Easter As New Creation

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  This simple, but yet profound proclamation is both personal and communal, and claims our place in creation and God’s acts of new creation!  It is a proclamation of victory, and at the same time a statement of faith.

As we proclaim: “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!” we affirm our participation in Christ’s resurrection.  As participants we are a new creation; as a new creation we participate in God’s acts of new creation.

Easter is about victory and collaboration.  It’s about restoration and reconciliation, new life and new beginnings. Bishop N.T. Wright in his book, co-written with Marcus Borg, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, reflects on the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus:

“The deepest meanings of the resurrection have to do with new creation. . .   It was the first day of God’s new week, the moment of sunrise after the long night, the time of new meetings, new meals, of reconciliation and new commissioning.  It was the beginning of the new creation. . .  What is done to the glory of God in the present is genuinely building for God’s future.  Acts of justice and mercy, the creation of beauty and the celebration of truth, deeds of love and the creation of communities of kindness and forgiveness – these all matter, and they matter forever.” (p.126)

The resurrection brings personal transformation, absolutely.  However, it is not exclusively personal.  To say “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” is to say God is making all things new, and I am God’s partner in God’s acts of new creation. Alleluia!  I look forward to seeing you in church!

Through the Risen Christ,

Pastor Doug

Why Holy Week Takes my Breath Away

Holy Week begins with a parade, filled with excitement and joy…lots of energy…children laughing and playing in the streets as people shout “Hosanna” (“Pray, save us) to Jesus as he humbly rides a donkey.

You can feel tension mounting as conflict arises among the Pharisees and scribes about what to do about Jesus, the One whom the crowd adores. Jesus’s disciples begin to fall away although some remain close.

By Thursday, Jesus, the humble servant, washes their feet and takes symbols from the Passover and explains the new covenant, his body and blood, and invites them to take, eat, and remember.

Thursday evening, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, another moment of awe. He asks for the cup of suffering to be removed, but surrenders completely, the King who chooses to give up his life for his people. His arrest and imprisonment lead us to the horror of Friday.

After 39 brutal lashes, Jesus carries his cross through the streets of Jerusalem.  As his hands and feet are nailed to the Cross, I lose my breath again, hearing his words of love:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

With his death, we believe that the story is over;  the stone is rolled to seal the tomb.  My breath will be taken away again with the dawn of Easter morning when we hear the words again: “Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!”

This Holy Week in worship we will walk all the way to Gethsemane, the Cross, and to the Empty Tomb.  Open yourself to the power of Christ this week; God wants to move you deeply and take your breath away!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

So that God’s works might be revealed

In John 9:1-2 the disciples ask Jesus a question that has its roots in a theology that was prevalent in the early first century and is present in the early 21st century: our disabilities, illnesses and disasters are God’s punishment for our sin. Jesus taught his disciples and teaches you and me: God does not use our disabilities and illnesses as punishment for our sins, but God will redeem (claim as God’s own) our disabilities, and God’s works will be revealed through them.

In the man born blind encounter with Jesus we find Jesus takes us back to creation, all of who we are and are called to be is sacred, and unalterably connected to our Creator who says creation is “Very Good”; God’s works are revealed in God’s Beloved. John Philip Newell, 20th/21st century theologian helps us see this reality through the words of my favorite early church father, Irenaeus (130-202).

“Irenaeus taught that the whole of creation flows from the very ‘substance’ of God. . . . Irenaeus passionately taught that the substance of the earth and its creatures carries within itself the life of the Holy One. God, he said, is both ‘above us all and in us all.’ . . . The work of Jesus, he taught, was not to save us from our nature but to restore us to our nature and to bring us back into relationship with the deepest sound within creation. . . . Irenaeus sees Jesus not as speaking a new word but as uttering again the first word, this sound at the beginning and the heart of life.” (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Tuesday , March 13, 2018)

Irenaeus captures the core essence of who Jesus is and what Jesus teaches specifically in this account of the “man born blind”. Sinfulness does not cause our disabilities (and we all have them), but God redeems and uses our disabilities in such a way that God’s works are revealed, we find healing and possess abundant life, restored to our “nature.”   Like the “man born blind” we are awakened to this reality as we encounter Jesus, the Christ. I look forward to seeing you in church!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Resurrection: Fiction or Fact?

Let’s face it:  Someone rising from the dead is not something that happens every day.  Like us, the people in first century Israel would have had a hard time wrapping their minds around The Resurrection.

The Pharisees, whose responsibility was to help the people keep the laws of Moses, did believe in The Resurrection. Brad H. Young, in Paul, The Jewish Theologian writes: “The Jewish people believed that God created the world. Our physical world is God’s creation, and it is good. The Pharisees, in contrast to the Greco-Roman religious beliefs, vigorously affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees stressed a literal resurrection of the physical body, which would be reunited with the spirit of an individual. Their worldview embraced a future restoration of God’s original design for his world. The Pharisees envisioned a time of redemption in which God would realign the physical creation with the ethereal (unearthly) realm.”  The Sadducees did not embrace resurrection, immortality of the soul, or spirits and angels.  Additionally leaders of the Sadducees functioned as priests while leaders of the Pharisees were called rabbis.

This Sunday, Pastor Cathy Johns will offer a unique perspective on what happened in Bethany when Lazarus walked out of the tomb as recorded in John 11.  Invite a friend to join you this Sunday; may God richly bless you this week!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Re-Birth

When Nicodemus converses with Jesus he is introduced to a new understanding of living in relationship with God and those God loves.  Drawing upon a birthing metaphor, Jesus impresses upon Nicodemus the need for humanity to leave behind the dualistic thinking of the day (which still controls much of our lives today) and be “born again”.  This rebirth means leaving the dualism of the world behind and living into God’s acts of new creation! This rebirth means discarding the “fire insurance” teaching that most of Christianity has reduced our relationship with God to be; as the saying goes, “We are so heavenly focused they are no earthly good”.

Jesus is not saying we must be “born again” so when we die we can escape the fires of hell (fire insurance) and make our way to heaven.  We must be “born again” if we are to leave behind the dualism of our culture and reflect the image and likeness of God in the world we live. Born again we actively become participants in God’s acts of new creation.  Bishop N.T. Wright puts it this way in his book, Surprised by Scripture:

“The question of how you think about the ultimate future has an obvious direct impact on how you think about the task of the church in the present time.  To put it crudely and at the risk of caricaturing: if you suppose that the present world of space, time, and matter is a thoroughly bad thing, then the task is to escape from this world and enable as many others to do so as possible.  If you go that route, you will most likely end up in some form of Gnosticism, and the gnostic has no interest in improving the lot of human beings, or the state of the physical universe, in the present time.  Why wall paper the house if it’s going to be knocked down tomorrow?” (P.84-85)

God is a God of new creation, here, now.  The words of Jesus have been hijacked, it’s time for the church to reclaim the power of Jesus’ words for transformational living: You must be “born again”. Rebirth aligns us with God’s vision for creation here, now, today.  To be “born again” puts us at the center of God’s work in the world. Therefore, this world is not something that is to be endured and ultimately escape, but it is a place that mirrors the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. I look forward to seeing you in Church!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug