Hallelujah

hallelujah-music

Easter is my favorite day of the year. For me, it is better than Christmas…as it should be.

Yesterday, my church closed out the glorious Easter service with Handel’s Hallelujah chorus from his fantastic oratorio “Messiah”. What is interesting about this musical piece is Handel’s unrelenting fervor in composing this masterpiece. Handel was nearly broke, old, a stroke survivor and out of favor with the musical community. This did not discourage him. Handel assembled something wonderful which became a classic that lives on in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. It is quite simple magnificent.

It is said that after Handel completed the Hallelujah chorus, his assistant found him in tears saying “I did think I saw heaven open, and saw the very face of God”. (http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/bibleandculture/author/bwitherington/) Handel’s wild hair flying about his face and the tears in his eyes were the foreshadowing of a song that would make even King’s stand in awe.

That’s Easter. It’s beyond our ability to put into words really. It’s so outrageous and so divine that to reduce down to mere words is almost impossible.

Music lifts the soul and is a promised part of heaven. Something tells me that the Hallelujah chorus is just the beginning.

He is Risen.

He is Risen Indeed…Hallelujah.

And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: Revelation 14:2,3

Quiet Please – Lent 5

Lent Letterpress

I crave silence. I crave a peace-filled moment.

Sometimes when I visit my parents’ graves, I sit on the bench and I am still. I sit and do nothing other than glory in the quiet and peacefulness. The occasional birdcall is welcome as is the gentle breeze on my face. But for the most part, I just sit. It is glorious.

Pretty soon we will celebrate Maundy Thursday watch. This is a time when we sit in prayerful silence in the sanctuary. It is a time to reflect upon the night that Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane; the night His disciples could not watch with him for just one hour without falling asleep. It was a night that Jesus spent alone in prayer with the Father.

I haven’t missed a night watch in over 20 years. Next to Christmas Eve Mass and Easter Sunday, it is my favorite day on the church calendar.

There is something so holy about sitting quietly and pausing from this busy life to seek the face of God. If you sit quietly enough, you hear the creak of the church, the scurry of feet, the groan of the building as it sways with the earth. And sometimes, just sometimes, you hear a still small voice in your soul saying it will all be right with the world. Jesus has overcome the world.

Somehow we are reminded that without a moment of silence, words can lose their meaning. That is the moment when silence really is golden.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV)

Palm Sunday in September?

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Retailers have discovered the benefits of having a Christmas in July marketing promotion so count me as pleased when the Dean of our Cathedral decided to study Palm Sunday in September. What a great idea.

I love Palm Sunday where we remember Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It allows us to forget, for a moment, that this joy leads to sorrow. But, and pardon the expression, it is also the ultimate comeback story.

This particular Sunday in the church calendar sometimes seems like a warmup for Easter. Palm Sunday is an important day. It is shared in all four gospels but it is also significant for the mere fact that Jesus allows people to recognize His fulfillment of prophecy.

Sadly, these same people will be calling for His crucifixion in a few short days. It all went very wrong but in the end it was so right…for us.

What a sacrifice. What a King.

Hosannah in September and forever!

When life gives you lemons

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…make lemonade

I know this sounds like a really sketchy concept for my Easter Sunday blog. But stick with me for a minute.

This is the ultimate bad day turns out great day in history. If we are to believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion, then it is absolutely life changing. This is not fiction, it’s not a fable, it’s not just a great story. In fact, if you believe, then you can never go back to normal.

With Jesus – normal is not an option.

If you believe, then you have to believe without reservation or restrictions. It’s time to redirect your course. You can’t just fit Jesus into your life when convenient. Jesus IS your life now. You are a changed person.

Your life may have been lemons before you found Jesus but once you let him into your heart…it’s time to make lemonade. This story, this life of Christ is too big for one day. It’s for all eternity.

Are you all in?

 

A borrowed tomb.

Empty tomb

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Isaiah 53:9

There is a great deal written about the death and resurrection but not as many expound upon the burial of Jesus Christ.

It was all foretold by Isaiah in the scripture above and fulfilled prophecy. It is an important part of the story.

Typically, non-Jewish criminals who had been crucified were left on the cross. According to Jewish custom, Jesus should have been moved to a poor and lowly gravesite out of the area.

And when evening was come, there came a rich man from Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: this man went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Matthew 27:57-58

Jesus’s body was taken away by rich believers and placed in a tomb (empty and never used) reserved for the wealthy. Why did Pilate allow this? Historians believe it is because Joseph of Arimathaea was a rich man of influence. But some also surmise that Pilate allowed it in order to ensure that the tomb was sealed and secure. I believe Joseph knew Jesus was the King of Kings. He knew that Jesus earthly body should rest, for a while, with the wealthy.

Pilate’s plan failed. You can’t stop the Lord of Lords. No grave can stop Jesus. The stone is rolled away. Hallelujah!

So much of what we learn through this final earthly walk with Christ was the fulfillment of prophecy. Of course, His whole life was the same.

I look forward to the stone being rolled away. I look forward to the resurrection and the life to come. Bring on Easter Sunday!

Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

Jesus Paid It All…All To Him I Owe.

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My Dad was always thinking ahead. He apologized on more than one occasion that one day I would come in to wake him and he would be gone and walking with Jesus. While I told him not to stress out about this, I also reminded him that no one knows the time, date or way you are going to cross from this life into eternity.

No one knows the day they will die…except Jesus.

Jesus knew.

Jesus knew the end from the beginning. Like all of us…technically we are born to die. But he knew his death was imminent and was going to be difficult, very difficult.

I cannot even begin to imagine the sheer weight of this knowledge. I can’t imagine how Jesus felt carrying the sins of the world on His shoulders. It is just beyond my ability to comprehend.

Tonight, I will ponder these things and I will prayerfully watch for one hour at my church as part of Maundy Thursday services. One hour. It’s not enough to thank Him for the sacrifice He made for you and for me.

But then again, nothing I do could thank Him enough.

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

Are you ready?

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I’m finishing up my list of things “to do”. New outfit? Check. New shoes? Check. Fresh hair cut? Check. It’s almost Easter and I’m ready.

 

Growing up some of my best memories of Easter are the pageantry, the new clothes and shoes and the delicious celebration meal after Sunday services complete with bunny cake.

 

Dying eggs for the Easter hunt, putting up colorful ribbons and listening to the choral practice were all a small part of the Easter preparation. The anticipation was astounding. As a child, I knew it was a special season of worship and I was never disappointed.

 

I’m jumping ahead for this one day as I prepare for the difficult days of remembrance. Today, I want to remember the preparation for the celebration. After this, I HAVE to remember the time of reflection and grief. I am going to walk through the tough times to get to the good news.

 

As an adult, I still get excited at Easter. It now ranks as my favorite time of the year. This is as it should be. It is a never-ending reminder that I worship a risen Savior. The beautiful flowers, streamers and colors of Easter Sunday herald us all into a time of great joy. So, put on your bonnet, put on your new shoes and worship Jesus. Look your best for the King.

 

He is Risen…He is Risen indeed.

Looks can be deceiving.

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Things are not always as they seem and looks can be deceiving.

People expected the Messiah to come as a warrior King who would arrive slaying their enemies.  Instead, Jesus came as a peace-filled baby, born in a barn.

They wanted a warrior; instead, they saw the King of Kings ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Nothing Jesus did was what they perceived as being the actions of a Savior who would set them free from the challenges of their times. Regardless of the miracles He performed, and the words of faith He spoke, people still harbored doubts. In fact, they were so fickle that they turned on Jesus at the first opportunity.

Some things never change.

Isn’t it sad that they didn’t see what the Pharisees saw? The Pharisees saw a threat to their authority, they saw danger and they saw that Jesus shook the status quo.

Don’t be deceived by the things of this world. Don’t be deceived by false prophets. Don’t be deceived by people who would use any means to discredit our Lord and Savior.

This week reminds us of that danger. Don’t look back – take that first step and believe with your whole heart. Pick up your cross and follow Him.

“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not”. John1:10

Washed in the Blood of the Lamb

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One of the most remarkable things (and there are many) about the last days of Jesus was his humble acts of service.

Jesus, the King of Kings, knelt down to wash the filthy, dirty, and scarred feet of His disciples. What an impression that must have made to His followers – that the Son of God would fall on his knees to wash their feet and make them clean.

Jesus was sharing a valuable lesson about humility in that while He was the Messiah, He was sent to serve and not be served. If foreshadows the ultimate sacrifice He would make for all of us on the cross.

This week should remind us that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. While we are sinners, we are made new and spotless in Christ. What a loving act of grace. What a Savior.