Tag Archive: death


Behind the Door

Doors on StageIt was behind those closed doors of fear that the resurrected Jesus appeared and spoke words of peace. Yesterday in worship we reflected on Jesus proclaiming peace behind our doors of fear: fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of death.

My wife has a small group, Divine Inspiration, that meets once a month that uses art as a creative way of engaging the scriptures. They received the scripture and the basic metaphor of sermon last month. Here are some of the pieces that resulted from their encounter with the scripture and prayer.

 

Lord Jesus, may we hear your transforming proclamation of peace appear behind our doors of fear and send us out as a people of peace to go behind others doors of fear helping the world unlock and walk out the door. Amen

Good Friday Reality

A slow wading into the strange midday gloom of Good Friday listening in the darkness to the words spoken. Chosen words. Cross words. Words that would have taken concerted effort just to gather enough breath to utter. Heavy words that identify with our breathing and our aching.
“Why have you forsaken me?”
“I am thirsty.”
Words that speak to us with the unseen gravity of hope that draws us to and draws us through the dark places.
“Father, forgive them.”
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Forty days of journeying toward resurrection is a journey with one’s eyes on the ground as these Good words move out of the peripheral and into focus. The moon in orbit still pulling and affecting things below still sets our dates for celebrating The Life. On this particular annual trip around my eyes have focused on something much closer instead of a detached and distant view through the scope. These words have drawn my eyes to see the spirals, swirls and ridges that make up the imprint of a finger. Original one-of-a-kind fully fully human. The dignity of the divine is unforgotten, but the blood and pulsing pressure system that moves the red life around the body more real this year than before.
Chords and words of hymns of wood and blood sharpen the focus. Weekly gathering in community both large and small proclaiming and sharing magnifies things all the more. Today thanks to friends new and old I more than remember things which had gone soft in focus. I am re-membered because what came into view as those cross words were spoken was firm reality. Real as the warmth of the sun, the touch of a hand, and the force that holds me to the earth and pulls me to the grave. The solid reality of no more beating, the finality of a last breath and the concluding words from the cross saying

The Word went silent and breathed no more. The strangeness of this good dark day has placed firmly in my life the reality of a servant and a ransom, of a gift and lost things found, and of peace near and far. The reality of clear access to the Holy and the One because of the concrete reality of blood and breath.

This season of Lent as we have focused on the words Jesus Christ spoke from the cross has been like what I understand praying with an icon is to be like where you are simply drawn deeper and deeper into the profound reality of our faith.

Lord Jesus, when we distant ourselves from reality, we distance ourselves from you. Help us as we approach Easter to live into the reality of your loving sacrifice so that your gift of life becomes the real solid ground we walk on. Amen. 

Worship Protection

Ear PlugsI was in a conversation recently with a pastor friend of mine. He was sharing about a church he was in connection with and how they were dealing with the volume level of the worship music. When people would walk in to the church besides being greeted by very hospitable people there awaited a bowl full of ear plugs available to anyone who felt that the worship music was too loud. He was asking my opinion about this (I nearly stuck my foot in my mouth, but that is another story for some other time). I went on about how worship with the volume so loud that you need protection is poor stewardship. We are called to take care of our bodies that God would call a temple of the spirit. These bodies must somehow be of importance if Jesus would walk around and heal the blind and lepers. These bodies must somehow be of eternal importance if Jesus was resurrected in a bodily form and we are promised to participate in the resurrection of the body. I just said something about how weekly exposure to worship that is loud enough to cause hearing loss is poor stewardship.

But weeks later I got to thinking… What does it communicate that worship is something that we share in and invite people to that we need to hand out protective gear?

Maybe we do need some protection in worship. Moses was told by God to warn the people not to climb up Mt. Sinai, and put up protective limits around the mountain where God descended. There is a story of some who came before the Lord and made an offering in a way that was contrary to God’s commands, they found themselves unprotected and they died. Moses remembered God speaking of God’s holiness and Aaron just remained silent. This is the God we gather on a Sunday morning to worship. The one who brought forth the cosmos by speaking a powerful word of love into the void.  This same God in the flesh could stand up in a boat tell a storm to shut up and it would respond. We gather on Sunday to worship the one that all creation reacted with shaking and darkness as the son of God was died on the cross.  The cosmos reacted with shaking as death was defeated and Jesus placed his resurrected foot on the ground. It is this God who is very present in our midst in worship. Maybe this is why it is so important that we are incorporated into Christ and there is no condemnation. Maybe this is the significance of God’s spirit acting as an advocate. Maybe this is the significance of us being reconciled to God through Christ. Maybe this is the significance of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Maybe we actually need protection.

Ear Protection 1612002-3God, thank you for making a way for us to gather in your holy presence to know your power and your love. The access to your holiness that you have given us by your Son through the Holy Spirit transforms us. For this we give you thanks and praise. It is in this gift of grace we worship. Amen.

AWE (or fear)

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Grandfather Mountain

We took a one day family adventure to Grandfather mountain. We explored Linville Falls, and the Caverns first and then went to Grandfather Mountain. We crossed the Mile High Swinging Bridge and hiked the trails. After the gift shop we saw a sign for another trail…. UP the mountain. We had no idea what we are getting into. It was already a very big deal for Jill and Caleb crossing the mile high bridge with their fear of heights. We found ourselves climbing and climbing over rocks and winding trails. Then came the real challenges. There were sections that you had to climb using ropes, and then came the ladders. If you look close at the picture above on the top left of the mountain you can see small specs of people climbing the ladders – that is where we were. One of the ladders seemed to even lean out at an angle making it feel you were climbing out into space. Now I am not afraid of heights. I have a great respect for gravity, but I am not typically afraid. I used to love climbing and hanging out of the catwalk at Trinity UMC in the Multipurpose facility to mess with the lights or climbing to the top of Trinity’s bell tower just for the view. However, after chasing Ethan up the last ladder with Caleb and Jill stuck at the bottom of the ladder, I told Ethan to sit down. When I turned around there it was. I was overcome with a sense of fear. I was standing on the edge of the mountain looking out over the earth which seemed to be too far away. All I could see was just a little bit of the ladder I had once been on and miles and miles of mountain landscape far out beyond me. I felt overwhelmed. I was surrounded by a power much greater than myself. Not just gravity, but by the immensity of all I was looking at. I felt fear and awe. It froze me for a moment. I was not interested in going any higher and I was not looking forward to going down. I was just struck that I was standing within a power much greater than myself. I think I caught a glimpse of what happens when the saints mentioned in the bible came in contact with God – they felt fear, reverence, awe. They would bow down or hid their face. I was staring out at something that is just the tiniest fraction of what God had created as I stood on the edge of that mountain. I know that there are mountainous landscapes larger than this on other planets just in our own solar system alone, but this view from where my two tiny feet stood made me feel so small.  

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Well, I am proud to say that my family overcame their fears of heights and we made it up and back down the mountain. I hope that I won’t lose the perspective that we stand within a power much greater than ourselves – a love much greater, mercy much greater, and a creator much greater. We participate in Almighty God himself by the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. 

Father God Almighty, thank you that by the grace made available by your son Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit we can stand within a power much greater than ourselves. I pray that we would be overwhelmed by this power and our lives would be filled with awe, fear, wonder and your power that overcomes all that could possibly destroy us. Amen

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