All Posts Tagged ‘easter

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Autumnal Easter

autumn-leaves

Living in New Zealand, we have our seasons at the opposite time of year to northern hemisphere folks. This is most obvious at Christmas when we are eating salads, having barbecues and going to the beach while the US and Europe are eating stodgy winter food and peering through frosted windows at snow.

Easter is another festival that for us is ‘back to front’ with respect to the seasons. Here it is autumn, not spring, so the tenuous link between eggs and Easter is lost, let alone how rabbits come into the picture.

Some suggestthat the date of Easter should be moved so that southern hemisphere churches can better appreciate the seasonal nuances of a spring festival, or we should reflect on the ‘refreshing coolness’ of autumn as symbolic of the resurrection. The first suggestion is unworkable and the second is grasping at another tenuous seasonal gimmick.

Autumn gives its own meaning to Easter, with a depth that goes beyond mind games. To every Christian, Easter means the death and resurrection of Jesus. Autumn brings a natural emphasis to the first part of this meaning.

The days cool down, mornings and evenings darken, and nature braces itself for the temporary death of winter. So too we walk through Lent aware of the impending death of Christ. His was also a temporary death but no less decisive for being overcome by the resurrecting power of God.

Seeing trees change colour reminds us that we’ve been here before. The winter to come may be hard but the seasons do change, the approaching season of coldness and death will also pass. This is the value of the liturgical calendar, reminders of what faith means in all the changing seasons of life and that through all such changes Jesus remains constant as our rock.

Fading light adds a solemn weightiness to our experience of Easter. The cross is symbolic of our faith and I appreciate the added emphasis autumn gives to this crucial element of Easter. Summer is over, the hardest part of the year lies ahead. At Easter we remember our desperate need of salvation and the awful cost of it. We move on into the darker months knowing the hope we have in Christ who rose again and conquered both death and the sin that causes it.

The darkening days of autumn also call to mind what Jesus spoke in relation to the death he would die:

So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:35-36 ESV)

Let us walk in the light of Christ and the hope of the resurrection.

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He is not here

This week’s 5 Minute Friday prompt is ‘here’

Go:

He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.
(Luke 24:6–7 ESV)

These women with the spices were the first Christians, and they are more like me than I usually admit. They were going to beautify a body, to anoint the man Jesus, who had died on a cross several days previously.

They did not find that Jesus. Instead they encountered Jesus as God to be worshipped, Saviour to be adored. He shattered their preconceptions and overwhelmed their ideas about God, replacing them with Himself – a person beyond their comprehension.

How often do I go seeking a man-sized Jesus with my human problems, a dead religious ritual rather than seeking God as He is?

Stop!

(Five Minute Friday is when we use the prompt chosen by Lisa-Jo and write for 5 minutes without over thinking or editing. Then link up to Lisa-Jo’s post and leave a comment for the person who linked up before us. Easy, and fun!)


Image: iStock

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Bowed in gratitude this Lent

Until now I have never really celebrated Lent. I have been a Christian for over 20 years but the richness of this season has been unknown to me.
In recent years the desire to cultivate meaningful family traditions for my children has led to learning more about the seasons of the Church calendar and looking for ways to incorporate these into our family life.

As we walk stumblingly through Lent and I focus my heart on this season of preparation I am seeing deeper into the promises and anticipation of the redeeming work of Christ. His grace of accepting, cleansing and purifying me shines greater as the cross looms ever nearer.

I am also learning gratitude and thanksgiving is at the heart of this season:

In the season of Lent, the Church encourages us to “master our sinfulness and conquer our pride,” but we are to do this within the context of thankfulness. The deeper appreciation for what God has accomplished in Christ, the greater our gratitude. The sacrifices we make are simple ways of expressing thankfulness. God only asks us to accept his love in Christ Jesus. (The Little Way of Lent, by Father Gary Caster)


Gifts I have noticed recently:

841) Antibiotics for an infected bee sting.
842) A productive afternoon’s work.
843) Taking the whole family to a movie together.
844) Son enraptured by model engineering displays.
845) A quiet house to myself for the afternoon while I prepare a sermon.
846) The fog appears to be lifting.
847) Another poison prevention talk delivered to parents.
848) Guiding others through Bible basics.
849) Small, incremental improvements.
850) A few more steps towards healing and understanding.
851) So many ideas that I don’t have time to use them all.
852) Cheerful cheeping of a fantail as we walk together.
853) Happy children on scooters on a sunny track.
854) Renewed vigour and enthusiasm in our little church.
855) Seeing the effects of God at work in people’s lives.

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Marching into Lent with candle in hand

Advent wreath

I did not grow up in a Christian home. The number of times I went inside a church as a child can be counted on one hand and although my Mum did make some early attempts to teach my older sister and I some of her Catholic faith that didn’t last long.

I became a Christian when 18 years old, single, with no kids. My first child changed my life when I was 32 and had already spent over a dozen years as an adult learning about God. Also, none of the churches I have been a member of use a liturgical calendar so there are elements of church traditions I know very little about.

So while I understand how important it is to teach my children about God and model faith to them, I have very little idea how to make it happen in practise. My wife and I are slowly gathering various ideas which we try out, adapt and use as the basis of faith-filled family traditions. Fortunately with young children it only takes several repetitions for them to gain an expectation for such stumbling traditions to continue.

With this in mind I ordered one of Caleb Voskamp’s Advent to Lent wreaths in October last year, unfortunately too late for it to arrive before Christmas. After a 12 week journey across the Pacific ocean it did arrive last Saturday, in time for the Lent countdown to Easter.

With it’s beautifully finished oak spiral and figure of Christ hauling his cross, our wreath has begun counting down to the dawning light of resurrection at Easter.

I am excited to have this visual and tactile aid as we endeavour to incorporate the living symbolism of Christianity into our family life.

A purist might say that props should be unnecessary; I am simply filling my life with more stuff and indulging in the human penchant for replacing interaction with God with man-made traditions. My reply to this is that I know my weakness. Materialism is unnecessary but inevitable because I have a physical body living in a materialistic social framework. Therefore I manipulate this natural tendency such that my heart is turned towards God by the stuff in my life rather than away from God by the independence that comfort brings automatically.

The physical presence of a wooden spiral in the middle of our dining table with a candle and figure of Christ carrying a cross on it is already reminding me that there is a meaning to life far beyond the usual daily grind. That is gain.

Lent candles

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Open

It seems that 5 minute Friday has morphed this week into a six-minute Saturday, but I’m still joining the gypsymama, with the word prompt for this week which is:

Open

When I first considered this word prompt I thought of an open door representing opportunity. Then there is the idea of being open towards others – something this blogging lark has helped me with personally because I have always been very introverted and closed but am learning that such closedness is in fact very damaging to me.

However, what really sticks in my mind regarding “open” is that now the Kingdom of God is open to me, because Jesus opened his arms to receive the nails on that cross and his heart was opened also, receiving a spear. As his side was pierced and the blood and water flowed, my salvation was purchased. His open wounds have opened my own heart to the call He issued: follow me. And so, stumblingly I close another year and perch ready to open a new one with a focus on the opportunities open before me.

Stop

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Wind and worship

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7 ESV)

In the silence while everyone was out today, I picked up my neglected flute and played ‘Amazing Grace‘. As I exhaled the breath given me by God, it hit the silver lip, splitting into octaves, tones and semitones. Music woven back into worship to Him who gave me breath. He breathed life into me, I breathed out worship. In a rare moment I lived as I should be.

You don’t need a flute to do this, voices work just fine (Acts 16:25).

But would I use my voice to worship if suffering and treated shamefully? (1 Thessalonians 2:2) In my  heart I already know the answer, I’d like to think it were not this one but history and knowledge of myself tells me – no, I would grumble and complain, my voice would not be praising God from prison.

Paul, the worshiper, commands:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

I don’t know how to do this. I’m not even sure how to learn how to do this. How will I praise God when suffering unless I can learn this?

Gifts I have noticed this week (371 – 396):

371) Finishing off posts I began writing months ago.
372) Holding the hand of a child when she slipped, preventing her getting hurt – just as my Father holds me.
373) Unwrapping the last Easter egg, anticipation, wanting sweetness, needing life.
374) Rain on the tin roof.
375) Relaxing under the shower of Your Word as it washes over me.
376) A wife who can read me better than I can see the signs myself.
377) A helpful and understanding doctor.
378) rain has finally ceased, I see blue sky, sunlight even!
379) Old smelly dog lying by the fire.
380) Aching emptiness paralyzing – it means something I haven’t yet discovered.
381) Word habits, drawing me back to You.
382) A busy weekend.
383) My little boy’s fascination and delight watching model railways.
384) The adoration of a dog reminding me to worship (thank you, David B.).
385) Audiobook speaking when I’m unable to read.
386) Water resting in torrent-hewn pools.
387) Brightness from even a grey sky.
388) Her example – walk when in the grey.
389) Breathing deeply through pain.
390) Walking slowly, carefully, through slippery miry clay.
391) Forest bursting full with the cycle of life.
392) Swinging legs and arms energizing me.
393) fantails flitting around me, being fed by our Father (Matthew 6:26).
394) Fingers pink and puffy from cold.
395) Coming home to warmth.
396) Life given by God, breathed across silver, creating a song of grace in worship to God.

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Netted Recently, May 5

Netted recently (and not so recently):
  • During the month of May christianaudio are giving away a free download of the book The Next Story by Tim Challies. I have begun listening to it and if you have any interactions with technology (this means you, blog reader!) I think you will find it an interesting audiobook to listen to.
  • From the Bible Gateway Blog, a Holy Week Timeline: examine the “who,” “what,” and “where” of events leading up to and through Easter. Follow the lines in the chart to see at a glance what people were doing, where they were, and whom they were with at any point during the week.
  • “The measure of faith isn’t pain, it’s choice.” For those of us living comfortable, safe lives, this is a thoughtful and encouraging consideration of what is required to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Xtreme Blog 64-The Greatest (Link broken)
  • An old post but I only read it this week and really agree with this comment:

These technologies should be peripheral to our lives, not central. God still loves people and desires our lives to be invested into real, healthy, and growing relationships. May God enable us to be in balance—to use technology for His glory and the edification of people He loves. Blogs and Twitters—Is There a Point? (By Cary Schmidt | November 14, 2008)

  • So, the man who masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 has been located and killed. I find myself relieved that they ‘got him’, saddened at the militant jubilation from some, and somewhat apprehensive regarding possible backlash from Bin Laden’s supporters. Here is a good responses from the Desiring God blog: Is God Glad Osama Bin Laden’s Dead?
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He is risen

Cross

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”(Luke 24:1-7 ESV)

He has risen!

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
(Romans 8:11 ESV)

I also live because Jesus lives!

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

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Lesson from a midnight alcoholic

God comes to us at times in a ‘distressing disguise’ as I discovered last night:

As I waited for my taxi home from work at around midnight last night I saw one of the local ‘characters’ of our town coming towards me. She was muttering something to herself as her rotund frame stooped to closely examine some junk mail on the footpath which I had stepped over about five minutes previously. After some debate with herself it was retrieved and carefully placed in one of the two supermarket bags she carried. Upon straightening up she caught sight of me, waved, mumbled and shuffled towards me.

Having some knowledge of this character the thought, “now would be a good time for my taxi to arrive”, crossed my mind as I was greeted by the pungent bouquet of stale urine and sweat with tones of cigarette smoke layered over alcohol. However, last night Joan was just in the mood for a chat so she yarned, while I nodded and made encouraging noises, telling her my name five times over. She was convinced she could remember me from somewhere. It’s possible, I certainly remembered her, though I do hope my general behaviour is less memorable than hers. We discussed my job and why I was out so late, she told me details of her birth and her life. One comment stuck in my mind, “the doctors tell me it’s not my fault for being like this, my parents did it to me, but I still choose to drink so it is my fault.”

I was then presented with a hand-made Easter card, given a hug and God’s blessings and she wandered off into the night.

An odd wee encounter which did leave me thanking God – thanking Him for Joan and a number of other people like her in various ways who have survived many years of wandering the streets in all weathers, at all hours of day and night, enduring constant mocking, jeering and abuse. Thanking God that they are ‘OK’, they are still around, some of them do know Jesus, and that in faltering ways our society at least protects their basic humanity and some dignity.

Of course I also thanked God that I am not living my life as an alcoholic wandering the streets.

I thank Jesus for reminding me of his grace in keeping the choices I make from so very easily tipping me into a chaotic life.

He also is thanked for reminding me to pray for these, His children, the little ones whose being led into sin will be punished, these lost who He came to find, these sick and cold and hungry who He commands us to heal, feed, clothe and comfort. I thank Him that even despite the lousy attitude of my heart He conversed with Joan and had compassion on her, leading me as a petulant child on a brief interlude of love.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
(Luke 19:10 ESV)

Gifts I have noticed this week (323 – 334):

323) A calm, sunny autumn afternoon at Long Beach.
324) Cuddles from my wife as her stress eases.
325) A diagnosis for a child, even though I don’t like it.
326) Bellbirds and Tuis singing in our street.
327) Warm woollen slippers as winter cold begins to creep in.
328 to 334) mentioned above

(Credit to Mother Teresa of Calcutta for the perception of Jesus coming to us in a distressing disguise)