Easter is the Genesis of the New Creation

N. T. Wright in his book “Surprised by Scripture” makes the point that John’s Gospel echoes Genesis 1, both begin, “In the beginning.”  On the sixth day, Friday, of the first week of creation God created humankind in his own image.  On the Friday in John’s story Pontius Pilate says of Jesus, “Here’s the man!” By evening of Friday, Jesus declares what God declared in Genesis 1, “It is finished.”  It’s done.  The work of creation was finished, as the Son has finished the work of redemption.   On the seventh day, Saturday, God rested from all his work he had done, even as God in the flesh rests from all his work in the tomb.  Then on the first day of the week, Sunday, the eighth day, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found it empty.  This was the first day of God’s new world, God’s new creation.  In Genesis 1, humankind carrying the image of God, and with the Holy Spirit’s presence are sent out as God’s agents to bring all the earth under God’s order of things.  So, on this first day of the new creation Jesus breaths on his followers giving them the presence of the Holy Spirit to set things right through the forgiveness of sins.  Though the resurrection of Jesus is hard to believe, as Thomas demonstrates, nevertheless Jesus followers have the job of announcing God’s peace to the world, calling the world not to be faithless, but to believe.  With that faith in the Christ, the Son of God, risen from the dead all may have life in his name.

The culmination of all the hopes and dreams of all the world is not found in a form of government, nor in a political leader or military general, but when in God’s wisdom Jesus was raised to new life.  God’s new creation was established and now Jesus has the ultimate authority over heaven and earth and all its creatures.   

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Alleluia Hallelujah

This morning I listened to Lutheran Public Radio on the internet while I exchanged long sleeve shirts for short sleeves. Many of the Easter hymns LPR was playing contain exclamations of “Alleluia.”  The church retained untranslated this cry of Jubilation often used in the psalms. Some of those hymns go back to the 11th century or before.

The Good Friday hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” asks, “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend for this Thy dying sorrow…”  We could ask regarding Easter, “What language shall we borrow to acclaim your resurrection?”

“Alleluia” is a Hebrew word which means “Praise to Yahweh.”  It’s such an important word to the church that we confess in the Transfiguration hymn that because of our transgressions, “Alleluia cannot always be out song…”  Thus, fasting from “Alleluia” during Lenten we can’t wait to shout on Easter, “Alleluia, Christ is risen,” responding with, “He is risen indeed, Alleluia.”

For us Alleluia is more like our cheer “Hurrah.”  Hurrah, itself is borrowed from the Danish and Swedish languages.  “Alleluia” is verbal applause, verbal arm waving, leaping and dancing.  So, we shout “Alleluia” (hurrah) when Isaiah’s prediction, “He will swallow up death forever,” (Is. 25:8) is accomplished in Jesus, “Death IS swallowed up in victory.” (I Cor. 15:54) We become poor sports in our victory when we turn Hosea’s questions (13:14) into shouts of contempt in I Cor. 15:55, “O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” Death trampled to death by Jesus death.  Hah, how do you like a taste of your medicine, death?

Squirrel Salad

On this Earth Day, falling on day 2 of Easter, the celebration of the day Jesus burst from the earth in his resurrection.  A declaration that death does not have the last word, that death has met its match in Jesus’ resurrection and will be followed one day when we all will burst out of the earth in our resurrection.

In remembrance of Jesus resurrection and participating in Earth Day, I dug in the earth this morning, planting and fertilizing until I used up all my allotted energy for the day by lunchtime.  So, I spent most of the rest of day on the back patio reading.  Our neighborhood is filled with mature oak trees now in full blossom with emerging baby leaves.  After supper I was once more on the back patio when I noticed the trees filled with squirrels.  Remember those years when by spring we were tired of eating softening potatoes and carrots dug out of the sand pail in the basement and looked forward to the spring lettuce and radishes, because we couldn’t buy them in the store as we can now?  Well, those blooming oaks in our neighborhood provided some fresh produce for the squirrels after a winter of buried nuts and whatever gets them through.  Climbing about on precarious upper branches they ventured out on twigs to gather the spring salad. Some would grab a paw full and then race to more solid footing on a larger branch.

It was fascinating to view this symbiosis between two of God’s creations as we mark Jesus’ resurrection which has put us and all creation on track for the completion of his new creation and the restoration of Eden.  Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of a new creation is an impetus to take care of our present creation as God’s gift while we wait for the renewed to appear.

Bobbing Heads among the Headstones

It’s Good Friday and Becky and I will soon be heading off to Resurrection to hear of Jesus’ crucifixion, the soldiers gambling for his clothes as he hung naked on the cross between two other naked man and then about 3 p.m. he will say, “It is finished.”

But right now, I’m thinking of the children at the St. Lucas preschool who at 10:00 leave their classrooms and run up to their playground in the corner of the cemetery.  If I’m out walking in that quiet village, I marvel to watch those little heads bobbing up and down as they run along the road between the granite lifeless headstones marking the graves of the lifeless.

Death and life, that’s what these days are about.  One day Christ will return and wreak havoc on those lifeless headstones as graves open and the lifeless will be given new life.   Those bobbing heads among the lifeless headstones are a future look at what will happen in all the cemeteries across the world.  That playground in the corner of the cemetery looks ahead to when we all will play again in the heavenly realms.

Maundy Thursday is only for Broken People

This day commemorates the Passover when the blood of lambs on doorposts saved a bunch of slaves.  This is also the day on which Jesus Christ acts as our host and welcomes us to the meal he provided at his last Passover.  This is the day when only people who have missed the bullseye of the target God has set up for us (sinned) need receive his body and blood in the bread and wine.  This is the day when Jesus shared the meal with his betrayer, his denier, with those who would abandon him.

 If anyone believes they are just fine and has their act together they need to go back and read the confession, “We have sinned against You in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and left undone.  We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.”  This is the day God welcomes only broken people who hope that Jesus words, “This is my body given for you…this cup that is poured out for you,” includes them also.  As Martin Luther wrote, “That person is worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words; ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,’” even if that faith is smaller than a lettuce seed.

A Toad in the Hand

I was working around an old rotting oak stump in the backyard yesterday.  It’s completely hollowed out, so I refreshed the dirt and transplanted a hibiscus that blooms red pie plate sized blossoms plus a Hosta and another plant.  On the outside a hickory tree is just getting started.  I have another hibiscus and small Hostas surrounding the stump.  While picking up some leaves I felt something squishy in my hand like a puffball or mushroom, but it’s too early for either.  Took a look and behold a big fat toad.  It had been warming itself in the sun.  I plopped it back where it had been until some giant had grabbed hold of it.  And on the other side of the stump I disturbed a baby toad.  So, I guess the large toad was a momma.  

They do it every year.  The first toad of the spring surprises and startles me with some movement under the leaves.  But I’m always delighted when I see it.  I have a comforting sense that all will be right with the world.

Last week we had the owls roosting in the pine trees in our yard.  However, this week they seem to have abandoned us.  Fickle birds.  So, this week I’m looking to see what small wonders might be scurrying about in the soil or just sitting working on their tan.

Holy Week Threes

 Someone pointed out that the readings in Luke 22-23, contain a balance of threes.

Peter’s three denials in the chief Priest’s court yard are well known.  A female servant stared at Peter and said, “This man was with Jesus.”  Peter denied it, “I don’t know him, woman.”  Later someone else said, “You are one of THEM.”  Peter said, “Not me!”  An hour later another person insisted, “This man was with him.”  Peter denied it emphatically, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” Even as he spoke the rooster crowed, Jesus looked directly at Peter, Peter remembered, and he went outside and wept.

Peter had declared that he would go to prison, even die rather than deny Jesus.  Peter ought to give us pause when we declare with absolute certainty, “I’m a Christian.”

But what is surprising is that Pilate declared Jesus innocent three times.  Pilate asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Yes I am.”  Pilate sent him to Herod who asked several questions, but Jesus refused to answer him.  Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, who asserted, “This man hasn’t done anything deserving of death.  So, I’m going to have him whipped and set free.”  When the people objected yelling “Crucify him! Crucify Him!”  “Why? What wrong has he done?  I haven’t found this man deserving of the death penalty.”  But Pilate ultimately caved to the pressure of the mob and handed him over.

 In Luke, Jesus speaks from the cross three times.  “Father forgive them.  They don’t know what they’re doing.” “Today you will be with me in paradise.” and “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.”  No one knew they were killing God, but Jesus forgave us all.  No one deserved paradise, but Jesus gave it anyway.  No one trusted the caring hands of the heavenly father, so Jesus did it in our stead, because one day we will all have to give up our spirit.

O the Blessed Sun

Becky just remembered a line from a children’s book she used while teaching.  “O the Blessed Sun.”  A blessed sun is what we have today as we emerge from a night without heat and a day without electricity.  The frost lies heavy on the grass and on the wind shields. The sun is shining through the eastern windows.  We have opened all the blinds and throughout the day will make sure the sun finds a way into house.  There are likely other people in the area who also are welcoming the blessed sun as they may still be without power. No wonder Golden Corral was packed at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon.

It’s not quite to the level of Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning.”  But I feel like singing, “Morning has broken like the first morning…”  We usually don’t have this much excitement here on the bottom of the hill on Parklind Dr.

My wife exclaimed, “Look at that sun.  That beautiful, beautiful sun.  Gorgeous. Blessed sight.” As wrote last night, “Te Deum Laudamus!”

(Spell check doesn’t like Latin.  Well spell check, check out the Canticle  for the order of Matins) 

Creating God

I’m eating lunch while reading some past postings I hadn’t gotten to. One is on Garrison Keillor’s blog. It’s a quote from the author Anne Lamotte, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Stopped me in my tracks. Have some pondering to do. How about you?

How Good It Is

Under warm skies we ate supper on the back patio, Wayne and Bev, Sarah and Cobin, while Becky played with the grandkids in the front yard. Wayne and Bev were missing the late, hopefully last winter storm in the upper Midwest. The psalmist wrote, “See how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in harmony!”

 With excitement we spotted the owl winging for the pine.  From the noise I knew there would be two and there was. We listened with fascination as Cobin shared stories of growing up in Taiwan, his grandfather having an eel farm and riding the crowded trains standing between the car connections.

A turkey vulture floated on the current far above the trees, while squirrels scampered on the still bare oaks and a loud cardinal flew from branch to branch to branch.  Small black butterflies flitted around the back fence and two rabbits hopped through the edge of the flower garden.  A pair of rabbits, not a good sign, unless one is a rabbit.

Under the canopy of oaks, redbuds budded, magnolias and pear trees bloomed white and purple while daffodils added a yellow hue beneath.

The psalmist compares it to “scented oil on the head and running down the beard of Aaron.” In such a scene is “where the Lord promised the blessing of eternal life.”  Those moment of harmony between people and God’s creation is a preview of the completion of the new creation promised in Christ’s coming.