Reblog: Resurrection Happens

enlight2Easter is a very conflicted occasion.

  • Pagan festivals and church processions.
  • Eggs and crosses.
  • Bunnies and burials.
  • Lilies and grave clothes.
  • Chocolate and empty tombs.

Then there is the question of reality–did Jesus really rise from the dead? Is there evidence beyond the Bible for this supernatural event? Is Scriptural evidence sufficient?

Regardless of our responses to these questions, there is a broader question that we ought to be asking: Is thee a wider truth that we can draw from the Easter story that speaks to us on a more universal, meaningful level?

Listen to the words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”

It doesn’t take that much imagination to put ourselves into the story of these disciples. “We had hoped. Our dreams were in him. Our future was in his hands. Now he’s gone.”

Are you feeling hopeless today? Do you feel that you cannot go on? Is the burden you carry great, and the pain too intense? Is the healing just not happening, the sorrow too much for you?

Here is the truth of Easter: God is in the resurrection business.

The very first words of Scripture speak of God making new life out of chaos. The creation poem tells us that God spoke there was light. The waters separated (the ancients believed above the sky was a water-dome called in Genesis ‘the firmament’). The dry land appeared. Fish and animals, human beings, plants and trees all came into being out of the chaos of ‘the deep.’

Some of the last words in Scripture state in simple words God’s grand plan: “Behold I make all things new.” From the chaos this world has become, resurrection will happen and new life–a renewed creation–will spring forth.

Whether or not we believe in a literal resurrection should not prevent us from drawing deeper meaning from this widely-accepted Christian narrative.

Resurrection–new life–is happening around us every day. It’s never too late to begin again. God is even now, in all-embracing love and grace, making all things new.

And this can be true for you too.

There is hope. The power of Christ’s resurrection is at work. The Spirit of God is moving amongst your chaos, speaking light into darkness, strength into weakness and new life into hopelessness.

Resurrection happens!

And resurrection can happen for you.

Peter: A Good Friday Story

Enlight1I imagine Simon Peter as a rough fisherman-type man. He’s probably salty-mouthed, says-whatever-he-thinks, does-anything-for-you type of guy. In my mind’s eye, I see him as what we in Australia would call a “bogan.” (Chances are, if he lived in South Australia, he’d be a Port Adelaide footy fan, listen to bands like AC/DC and Chisel, and drink cartons upon cartons of West End.)

So imagine with me the moments after Jesus’ death and his friends are preparing his body for burial. They’ve been asked to say a few words before he’s put into the tomb.

This is Peter’s story.

Hi. I’m Simon, son of Jonas. You might know me better as Peter ‘cuz that’s the name Jesus gave me. Y’know, when he said that “Who do you say that I am?’ line? I just can’t get what he was after, I mean He was the promised Messiah, right? So that’s what I said and he answered by giving me this name. He said,”You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.” What? Seriously?I’m a fisherman. I can’t make sense of that. But Jesus was like that. He told it like it is.

I remember some of his sermons. I reckon I stayed awake through most of them…. It’s kinda hard when you fish all night and then spend the day in the hills with thousands of people around you. But what I did catch was that Jesus was all about people and people knowing and helping other people. I mean, like really serious about helping other people in the way that he helped people. He didn͛t seem to get tired of teaching us, even when we didn’t listen.

He also loved kids and I guess that’s why he like threatened those who abused them with stuff like”It would be better if you had heavy weights tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to offend one of these little oness.” He loved the kids.

There were some awesome days. Like when me and James and John and Jesus climbed Mt Tabor— amazing view from there! And we were like looking around to see if we spot our town. The view is really amazing! Anyhoo, Jesus just like *transforms* into some incredible angel-like being—like an alien or something from another planet. We were all standing around like gob-smacked. Couldn’t believe it. And weirder still two other alien-like people stood next to him and I swear they were the prophets Moses and Elijah. We like just stood there and didn’t know what to do. Best I could come up with is”Hey Jesus, why don’t we set up three tents for you and them two.” I’m glad he ignored that comment ‘cuz it was a little stupid, looking back now.

Jesus sure knew how to confuse a bloke. He told us that we were gonna rule with him in his kingdom, that we would sit on 12 thrones. Then he said that the greatest of us is a servant, and we had to become like a little child to enter the kingdom. He chose us and called us to follow him knowing that one of us would turn him over to the Romans to be killed. … Can’t quite figure that one out.

Seriously, but. Jesus was a top bloke. He was a good mate who always looked after you. He’d give you the shirt off his back. He didn͛t have a bad bone in his body. When we went to parties—and we went to a lot of parties– he was there to turn the water into wine. Whoa! How good was that?! We loved it when we would go into a town and crowds would flock around us like seagulls around kids with chips.

But things got nasty. The temple crowd wouldn’t have a bar of Jesus and wanted to knock him off. We could see it a mile away. But Jesus … I wish I had done things differently now. I tried to warn him about coming to Jerusalem, but he like wouldn͛t listen. He got quite stroppy at me and said something like”Get behind me Satann.” (Man. That hurt!)

I … I just wish I could have been stronger. This whole business came crashing down around us real sudden. We ate Passover dinner with Jesus and, next thing, Judas leaves. We left the house and walked a few k’s down the road to this garden and it was late and we were a bit tired and Jesus told us to like wait and went off by himself to pray. He knew something was going down but we just fell asleep waiting. Then the Roman soldiers came with the priests, Judas kissed Jesus and they arrested him … and we were all so scared, and we ran away.

Should’ve stayed. Should have stayed and gone to the trial at least. Mind you, I did go back to the Chief Priest͛s house later that night to see what was happening, but that didn͛t turn out so well.

If only I … but it’s too late for that now. He’s gone. There’s nothing we can do. That’s how it ends.

I remember that night when me and James and John were fishing and a storm came up. We thought our boat would like go under and we would all die. Then Jesus, Jesus comes walking on top of the water towards us! I thought it was a ghost. We were all like terrified. I thought it looked like Jesus. He sounded like Jesus. I said,”If it is you, Lord, ask me to come to you”—and he said “Come.” And I stepped out of the boat and walked on top of the water towards him. I was walking on the water!! But … but when I suddenly saw what I was doing, Ithought,”No way. This isn͛t possible.” And I  started to sink into the water. Jesus saved me. He pulled me up and we got into the boat. He shouted something like”Be still” into the wind and the sea became like glass and the clouds vanished.

If I had the chance to do it all again, I would. I never would have imagined that following Jesus would take me on such an adventure. We had some great times together, the thirteen of us. Yeah, there were some bad times as well, some disappointments, some things I wish we could do over. I wish I would have trusted Jesus more and I wish I would have stood up for him . . . Maybe, maybe things wouldn͛t have turned out this way.

We’ll miss you, mate. Thanks for believing in me even at those times when I didn’t believe in you.

Mary: A Good Friday Story

imageHi. I’m Mary. I used to live in the beautiful town of Magdala on the sea of Galilee.

I First met Jesus when my friends asked him to drop by my house. I guess I’d better tell you a little of my story:  I had been really sick for a long time. It started when I was young—probably when I was around 10 years old. It wasn’t something that happened all of a sudden, but gradually over many years. I began having really dark thoughts about myself. I know that God made me just like I am, but it never seemed to be enough. At synagogue each Sabbath, we were taught how girls were inferior to boys, like there was something wrong with us. The story in the Torah that talks about the woman being deceived and causing all human sin and sickness as well as making our lives generally miserable really got under my skin. It bothered me more and more until it became like it was me there in the garden of God and the snake was coming to get me, or at least take over my mind.

This despair slowly took over my mind and I became really dark and sad.It got to the point that I hardly left my room. I just lay in my bed and stared into nothingness. My parents and whatever friends I had left were worried sick about me. They called in every healer they could find in the hopes that one of them would have some magic oil, herbs or tea that would cure my illness, or at least make it bearable. They spent heaps on trying to help me, but nothing worked.

I can’t even remember where those days went. It all seems like a blur. I started cutting myself and marking my skin with knives. I started hearing voices in my head and it became so bad I couldn’t even hear my sister or mum speak to me. I would wake up at night in terror and see spirits and demons in my room. Many times they would taunt me and call me names. They would tell me I was useless and should kill myself. When my mum died, I couldn’t deal with anything anymore. There seemed to be no end, no way out of this deep darkness that was my life. I gave in to the voices in my head and the years of torture and stumbled and crawled my way out of the town and towards a high hill that dropped off like a cliff into the sea below.

I don’t know why I couldn’t follow through with it. I told myself it was because I was such a coward, … and that became one more name that the demons used to mock me.

Then, one day my sister ran into my room and grabbed me. She was so excited she had tears running down her face. She said, “I think we found someone who can help you!” I must admit I was in some kinda zombie state at the time and the fact that I hadn’t washed or changed my clothes in days didn’t seem to faze her at all. She grabbed me and literally dragged me out the door and down the stairs.

And there he was. Jesus. …

He said one word, “Mary.”

It was the sweetest way someone had ever said my name. I felt . . . I can’t really explain it . . . There just aren’t the words  . . . . I could feel my demons leaving me as something like a huge gust of wind swept right through me. I  . . . I . . . was . . . . free!  I was so overcome by a joy and sense of peace that I had never known. The voices in my head disappeared. The spirits in the room vanished and the air was fresh and sweet-smelling . . . (not like me, as I suddenly realised). And you can’t begin to imagine how my friends and family reacted: they were over the moon with excitement. It was like I was resurrected from the dead!

I followed Jesus from that day on. Everywhere he went. I wanted to be near him. I watched him heal the sick, I saw him open the eyes of that blind man. I was there when he fed 5000 people with just five small bread rolls and two little fish.

I was there when he rode into Jerusalem a few days ago, on the back of a donkey. I heard the crowds shout “Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” I poured the wine for Jesus and his followers when they celebrated Passover together.

When he was arrested, I went with Jesus’s mum to his trial—if you can call it that—and watched him accused of treason and blasphemy.

And then they sentenced him to death and immediately took him to the hill of the skull, outside of the city and nailed him to a cross.

My heart broke. After all he had done for others—I mean, look at me!—after all the good he did . . . this? Seeing his mum sobbing . . . I don’t know what to say. It was horrible.

I just remember Jesus as being this wonderful, kind . . . generous man who always had a smile and encouraging word. He never turned anyone away. . . . We’re going to miss him, and I’m sure memories of these past few years will never ever leave us. A few of the other women who travelled with him are gathering together some spices and oils and are going to go to the tomb and do a proper burial as soon as the Sabbath is over. I guess I’ll join them. Then I’ll probably go back to my family home in Magdala. I just hope those demons don’t come back. I knew they wouldn’t if he was nearby, but I don’t know what I’m going to do now. . . .

Goodbye my dear friend. You saved my life. I will always remember you.

Resurrection Happens

IMG_1444Easter is a very conflicted occasion.

  • Pagan festivals and church processions.
  • Eggs and crosses.
  • Bunnies and burials.
  • Lilies and grave clothes.
  • Chocolate and empty tombs.

Then there is the question of reality–did Jesus really rise from the dead? Is there evidence beyond the Bible for this supernatural event? Is Scriptural evidence sufficient?

Regardless of our responses to these questions, there is a broader question that we ought to be asking: Is thee a wider truth that we can draw from the Easter story that speaks to us on a more universal, meaningful level?

Listen to the words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” 

It doesn’t take that much imagination to put ourselves into the story of these disciples. “We had hoped. Our dreams were in him. Our future was in his hands. Now he’s gone.”

Are you feeling hopeless today? Do you feel that you cannot go on? Is the burden you carry great, and the pain too intense? Is the healing just not happening, the sorrow too much for you?

Here is the truth of Easter: God is in the resurrection business. 

The very first words of Scripture speak of God making new life out of chaos. The creation poem tells us that God spoke there was light.  The waters separated (the ancients believed above the sky was a water-dome called in Genesis ‘the firmament’). The dry land appeared. Fish and animals, human beings, plants and trees all came into being out of the chaos of ‘the deep.’

Some of the last words in Scripture state in simple words God’s grand plan: “Behold I make all things new.” From the chaos this world has become, resurrection will happen and new life–a renewed creation–will spring forth.

Whether or not we believe in a literal resurrection should not prevent us from drawing deeper meaning from this widely-accepted Christian narrative.

Resurrection–new life–is happening around us every day. It’s never too late to begin again. God is even now, in all-embracing love and grace, making all things new.

And this can be true for you too.

There is hope. The power of Christ’s resurrection is at work. The Spirit of God is moving amongst your chaos, speaking light into darkness, strength into weakness and new life into hopelessness.

Resurrection happens! 

And resurrection can happen for you.

Losing Faith: Resurrection

EEmpty tomb aster has come and gone. Chocolate eggs have been found and (almost) all eaten. Easter services have been experienced around the globe, marking the amazing claim: Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed.

Part of the pain of losing faith is the journey. It’s never an instantaneous event where one wakes up simply to find no trace of belief left. It is a process.

Likewise, rediscovering faith is also a journey. It may happen over months or years. And it may result in a totally different faith–or radically changed perspective on truth–than previously held.

For those on this journey, Easter is a difficult time. It is a time of reflecting, mourning what is lost, “seeking the living among the dead,” wondering, hoping, praying (if one still believes enough to indulge in prayer).

Like facing down someone with a mental illness, well-meaning folks will say things like, “Jesus is risen! Just believe.”

This is like telling a manic depressive to “just get over it” or a crack addict to “just say ‘No’.”

The truth is those who doubt haven’t necessarily turned their back on faith. Most of them truly want to believe–they just can’t see their way clear to honestly do so at the present time. Talk of resurrection may bring hope that perhaps, just maybe, there is some truth to Jesus coming alive out of the garden tomb. Emotions may rise on singing the glorious Resurrection anthems, Christ The Lord is Risen Today, or Thine Be the Glory. Yet, to believe in what they sing is too far out of their reach.

Thats why the story of Thomas is so close to my heart. Thomas was a man like me who wouldn’t take things on board simply because someone told him they were true. He had to test the facts, run the experiments, document the evidence, check the science. . . .

And when he finally saw Jesus, alive, face-to-face, I don’t get the impression that his heart was amazingly and miraculously filled with faith. I take from his statement that there was something deep in the back of his mind that he still couldn’t shake, a distrust, an “I need more proof” space that was still open for other answers, other more reasonable claims.

And so he proclaimed, maybe timidly and maybe with some wonderment, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Maybe you are praying that prayer today. Perhaps the answer is on its way, but possibly it will take some time. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of faith, no matter where you came from or where you are headed, God offers you the gift of resurrection. You don’t need to believe it right now. You don’t even need to want to believe in the resurrected Christ.

Honestly, you may never come to a place where you can believe in this Biblical claim of resurrection–be it the account of Jesus coming back to life or any faith in life beyond the grave.

But you need to know there is one thing that no depths of doubt, no amount of unbelief can take away from you, and that is the gift of God that we see in the resurrection story:

The gift of Hope.

Losing Faith: Waiting

20140419-153755.jpgImagine the feeling of abandonment, loss and dashed hopes the disciples of Jesus felt that first Good Friday night. “We were hoping this was he who would save Israel…” What did they do? How did they respond to the death of their teacher and Messiah? Did they sense God had forsaken them too?
It’s hard times when we feel all is lost.
It’s even harder when we can’t hear the voice of God or when we just don’t sense God’s presence with us.
When God is silent . . .
I’m reading an incredible book by Tony Kriz, to whom I can relate on many levels, called Neighbours and Wise Men where he tells stories from his own experiences of growing up, losing his faith, and finding it again in the most unlikely of places–a British Pub.
It was during that time when he happened upon an older Jewish lady named Katarina and told her his story of losing his faith, losing his friends, losing God and the incredible sense of loneliness he felt at that time.
Recounting his conversation with her, we relates to her his painful situation as a missionary in Albania who could no longer believe:

“I couldn’t pray for my friends. I couldn’t pray for my teammates. I couldn’t pray for our work. I couldn’t even pray for myself. I was worthless.”
At this point one of the pools of moisture overflowed and trickled down my cheek. I quickly wiped it away. “So anyway . . . that was the time when I lost my faith.”
My design of water circles had become quite elaborate. I tried to think of what else I should say. I couldn’t think where to go next, so I just sat there staring at the water-circle pattern.
When I finally looked up from the table surface and at Katarina, I was shocked by what I saw. Everything about her had changed. All her pleasantness was gone. Her eyes were hot. She was almost shaking.
“How dare you!” She thrust her finger at me when she said it. “How dare you!” She was desperately trying to maintain her composure, but her anger was overwhelming her.
“Don’t you ever, ever say that again. How dare you speak that way about your faith. How dare you shame your story like that. Shame on you!”
She tried to calm down. Her hands were now on the table in front of her. Her fingers, shaking slightly, were slowly tracing the ruts in the wood. “My people waited in silence for generations to hear from God, to be able to talk to him. Generations! We waited in silence. We screamed at the sky. We waited for God to speak.”
She looked up from the tabletop and stared intently into my eyes. “Look at me,” she demanded. “Look at me and never forget what I am about to tell you. You did not lose your faith. Do you hear me? You did not. . . lose . . . your . . . faith. Your faith was not gone. Your faith was strong. I know it didn’t feel like it, but your faith was true, not only because you waited for God, but more important, because even in the silence God was waiting with you.”

God. Waiting. With. Me.
I am not alone. Even though I can’t see tomorrow, I can wait in peace because God is waiting with me.
This is the message of what Christendom calls “Holy Saturday.” God is silent, but not silent as in abandoning, nor silent as in refusing to speak because of anger.
God is silent with me in my humanity, my grief, my wandering, my directionlesssness, my loss.
The first disciples did not know that Jesus would come back to life. They could not see what tomorrow would bring. They had hoped . . . But now what?
They did the only thing they knew how to do and, in the silence, gathered together the broken pieces of their dreams, moving on in sorrow.

Losing Faith

I don’t know about you, but I have a faith problem. My faith problem is simply that I often lose my faith. It’s not a matter of maintaining appearances–I can do that awesomely; after all, I am a pastor’s son. I can look happy and spirit-filled at the drop of a hat.

No, this is far deeper, raw and honest; it’s a place where I find myself all too often.

Maybe it’s the books I read. People have said stuff to me like, “Don’t read (insert name here)’s books. Your faith can’t last if you expose yourself to such dangerous ideas.” Maybe its the blogs I visit and the topics they discuss like post-evangelicalism, post-modernism, post-Darwinian thought, post-Christian, post-colonialism, etc. Maybe its the stuff I put in my ears–words that tell me I need to think freely, have an open mind, be more inclusive, love more/hate less. . . .

Regardless, apart from the fact that there are certainly elements of danger every time I open my mind to entertain a new thought, I would say the greater danger remains in trying to maintain a status quo, an attachment to a system that just doesn’t work and is losing its credibility more each day. I can’t buy into the Evangelical culture any more than I can buy into consumerism, wanton capitalism, or corporate warmongering.

Ideals aside, it’s still Good Friday (and I digress).

Today we remember the cross, the sacrifice of Jesus, the rigged execution of the God-man who came to be revered as Lord,  King and Saviour.

It is a dark day and, perhaps, “Good” Friday is too sanitised a version of this story. This particular day was horrible, terrible, dark, depressing. It was a  time of pain, of loss, of an end to a promise. . . .

The disciples fled.

The women wept.

The soldiers mocked.

The earth kept spinning into night and the one who promised it all had died.

God had left the building.

There was no more promise, no more hope, no more kingdom.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living that day.

Sometimes my faith gives way to anger, pain, regret. Too often God is distant,  silent, unknowing and uncaring. This is my own personal Good Friday . . . or Monday,  or Thursday, or Sunday. . . .

How about you?

(To be continued)