You can’t Keep out the Truth

holyThursday

Holy Week Reflection on Matthew 27:62-66

Tomorrow is the big day, Easter has finally arrived.However, we are not there…yet. We are in the in between known as Holy Saturday. We are waiting, not too patiently, for Easter to come because when it comes we know it will be a celebration. How about those who are tired of waiting though?

There was an interesting story in the Washington Post about a nun who was finally going to be able to participate in a foot washing service in the Roman Catholic Church. The pope had decreed that it was proper for women to be allowed to participate in this ritual.  it was a bog moment in her life, she had been waiting for over 50 years for a chance. I read the story this morning with a bittersweet feeling. I was so happy for the woman but wondered why it took so long.

The scripture from this morning is an account of Pilate posting a guard outside the tomb of Jesus. Pilate wanted to ensure that no one could steal the body of Jesus from the tomb. He was worried about keeping people out and protecting the truth that was inside…Jesus was dead.

The truth was something different entirely. Jesus might have been lying in the tomb but not for long! No one needed to steal his body because God would raise him from the dead. Pilate was all messed up. However, the reality is we get it all twisted as well.

Perhaps we don’t post guards at the church doors to  keep people out but we often accomplish the same thing in different ways. How long did we in the Methodist church not ordain women? We posted the guards of the bible and tradition to justify our behavior. We are currently doing the same thing with our LGBT brothers and sisters. Forget ordination, in many ways we have made it uncomfortable, if not impossible, to be a vital part of our church community.

We have done it with race as well. No one can, nor should they ever, forget the horrible history of slavery and racism we dealt within our Methodist roots here in this country.Some of that still stands today. We continue to post the guards of tradition and the church and wonder why our voice is becoming silent in the affairs of our country and the world.

So congratulations to the Roman Catholic Church, it was a step but just that because we still all continue to wait here in the in between and praying for Sunday to come!

 

 

The Other Guys

Three-Crosses

Holy Week Reflection on Luke 23:32-43

There are so many powerful pieces of the Good Friday story:

Judas.

Pilate.

Herod.

Barabbus.

Centurions.

Torn Curtain.

etc.

 

Yet, on Good Friday morning I often find myself thinking about the other guys. You know the two dudes on the “other” crosses. Ever since I heard the story as a little boy in Catholic school it has fascinated me.  It has all the elements of a best selling book or a blockbuster movie.

A hero and a couple villains meet up one day. the villains have lived in such a way that they find themselves in a bad spot. The decisions they have made have set them up for a bad ending. Yet, they run into our hero. The hero is also in the same situation but obviously does not “deserve” to be there.

The two bad guys find themselves locked in the same room with our good guy. They apparently are aware of our hero and his reputation. this is where our plot really heats up. One of the bad guys berates our hero and the other remains silent at first. The same bad guy then begins to mock our hero. Our hero remains silent and then the other guy, we will call him not-so-bad guy, speaks. He shuts down the berating and the mocking. He takes responsibility for where he finds himself and wonders why the other bad guy doesn’t. He points out that the hero shouldn’t even be there.

This story has always fascinated me because of the contrasts. I want to be the not-so-bad guy, I really do. Yet, I feel as if too many times I am simply the bad guy. I look at situations that I find myself and blame someone else for them. I see how “fortunate” others are and believe they don’t deserve it. I also feel as if I am not alone. I am sure there are many people just like me.

Which criminal would I have been that afternoon, hanging on the cross next to Jesus? Would I have been the one mocking him or would I have been the one asking of Jesus could remember me? Which one would you be?

The truth that comes out in this story is we are one of those criminals. The question becomes which one are we. When we are at our lowest point will be turn towards Jesus with forgiveness or with scorn? Have we decided that like some politicians we don’t ever need to ask Jesus for forgiveness?

The crosses on either side of Jesus have our names on them. This Good Friday morning I am going to spend some time in prayer and meditation thinking about the other guys and thinking about my response to the hero on the cross next to mine.

 

Being Human even in the Dark Times

aptopix-gop-2016-debate

Holy Week Reflection on Matthew 26:36-44

Over the last few days we have seen the best and worse of people. We have seen the horror of more terroristic attacks and we have seen the response both good and bad. On the good, people have responded with prayers, concerns, and well wishes. People have consoled each other and helped each other as the recovery has begun.

Then we have seen the bad as Ted Cruz took the time in the aftermath of the attacks to call on police surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods. We have heard Donald Trump take the opportunity given by the attack and ramp up the Anti-Muslim rhetoric as well. Politics in general and this election specifically is bringing out the dark side in many of us. When will it be over?

Yet, even when the election is over we see things that suggest the darkness is not limited to the election cycle. North Carolina just passed an anti-discrimination bill which is anything but. This bill holds no protection for LGBT people, in fact the bill went so far as to forbid cities to adding their own protections that go beyond this bill.

Friends, it is dark times.

As I read the scripture for this morning, I am reminded of another dark time.  In perhaps the most human account of Jesus in the Gospels leading to the cross, we see Jesus at The Garden of Gethsemane. It is at the garden that Jesus faced with what is to come goes to God in prayer. His prayer is one of struggle and submission. He asks if it is possible for this situation to be removed for him.

It was such a human response. We sometimes find ourselves in situations that are overwhelming and troubling. This is sometimes from our own doing and sometimes from outside forces. When we are faced with these situations how do we respond? Do we respond by fear as I would suggest Cruz, Trump, and North Carolina are or do we respond in a “God way”?

Jesus chose the “God way”, immediately after asking whether this cup could pass from him, he simply put it back in God’s hands and said he would follow God’s will. Jesus was showing us once more what it means to be really human. We will come to dark places in our lives but being fully human means we are connected with God and each other not from fear but from love and grace.

In the love and grace we find no fear because it is cast out. We instead live like the children of God that we are. We look up and not away. We seek connection instead of isolation. We choose God instead of fear.

Today, I will choose God.

In the Silence of Wednesday…Hope

silence

Holy Week Reflection on Psalm 46:10-11

I remember going outside the day after Hurricane Irene hit parts of New Jersey in 2011. I went outside and that is when I first noticed it. it was overwhelming. It was silence. The night before there was howling wind and pounding rain. Trees had fallen against the house and all through the yard. Yet, in the morning there was silence and there was hope.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

I thought a lot about that day this morning. Yesterday was noisy. I woke up to the noise of another terrorist attack in the world. The day was filled with plenty of noise of preparation and busy activity. As I went to bed there was more noise from the election and candidates attacking each other.

This morning there is a stillness and a silence that I find refreshing. Today is what is known as Silent Wednesday. This is the day from Holy Week where nothing is recorded about what was going on in the life of Jesus. We go from lots of teaching and confrontation to silence. It can be a little unsettling if we let it be. Yet, in this silence I find hope.

It is a hope based on the reading from Psalm 36 today. It is understanding that God is still God and is still active even in the midst of the silence. Just because we may not see it does not mean God is not working. In Bethany that day, Jesus may have been preparing his disciples for all that was to come. Reassuring them and praying with them.

So enjoy the silence with me this morning. It will end soon enough. But before it does take some time with God. Pray. Rejoice. Worship. Because:

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Amen.

Holy Week, Belgium, and the empty church

abandonedchurch

Holy Week Reflection on Matthew 21:28-32

This morning we wake up to yet another attack. Belgium has apparently being the victim of a terrorist action. We are witnesses to more violence and more death. It is a painful reminder that we live in precarious times. It is a sobering morning indeed.

Today also is Tuesday in Holy Week. This is the day Jesus spent in the temple talking to the religious leaders and answering questions among other things. He stood in the temple and was questioned about his authority to do the things he was doing. After all the religious leaders had been trained and it was their job to do some of these things.

Jesus then tells a parable of two sons. The father asks both boys to go do some work. The first son says “no” but then changes his mind and does it. The other says “yes” but changes his mind and does no work. So which one matters the words or the action?

Have you ever wondered why there are so many empty churches? I don’t mean on Sundays, I mean just overall. Abandoned churches, churches converted to homes or other types of businesses. Here in our country there are many and throughout the world it is the same. In certain places there are big vast beautiful structures that sit dormant.

As Brussels evaluates its wounds and begins the healing process perhaps it is time for us to evaluate our wounds as well. The church not only has wounds but has inflicted wounds as well. We have been silent for too long when people are being mistreated. We have been silent for too long as people are being sold, tortured, and killed. We often value country over God.

These buildings are often empty because for two long we have said one thing and done another. We have called ourselves Christians and acted like anything but. It is time to change that. It is way past time to change that.

Holy Week is the perfect time to change that. This is the week of death over life. Jesus defeated death and death no longer has the last word. The empty churches no longer have to be the final word either. Through the grace of God, we can change this. Forever.

The (Holy) Week begins for us

Distraction

Reflection on Matthew 21:12-13

Television.

Radio.

News.

Social Media.

Email.

Co-workers.

Pretty butterflies.

The list of distractions goes on and on. Every day we are faced with so many different challenges to our time. It is a constant struggle for so many of us and there are industries that are created just to help. We have time management software and speakers. There is companies who will come in and “declutter” your life. All of these are attempts to help us focus on the tasks at hand.

So imagine the morning Jesus went into the Temple. His last week in Jerusalem had begun and it was off to a rough start. As soon as he went to the temple to pray and he was making his way through the Gentile court he was bombarded with the noise and hustle and bustle he found there. He was surrounded by people as they were exchanging money to be used in the temple and selling doves to be offered.

Can you imagine the noise and confusion that day? It must have been so distracting as Jesus was making his way deeper into the temple. Yet, something made him stop. He didn’t continue into the temple and instead he reacted. He challenged the merchants and chased them out. They were taking advantage of others and Jesus had enough. Yet, I believe there was something more going on.

How could the Gentiles pray in such an environment? Everywhere they turned, they would have been overwhelmed. Jesus was trying ensure that the Gentiles had space to connect with God as well. We all need to connect with God and for the Gentiles this was being encroached upon by the merchants both crooked and honest. Jesus changed that.

Understanding you are more than likely not sitting in the midst of money changers this morning, what is stopping you from connecting with God as the week begins. This is  Holy Week. but all weeks are holy. We are too often distracted by other stuff perhaps it is time to upset the distractions in our lives.

Maybe we need to get up a little early or stay up a little later. Or is it a matter of not turning the television on immediately when you sit down? Do you need to simply move away to a place off to yourself for a bit and find that quiet time? Well whatever it takes , DO IT!

Take time this week and reconnect with God. Pray a little more. Read one more chapter of the bible. Sing another worship song. Do what you need to drown out the noise and bathe in the glory of God!

 

 

Can’t keep me down

rocky

Lenten Reflection on Micah 7

I was late to the “Rocky” bandwagon. I don’t think it was until after “Rocky II” was released that I started paying attention. Once I started I was hooked. I loved every single eccentric part of the Rocky Balboa character. He drank raw eggs and pounded sides of raw beef. He was a no name who was given a chance for the Heavyweight boxing title of the world because the powers that be did not consider him a threat.

Yet he was a threat, he was a threat not because of his eccentricities. He was a threat because he kept getting up . Apollo Creed kept knocking Rocky down time and time again. Round after round, Rocky kept getting pounded and it didn’t look like it would never end. Rocky Balboa  became seared into our national consciousness not because he won that fight in the movie, he didn’t, but because he just kept getting up.

The Book of Micah’s final chapter contain powerful words of hope:

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.

These words are words we need to hear today. They are words that say we are not finished yet. God has brought us to this place and because of God we can keep pressing forward. The world may knock us down but God will help us up. Our political process may try and keep us knocked down but with God’s help we will still get up.

These words in Micah are words of encouragement. Words that remind us that there is no thing or no one that can keep us from God.

For that let’s give thanks and say Amen!