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Posts Tagged ‘resurrection’

blood of JesusLife patterns change in the face of death. It is rare that a death would have no impact, but it’s possible in the case of a lonely soul, a homeless person. And yet, even they, once discovered, impact the finders. So, now I can’t think of an example of a death not causing some ripples in the fabric of life.

Practically everything in a will hinges on a death. That’s why blood, the evidence of death, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding forgiveness of sins. [Hebrews 9:22 +/-, The Message]

In Judaeo-Christian traditions, death, symbolized by the shedding of blood, marked covenants and promises, as well as standing in as a symbolic gesture for the forgiveness of transgressions. Blood is a powerful conceptualization and its significance is lost on no one. We all know that without blood, the body cannot survive. Breath is good but blood is life-giving and sustaining.

And most of us understand that the death of Jesus was intended as the ultimate sacrifice, that of God’s son (or God in human form) for the sake of humanity. The death of Jesus changed his followers; the resurrection of Jesus changed the world. Jesus accepted his mission and willingly gave all that he had to give, from power to heal to direct access to God to forgiveness of sins and mistakes for eternity.

SONY DSCThe death of Jesus is a macro event. In my own life, our family has experienced what may seem like a micro event in the face of a dying deity, and yet Mike’s death has changed us all, significantly. We are all seeing more clearly what is important and what matters. When people say “don’t sweat the small stuff,” I never realized before how much small stuff is really out there. I have been majoring in non-essentials. Even my young adult children have shed much of the clutter in their lives and squeezed several years of maturing into a few months. We will never the be the same.

But really, is anyone the same after someone has sacrificed on our behalf? All are affected, the one who gives and the one who receives. Sacrifice is not easy.

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Painting by Prof. M. M. Ninan

Painting by Prof. M. M. Ninan

Healing remains a mystery for most of us. Of course, the science of it all has been investigated and documented by very smart people, but ultimately, the why of healing and who is healed and why one tactic or procedure works with one and not another, it’s simply unknown. It is the realm of God.

Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” [Mark 5:29-30, NIV]  But they [the bystanders] laughed at him. After he [Jesus] put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). [Mark 5:29:40-41, NIV]

The power to heal. What is that? Is this power simply the spirit and therefore, endless, or must it be re-charged like a battery? Is it like manna, merely enough for one day? Do some have more than others? Is this “power” simply the life force and some have more than others? Or is it more likely that we are all equally endowed but diverse in our ability to access it? Or, is it even an it? Is this a Presence and sentient?

My fantasy self, the one that reads light-heartedly of magic and elves and wonder, where good and evil are clearly demarcated, likes to imagine that the people Jesus raised from the dead might still be alive today. I mean, at what point would they die once that power infused them? To my best knowledge, the ones Jesus resurrected died of illnesses and not at the hand of others or by accident. Jesus undid the knot in their thread of life. In the case of Lazarus [John 11], Jesus clearly says that the act of resurrection is to glorify God, the Father.

But, what of us? That’s the question that is really on my mind, I know. There have been healers in the past, people who made a sensation through the laying of the hands and prayer, healing many. Charlatans abounded as well, putting on a show of healing. The authentic becomes more difficult to identify. Even in Jesus’s time, there were magicians and brokers of the supernatural. Our culture is unaccustomed to the potential power of the Spirit. We are logical and scientific. All miracles are suspect. Cliches abound: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.” And so on. We’re all from the “Show Me” state of Missouri it seems.

Jesus was suffused in power and he was given the right to wield it or not. This power was so plentiful that some people, like the woman with the issue of blood, were able to grasp it, at times, without his direct intervention: power which could transform and make whole again or even better than it was in the first place.

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. [John 14: 12-14, NIV]

The only thing in the way is me.

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PiercedHandOn that resurrection day and for 40 days thereafter, Jesus appeared to his disciples and to others. I call this the “Second Forty,” and will be doing another systematic walk through these days. But today, this Easter day, I share three experiences I had mirrored a day the followers had:

 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [John 20:19-22]

The doors were locked and the followers were hiding from authorities still, and yet, Jesus revealed himself to them. He was no longer limited by time and space. He appeared. (He was the first one to really experience the Star Trek-like transporter.) And his first words were a blessing for peace. He showed him some tell-tale signs, like the nail prints, but I always wonder if there were other prints: did his back show the scars from the lashes of the whip, did his head show the gashes from the thorns?

And so, with his appearance, they believed again; their faith was reborn in that moment and their fears abated. For some, it was a confirmation (for they never gave up — particularly the women) while for others, they did an about face (they had started to doubt, like Thomas). How long could they have sustained themselves without his appearance? We’ll never know. Like Peter had to carry his public denials of Christ, they would carry their secret ones in the heart.

And then, just like that, they were given their commission: Go! And with that commission came the companion: the Holy Spirit – given through the breath of the Christ. Jesus breathed out and we are asked to breathe in.

Today, when I woke, I had such a lightness of being, and a Presence: the nearness of Christ Jesus. And with that revelation of the Jesus resurrection, came a renewal within, one I have needed for some weeks. And so, I breathed in and filled up again.

And so, I was one with the followers of the Messiah who had been locked up in that room, afraid to take the next step. And Christ came to me with peace and confirmation and hope. Alleluia.


You Won’t Relent by the Jesus Culture.

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LazarusSix days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. [John 12:1-2]

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, not only to celebrate the Passover, but undoubtedly he knew, he was going to his suffering and death. On the way, he stopped to be with friends. These were not necessarily disciples as we have no record that Lazarus and and his sisters followed Jesus in his travels. They were, instead, a home base, a place of rest.

I find it amusing that John would mention that Martha served, this very same Martha who Jesus chastised for becoming overly upset about serving while her sister sat at his feet listening (that would have been weeks earlier). I believe it is mentioned intentionally because this was still Martha’s way. Jesus never intended for Martha to stop being Martha, but to simply stop comparing herself to others and stop stressing. She was good at what she did but Jesus wanted her to check her priorities. I can relate to that, the Martha that I am. And so, on this final trip, his  final visit to their home, Martha served her Rabbi and Lord.

But the continuing story of Lazarus has always fascinated me the most (undoubtedly because of my love for fantasy and science fiction). In Romans 6:9, Paul writes about Jesus, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” And I cannot help but wonder, what happened to the ones Jesus raised from the dead (Lazarus was not the only one, there were a few others)? What was life like afterwards? Did they have awareness of death and then life again? Was there a sense of destiny, a role that needed to be fulfilled by coming back? Did Jesus charge them with a job to do? Did Lazarus die again? Did the widow’s son or Jairus’s daughter, Tabitha, die again?

I’m just asking.

And why did Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus? He delayed coming to the sick bed of Lazarus on purpose. He knew Lazarus was dying. And yet, when Jesus finally arrived in the midst of the raw grief and shock of Mary and Martha, Jesus weeps (John 11:35). So much is assumed is about his weeping, but I am not so sure it is merely for his love for Lazarus. Instead, I believe (and this is pure conjecture on my part) that Jesus wept because of the symbolism that Lazarus’s raising implied. Jesus was seeing himself, for he too would walk from a grave and the stone rolled away.

But Lazarus did not come out with a different body, at least, there is no indication that he could transport himself or walk through walls. In fact, this is the last time we hear of Lazarus at all, reclining at table with his friend, his Rabbi, his Lord.

Is Lazarus still here? I don’t know. But what a story that would be, what an adventure. It’s on my list of tales to write.

 

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Remade by Spirit

Painting "Easter Mom" by He Qi

Jesus was remade by the Holy Spirit. Can I be too? Here is faith and submission of the highest order. Not so much facing death and believing in that resurrection into a life after death; that cannot be known or understood. But in this life, now. Restoration. Renewal. Recovery.

I Peter 3:18b
He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

This is really what it’s all about, this life. It’s about discovery of “aliveness” in its totality, integrated with the Holy Spirit, rebound then to God, fully Human.

Why are we waiting until death for this discovery?

We wonder about the miracles. Did they happen? Were they real? Of course they were “real” because they transcended 3D. Christ lived in both worlds and more, in time and out of time.

This was the mystery uncovered. Reboot.

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What does it mean “to enter?” I guess there has to be a designated portal or opening, a path or direction. Entering implies leaving. Entering also implies that an observation is made from the inside, coming in.

Hebrews 10:19-20a; 22
Therefore, brothers [and sisters], since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart . . .

I remember, back in Indianapolis, I was asked to pledge a high school sorority of some notoriety because it was made up of girls from three separate north side high schools. It had a very long history, apparently as far back as the 1930’s and, based on a cursory Internet search, it was still around in the 90’s. I only mention it because it was the first time I experienced the power of the word, “Enter.” Like most of these types of organizations, there was great hierarchy between the members and the pledges. There were many rules and a lot of “etiquette,” for lack of a better term. And one of the requirements before each pledge could come into a room of members, she had to ask permission to enter. I will never forget that feeling of being made to wait to “enter.”

Another strong memory about entering is from the theatre. There is nothing that can compare with the first entrance onto a stage. There are jitters and nerves, there are fears and expectations, as well as a zillion other feelings. To enter from the sidelines and into the performing area, is literally, like leaving one existence to penetrate another.

The Most Holy Place is not just a place where God hangs out sometimes. This is where God is all the time in a unique and accessible way. This IS God.

In Old Testament times, the “Most Holy Place” was only entered once a year, and then with grave and solemn preparations, including bells on the priest’s robe to insure the people could hear him moving around (some even said a cord was tied to his ankle to drag him out if he died in there – but this is not fully substantiated). That High Priest was the only one who could enter. That was the Law.

Then, a new way comes along and through the single sacrifice of the Christ: all could (and can) enter, all could (and do) have access, all (could and can) engage God in a personal and unique way.

Here’s the sad part: most of us don’t know how to stay there. Legally, through the work of Christ and our faith in the process, we’re in. But we don’t stay in. We act like high school sorority pledges who stand and wait until someone calls us in (perhaps through a Sunday morning worship service or particularly moving sermon or song). We stand like actors and actresses waiting in the wings for our “cue.” We forget about the freedom.

One of our family dogs, a black lab mix, is totally goofy. From the first day we adopted her (at about 4 months), she was afraid of doors and entrances. We had to coax and dangle treats and demonstrate over and over again that no harm would come to her. Finally, she would come in (or go out), and everything was fine. . . until the next time. And we’d have to start all over again.

Humans act the same way; bona fide Christ followers and yet we still stand at the entrance and wait, afraid to enter because it’s not familiar, it’s so unlike “here,” it’s Godspace. We forget the new and living way.

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The second appearance of the Christ is critical to the faith. But I must say, it’s been an event a long time coming. No one can really imagine what the Second Coming might look like. Scriptures are fairly vague at best.

Hebrews 9:28
. . . so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

There’s Revelation 1:7 — “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him. . . ” and Matthew 24:30 — “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” and II Thessalonians 1:7b — “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

So what do we have here: clouds, flames, and signs with the Son of Man manifesting in the midst of it all. Artists have rendered this idea/image as either the Bible School Jesus all in white, robes flowing, or some kind of King image, all in gold, often times on a horse, and full of majesty (whatever that means). In either case, he is recognizable. Me? I don’t think so. I don’t think we’ll understand the Second Coming any more than we understand the ways of nature. We may be able to describe its properties, but not its essence.

Some people talk about the Second Coming of Christ as their chance to say to unbelievers, “See, I told you so,” “I warned you!” They act as though they wouldn’t be in the same shock and terror and wonder! Face it. How many times do things appear out of nowhere in the sky? I have to laugh as I consider whether all the spaceship movies are getting us ready for that appearance.

Of course, not everyone believes this can even happen. I remember standing at a bus stop every day to wait for the public bus that would carry me to high school (this is pre-school buses in Indianapolis). On the corner was a church of some type or another and on their sign, it always said, “Jesus is coming soon!” From my limited understanding of Christianity in those years, I thought they were really stupid. How could Jesus come again if he had already come. This was a teaching I never got (or understood) in Vacation Bible School or the more formal Latvian Lutheran church services. I don’t think I was alone.

A Second Coming is not something which we can prepare for in any way. When Harold Camping touted his May 21st forecast of judgment day (now pushed back to October 21st), he made it sound like people could actually do something in time for that day. That’s not the purpose of Christ’s coming. It’s the end of the age. Whatever happens next will be new, different, not recognizable. It may mean death or it may mean transformation. It’s a nexus moment. When the Christ comes, and if indeed, it’s “in the sky,” then the universe has changed dramatically. Both things cannot co-exist and be the same as before.

And why do the scriptures say that people will mourn? Is it because they didn’t believe or is it the loss of what we know. Our children and our children’s children will not know life as we know it. Everything must change. Everything will change. And if we don’t like change now, “Baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

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