Lament and Resurrection

To be a minister is to be a witness to suffering, and to walk with those who suffer. Alongside doctors and social workers, I feel as though it has to be one of the more painful vocations.

To be a minister is to hold the pain of the world in your heart as you groan for its redemption, longing for new creation.

To be a minister is to have the responsibility of comforting the weeping while myself silently asking, “Why, God? Have you forgotten us?” To offer up my strength to the weary, while myself feeling utterly broken and burdened, letting the tears come only when no one can see.

To be a minister is to be a witness to the brokenness and sorrow and death all around me, to cry out on behalf of humanity that things should not be this way.

Yet…to be a minister is also to be a witness to the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.

To cry out with conviction that things will not always be this way.

It is to preach and sing and live and proclaim forgiveness and reconciliation and healing and hope.

To witness to the story of resurrection in the dawning of each new day, in the first blooms of spring, in the redemption of a troubled past, in reconciliation after separation, in love after loss, in an empty tomb on Easter morning.

It is to know and proclaim with certainty that death cannot take our loved ones from us, because from their conception to eternity, they live and are safe in the arms of the Good Shepherd.

To be a minister is to be given the gift of proclamation – Hope springs eternal. Christ is all, and in all, and through all. The dwelling of God will be with his people, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. All shall be well, and all shall be well…and all manner of things shall be well.

Praise God.

 

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Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 10:15 pm  Comments (3)  
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A Game of Wiffle Ball

wiffle ball

Recently I was at a professor’s house for an end-of-semester party.  The evening sun, although it was setting, cast a warm and perfect golden glow through the trees. The weather was perfect and his backyard was large and inviting for a game of wiffle ball with our professor’s 8- and 10-year-old sons.  Teams were divided and makeshift bases set up around the yard, but between the little ones hiding them from us gullible college students and the too-competitive players sliding into them, they never stayed where they were supposed to be.

After a couple of strikes, my friend Samantha hit the ball with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, and the ball sailed across the yard to the neighbor’s dog, who was chained to a tree and looking for some excitement in his life.  It was an epic home run before the outfielders could wrestle the ball from his happy, salivating mouth.

Once in a great while, I experience brief glimpses of eternity here on earth that I can only describe as eschatological moments. Kingdom moments.

This was one of them.

As I sat on the porch steps with one of my best friends, sharing reflections on the beauty of restored relationship and new creation and watching our classmates laugh and play and interact with the younger kids, I saw it as though a curtain had been pulled back to reveal a new, and fuller, dimension of life.  It was somehow sacred, this seemingly ordinary game of wiffle ball.  It was fun and innocence and life, and it felt vision-like as I saw it through the eyes of eternity.

Our professor’s youngest son shouted at my friend Lincoln, “I’m gonna kill you!,” and everyone laughed at his absurdity.

And then, too, we will laugh at the idea of death because it seems so far from the lush springtime grass and the laughter of innocent banter and play. We will laugh because death has been swallowed up by life. And wiffle ball.

The pure fullness of life is a foretaste of resurrection.

Plot Twist

I love plot twists.  I love when you find out the good character is bad, or the bad character is good, or the main character is dead after all, or the whole thing was a dream.  I love finding a movie with a good plot twist and showing it to all my unsuspecting friends, one by one, relishing the moment of revelation and the “Wait, what just happened?!”  If I were to watch them by myself, they would lose their luster after a while, but I never cease to be amused by watching other people’s jaw drop and vicariously feeling the disorientation of surprise.

Game 6 of the NBA finals had plenty of its own little plot twists as well.  For a while I thought all was lost, until Allen made that incredible 3-point shot with 5 seconds left on the clock, tying the Heat and the Spurs.  Fortunately, nobody else was home to see my manic state as I screamed and punched the air and bit the couch pillows.   When the game went into overtime, I thought I was going to die of a stroke not knowing how it was going to end.  It was pure torture, but the delicious kind, where you’re on the edge of your seat in anticipation.

That was all anybody talked about here in Miami for the next week. “Can you believe Game 6? Snatched the championship right out of the Spurs’ hands! Did you see that shot by Allen?! Man, don’t you feel bad for the people who left early because they thought it was over?”

People definitely thought the game was over that day at the Praetorium so long ago when the crowds shouted “Crucify!”…when Jesus was led away to be stripped and beaten and crucified.  That was it.  There was to be no political revolution, no reclamation of Israel.  He must not have been the promised Messiah after all.  And these disciples, who had left behind their jobs and families and followed this guy on faith for the last three years — well, what were they supposed to do now?  The cause that they had given their lives to ended up being a lost cause.  It was over.  There was shock and confusion and grief.  And Judas Iscariot was one of those people who, sadly, left too early to see the end and celebrate the unbelievable victory that God was waiting to spring on the unsuspecting:

Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:15).

For Jesus, death wasn’t the end of the story.  It was only the lead-in to the most glorious plot twist in history.

His whole life, Jesus told weird stories about upside-down values in this alternate reality He called “the Kingdom.”  And not only did He tell these stories; He lived them out.  The Kingdom was where the first were last, and the last were first.  Where the people who worked all day got paid the same as the people who worked for an hour. Where the whores got more grace than the religious leaders.  Where the filthy half-breed Samaritan was the hero.

It’s where the cross turned from a symbol of shame to a symbol of victory.  Where a stolen body was a resurrected body, where the grave yielded life, where the carpenter’s son from Nazareth proved Himself to be the living, breathing, conquering SON OF GOD, who defeated death, scorned its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God Almighty.

I think any sense of apathy, any lack of wonder, on our part is simply the result of forgetfulness.  Those of us who have heard our whole lives that “Jesus died and rose again” can forget all too easily how ridiculous, how unbelievable, how incredible this whole thing was.  God forgive our complacency!!

The gospel is a roller coaster of emotion that we have unfortunately numbed ourselves to.  We know how to receive the message in an appropriately churchy way, never experiencing the waves of shock, the convulsions of grief, the hardly daring to hope, and the struggling to make sense of it all.  We can’t understand the doubting of Thomas, the glorious dawning of reality, and the immeasurable joy they must have felt.  We can talk about hearing it “as if for the first time,” but if we truly heard it that way, we would all either be on our knees in awe or dancing in exuberant celebration.

But perhaps the closest we can get is simply to share the story with others who have not yet heard it.  To smile to ourselves as they listen with bated breath, leaning in expectantly so they don’t miss a word of the riveting drama.  To share in their joy as they see the majesty of God’s plan of salvation unfold.  Perhaps the closest we can get to experiencing the story is to do just what Jesus instructed: Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, sharing the story, telling the miraculous news, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us.

Because He is with us always.

Through the ups and downs of life.

Through the confusion, the hesitation, and the joy.

Through every plot twist.

Always.

To the very end.

resurrection

Awake, Christian — see the light of coming dawn and rise up from death.

Christ didn’t leave His tomb for you to stay in yours; the stone has been rolled away and every chain is broken.

Jesus Christ has defeated death and sits in power at the right hand of God Almighty.

The same strength which raised Him to life is at work in you.

How can you rejoice on Easter morning if you haven’t been set free?

This is a truth that cannot be half-heartedly believed.  This is a truth that must be lived.

If it matters that Jesus didn’t stay dead, let it make a difference in you.

Rise up, Christian.

Resurrection is waiting.

Published in: on March 30, 2013 at 10:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Good Friday Thoughts

When I was younger, I always wondered why the Friday before Easter was called “Good Friday” since such a terrible thing happened on that day. Of course, I know now. What’s “good” about Good Friday is that it didn’t end there. If Sunday hadn’t happened, it would have been just another day when a criminal was executed. But the fact that we call it Good Friday is all about anticipating the future. It’s about believing that Sunday is coming.

Jesus’ disciples saw Good Friday as anything but good. Through their tunnel vision, the last three years of their lives had been wasted, and everything they had believed in and hoped for had come to nothing.

But as it turns out, they were a bit short-sighted. Not too long before that, Peter had made his confession of faith that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of God.” Yet when he saw what was happening in the Garden, he fled. He fled! He didn’t have enough faith to believe that Jesus was still who He said He was, even when everything looked hopeless.

But how often do we do that very thing? We constantly underestimate the power of God to come through in our circumstances. We think our pain — our marriage problems, our health issues, our depression — is the end of the story. It’s “the way things are.”

But let me tell you that God is not limited by “the way things are.” Let me tell you I have seen Him move in some amazing ways this week. Let me tell you that God is changing lives, restoring what is broken, coming through in impossible situations, and overcoming the darkness.

For Resurrection Week, the theme question on the Lipscomb campus was, “Who do you say that I am?”

What’s your answer?

Who do you say that He is?

Because if you can honestly say, and mean it, that you believe He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Risen Savior

…then even in the midst of your grief and pain, when everything seems dark and hopeless, don’t be too short-sighted to believe that the One conquered death can call YOU out of the tomb on Sunday morning.

Published in: on April 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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