A Miracle to End All Miracles

     I cannot believe my eyes. I ran to the tomb after hearing that Jesus was not there. How could this be? Where did they take his body? Someone stole his remains. I thought about how I might be guilty until I heard an incredible story. Jesus’ corps was not stolen, but he rose from death. My heart skipped a beat, realizing that a greater miracle came in the middle of the night, in the darkest of circumstances. Live overcame death, and the Divine rose triumphantly. Perhaps this miracle was what Jesus meant all along.

     My faith, once shaken, appears to come back as my soul looks to the heavens to proclaim the good news of God. The end of the week is only the beginning of new life. I am a son of the Most-High God. The Messiah had one more title to share with the world. He was, and is, the Savior of all humanity. Such love and devotion to us must hold and strengthen the world. The wondrous love shown to us through the giving of God himself strengthens our hearts and minds for another day. Let us live to make every day count. Happy Easter, you people of faith. May you find joy in the good news this day and all the days to come.

The Stillness is Deafening

     It is Shabbat, and no one would even know that something horrific happened yesterday. The bodies were laid to rest, and the crosses came down, giving the false impression that everything turned back to normal. I asked myself, “What is normal now?” I followed Jesus without hesitation, expecting something great, only to be let down. I try to put the recent events behind me, but I cannot dismiss the sorrow I feel. There is a feeling of emptiness in the pit of my stomach. I go to synagogue out of a sense of ritual, nothing more.

     What is next? I search for the answers, praying that God will guide us. “Please, dear God, “I pray, “let the life of Jesus matter.” The light of hope remains within the deepest resources of my soul. I feel that this is not the end, but I have no idea how anything can happen now. Jesus is dead, and nothing can overcome the fact that he no longer walks the earth. But he said something about being with us always. I cry out, “Oh, Lord, show me love in a way that I cannot imagine. Bring me comfort.”

     All I want to do is sleep and forget any of the events that recently passed. Maybe if I turn my attention away from everything, I will not focus so hard on my sorrow. Perhaps I can continue with all the gifts I grew to learn about life through the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. I walk towards the unknown, unsure of how to remain present in a world that killed the Son of God. It makes no sense to me. For now, I will not rock the boat and wait in the hope for something big to happen.

Heaven Help Me

     I am ashamed of what I have done. I followed this man who spoke wisdom and showed me how to live a life pleasing to God. I felt compassion for all those who encountered him and found a new way to exist as a result of their experience. I am to blame for his death. I did not build one sliver of the cross on now which he hangs, but I condemned him nonetheless. I shouted, “Crucify Him!” Just like any other person around me, my voice pierced through with harsh condemnation. I wanted him to do something miraculous. I wanted him to save himself. Now the only thing I hear are people weeping at his feet.

     I stare at the sight of a kind man whose body surrenders to the harsh realities of humanity. God sent his son, the most precious gift anyone can offer, and we killed him. Though I feel betrayed, I cannot stop looking at the face of the man subjected to such a cruel death. Gone is the man so full of passion for God and others. Now there is silence. No peace, just a wind is seeming to pierce the moment.

     I look up at him, knowing that I stand in the middle of greatness—this tender person hanging on a cross. I look up and ask, “Why his life? He had so much more to offer us. Now we will not know the many lessons on how to love good and each other that still elude us. I hold this moment, hoping to sear it into my brain. This man may not be the Messiah, but he proved himself a devout follower of the Most-High-God. I look up and plead with Jesus, “Please forgive me, my Lord.”

The Darkest of Times

     I cannot believe what I am seeing. Someone asks the crowd a question that will haunt me forever. This man, Jesus, faces certain death if everyone responds in a certain way. A man steps up and asks the massive group, “What do you want me to do with this man?” I heard everyone begin to shout, “Crucify Him!” I never saw such hatred, but soon I found myself picking up the chant. What if we provoke Jesus to action by calling for his assassination? This event could be the beginning of hope. We will move him to act and stop this nightmare.

     Fighting back the tears, I raise my voice along with the others. “Crucify him!” I shout at the top of my lungs. I continued, hoping that this would change the trajectory of the story. Jesus does nothing. The one I perceived to be the Messiah of the world stands and accepts the punishment given to him.

     My hope turned into anger as I realized this man is not who he claims to be. We followed the wrong man because the Son of God would restore sanity. Instead, he stands there with eyes filled with compassion. I took this moment for weakness. How dare he trick me into believing what he had to say. Death is the correct judgment for causing such chaos in the city. My cries turn from hope to downright anger. “Crucify Him!” I join in louder support.

     I feel the cold, hard steel of fury running through my veins. How lost I am, and it was under Jesus’ teaching that brought me to a place of despair. “Crucify Him!” I shout. Let him suffer the weight of his sins. I changed my life to follow him. I gave up everything I had because I believed in him. In my misery, I shout, “He must die for his sins.”

Doing the Next, Right Thing

     I am numb and cannot express how I feel. I smile at those who walk by and pretend that all is well. I make light of my interest in Jesus and pretend that what is going on does not affect me. Inside I am dying, wondering why I followed the man in the first place. If he indeed is the Son of God, why does he not overturn this godless society? It just does not make sense unless he is not the person he pretends to be. I refuse to think that his teachings proved exaggerated at best and lie at worst over the past years.

     On this night, I celebrate Pesach with my family. I hope to leave this feeling of dread by turning to what I know, ritual in the story of deliverance for our people. Even in my observance, I cannot help but notice the irony in this entire situation. We tell the story of our redemption when we hope that Jesus is the appointed one to relieve us from bondage at this moment. Still, there is not a word, only silence.

     I search for peace in the observance of my custom, but the storm continues to rage. Doubt stands at the forefront of all my thoughts. I feel as if I am slowly dying, unable to gasp for my next breath. I chant, “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransomed captive Israel.” Still, nothing happens. As I sink deeper into despair, I realize God does not answer me. My heart breaks, and I descend into the deepest parts of my soul.

My Descent into Darkness

     I stand here, letting go of a hope that does not seem to come. Where is the Messiah that Jesus claimed to be? My faith shakes as I struggle to find a message of promise that does not appear. I feel let down and wonder what I must do next. I trusted Jesus and stood and waved branches as he entered the city. Now, I wonder if anything he told us was true.

     With my confidence waning, I feel the darkness closing in around me. “Where are you, my Lord? I need to hear your voice and sense your spirit near me.” Still, no sound, no action, no restoration. I am not sure how I can continue to keep the faith when all around me is blackness. I ask once again, “Where are you promised, Messiah? Speak tenderly into my heart and create in me the joy of my salvation.”

     Maybe there is something that I do not know. Could it be that Jesus has a plan that is better than I expected? Of course, he will rain as the Messiah when we least expect it. This realization is my candle in unexpected darkness. The flicker of the light of hope shines so that we will know that the story is far from over. In my brokenness, I will still shout your glory, oh Lord.

I Wait for Greatness to Come

     He arrives on the back of a donkey, and nothing happens. We paraded down the street, waiting and hoping to reestablish God’s authority over the land. I am a little nervous that Jesus may not be who he claims to be. I cannot give up hope just yet. There is still time to overthrow the whole system and declare himself King of the Jews. I wish he would make his move sooner rather than later. “Defeat our enemies and restore your people, Oh Lord!”

     For now, I will not give in to defeat. I will hold my head high, knowing that the Messiah will reveal himself at the right time. Until that moment, I stand here in the knowledge that the Divine will serve holy justice to those who continue to suppress the chosen people of the Lord. So, let us patiently wait that hope is right around the corner, and restorative life is not a long way off. My spirit raises, pleading, “Come, holy Jesus, and renew the face of the earth.”

The End of the Beginning

     Today we celebrate the arrival of the Messiah. He is in Jerusalem now, so we wait for him to show his authority over the Romans. God will be with him, and in one fail swoop, he will reclaim the land for us, his chosen people. We show him pride and eagerly wave palms to celebrate the entrance of a King! How he smiles and waves at us, assuring us all will be made right soon. The excitement in the air is so thick that I can hardly breathe. I witnessed the chosen messenger from God in the flesh.

     For many years we waited for this moment when the world would experience the splendor of God, unleashed on a world desperate to hear good news. The bright light that surrounds him is out of this world. Words fail me to describe such incredible beauty. It is neither sun nor moon, but a radiance unique unto him. It is easy to see why so many people place their trust in this man. His whole personhood illumines the Divine. Through the joy of this moment, we step on sacred ground, holy and set apart for all to see.

     I stand there, looking out at the many faces welcoming him into Jerusalem. Will this feeling of adoration continue to the ultimate revelation of his divinity? I cannot say, but I know that there is a feeling of hope in the air. For now, let us feast and remain steadfast in our joy for what the future brings. Today is the beginning of the end for the Romans. Let us celebrate the good news of this day.

A New Way of Looking at Old Traditions

     Any other year Ash Wednesday would begin with a solemn service in the sanctuary, complete with the dispensation of ashes followed by Communion’s observance. Unfortunately, this is not the typical run of the meal year, where we celebrate customs in quite the same way. COVID-19 is still a large part of the conversation, and we do not worship in the sanctuary. This past year brought a new thought to our church. We had to reimagine worship while in a pandemic. I hope that, upon closer inspection, we may continue with some of the good things that came out of this horrible time in our history.

     One way we approach Ash Wednesday this year is not to dispense ashes on our foreheads. Instead, each family will receive some ashes in a small container. They should set them in a prominent place in the home, office, or car. When someone catches a glimpse of the ashes, they remember that they are human, and their bodies will be laid to rest, back in the dust. They hold fast to the promise that the perfect lies within each heart will find its way back to the Creator. The image of God that lived within us from the very beginning carries our souls back home. Perfect must return to perfect.

     On this first day of Lent, let us be grateful for our Creator, who gave us life. Traditionally, this day is a somber one, but let us create a new way of looking at things. Could we transform this day into a time to express our joy for taking an active part in this world? Imagine how the heaviness of this day may give way to a celebration. Lent is a time to reflect on mortality, but never does it say that we must stop living. I hope that we turn our thoughts to places of hope and a remembrance that we journeyed through some very dark times. We celebrate that we have seen a great light.

Happy Transfiguration Day

     How appropriate that Valentine’s Day falls on Transfiguration Sunday. We encounter eros (romantic love) with agape (the love of God), two different expressions to explain connections with those we adore and Divine grace. At first glance, both words appear separate; however, some characteristics complement the other upon closer examination. Eros concerns unwavering passion for a person. The energy in the devotion to someone is all-consuming, fiery, and boundless.

     Where I see a crossover between the two expressions occurs in our commitment to God. I hope to have the elements of an all-consuming, passionate dedication to my Creator. The Transfiguration indicates a moment where agape flooded the hearts and souls of the disciples. In response, they wanted to show the moment’s holiness by responding to a type of love (eros) that limits itself to humanity. Jesus provided them a new way, agape, to share in the joy of a relationship with the Divine. This new way of loving moved past passion and into wonder and awe.

     So, this coming Sunday, let us worship with awe combined with a passion for devoting our hearts and minds over to the care of God. May our faith find vitality and strength as we understand the idea of transformative love. Valentine’s Day may introduce us to love, but Transfiguration Sunday fulfills it. Our glimpse into perfection gives us the sanctifying grace of God to enhance our worship.

     Let us learn the strengths discovered in love directed to our Creator. The One calling us to ministry is the author of our lives. The Divine is the giver of our dreams and the source of our devotion. We share in the reality that we return to Him what He gave to us. Such interdependence wraps us in complete adoration to the wellspring of endless hope and promise. May you have a wonderful holiday filled with transformational love. May it call you passionately and boldly to live a life in dedication to the One who created us.

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