Passover and Good Friday Match this Year.

 

Exodus 12:1-2, “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron…This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year.”

Jews divide the year into lunar months, each beginning with the new moon.  Passover begins on the evening of the 14th of Nissan, and thus at the full moon.  in the second century in Asia Minor (Turkey) a party strove to set Easter according to the Jewish practice.  However, in 198 Victor, bishop of Rome, decided that Easter should be celebrated everywhere on the Sunday which followed the spring full moon, according to the custom which was by then already predominant.

In the first century a Jewish theologian/philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, wrote that having Passover start when the moon is full shows that there is no darkness on this day, but that it is full of light, the sun shining from dawn to the evening, and the moon from the evening to the dawn.

The Christian theologian Gregory of Nyssa writing in Asia Minor in the fourth century agreed with Philo.  (The moon) having welcomed the sun when he is setting, she herself does not set before she has mingled her own rays with those of the sun, so that only one light endures without any lack of continuity, through the whole cycle of day and night, with no interval of darkness.  Let your whole life, then, be one sole feast and one great day.”

I find the above pleasant to think about on day with continual rain.

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While We Were Weak

 

After my first two heart by-pass surgeries, I spent 24/7 in a recliner covered with what I called, a 7,000 lb. quilt. I could hardly push it off me and since I didn’t have strength to lower the foot rest I crawled in and out of the recliner.  It was not a good look.  St. Paul writes in, Romans 5:6-11.  “For while we were still weak…Christ died for the ungodly.”

St. Paul is talking the weakness of being a sinner.  I probably said some ungodly words while struggling with the 7,000 lb. quilt.  Yet, St. Paul writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  “God shows” (present tense) his love for me while I was still failing to give thanks 24/7 for the wonders that God had done for me through the medical field.  My baptized self still needed to kill off the old Ron every day so that a new Ron might wake up in that recliner in the morning. That’s been the daily cycle of my life, since my baptism now nearly 77 years ago.  As Paul wrote elsewhere, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

St. Paul adds that, while we were enemies, God befriended us in Christ.  Having made us his friends again, we can rejoice through what Jesus did for us at the end of Holy Week and at the beginning of the new week.

 

 

The wisdom of Foolishness

 

The reading for Tuesday of Holy Week is I Corinthians 1:18-31.

Lord, what are you up to with this business of the cross?  With a word You created the universe that operates by laws. If we jump up to catch a ball, we do so with the unthought certainty that we will come back down.  With a word you created dark nights and days alight.  With a word and some red clay, you made us in your image, your likeness.   We live with the certainty that though we do not view the whole picture, you do, and will work out everything for good for those who trust in you.

Then what is this word of the cross that St. Paul admits is foolishness?  Where is the wisdom in   two crossbeams of wood, jammed into the ground from which we were formed?  Then to allow your Son, your only Son, to be hung there bloodied and battered to die.  Then to banish the light and leave it dark as night.  How is this a sign of power and glory?

Perhaps, instead of Holy Week we should call this week Folly Week.   Yet during this week of God’s foolishness, God in His wisdom recreated us as holy people, saints.  Sunday, we start a new week alive in the image of His Son.  God in his utter weakness gave us the power to live as sons and daughters of God. Thus, word of the cross is now our wisdom and sign of God’s power in our lives.

Jesus Rode an Unbroken Colt

 

Pastor David Gruenwald provided a new sight to me regarding Jesus entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus directed his disciples, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt timed, on which no one has ever sat.” (Mark 11: 2)

Riding a donkey was not an unusual sight.  But this was no ordinary donkey.  It was fresh, new, and, I would add, unbroken.  When people brought their sacrifices to God, they were to be unblemished, fresh, and new.  Only first grade offerings. The utensils used in the temple were designated for temple use alone.  Jesus was buried in a new and unused tomb.

What does an unbroken and untamed donkey have to do with us?  We too at one time were untamed.  According to Isaiah, “We all…have gone astray.”  St. Paul adds, “We all have sinned and come short of God’s glory.”

But now Jesus is alive in us.  How so?  In baptism God used ordinary water to wash us clean of our sin.  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit God tames (breaks?) us.   Ordinary people made fresh and new that Christ may go out into the world through our ordinary daily life and be refreshers and renewers of life in this broken world. Christ feeds us with ordinary bread and wine made new and fresh in to his body and blood.

As we read in Paul’s words, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…”

 

 

Children Join the Cry

 

Is it coincidence or design that children are joining in the marches this day before Palm Sunday?

There was another crowd marching on that spring day long ago when Jesus led them up the arduous 15 miles climb from Jericho to Jerusalem.  In Jericho he gave sight to blind men. One named Bartimaeus, cried, “Have pity on us, Son of David,” and though people urged them to shut up, they would not.  Jesus touched their blind eyes and they saw.  They joined the march.  Jesus had also invited himself to eat in the home of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, one of the lost ones he came to seek out.

Reaching the crest of the climb up to Jerusalem, he rode a donkey down into the city.  The crowds stripped the palm trees of branches and welcomed him as “Son of David.”  “Hosanna,” that is, save us now.

This irritated some people, but Jesus responded that if these don’t shout, the stones themselves will cry out (there are a lot of stones in Israel).

If there weren’t children in the welcoming crowds, they were in the temple when Jesus kicked out the marketers and money changers.  Children, whom Jesus always welcomed, joined in the cry, “Lord, save us now, Son of David.” And when told to keep the children quiet, Jesus responded, “(The Lord) has made little children and infants sing your praises.”

We do well to welcome the voice of children today, as Jesus welcomed it long ago.

Five Points For Pastors

 

In 1850 when Holy Cross, Collinsville called Pastor Strasen to replace founding pastor Fredric Lochner who had taken a call to Milwaukee the passage connected with Strasen’s call was Hebrews 5:4, “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God.”

Last Sunday Hebrews 5:1-10 was the epistle lesson, and guest pastor Dale Kuhn found five points to apply to pastors in the text.  Incidentally, Resurrection installed a new senior pastor in the afternoon.

  1. 5:1, Every pastor is chosen from among people to act on behalf of people in relation to God offering gifts and sacrifices for sins.
  2. 5:2, The pastor can deal gently with people because the pastor is also beset with the weakness.
  3. 5: 3, Because the pastor is from among the people, the pastor also has sins which need forgiveness.
  4. 5:4, The pastor is also called by God and has a sense or conviction that this is the right way to spend his life.
  5. 5:5, The pastor does is not self-centered, but Christ centered.

 

Spring

 

My wife has been suggesting on almost a daily basis that’s it time to set a couple of chairs outside our west facing front door to allow us to sit in the warming sun.  Well, I did it this morning setting them in the still shaded space while the temp measured 36 and a chilly wind blew off the snow in the north mitigating any warmth the bright sun might bring.  I noticed while walking into the northly wind, that several cars parked in the cemetery were not for a burial, but for women who were working on the flower garden in the green triangle space where Denny intersects with Lindberg.  They are heartier than me.

Speaking of hearty, several daffodils are blooming in the neighbor’s yard.  Perhaps it is not too early to include a couple of verses from Robert Frost’ poem, “A Prayer in Spring.”

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;

And give us not to think so far away

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here

All simply in the springing of the year.

And make us happy in the darting bird

That suddenly above the bees is heard,

The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,

And off a blossom in mid-air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love

The which it is reserved for God above

To sanctify to what far ends He will,

But which it only needs that we fulfill.

 

Still Not Shocked

 

Dorothy Sayers wrote: “It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear the story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.”

Sayers could have been writing about Jesus’ disciples James and John.  Jesus had told the Twelve, what would happen to him in Jerusalem, mocked, spit on, whipped and killed.  Then rise. (Mark 10:32-45)

“Well, ok then Jesus,” the thunder brothers said, “Since it will turn out alright in the end anyway, could we sit on your right and left hand in your glorious kingdom?”  When the other ten heard about the brothers brazen request, they were indignant.  Mark gives the impression that the other ten wanted a piece of action themselves.

In a watch- out what you pray for answer, Jesus speaks of baptism.  In a sense he always speaks of a sort of communion.  “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?”  On both counts they say will be able.   But the baptism of which he speaks is not an immersion in water, but in suffering, blood and death.  The cup is the cup filled with God’s wrath against all the ways throughout our days humans stray from God’s ways.

Jesus was baptized into the vile dehumanizing hatred of humus humanity.   He drank the whole cup of God’s wrath against our wrong ways.  Therefore, our baptism is dying into his death and rising into his life.  Our communion a holy communion as we participate in his blood, not for death but for our life and eternal salvation.

Amazed and Afraid

 

Jesus’ ministry of bringing God’s good news into the world, as presented in Mark’s Gospel, was met with amazement.  People were amazed at his teaching.  In 7:37, “They were astonished beyond measure as he made the deaf hear and the mute speak.  During a storm on the Sea of Galilee the disciples were utterly astounded when the wind ceased as he stepped into the boat.

But when for the second time he told his disciples about his violent death and then he would rise, they “didn’t understand and were afraid to ask him.”

In the extended Gospel lesson for Sunday (Mark 10:32-45) they are on the road “going up to Jerusalem.”  Jesus is walking ahead. The lagging disciples are amazed and those following are afraid.  For a third time Jesus tells disciples in plain terms what will happen.  Up in Jerusalem he will be lifted up on the cross to die and then rise.

Yes, it’s an amazing thing what Jesus did for us up in Jerusalem.  But following Jesus is also a fearful business, because if he led the way to the cross before arising in glory, what cross stands in our road before we too rise to glory with Him?  In the kingdom Jesus brought into the world greatness is measured in being a servant and the goal is to serve rather than be served.

As it was in the world then so it in our world today – God’s kingdom turns power and authority upside down.

 

Be Alert for Good Works

 

What’s on your to do list for today?  Or maybe the question is, What’s on God’s to do list for you today?

In Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For He has made us what we are, creating us in Christ Jesus to do good works, for which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.”

We who once were among the walking dead were made alive with Christ in his resurrection.  Having received such immeasurable grace from God, God has recreated us for a life of walking in his ways.  In other words, we were recreated to do good works in Christ.

Here is where we need to be alert to what is going on around us.  God has already prepared the good works he has placed on our “to do” list for today.  If we’ve been walking with God for a while, we know that He can be tricky sometimes. We never know when or what kind of thing He might throw in front of us, which is an opportunity for doing good.  I suspect that most of the time these good works may not be big deals, but ordinary things which we might just let pass by.  Sometimes we may have to look at an unpleasant situation and see the opportunity for doing good within it.  Sometimes it may be a smile instead of a snarl, a kind word rather than a cutting one, uplifting someone who has been put down.

Whatever our day brings us, be on the alert for God throwing a surprise in our path as we walk or even trudge through the day. Who knows, it might be one of his good works he has prepared for us to do.