The Day After

It’s the day after.

The day after the tags have been taken off the new clothes or the old spring clothes pulled from the back of the closet to be worn on Easter morning

The day after the baskets have been picked through and the egg hunts completed

The day after the hallelujahs have been sung

The day after the responsive greeting has been exchanged in worship:    “Christ the Lord is risen!  He is risen indeed!”

It’s the day after Easter.

Has anything changed? Has anything changed in the way we live?  The way we speak to one another?  The way we look at the world and the people around us?

Has the new life – resurrection life – of Easter touched us in a way that we are changed?

Has anything changed? YES – Everything!

We now live in the light of the Resurrection – on the other side of the empty tomb. We don’t take trips to the Holy Land to view the sealed tomb of our Savior. We walk into an empty tomb. No old bones to revere. No words craved on a tombstone. Only an empty chamber.

As the hymn declares, “every day to us is Easter with its resurrection song” *.   We now live as Easter people.

Frederick Buechner said it well: “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”

It’s the day after . . . and everything has changed.

Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!

__________________________

* “Easter People, Raise Your Voices” – Hymn #304, United Methodist Hymnal, Words by William M. James, 1979. Music by Henry T. Smart, 1867.

The Great ‘I Told You So’!

No one likes to hear “I told you so . . .”

Whether it’s the “suggested” route to some address that is either correct or incorrect or the outcome of the Super Bowl – no one likes to hear “I told you so!”

Unless . . . you’re talking about the Resurrection. Today is the day that we hear loud and clear from the empty tomb the proclamation of Christ: “I told you so!”

Good Friday is the day that the ‘sun refused to shine’, the day that the One to ‘save all history’ was killed, the day that the world as the disciples knew it fell apart.

Holy Saturday is the in-between day. It’s the day that the disciples wondered “what do we do now?”

and Resurrection Sunday is the day that sorrow is turned into joy, mourning is turned into dance. It’s a new day!

and I’m so thankful that I hear the words “I told you so!”

Christ the Lord is risen. He is risen indeed!

The In-Between Day

It’s the in-between day. The day between death and resurrection.

The disciples don’t know it’s the in-between day. They just think “it’s over – the One that we thought would save us is crucified.”

The disciples have placed Jesus, their Savior, in a tomb. Now they’ve gone home with heads hung low, tears in their eyes, shoulders drooped, leaning on others for support.

The women have seen the tomb – where Jesus was laid.  Friday has been the Day of Preparation so they have gone home to prepare – for the Sabbath and for a return visit to the tomb on the first day of the week. When the women return, they will anoint the dead body of Jesus.

Hope . . . gone.

The very people who condemned Jesus to death have a faint memory of the promise made by the “imposter”: ‘After three days I will rise again.’

“Secure the tomb, Pilate. The disciples might steal the dead body and say he’s resurrected. Then the last deception would be worse than the first.”

Soldiers seal the grave and stand guard.

The Sabbath comes. The disciples rest, believing that the world as they’ve known it for the past 3 years is over.

On this side of the resurrection, we know that Holy Saturday is the in-between day – the day between death and new life. We know it’s NOT over.

We live so many of our days as in-between days. We believe in the resurrection. We know that Jesus is alive but it just feels like the in-between goes on forever.   The unexpected has happened, devastating our world. The diagnosis comes out of nowhere, the job is gone, security is rocked . . . everything changes. Sometimes it’s the big stone that seals the tomb of our pain and loss. Sometimes it’s just the little rocks of disappointment and heartache that cover our path.

We just need to hold on. It’s an in-between day. The rock will be rolled away. There is the faint whisper of the promise made by our Savior . . . “I will rise again . . .”

Hope is not gone.

The Need to Reframe

Several years ago, while on vacation, Noah photographed a beautiful sunset on the island of St. Kitts. I loved it – the fading sun creating brilliant colors as it set on a mostly deserted beach.

I framed it in my usual basic black frame and hung it in a room, already decorated with other “beachy” décor. I looked forward to gazing upon the picture and remembering the wonderful time on St. Kitts. However, my plan for gazing on the picture did not have that effect. It just didn’t look right. The beautiful colors of the sunset did not pop as I expected. Why? Maybe it needed reframing?

Back to the store – let’s try another frame.   This time I purchased a white frame. Would that make the difference? YES!

Reframing brought out new colors. Reframing pointed out the house down the beach with a few lights shining in the windows. Reframing made the clouds in the sky looked almost 3 dimensional. Reframing pointed out the ship far in the distance. Reframing showed the reflection of the sun on the sand.   Reframing brought new possibilities to light. Reframing created a new picture.

I’ve been pondering this topic of reframing. I scribbled some thoughts on a sticky note and stuck it on my desk several weeks ago. Until today, I have stared at those notes as I worked.

No, my notes have not been about reframing more pictures in my house.   This reframing is the kind that we do in the circumstances of life. How can we take a situation and gain a new perspective on it? Reframe it. Step back. Change the view. Put it in a new light. Clarify what is true in the situation and what is assumed. Look for the redemptive moments. Is God’s redeeming love and amazing grace still true? Always.

Reframing is something I need to do on a regular basis. People do bring us joy but people also disappoint us. Life happens and sometimes we have absolutely no control over the circumstances. The only control we do have is our response to the circumstance.

The prophet, Habakkuk, stated it this way:

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines;

Though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food;

Though the flock is cut off from the folks and there is no herd in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”

 

Though . . . yet.

 

THOUGH people disappoint, YET I will praise You, Lord.

THOUGH the media speaks of violence and injustice, YET I will hope in You, Lord.

THOUGH the bank account is low, YET I will trust in You, Lord.

 

Fill in the blank with the circumstance:

Though ___________________________, YET I will exult in the God of my salvation.

THIS is reframing, my friends!

 

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Scripture noted is Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NRSV)

Picture taken by Noah Archer, September 2015 on the island of St. Kitts.

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Scheduling the Spirit

“I need to get the Holy Spirit on my schedule,” declared my friend this week.

Always a good idea for a schedule, don’t you think? What’s a schedule without the Holy Spirit?

The statement has two sides:  truth and question.

One side: the daily schedule. Every day needs time with God – time to speak, time to listen, time to read the Word, time to let that Word seep into our heart.

Jesus continually took time away to spend with the Holy One, going up the mountain or to the other side of the lake. He told Mary that she had “chosen the better part which would never be taken away from her” when she chose to sit at His feet instead of doing the dishes. [i]

Henri Nouwen wrote: “Discipline means to create boundaries around our meeting with God. Our times and places can’t be so filled up that there is no way of meeting.” [ii]

For me, it’s my morning routine.  Sometimes it’s rushed. Sometimes it might get pushed a little later in the day. And yes, sometimes it doesn’t happen.

However on most mornings, with Bible, journal, coffee in hand and Hank, my four-legged companion, the Holy One speaks to my heart. Sometimes Hank is waiting for me on the designated meeting spot, reminding me that we have the Holy Spirit on our schedule.

The other side of the statement: Is that the only time that the Holy Spirit gets – just the scheduled time? If the Holy Spirit only gets an hour, 30 minutes, 5 minutes or the prayer before a meal, what is the rest of the day? Probably just a series of appointments, tasks and chores.

Suppose we see all of our days as encounters with the Holy One? All of the day as infused with the Spirit – talking to the salesperson in Walmart, discussing in a staff meeting, listening to the teacher in 4th period, shopping at Barnes and Noble, dining with friends and family . . . all of our time. The Holy Spirit of God flows over, seeps through, undergirds, and infuses all of our day.

Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit, “whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”[iii]

Just a guess but I’m thinking that Jesus probably did not mean just the “scheduled” time.

Again – just a guess.

________________________

[i] Luke 10:42

[ii] Nouwen, Henri with Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. New York: Harper One, 2006.

[iii] John 14:26

All the Paths

Psalm 25:10 – “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

I don’t know about you but sometimes words of Scripture that I have read over and over jump off the page of my Bible in a new way.

Example?

This morning I was reading Psalm 25 – a text that I’ve read many times. Verses 4 & 5 often grab me: “Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me.” It always brings to mind the short chorus that my hometown choir would sing after or before the pastoral prayer time. “Lead me, Lord . . .”

Or verse 7 – “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions” – a reassuring word when I think about some of the mistakes and craziness of my life.

This morning, the words of verse 10 leapt off the page: “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

God highlighted the word – ALL – for me. All means all, not some of the paths but all of the paths. Those paths that are easy and smooth, those that are rocky and difficult and those that are uncertain – ALL of them. The nature of the path doesn’t matter. It’s the nature of our loving and faithful Lord that matters.

Thank you, Lord, that no matter the path before me, You are ALWAYS faithful and ALWAYS extending Your steadfast love.

 

 

Christmas “Wants”

“What do you want for Christmas?”

As a little girl, the question of December was always “what do you want for Christmas?” It was Santa’s main question but it was also a question of my family and friends.  Maybe it was a way to get hints for gift-giving. Maybe it was a comparison of “want” lists. Did Deborah’s list have something on it that I had missed in my thorough examination of the Sears Christmas catalog?

Ah!  The Sears catalog – now THAT was sheer joy – an examination from first page to last of the possible new toys for the list! Sure, there were clothes in the front part of the catalog: matching Christmas pajamas, lovely red velvet Christmas dresses for Sunday School and maybe a new pair of black patent leather church shoes!  But the real fun? The pages of dolls, trucks, games, and chemistry kits (yes, already embracing my nerd-dom – never got one!) gave so many ideas for the “want” list!

Then on December 25, the question shifted to “what did you get?” Early in the morning, brother Gene and I would “patiently” wait for the ok from Mama and Daddy that we could take a look under the tree. Ever wise, my parents did not get us everything on our lists but we were always overjoyed with what we did get!

In the afternoon, we made the trip to Grandma’s house where the question could be asked of cousins: “what did you get for Christmas?” As I got older, I made the call or the ride to see what Elizabeth got from Santa. When we went back to school, we continued to ask the question of classmates. Everyone was comparing, admiring – maybe with a little jealousy – the gifts of Santa!

What do you want for Christmas?
As I’ve talked with clergy and laity this week in my role as ministry coach, I’ve asked each of them: What do you want more of during this Advent and Christmas season?

Hmmm.

Well, one answer may be like the little girl from the Today show story: “a nap” – true story of a little girl (2 or 3 yrs) who when asked the question answered with this wish. Santa was happy to oblige as he reclined and cuddled the little girl for the Christmas wish nap. My guess: it was also the parents’ wish!

What do I want more of this season?
For me: less rush, more quiet, less fixing, more trusting, less activity, more family time

The second question I asked this week: What do you need to do to make this happen?

For me: intentionality, willingness to say no, acceptance that less is more (every Christmas decoration does not have to be put out!)

The third question is an adaptation of “what did you get”: How will you know that it happened?

For me: less frantic running around, a decorated house that brings joy instead of exhaustion, time with family and friends that is easy, and time to actually sit down on Christmas Day!

Most importantly, I want time with God to enjoy his Presence.
I need to spend time each day in moments of gratitude, reflection, reading and writing.
I will know that I’ve gotten my “want” when Advent and Christmas season brings me closer to the greatest Gift that I will ever get for Christmas!

On this first Sunday of Advent:
What do you want for this Advent and Christmas?
What do you need to do to make that happen?
On December 25, how will you know that you got it?

May the joy, love and peace of Jesus Christ, the Gift, be with you!