Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What If The Tomb was NOT Empty?

What if the tomb wasn’t empty? Can you imagine if those who went to the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter morning and found his body just as they laid him three days earlier? No stone removed and the soldiers standing guard.  If the tomb is not empty then Jesus was just another guy like many who proclaimed to be the son of God. If the tomb is not empty we can just chalk up Jesus’ life as a lunatic who helped people. If the tomb is empty Jesus’ words of grace and mercy are just broken promises like a politician’s speech. If the tomb is not empty then we must wait for the real Savior and the authentic Messiah. If the tomb is not empty the crowd and public opinion wins out over truth. If the tomb is not empty then the religious leaders were right and by killing Jesus as they protected the authority of the church. If the tomb is not empty then justice was served and a public nuisance was eliminated. If the tomb is not empty then Jesus is just another martyr who died for what he believed in. Noble yes, but that only has minimal affect. If the tomb is not empty then the stories of Jesus are just a factious fairy tale that entertains us. If the tomb is not empty then miracles are just magical illusions.  If the tomb is not empty then we would just be eating peeps, hiding eggs, and getting together with family to celebrate the coming of spring time.

However, those of us who have faith believe the tomb of Jesus was empty. Jesus rising on Easter morning was more than a showy miracle to shock and awe his attackers and followers. The empty tomb is more than a miraculous illusion to end the protesting or validate Jesus’ followers. When Jesus rose, he turned the entire order of the universe on its head. The Resurrection shows us that death does not have the last word. The empty gives us hope that there is something greater than the life we have now.  The empty tomb is the pathway between a brief life and life eternal. The empty tomb is a symbol that truth wins out even in the messed up world in which we live. The empty tomb shouts to all who will listen that your sins will no longer exclude you.  The empty tomb reminds us that grace is more powerful than obligation. The empty tomb reminds us that love wins out over hate. Because the tomb was empty we are shown the power in forgiveness. The tomb was empty declaring to all that this Jesus truly is the son of God. The tomb is empty which ignites the fire in the hearts of all who believes that we too can change the world in which we live little by little. The tomb is empty which gives an eternal resting place for our souls and the legacy we leave in the hearts and minds of others. The tomb is empty which gives us peace and hope as we stand at the graveside of our loved one. The tomb is empty that shouts that good wins over evil and that darkness cannot drive out light. The tomb is empty as a reminder that our story will not end. The tomb is empty that allows us to be a vital piece of God’s work and a part of something bigger than ourselves. The tomb is empty and our God defeated our worse fear: Death. The door is open, the tomb is empty, and the truth rings loudly. So let is celebrate that the body was not there and He is risen! 
Be Kind to One Another 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Giving Up Popularity

Popularity is something that has changed over time. The way in which we measure popularity has drastically changed with modern advancements. In one era popularity was measured by how many names on a dance card. In another era, the lunch table or the group of people one socialized with determined ones level of popularity. In today’s culture our popularity is measured objectively by the number of friends, hits or downloads one receives on social media. The internet has replaced the dance card and the lunch table as been replaced by re-tweets. Regardless of the method of calculating ones popularity there is a deep intrinsic need each of us possess and that is to be liked and accepted. Either on a small scale or the larger scale of celebrity status, each of us on some level wants the approval and recognition from others. That in its self is not a bad thing, but at what expense are we willing to go to for that acceptance. It feels good when it’s there and can be heartbreaking when it is absence.  Ministers and religious leaders are not immune to this need for popularity. We see it all the time as religious leaders are exposed as their need for popularity is greater than their commitment to following Jesus.
So how does our need for popularity fit in with our relationships with Jesus? We begin by understanding that Jesus knew something about popularity. As we celebrate what is known as Palm Sunday, we are reminded of Jesus’ popularity. Jesus knew that Jerusalem was packed with over two million visitors there to celebrate the religious holiday. His choice of animal to ride was deliberate as described by the prophet Zechariah. The people singing and shouting “Hosanna” this means “Save us now!”  In the minds of the crowds Jesus was the one to defeat the Romans and throw off the yoke of bondage under which they had suffered for many years. At that moment, Jesus was the most popular man in the city. He would have been elected king and he could have gotten anything he ever wanted. But that was not why he did this. Popularity was the last thing Jesus wanted. Jesus purpose was to save us all from ourselves. Besides Jesus knew how popularity works. Today you are popular and everybody loves you. What about the next day? How will they feel about you then? Popularity was not Jesus’ purpose. Jesus knew that popularity is a very fleeting thing. Jesus knew that popularity is determined by the whims of the masses. Jesus knew that popularity has nothing to do with truth, purpose, and vision. Jesus knew despite the crowd’s parade for Him, Jesus knew he had a larger purpose to fulfill in Jerusalem. To give something up as popularity for a bigger purpose takes tremendous courage. Maybe as we approach Holy Week we too can try to give up our popular status for something even greater. Jesus doesn’t call us to be popular, just faithful. May we all have the courage to distinguish the difference?
Peace, Love and Happiness:


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Give Up Death

I have been asked several times throughout my spiritual journey by many different people: “Would you die for Jesus?” Each time it was a postlude to a real life tragedy where someone is murdered. Several school shootings have had some type of narrative, where someone was asked the second before they were murdered, do you believe in Jesus? Another scenario plays out in the Islamic terrorist and their encounter with Christians just before a massacre and I will get that question? If someone was holding a gun to your head and you were asked if you believed in Jesus knowing your answer would get you killed, would you denounce the name of Jesus? While it sounds brave and romantic, I can honestly say I have no idea what I would say if someone held a gun to my head. I think I would tell them whatever they wanted to hear so I could get out alive. Using the precedent set by Simon Peter I believe that Jesus would understand that my will to live is greater than my devotion of announcing my loyalty to a lunatic holding gun to my head. Some of us fear death and that I believe is a natural humanistic instinct. And if we do not fear death most of us would like to prolong it as long as we can.  However dramatic it might seem, that is not what Jesus meant when he talked about giving up our life for Him. It’s about remembering, especially at this time of year, that God creates life out of death, nothingness and hopelessness. The Bible is rich full of such paradoxes where Jesus tells us those who try to keep their life will die but those who give up their life for others will live. We are used to thinking and understanding life in terms of fixed beginnings and ends. When we die, what is communicated to the public in our obituary is the day we were born, the beginning, and the date we died, the ending. We all share a beginning and an end. What makes us unique is what we do in-between the two. However the story of Jesus calls us to throw away our old categories and embrace God’s larger vision of eternal life that begins here and now. When we speak of eternal life, most of us think, that it begins when we die. But in reality it is happening right here and now.  Death is a topic our tradition really doesn’t spend too much time on. We think about it only at funerals, when we reality of death is in front of us, or during Lent, when we focus on the death of Jesus. And if we are totally honest, death and dying are not just an enthusiastic, up lighting feel good topic to discuss. If we are able to give up our fear of death, we have the potential to live a more enjoyable life now. Simply put if we don’t fear death we gain more life. Join us this Sunday as we continue our journey through Lent as we examine was to give up our fear of death so we have a greater life now.
Peace, Grace, and Happiness