening?  Or do we just do our own thing and attempt to string God along as we strive in our own strength?

Are we singing His praises for the right reasons as we wave our palm fronds and lay down our cloaks?  Or do we get caught up in our own intentions and wishes?  This faith journey isn’t an easy one.  Does He sometimes weep over us when we miss the mark?

I don’t say this to make us feel guilty today, I just wonder if we truly “get it”?
He wants our hearts.
He wants our fellowship.
He was not a portion of our lives – but the whole of it!
Are we will to not just lay down our cloaks, but our lives for His use and service regardless of the outcome and the sacrifices that we will have to make?  THIS is what taking up our crosses and following Him means!  (Matthew 16:24-26)

May your Palm Sunday usher in His presence not just in your chapels and sanctuaries with joyous singing, but (more importantly) into your hearts and lives.

So be it.

What Is Lent? Is It Emphasized Enough In The Salvation Army?

lent

I am able to write today on pastorsponderings.org because here in Minnesota (where I live) it is a balmy -25 with a windchill of up to -45.  Needless to say our worship services have been canceled today.   That being said, I wanted to ruminate for a moment on the topic of Lent.  Lent is a forty day period leading up to Good Friday and ultimately Easter Sunday.  It is an important season within the universal Christian church – throughout all denominations.  It is interesting to note that Lent is a forty day period which does not include the Sundays leading up to Easter.  One might wonder why the Sundays are not included in the “40 days”.  The easy answer is that each Sunday is traditionally its own mini Easter in and of itself.  Talk about building to a glorious finale’ within something so profound and life changing!

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.” (source: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-lent-and-why-does-it-last-forty-days)

Lent is so much more than giving something up for 40 days.  I once tried giving up coffee for lent…THAT did not end well!

Lent is more than performing the Lord’s Supper in services.  lent1
It should be an act of self-denial as we contemplate what Salvation means to us and that of this most important relationship with Christ.   His ultimate sacrifice and victory over sin and death leads us into this deeper contemplation and acts of self-denial.  Can we afford to restrict ourselves?  Can we afford to deny our bodies from something important to us?  Some might contend that the extreme “self denial” act was demonstrated in the form of the old controversial act of self flagellation.  I certainly do not recommend this method of “religious practice”.   Christ suffered and died for our sins and though some used to contend that self flagellation was a means to become more “Christ-like” self torture is just too extreme and I believe not what Christ had in mind when He said “Do this in remembrance of me”.

flagUnder-Emphasis
There is the danger of avoiding the Lenten season all together and I would not recommend this route.
Leading worshipers into these times of self-reflection and spiritual walks which leads to the cross and the tomb is vital.  If we avoid such potential sacred moments with our flock, we could be depriving them of facing the cross all together.  It is more than the cross.  It is more than the empty tomb.  It is about what Jesus has done for the very fabric of existence in the souls of men and women everywhere.

Secondly, Lent can be an intense refocusing of our great commission here on earth.  Revisiting the Divine in this way can provide us better eyes to see our neighbors, our friends, families and especially enemies.  Christ died for everyone.  He came for the whosoever and He longs for right relations with ALL, not just a select few.

When we under-emphasize this potentially sacred time in the yearly calender, we run the risk of under-emphasizing Salvation as a whole.  We remove some of the mystery of God himself.  I believe we run the risk of stripping down Holiness and depriving those who need it most.  We ought not shy away from Lent, we ought to embrace it in the hopes of drawing closer to Christ-likeness.

ritualsIt’s Not About Rituals, It’s About Holy Relationship!
Some might suggest that the practice of Lent is a little too “High Church” for The Salvation Army.   Some might ask, “well what do you consider the entire practice of “Lent” to be?  I fear that The Army steers too clear of any formal High Church practice because of the notion that most constituents would not understand or because there is no spiritual value in its practice.   I beg to differ.   I am not saying that we ought to pick up some waffers and some grape juice, but I am saying that If we practice and preach Self-denial, then we ought to be preaching a lenten message as well.   One of the big questions is – are we ONLY preaching self-denial in conjunction with World Services?  Are we only preaching self-denial in conjunction with fundraising in our corps?  I hope not!  With the right direction, Corps Officers and Local Officers can lead all corps members into a vital and precious season of Lent.

There is a lot to discuss here.
I will not dive too deeply today.
I only want to start the conversation again.
This is a primer of sorts, as we wade into the kiddie section of the pool.  😉

Questions:
In being “non-sacramental” in practice, are we really emphasizing the transformed life in sacramental living (My life must be Christ’s Broken Bread)?
If not how can we improve this?
How is “Self-denial” emphasized in your corps?
Is Self-denial important to you?
Is the Lenten season important for The Salvation Army?
Can we emphasize the Lenten Season while refraining from what we perceive to be “unimportant rituals”?
Has your Corps ever conducted a traditional Sader Feast?
Is there/should there be a correlation between our spiritual act of self-denial and lent?
What does prayer and fasting mean to you?
Is the practice of Lent really THAT important?

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Seeking Dead-Jesus… (a reflection of Mary at the tomb)

I keep thinking about Mary encountering Jesus in the garden post-death.
Imagine it with me if you can:

She is going there to properly take care of his dead body.
She is going there to shed a few more tears in private.
She is going there to say goodbye.
Her heart is as heavy as a led balloon.
She just can’t wake up from this nightmare.
Rising early that morning, a night wrought with bad dreams and sleeplessness, she heads directly to the grave.
Call it a moment to convince herself that He’s really gone.
Call it a part of the mourning process.

Rounding the last turn in the overgrown garden she comes upon a sight that she cannot quite explain.
Reason fails her and she is pauses a step to take in the scene attempting to comprehend it all – His grave is open.   Picking up the pace, she closes in on the tomb and enters all in one quick motion.  The place where they had laid Jesus is empty,  it is vacant.  Had the authorities changed their minds?  What happened to the body of her teacher, her rabbi?

Mary runs back and gets the disciples who, upon hearing this troubling news, run to the tomb to check it out for themselves.

Fresh tears begin to well up in her eyes as a lump forms in her throat as this all takes place.
Where is Jesus?
Why had they done this?
Could they not have left Him be, allowing this one ounce of dignity?

griefStepping back out of the tomb, the early sun begins to crest the horizon and spills effortlessly out upon the garden igniting it in hues of orange and red.  Mary doesn’t know what to do.  She is dumb-founded.  Mary peers again into the tomb to make sure she has seen it correctly, as grief can often cloud the ruffled edges of judgment and understanding.   Then…something catches her eye – two angelic forms standing beside the place where dead-Jesus had been laid.  They speak to her.  “Woman, why are you crying?” they ask…as if the meaning of death and loss meant nothing.  But Mary swallows back tears and replies “They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have put Him.”    Uttering this very statement is like releasing the floodgates in a dam and her resolve breaks and so does her heart.

Suddenly, a shadow passes between her and the fire branded sunrise.  It is the silhouette of a man.  It MUST be the gardener coming to tend to the property before the hot sun engulfs and wilts the plants.  It must be someone who knows something about where Jesus has be taken.  Once again, the question is asked of her, this time by the man standing silhouetted in front of her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”  Again Mary sniffles and forces out a tired, bitter response amidst her flowing tears “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

She is at the end of her strength.
She is beyond heart-sick.
At the very least this can be done – recovering Jesus’ body.

Then, something remarkable happens – the dead speaks.
The man before her says one word that brings water to a desert.
This one word means more than the content of thousands of words meticulously strewn together in a book.
He speaks this one word and the storms of mourning cease.
He speaks this one word and shattered pieces of her heart become whole again.  mary
MARY.
In her weakest state she recognizes just who He is.
In her tear-blurred eyes and flood of grieving heart, she finds renewed strength in His presence.
She calls out to Him by His respected title – ““Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Mary is overwhelmed with joy.
She is filled with relief.
The sun, now in its fuller light shines upon the son of God in all of His resurrected glory.
He is alive!
_____________________________________________________________________________________
I keep coming back to this story because often we too keep going to back to the empty tombs in our lives.
We keep coming up with the wrong conclusions.
Doubt casts its shadow upon our faith and it weighs heavily on us.
Doubt blurs our resolve and shakes our foundations of belief.
We stoop down into that tomb time and time again and we forget that we do not serve a dead-savior, but a risen one.
We need to look up and see Him.
We need to recognize our teacher.
We need to find Him once more for ourselves.
He wipes away our tears and longs for us to cry out to Him.

Will you?
Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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