Echoes of Creation

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

He is risen!
He is risen
He is risen from the grave and He is alive!
He is alive
We rejoice in knowing that our debt is paid, that we will one day be with the God we love.
Yet perhaps you sometimes wonder. Is Easter only for our someday? Is there no piece of Easter that gives purpose for our today?
In the beginning…
In the beginning
John the Apostle begins his gospel with echoes back to Genesis.
In the beginning…
As he tells his gospel story, you can hear the reverberations of creation all throughout.
On that first day of creation, God spoke and there was light.
In the beginning was the Word…and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Skipping ahead, on the sixth day of creation, God created man.
Michelangelo
On Friday, the sixth day of the week, Pilate brings Jesus out before the people and declares, Ecce homo!
Behold, the man!
The new man. The new Adam. The man who was as we were created to be, who shows us what it means to be human and then offers himself as a sacrifice, thus making it possible for us to become like him.
On day seven, God rested.
On Saturday, the seventh day, God is in the tomb.
And then.
Listen to the way John tells what happened next.
Early on the first day of the week…
Early in the morning
Do you hear it?
John is so deliberate with his words.
The first day of the week.
This is what Easter brings to our today.
The first day of the week. The first day of new creation.
On the first day of the week
Christ, his death and resurrection, has made a way for us to begin again. The old is gone away, the new has come. God’s kingdom is come to earth bringing restoration and healing in its wake.
As we obey Jesus’ instructions to love each other, to feed his sheep, we are allowed to help bring God’s kingdom to earth.
This is what Easter gives.
A chance to be a part of the new creation as it happens.
new creation
Rejoice!
He is risen!
He is risen indeed.

Art credits: Space photo by NASA; Creation of Adam by Michelangelo; light photos by Kirk Sewell; all other photos by Elizabeth Giger, copyright 2017.

Resurrection Made Dull

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.
They heard God’s voice and ignored it.
Resurrection
Resurrection
And not that “still, small voice” of God’s way down in the depths of their hearts, either.
They heard His loud, audible, filling-up-the-sky voice, just after Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, and they ignored it.
Resurrection
They explained it away. They looked for the rain that must come since it was thundering, or even went so far as to call it an angel.
Anything but the voice of God.
Some things are too astounding, too wondrous for our hearts to accept.
The resurrection is one of those things.
Resurrection
Resurrection
The resurrection is anything but dull. The story of God becoming man, being defeated by man, and rising again to defeat death is the most heroic tale of all.
That man should play the tyrant over God and find Him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. ~ Dorothy Sayers
But it is hard to accept that we cannot save ourselves. It is humiliating to acknowledge that there is absolutely no way we can cleanse our own hearts. It is a bitter and unendurable truth that we are hopelessly imprisoned in our shadows and darkness.
Resurrection
The resurrection throws its light over our darkness in such a daring, audacious way that our helplessness is impossible to ignore.
So we choose to explain away the resurrection or else we attempt to dull its edges so that we cannot be cut.
We choose to explain it away as Jesus’ teachings becoming immortal in the manner of Shakespeare, or as the spirit of Jesus living on in us in the manner of Socrates, or as simply a manner of speaking in the symbolism of the human spirit conquering all.
Yet the resurrection refuses to be explained away.
Resurrection
You can call it nonsense or you can call it lies, but you cannot call it poetry.
You can deny the resurrection and live mired in the fear of inexorable death or you can believe the resurrection and allow it to bring you hopeful life in the now, but you cannot claim to believe in the resurrection and continue on in your darkness and dread.
The remarkable thing about it is that the real truth of the resurrection seems to be too strong for us, because it will not suffer itself to be hidden or concealed in these harmless clothes. ~ Karl Barth
Resurrection always bursts forth, rising up and shouting, “Do you truly believe that the only reason Jesus came, suffered, and died was to bring you empty comfort in the middle of the reality of life?”
No. Unequivocally no. The truth of the resurrection gives us certainty of our outcome. The truth of the resurrection gives us perfect assurance that death is, indeed, defeated and that we are, indeed, able to be presented before God pure and holy.
Resurrection
Resurrection
The truth of the resurrection blazes forth and tells us that everything has changed.
Truth is extraordinary, never dull.

He Is Saying Your Name

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

 

I have lived deep in pain.
When I wanted a baby and God said not yet.
pain
When my brother called and said of his pregnant wife, it’s cancer.
cancer
When my Papa died the day my baby was born.
death
I have lost friends and family, I have been disappointed and lonely.
As have most of you.
You, too, have received the doctor’s call, heard the rejecting words, felt the crippling fear and doubt.
When you are in the middle of deep, dark pain, you are blinded. Your body curls in on itself, your eyes darken with tears. You look for Jesus, desperately searching for Him, but you cannot see Him.
In the deepest pain, He is closest.
tomb
Mary stood at the tomb, searching for Him. In the middle of her deepest pain, she searched for His dead body but was blinded by her grief. Angels spoke to her and she could not see. Jesus, the One she searched for, stood behind her and she thought He was the gardener.
empty tomb
And then.
Mary.
He is right here. As close as your very breath. And He is saying your name.
Look up. Wipe your tears away for just a moment and listen.
He is saying your name.
He has not left you. He is there, speaking to you. Can you hear Him?
hope
He died and is alive and because of that resurrection, there is new closeness with Him.
I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
There is resurrection and now there is intimacy that was not possible before.
alive
In the middle of your deepest pain, do not wonder anymore where Jesus is.
Turn around. He is right there behind you. Closer than He’s ever been.
risen
And He is saying your name.

This is Easter

Easter.
Easter
Spring.
Spring
New life.
New life
It is an inevitable part of life that monochromatic winter begins to melt into spaces of bright color. Snow gives way to tulips and crocuses. Perhaps it is our necessary reminder that death is followed by new life. Our reminder of Easter.
It was our first Easter without Kristina.
On Easter morning, my eldest ran into the living room where we had left the figure of Jesus on the cross the night before, eyes wide with hope of resurrection. “Daddy, look! Jesus left us flowers that God made!”
God made
Hope and joy at the end of sorrow and pain. This is Easter.
On Easter morning, gathered with our Family, we sang, “The greatest day in history, Death is beaten, You have rescued me. Sing it out, Jesus is alive! Endless joy, perfect peace, Earthly pain finally will cease. Celebrate Jesus is alive! Oh, happy day, happy day…”
During a celebration after tragedy, hearts swell and overflow with emotions that at first glance seem to be at odds. We feel both joy and gratitude, sorrow and longing.
joy
On Easter morning, the joy is easy. Jesus is alive!
Sorrow and longing, though, those are things that are more difficult. Yet they are real and, although hard, they are what should be.
We all suffer. We all love and therefore all suffer because in our broken world, love means suffering. Those who do not love much do not suffer much. I would not grieve so deeply had I not loved Kristina so much. God loves our world and therefore God Himself suffers.
Such sorrow was felt over our first Easter without Kristina.
Kristina
We acknowledge that all of this, this pain and death and sadness, is not how it was supposed to be. None of this existed before we rebelled against God.
Our rebellion
And so we sorrow.
Our longing is for that day of redemption and transformation. The day when earthly pain will cease and death will be banished for all time. We desperately wish to be gathered into Jesus’ arms and told that all is now well.
Someday
And so we long.
Sorrow and longing.
At second look, we are reassured that these are what we should feel. After all,
Our kind, heavenly Father has provided many wonderful inns for us along our journey, but He takes special care to see that we never mistake any of them for home. ~ C.S. Lewis
At the end of it all, however, our hearts must return again to gratitude.
On that Easter morning, as we worshiped together, we sang, “You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.”
Just as we did in the middle of our ugly places, our hearts cry out “Why?” Yet this time, it is a vastly different sort of why.
This time we ask, why do You love me that much?
His love
You went to the cross to allow us to become children of God. Wasn’t that more than enough? Why would You now also work so very hard to make beautiful things out of the dust that we are? Why would You pour so much into molding us into people who look like You?
Let us fall on our knees in joy and with gratitude for such lavish love.
Lavish love
On Easter morning and beyond, let our hearts swell with both sorrow and longing, joy and gratitude, knowing that Jesus is truly alive, knowing that He has defeated death.

edited from the archives

art credit: The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise by Benjamin West; heaven picture; cross picture by Asta Rastauskiene

The Day God is Dead

Holy Saturday.
2048px-Vittore_Carpaccio_-_Preparation_of_Christ's_Tomb_-_Google_Art_Project
The day God is dead.
The day we lose God Himself.
Don’t miss this.  Don’t rush through it.  On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, God is dead.
Belgium
One part of the Trinity, yes, but God nonetheless.
The Word of God is gone.  We can no longer hear Him.
Linger in this day.  Does the earth feel different?  Somehow vacant?
Elmendorf
There is, for this day, no possible way to reach God.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
No Most Holy Place where the high priest could meet with God.
It is finished.
He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
No Word of God in whom we can see the Father.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Garden Tomb Side
Remain in this day as long as you can.  I don’t understand how, but somehow this day exists on which we are completely isolated from God.
Breathe in the horror of this day.  God is dead.  He is, for this day, unattainable.  Can you catch even a glimpse?
The disciples did.  They lived it for what must have felt like an eternity.
We’d rather skip past this day, this Saturday that contains Christ’s body in the tomb.  Yet we must linger if we are to grasp the power of Easter Sunday.  We must dwell here awhile if we are to be allowed to hold the joy of Easter Sunday.
When the Son, the Word of the Father is dead, then no one can see God, hear of Him or attain Him.  And this day exists, when the Son is dead, and the Father, accordingly, inaccessible. ~ Hans Urs Von Balthasar (theologian and author)
Can you feel the terror of it?  Do you sense the incomprehensible void that stretches before us on this day?  What does it even mean?
Do not rush too quickly past this Holy Saturday on your way to the miracle.  You may miss the deepest part of the gratitude and joy that are to come.
Garden Tomb
The deepest gratitude and joy that come only when you understand what was absent, and understand that it was only for a day.

 

Art credits: Preparation of Christ’s Tomb by Vittore Carpaccio; Tomb of knight Philip Keerman in Flanders, Belgium; 1912 photograph of Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Dwight Lathrop Elmendorf; Side view of Garden Tomb by Deror Avi; Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Berthold Werner

Alive!!!

IMG_4371
He is ALIVE!!!
Benjamin_Gerritsz._Cuyp_002
Today, the tomb is empty.
Today, the earth is singing for joy.
IMG_4278
IMG_4274
Today, He has risen from the dead.
IMG_4291
Today, He has proven beyond any doubt that He is able to fulfill His promises!
1024px-NTLutherBible1769
By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21.3-5)
He is able!
Luca_Giordano_-_Resurrection_-_WGA09020
He is ALIVE!!!
IMG_4288

Art credits: Das Engel öffnet das Grab Christi by Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp; Title page of the New Testament section of a Martin Luther Bible; The Resurrection by Luca Giordano

Joy and Gratitude, Sorrow and Longing

Easter.


Spring.


New life.



On Easter morning, my eldest ran into the living room where we had left Jesus on the cross the night before, eyes wide with hope of resurrection. “Daddy, look! Jesus left us flowers that God made!”



Hope and joy at the end of sorrow and pain. This is Easter.

On Easter morning, gathered with our Family, we sing

The greatest day in history

Death is beaten, You have rescued me

Sing it out, Jesus is alive!

Endless joy, perfect peace, 

Earthly pain finally will cease

Celebrate Jesus is alive!

Oh, happy day, happy day…

My heart swells and overflows with emotions that at first glance seem to be at odds. For some time now, I often feel both joy and gratitude, sorrow and longing. 



On Easter morning, the joy is easy. Jesus is alive!

Sorrow and longing, though, those are things that are more difficult. Yet they are real and, although hard, they are what should be.

My sorrow is over our first Easter without Kristina



As we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and as our family celebrates a new season of birth from my youngest brother and his wife, we miss Kristina with a physical ache. As I plan a baby shower, I can’t help but think of how Kristina would have been at her finest, crafting beautiful invitations by hand. 

We acknowledge that all of this, this pain and death and sadness, is not how it was supposed to be. None of this existed before we rebelled against God. 



And so I sorrow.

My longing is for that day of redemption and transformation. The day when earthly pain will cease and death will be banished for all time. I desperately wish to be gathered into Jesus’ arms and told that all is now well. 



And so I long.

Sorrow and longing. At second thought, they are what we should feel. After all,

Our kind, heavenly Father has provided many wonderful inns for us along our journey, but He takes special care to see that we never mistake any of them for home. ~ C.S. Lewis

May I return for a moment to gratitude?

On Easter morning, as we worshiped together, we sang

You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us.

My heart cries out “Why?”

Why do You love me that much? 



You went to the cross to allow me to become a daughter of God. Wasn’t that more than enough? Why would You now also work so very hard to make beautiful things out of the dust that I am? Why would You pour so much into molding me into someone who looks like You?

There is much deep theology in this. Perhaps I will explore these things later.

For now, I will fall on my knees in gratitude for such deep love.



On Easter morning and beyond, I will let my heart swell with sorrow and longing, joy and gratitude, knowing that Jesus is alive.


art credit: The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise by Benjamin West; heaven picture; cross picture by Asta Rastauskiene

The Last Temptation

This, the Friday before Easter, is a hard day.

I’d much rather jump straight into Easter, to the joy of the earth singing as it once again feels the touch of Jesus’ feet.

Yet you cannot get to the empty tomb without going through the suffering of the cross.

I’ve written a lot about suffering and pain in these pages. I am often tempted to do almost anything to avoid feeling pain.

It recently struck me that perhaps that is what temptation really is: Satan doing everything he can to help you avoid suffering here on earth.

We don’t know about very many of Jesus’ temptations, but God gives us enough glimpse to know that He, like me, desired to avoid pain.

That is what Jesus’ wilderness temptings were: Satan trying to convince Jesus to believe in him and take the easy, pain-free way of becoming king rather than believing God and obeying His pain-filled, cross way of becoming king.

The way that would also rescue His people.

Too often, I believe Satan instead of God.

Yet Satan did not end his tempting of Jesus in the wilderness.

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time. ~ Luke 4

That opportune time?

The Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus’ last temptation.

The temptation to once again take the comfortable way instead of the suffering way. The temptation to believe in Satan’s hazy seductions rather than in God’s rock-solid promises.

Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done. ~ Luke 22

I bow my head in shame, knowing how often I choose to believe Satan.

Yes, He was God, yet He still struggled as much as we do with this same temptation.

And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. ~ Luke 22

And so we come full circle.

That which began in a garden now ends in a garden because this time the man obeyed.

Jesus obeyed. He chose to believe in God’s promise while knowing the immediate consequences of pain.

My heart wants to weep because I know why He did this.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil. ~ Hebrews 2

Because He loves us and He wants to rescue us, to rescue you, from the power of pain and death.

This. This is why we linger long on this hard day instead of leaping ahead to Sunday. To remind us to believe in God’s promises of the end of death and pain even while knowing of the fleeting death and pain we might face in obedience.

May I end with something I wrote and a video I made with a friend? (if you are viewing this via email/in a reader, click here to view this video)

Pause for a moment and dwell on the hard things so that on Sunday your heart can resonate even more fully with Easter’s joy.

Temptation.
It swirls around me like a hurricane
sending my intentions spinning into the blackened sky.
I hear the voice of God
I hear Him tell me what is good
Why can I not obey?
My consistency is that I fail to listen
My constant is that I continue to fall.
The ugly truth?
I don’t believe God.
I don’t believe Him when He tells me what is best.
If I believed, I would obey.
If I trusted in God’s goodness, His love, I would always do what He asks.
I would choose love instead of anger.
I would choose compassion rather than bitterness.
I would forgive instead of clinging to my grudge.
I would assume the best rather than enjoying my irritation.
I would think of others and forget about myself.
How can I obey,
how can I root out this ugliness that is deep inside my heart?
I cannot listen when I will not trust.
And yet I remember.
God is mercy and God is grace.
He changes hearts and He captures our gaze.
He is faithful if we ask;
His wisdom He delights to give.
Christ stayed in the wilderness
He faced down our sin
He trusted in God
Trusted God’s love and goodness
Christ conquered to make me a conqueror.
Grace.
It captures my heart and teaches me to trust
changing my nature so that I am now able to believe what God says
And obey.

 

(special thanks to Kati Pessin for putting together the video and to our Pastor for his thoughts on Christ’s temptations)

art credit for the video: music is “Window” by Album Leaf