When you see the word “Braid,” what do you think of?
Those braids appear to be two strong strands twisted together. (Isn’t she beautiful?)
Likewise, this rope seems to have two strong strands twisted, right?
When I used to braid my daughter’s hair, I needed three strands to create the braid.
Today’s devotional made me think about these various braids and contemplate the strength of the three strands. Here was the scripture:
“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Katie Minter Jones in “Mornings with Jesus” by Guideposts wrote a devotional based on that scripture. In it she recounted how difficult the days of early marriage were as she and her husband “struggled through difficult times.”
She quoted a friend as saying, “Together we worked hard to get where we are now. It definitely takes two to make a marriage work, and that’s not fifty-fifty. Each person has to give 100%.” Finger pointing and trying to divvy stuff up 50-50 leads to disaster.
One of her lady friends said, “It takes three to make a successful marriage, the husband, the wife, and Jesus.” Each person must give 100% to each other and 100% to Jesus.”
That seems like a tall order! But doing so creates the three strands that make the braid unbreakable. Couples need to walk with Jesus to have a strong marriage.
Here’s my take on what that looks like.
When our hearts are bound in love around our Lord’s cross, His mercy and grace strengthen our relationship and help us grow closer. As we walk hand in hand, praying and staying together in love, God blesses us. Jesus Christ strengthens us. The Holy Spirit braids our hearts in His love and care. Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian Love. Be braided!
Write your spouse a love letter today and include a prayer.
Dear Bob, I am so grateful for your love and for our mutual reliance on Jesus, our Lord. Thank you for praying with me, staying with me, putting Christ first in our lives, and relying on Him during our times of struggle. His sacrificial love is the perfect reminder of how we need to take care of each other. His presence binds us in purpose and braids us with His promises and His peace. Thank you! Love Forever and Ever, Rockie ;o) ❤
Dear God, Thank you for blessing our marriage and knitting our hearts together. May my blogging friends find that same peace and grace and purpose in life. May they sense Your guidance in their relationships and be braided with You. Amen. In His Care, Jan
Let the light of God shine on your relationship, be central to your lives, and braid you together with peace and purpose. God bless you!
Today’s sermon message by our guest pastor, Rev. Phil Taylen at the Madison Valley Presbyterian Church in Ennis, Montana, focused on the theological basis for our assurance of Eternity in Heaven.
It was timely, especially given the fact that this is the week my only sibling, my sister Sally, went to her eternal home.
If you die today, do you know where you’re going from here?
Is it Hell or a Black Hole?
My guess is that the choice is pretty clear. I was looking for a picture of a black hole… because some people believe this is it! We’re here and then we’re nowhere. A black hole… that’s where they think they’re going. They don’t believe there is a place called Hell where they will burn in the fires of an afterlife separated from God.
Or is it Heaven?
Rev. Phil Taylen’s sermon was titled, “Soaring with Eagles.” He began with that question, “Where Will You Spend Eternity?” His answer was part of a movement he called “The Evangelism Explosion.” Even though he grew up in the Presbyterian Church, he was ordained by an Evangelical Ministry – and his sermon lecture today definitely got down to the basics!
B asic I nstructions B efore L eaving E arth
Heaven by Grace
G od’s R iches A t C hrist’s E xpense
Grace is God’s Unmerited Favor poured out on us. Grace can’t be earned or deserved. Heaven is a free gift.
He cited Ephesians 2: 8-9 as further proof of the point he was teaching and preaching:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Not By Man
Good works are important, but they will not save us.
I am a sinner. I can’t save myself.
He cited John 8:24 to prove his message that man cannot save himself:
“Unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”
God gave us basic instructions to live by before leaving earth.
God is Love. God is just and righteous.
In the Bible, our instruction book, God told us:
Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God. …
Heaven Through Christ
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus Christ is God.
Faith is Belief
Faith is the Connector. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
I don’t see the whole staircase. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Only Begotten Son, but I do not believe God will send all the Jews or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists to Hell because they do not share my belief in Jesus as a part of the Trinity.
I believe God is bigger than religion. I believe God is omnipotent. I believe God knows all people – and He sees them through His eyes, not mine. That may make me a non-believer in some evangelical eyes. But I believe God is more inclusive than we can fathom.
I find enormous comfort in my faith – my belief in our Lord Jesus Christ – and I want to share that comfort and love with all I meet. I believe 2 Cor. 1:3-5 as quoted below:
Do you believe in Christ?
Thanks for visiting today. Have a Blessed Sunday. See ya tomorrow. Love, JanBeek
It’s easy for someone to tell you to forgive Easy for them to say But they weren’t the one who was wronged Advice is cheap today
It’s easy for someone to tell you to forgive Blood’s not on their hands The ones who performed murderous acts There: Forgiveness demands
In today’s sermon at Madison Valley Presbyterian Church here in Ennis, Montana, our pastor, Steve Hundley, preached on the scripture found in Matthew 21:33-46. He acknowledged that it is a hard lesson to make sense of. The vineyard owner sent workers to harvest the grapes, and the tenants of the vineyard killed the workers.
The owner sent more workers and the tenants killed them, too.
So the vineyard owner sent his son. Surely the tenants would respect the owner’s son! But, no… they killed him, too!
What are we to make of this story?
In the midst of such horrendous acts, the bottom line is love. Love the murderers? Love the tenants who killed the people who came to harvest? Love the tenants who killed the owner’s son?
Realize that this parable is about God, the owner of all we have. It’s about the fact that we live in a world under the shadow of the “American Dream; Ownership.”
Maybe the message is “Nobody likes an absent landlord!” The tenants are the ones who worked hard to maintain that vineyard. Then, at harvest time, the owner expects to send others to reap the benefit of their hard work? No, the tenants hated the idea of others coming to reap the harvest!
When the son was sent… the parable is asking us to see that this was the Son, Jesus. He, too was killed. Killed by those who feared this Messiah was going to take what they thought they owned… the kingship, the ownership of the land and its people.
God did not create us to take ownership of God’s resources. We are the stewards, the caretakers. God’s vineyard is not for sale. We were not even given a lease with an option to buy!
The parable doesn’t tell us what the owner did to the tenants. It doesn’t say He finally left his mansion and went down and got even with the tenants somehow… what might the retribution look like?
It doesn’t tell us He forgave them for their murderous acts. We are left to finish the story ourselves. How would you finish it?
What is your idea of ownership? What is your understanding of our Owner’s Love? Pastor Steve reminded us that Our Owner longs for a connection with us. “God desires a relationship with us… He asks that we take care of this earth – His gifts to us – and one another… and that we give a portion back.” He asks that we love one another. He asks us to forgive one another – and to love our enemies. Wow! That’s a tall order!!
Pastor Steve concluded his sermon today by reminding us: “Our gifts are not our own. They are God’s, and we are given them to use for God’s Kingdom. We are the caretakers. God’s love always trumps God’s justice.“
I love you, dear WordPress friends. Thank you for visiting today. I hope you’ve had a Love-filled Sunday. Hugs, JanBeek
Thank you, Vitu Santos for this wonderful photo. It speaks volumes to me… and it exhibits to me the message of today’s sermon…
At the Madison Valley Presbyterian Church in Ennis, MT today, Rev. Steve Hundley delivered his sermon titled, “Is Your Cross Too Heavy?” The Lord prompted me to take my sermon notes in the shape of a cross. The photo of the cross sermon above is the result of that effort.
To illustrate his point – that we need to give Jesus our burdens, lighten our load, and live in joy, Rev. Steve used this story:
“It’s hard for an egg to become a bird, but it would be harder for a bird to fly while still in the egg.”
Let go the egg… and FLY! Give Jesus your burdens and follow Him with JOY, not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to.
God bless you with the JOY of Life Given Away because you WANT to!
Have a Happy Labor Day weekend. See ya tomorrow. Love, JanBeek
Today’s sermon preached by Rev. Steve Hundley at the Madison Valley Presbyterian Church in Ennis, Montana was titled “The Moment of Truth.” It was based on the scripture passages: Matthew 16:13-20
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
The Moment of Truth
What are you afraid of? Is it something quiet and small? Is your fear founded and grounded? Do you understand it at all?
The greatest fear most folks say Is speaking in public – sweating starts! The stakes seem highest when asked To speak from the depths of our hearts.
Stating facts – what somebody else has said – Is not as hard as speaking your own Thoughts and feelings out loud (Unless it’s on social media or the phone).
There was a time when Jesus asked Peter, “Who do YOU say that I am? Be true!” Simon Peter readily proclaimed to Him, “You are the Messiah, Son of the Living God, that’s You!”
Peter had no fear of speaking his heart. His faith he readily proclaimed. In a harsh world, draw your breath in pain. Tell what you believe. God’s asking YOU. You’re named!
There’s a feeling some people have That God is in the sunset and the trees. They say they don’t need church – And they don’t need to worship on their knees.
But Jesus told us it’s not enough To see God in the river and the dawn. We need to see God in Jesus Christ. He’s the One we rest our salvation on.
How can we know who God is In Christ, the Messiah and teach Our children about the Savior If we’ve never had His Word within reach?
We need to talk to Jesus in prayer. We need to imitate Him, too. We need to take hold of God’s love Through Jesus and the Holy Spirit in you.
How can we see the world today, Watch the brutality of teens with guns And still believe in God and His goodness? It’s faith. It’s knowing what God has done.
What are you afraid of? Is it speaking in public from the heart? Is it expressing your faith? This is the Moment of Truth – time to start!
I believe in Christ – Son of the Living God. I believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior. Step out and boldly speak from your soul. God will reward your brave behavior.
“On you, this rock I will build my church, And the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it.” Speak up with firm conviction… You’ll be so relieved once you’ve done it!
For special music today, we had Jaime Roberts on keyboard, Jim Forsberg singing and playing the saw, and George Ennis (with his amazing bass voice) singing. It started with Jaime’s lovely solo. I woke up to thinking I should record this for you when Jim started playing. Have you ever heard a musical saw? Tune in! God bless our musicians! As you can see, we are worshiping outside these days. We had about 40 people in attendance (behind me).
Hope you’ve had a lovely Sunday. Mine was. See ya tomorrow. Thanks for visiting, Love ya, JanBeek
Thanks to Pastor Steve Hundley and our music minister, Fran McNiell, for the prayers, stories, and sermon, and the music for today’s worship service.
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
April 19, 2020
Risen Christ, the brightness of God’s glory and exact image of God’s Person, who death could not conquer nor tomb imprison, as You have shared our frailty in human flesh, help us to share Your immortality in the Spirit. Let no shadow of the grave terrify us and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from You. Reveal Yourself to us this day and all our days, as the First and the Last, the living One, our immortal Savior and Lord. Amen.
Prayer of Confession:
We confess, O God, that we have not lived the past weeks in the faith of Easter. We have been like the disciples, who saw life in terms of the suffering of the cross more than in the joy of resurrection. Forgive our hopelessness in the face of our world’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic, these past few weeks, and help us to trust more fully that You are the Lord of our future. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
As God raised Jesus from the dead, so God will lift us all from the graves of broken dreams. God makes us whole again and send us forth to witness to His name.
A Children’s Message for Adults, too!
Steve’s message for the children today tells of a boy carrying two buckets… not just one, and not on a sandy beach like this one… read on and see how his buckets and path differed from this!
(a true story)
When I was a boy, my mother would often send me down the road to Clyde’s cabin to help him with his laundry. Clyde lived in a log cabin he had built in the early nineteen-hundreds. His cabin had no running water, only a well out back. There was a creek out front less than a quarter mile from his front door.
Clyde had an old roller washing machine, a tub and an old scrub board. It was my job to carry water from the creek to the cabin in two old milk pails. I would fill the pails in the creek and make my way back to the cabin, pouring what water that didn’t spill or leak out of the buckets into the large tub. Filling each bucket to the rim each trip, I would arrive with less than half a bucket of water. At that rate, it would take me practically all day to supply enough water for Clyde’s washing and rinsing.
Complaining about the amount of water that I was spilling over the top of the buckets, not to mention the water lost from holes in his dilapidated buckets, Clyde instructed me to place a small block of wood in the buckets. He explained that the blocks of wood floating in the buckets would help water from splashing out the tops. Though it helped a little, I continued to leak water from the holes the buckets.
On one trip from the creek to the cabin with water leaking down my legs and into my shoes, I had had about enough. “Clyde,” I moaned, “When are you going to throw away these sorry buckets and buy new ones? These dented old rust buckets are full of holes.” Clyde just smiled his toothless grin and said, “Why boy, those are my special buckets. I could never get rid of them.” “But these sorry things are full of holes,” I whined. “And, it takes me twice the effort and double the trips back and forth from the creek, to fill your tubs.”
“Boy, take a look along that path leading down to the creek,” Clyde said. “Do you see all those beautiful wildflowers, lining the path?Every time you made the hard trip from the creek to the cabin, spilling water along the way, you were unknowingly watering God’s beautiful flowers for us to enjoy.”
Jesus’ followers found the path towards Easter to be really difficult. Peter denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times, though he vowed never to do so. After that, he was so upset that he no longer considered himself worthy of being a disciple. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to watch her son suffer and die on the cross. Mary Magdalene was not only upset by Jesus’ death, but was horrified to think that someone had stolen His body when she found the stone rolled away.
I am sure that God could have found an easier path for them to follow than the way of the cross. But, without the pain of the cross, there can be no Easter joy. Without God coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ and paying the price for our failures on the cross, we would not see, know, or enjoy the beauty of His love for us.
Prayer for Illumination:
God of life, whose Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and draws us to Christ, send Your Spirit now to give us deeper insight, encouragement, faith and hope, through the proclamation of the Easter gospel. Amen.
An Easter Message: “Through Locked Doors”
For centuries Christians celebrated Jesus’ resurrection the week following Easter with parties and picnics. The week culminated with “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday”, a day of joy and laughter. Churchgoers and pastors would play jokes on each other, tell silly jokes, and would sing and dance. The custom was rooted in the notion of early Christian theologians like St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nysa, and St. John Chrysostom that God had played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Early theologians called it “the Easter Laugh”. Later, it became known as “the Gospel as Divine Comedy.”
However, the thought of the resurrection as God’s practical joke on the devil and death is not something we tend to think about the Sunday following Easter. Over the years, the tradition of “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday” has been lost. That tradition has been replaced with what we have come to know as “Low Sunday.” Compared to the highest feast day in the church year – Easter Sunday- the Sunday following is considered the lowest. Why is that?
I don’t know. Maybe the excitement of Easter Sunday fades so quickly because the church, over the years, has lost its hope in the power of the resurrection. Maybe. Or, perhaps it is because the stories of Easter and the resurrection have become so familiar to us that we have lost sight of the irony of life overcoming death, especially given the high death toll we are experiencing during this recent pandemic. Well, maybe.
You have to admit that someone rising from the grave is a rather fantastic idea in our modern world. For instance, when my son was in middle school, he came home one day after school to discover that our Brittany Spaniel was running around in the backyard with our neighbors’ pet rabbit in its mouth. Chasing the dog, my son finally caught it and wrenched the rabbit from its jaws. He quickly discovered, not only was the rabbit covered with mud and dog slobber, it was also dead as a door nail.
Panicking, he scooped the rabbit up and ran into the house. In the bathroom, he carefully washed the rabbit off, carefully brushed it out, and dried it with his mother’s hairdryer. Stealthily, he crept back into the neighbors’ yard and quickly placed the dead rabbit back into its rabbit pen. Arranging it just right, it was impossible to tell that the rabbit was dead. Sneaking back to the house, my son retired to his room, promising himself not to tell anyone what had really happened.
Arriving home from my office, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard the blood curdling scream coming from my neighbor’s backyard. Running out the house, I ran to the fence to see our neighbor’s wife staring with horror into the rabbit pin. “What on earth has happened?” I called. “THE RABBIT, IT DIED!” she screamed. “It died?” I said inquiringly. Turning to run back into her house, she screamed: “YES, IT DIED THREE DAYS AGO! WE BURIED IT, BUT NOW IT IS BACK! (Now this story may not be true, but you have to admit, be it rabbit or human, rising up from the grave is a fantastic notion in this day and time!)
Can you and I even fathom the shock of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them, passing through locked doors? Sure, they had trudged behind Jesus through the entire Judean countryside. Jesus’ purpose and teachings were hard to understand, even though He spoke of being the Christ—the Messiah—the Holy One of God, who is of the Father.
But, all that must have seemed like a dream (or more like a nightmare) when Jesus was crucified, ending all hope. The death of Jesus had slammed the door on their greatest hopes and dreams. It was over. It had been good while it lasted, but now the door was locked and nothing could bring Him back to life again, or so they thought. They had buried Him three days before, AND NOW, HE WAS BACK!
Of course, the reaction to God’s practical joke on death was varied among Jesus’ followers. While the “beloved disciple” may have believed without evidence except for an empty tomb, Mary Magdalene only believed because the Risen Christ called her by name. The remaining disciples, excluding Thomas, believed only because their Risen Christ appears to them, granting peace to them, and showing them His hands and His side. Yet, for Thomas, neither the word of his fellow disciples, nor the sight of the Risen Lord would be sufficient. For Thomas said, “Unless I place my fingers into the nail holes, and stick my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
It would seem that true FAITH is not the same experience for everyone, not then, not now. Neither is FAITH generated with the same kind and degree of evidence for each individual. For some, FAITH is born and grows as quietly as a child sleeping on grandmother’s lap. For others, FAITH is a lifetime of wrestling with the angel. And, some cannot remember a time in their life when they didn’t believe, while others cannot remember anything else with their lives having been shattered and reshaped by their decision of FAITH.
No matter how FAITH came, or comes, to you and me, it would do us well to remember the words of Jesus who said: (and I paraphrase), “REMEMBER THIS, UNLESS YOU ACCEPT GOD’S KINGDOM IN THE SIMPLICITY OF A CHILD, YOU’LL NEVER GET IT.” And like a child, what better way to celebrate God’s joke on death than with joy, laughter, singing, and dancing? Yet, what a shame it is, when the voice of doubters or the voice of those of us for whom FAITH has become the norm, even commonplace, drown out the true irony and wonder of the resurrection.
When I think of the true joy and wonder of faith, I cannot help but remember a boy named Lonnie, years ago, in my 3rd grade classroom. Lonnie’s parents had died in an automobile accident, so his grandparents were raising him. I remember how we used to tease Lonnie mercilessly, because he would believe anything. We’d say, “The school burned down, so we don’t have to go to school Monday.” “Oh, boy!” he’d say. You see, he’d believe it!
“They are giving away free ice cream down at Mr. Kern’s grocery store.” “FREE ICE CREAM?” he’d squeal and off he’d go running. “Lonnie, did you know that that Elvis is coming to our school?” “HE IS REALLY? WHOOPEE!” Yep, that boy would believe anything!
One day, Lonnie showed up at our little country church and came to our Sunday School class. Our teacher, old Miss King, told Lonnie that: “God loves you and cares for You. And God will come to you in Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead.” And do you know, THAT KID BELIEVED IT! HE ACTUALLY BELIEVED IT!
Do you believe it? Do we really believe it? And, if we do, then where is our laughter? Where is the singing and dancing? Where is our uncontrollable joy? Hmmm.
Lord of the cross and the Empty Tomb, we worship You. Though the pandemic rages on, You give us reason to hope. We thank You that we are not alone even as the news of more Corona Virus cases and deaths dominate the headlines. Though we are well-acquainted with death, dying and grief, we praise You that death has been vanquished and its spell broken. And though our lives are still embroiled in sin, failure and inadequacy, thank You, O God, for giving our lives meaning, purpose and direction.
We confess that the more days we stay at home, the more likely it is that we may forget Your power and fall into despair. Yet, today we remember and hope comes back. Though the darkness of the night brought doubt and disarray, in the light of this new day we bow our heads in worship. Like Thomas, we desire to see the nail prints and touch the wound in Your side, but Your presence is enough, and we cry out, saying: “My Lord, and my God!”
Walk among us, Lord, and touch our troubled lives. Give hope to the hopeless, strength to the faltering, love to the lonely, compassion and courage to those on the front line of this pandemic. We pray for health, hope, and help for those who have lost their incomes and/or health insurance in the midst of this ongoing lock down. Let the radiance of Your resurrected presence shine upon them and us as it shone upon Your first disciples and make new persons of us all, as it did of them.
Transform us from frightened, hesitant, uncommitted followers into people of fire and steel who know what we believe and who will follow You no matter what the future holds. Live in and through us. Walk among us and teach us to walk with You. For You alone have the words of eternal life, and You alone can call us into discipleship. Lord of the cross and empty tomb, we praise You! Bring healing and hope to our hurting world, for Your name’s sake, saying together, as One Church, One Body …”Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts (trespasses), as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us). And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
Go into the world: dance, laugh, sing, and create.
Go into the world: risk, explore, discover, and love.
Go into the world: believe, hope, struggle, and remember.
Our pastor, Steve Hundley, and choir director, Fran McNiell, teamed up to present a wonderful on-line church service for us. It’s not a video. It’s a Word document with links to a couple of majestic Easter hymns performed by The Hereford Cathedral Choir and congregation with orchestral and pipe organ accompaniment.
Resurrected Lord, like Mary Magdalene alone in the garden we, too, find ourselves alone, separated from those we love on this Easter morning. Risen Christ, come to us as You came to her. Let no shadow of the grave terrify us and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from You. Reveal Yourself to us this day and all the days ahead, as the first and the last, the Living One, our Immortal Savior and Lord. Amen.
Celebrate the Empty Tomb
Today we celebrate the empty tomb and our risen Savior. Let us confess our shortcomings and ask our Savior to forgive us. Here is Pastor Steve Hundley’s
Prayer of Confession:
Almighty God, in raising Jesus from the grave, You shattered the power of sin and death. We confess that we remain captive to doubt and fear, as CORVID 19 virus rampages through our world and alters our lives. Forgive us, God of mercy. Help us to trust Your power to heal, to give us life and make us new, that we may know the joy of life abundant given in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: (I Corinthians 15:54-57)
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is Your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer for Illumination:
God of life, whose Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and draws us to Christ, send Your Spirit now to give us deeper insight, encouragement, faith and hope, through the proclamation of the Easter gospel. Amen.
Overcoming Life’s Greatest Temptation
“Do not worry about anything.” Paul said it. Jesus preached it in His sermon on the Mount message. It is Scripture to be obeyed. But, is it really humanly possible not to worry about anything? It is like telling a lame man to stop dragging his feet, or telling someone with a virus not to cough or sneeze so much. If life were predictable, maybe we could avoid “worrying about anything.” But as this deadly virus and empty pews on this Easter Sunday has reminded us, life is full of the unexpected—the unforeseen life interruptions that can turn our world upside down.
Of course, some unforeseen interruptions can be weathered better than others. When an appliance breaks at the most inopportune time, it is annoying, but we can handle that. Or, when we are late for an appointment and stuck in traffic. I know, I know, this is Montana, but it can happen.
And yet today, the whole world is in lockdown, in this, the mother and father of all unforeseen interruptions, and it has turned our lives upside down, stopping us dead in our tracks. The boss says: “I am sorry but we are going to have to let you go,” leaving you without a job or health insurance. The doctor says: “I’m afraid you’ve tested positive for the virus”; or, the paramedic says: “We did everything we could, but there is nothing more we could have done.” And we wonder: “Why is this happening? Where is God in all of this?”
Even though our faith assures us that God has a plan, it is little comfort as hopes, dreams, plans, and future crumble before us. You see, the greater life’s interruption, the more it bleeds over into the love for whom we care most.
As a pastor, husband and father, I tended to be a bit of a workaholic with more than a healthy dose of guilt. Some years ago, I was so caught up in my ministry that I was neglecting my own family. Concerned that I was not spending enough time with my daughter, Elaine suggested that I plan some quality time with Bethany. Elaine pointed out how much our daughter cherished the time I took her on a road trip to upstate NY. We attended the Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous where we camped out and competed with traditional archers from all over the country. My daughter described it as one of the best times of her life.
So, I suggested we take the same trip together. She was beside herself with joy and could hardly contain herself as we began to pack the car for the eleven-hour trip. I too, was so excited about getting away, I inadvertently left the car keys on the kitchen counter as I was telling Elaine “Goodbye”. I ran back into the house, grabbed the keys and headed back out the door. As I was about to climb into the driver’s seat, I looked up and saw Elaine standing at the edge of the porch with a concerned look on her face and the phone in her hand. “What is it,” I called out? “You really need to take this call,” she said.
Taking the phone, I learned that an elder and professor, beloved by her husband, young daughters, our congregation, and her students at the university, had just committed suicide. No one saw it coming. On any given Sunday, her face was the brightest and happiest face in the church choir. She was so bright, bubbly, and attractive, that no one had the faintest idea that she had been fighting a long, but losing, battle with her own inner demon called “depression.”
Stunned, I handed the phone back to Elaine, walked slowly to the car, leaned in and told my daughter that we would have to cancel our trip, for there had been a tragedy in the congregation. I think what was most painful for me was the fact that my thirteen-year-old daughter didn’t cry. She did not protest or fuss. She just got out of the car, walked quietly to the house, passing her mother on the porch, never to mention the trip again.
Yes, life has always been filled with unexpected interruptions that catch us off guard, disrupt our lives, and keep us off balance. What is so insidious about life’s interruptions, whether large or small, is that over time, they have the power to erode our trust and our very relationship with God. For, those places where our faith is stretched so much, we begin to wonder whether we are actually “standing on the solid rock,” or whether it is “just shifting sand.”
Yet, in God’s great love and concern for us, and because of our inability to recognize God’s power over life’s greatest interruptions, God took a body like ours in order that we may witness God’s power more clearly in the life of Jesus. In Christ, God has demonstrated for all the world to see His power over all life’s unexpected interruptions by: feeding the hungry masses, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the lame to walk, and even by raising those who had died.
In the person of Jesus Christ, God demonstrated for us that “nothing can separate us from His love for us in Christ: not life’s greatest interruptions; not even death, the greatest interruption of all. And this is why, even in the face of this worldwide pandemic, we make our annual journey back to the empty tomb, remembering God’s all-encompassing power.
On this abnormal Easter morning, we remember how Christ’s own death on the cross interrupted the lives of his disciples and the life of Mary Magdalene. We remember how they must have felt, when all that they had believed in and hoped for, was buried and entombed with the body of Jesus.
We remember Mary Magdalene and how devastated and alone she must have felt, there at the empty tomb. Not only had they killed her Lord, but it seemed someone had even stolen His body, denying her closure. Of course, Jesus warned them that this was to fulfill all scripture, but Mary didn’t understand the scriptures. Peter did not understand the scriptures. None of the disciples understood the scriptures.
Besides, who is “the other disciple” who entered the empty tomb and believed? For that matter, what did he believe? Did he believe that Christ had risen from the dead, or did he simply believe what Mary said was true, that the stone had been rolled away and the body was stolen? After all, John says, “they left there and returned to their homes.” And who is this “unnamed disciple?” Is this simply a reference to John, or is it a reference to you and me, at home on this Easter morning?
Of course we remember that Mary lingered at the empty tomb, frozen in grief. But then, the risen Christ appeared to her, called her by name, proving that not even death can interrupt God’s gift of everlasting life. We remember, in spite of our own loss of life as we have known it, how Mary, overcome by shock and joy, threw her arms around Jesus, clinging to Him as if somehow she might shield Him from life’s greatest interruption once and for all. Still, just being alive is not enough. We remember on this Easter morning that Jesus is alive to do something for all humanity.
We remember on this Easter Sunday that:
Jesus is alive to make us all alive again.
Jesus is alive to make His God, our God; His Father, our Father.
Jesus is alive to raise us up from our own chaos and loss.
Jesus is alive to raise us up from death’s destructive power.
Jesus is alive to raise us up from every unexpected interruption that would threaten to separate us from the love of God.
JESUS IS ALIVE!
YES! We remember that “JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN TODAY!” And that the life, hope, love, and peace He gives can overcome all of life’s greatest interruptions!
YES! DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY! O DEATH, WHERE IS THY VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING?
Let’s sing of His Victory over death. Let’s lift our voices in praise!
Almighty God, on this triumphant day, we know that the whole host of heaven—angels, seraphs, and cherubim raise their voices singing “Alleluia,” for Christ the Lord is risen today. We want to join them, even though we are confined and suffering and the hands of a hidden and insidious enemy. We want to sing with the pure joy of those who celebrate the life You give in Jesus Christ. Give us freedom this day to lift our voices with all of heaven as we celebrate Christ’s victory over death.
Oh God, on this day some find it difficult to be glad. For them, life has too much pain. The present pandemic will not let them own too much hope. Some are angry in their loneliness. Some are worried about family.
We pray for each other in this unwanted, but necessary, internment. Touch us in our individual need. Free us today to be glad; to rejoice in the promise of newness of life; to let our hope out of its prison. Free us to shout and make joyful Alleluias. You know that we need to celebrate for You have done great things for us in the resurrection of Jesus.
O God, You know that we do not understand all there is to know about the resurrection. You know that we have questions, we have our doubts, we want to believe, we do believe, we wonder about our own belief. But on this day, help us to understand just enough about what faith means, that we are willing to let faith be what it should be; deep conviction without proof, trust without protested guarantees, joy in a promise which does not have to be fulfilled before it can be enjoyed.
Yes, on this day grant us the freedom to rejoice and sing glad Alleluias, for “Thine Is the Glory, Risen, conquering Son; Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won!”
As Christ bursts forth from the tomb,
May new life burst forth from us
And show itself in acts of love and healing to our hurting world.
And may that same Christ, who lives forever and is the source of our new life,
Keep your hearts rejoicing and grant you peace this day and always.
Go Now! for you cannot go where God is not. Go with noble purpose, and God will give meaning to Your days. Go in love, for it alone endures. Go in peace, for it is the gift of God to those whose hearts and minds are in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
We went to Bozeman; it’s an hour’s drive through the beautiful Madison River canyon.
Yesterday was a lovely 60 degree, blue sky day. Looking closely, we could see the grass is beginning to turn green. That silo house is about our halfway point.
Getting closer to Bozeman, the Bridger Mountains loomed majestically ahead of us. What a backdrop for a town, huh?
Keeping the recommended six feet distance from everyone, we picked up a few groceries, some flowers and Easter cards, and then went to the pharmacy to pick up our prescriptions before heading back home.
There’s the silo house tucked down in a little valley, seen from the opposite direction with the Tobacco Root Mountains across the horizon. What a beautiful view!
While Bob drove us back toward our Madison Valley home, I wrote on the Easter cards and divvied up the roses to deliver to friends. It was Maundy Thursday… a day to commemorate Christ’s Last Supper, trial, and death. A somber time. Yellow roses help me remember the glorious sunrise that’s coming!
Yes, Easter’s on its way. We’re all on a “Stay at Home” routine (except for essential travel). Getting groceries and medications are considered essential. So are flowers and Easter cards!
First stop was at the home of two of our Sunday School children. We had not seen them since this Coronavirus lockdown began.
A few roses, a card to cheer them, a six-feet-distance hug, blow ’em a kiss … and we were on our way back home.
Some more deliveries… roses and cards to our neighbors… drop ’em off at their doorsteps… let ’em know we’re thinking of them. One neighbor put the roses in a vase, snapped a picture, and sent us a cheery message.
See how they brightened up their living room?
… all my troubles seemed so far away.
Yes, our troubles seem to fade as we reflect on the reflections of yesterday…
a day to take a little outing, pick up a few necessary items, and spread a little cheer
a day to look for the rainbow that promises a better tomorrow
a day to remember the Lord’s Last Supper and His death on the cross, BUT
a day to look forward to three days later… the Resurrection, and the Promise fulfilled.
Yesterday’s gone. Today is a day to spread the Good News.
What can you do to cheer up a neighbor’s day?
Easter is Coming!Take comfort! Claim peace! Spread LOVE! Take joy!
I wish you were near, my WordPress friends. It’s “Good Friday!” I’d deliver a few roses to you, too.