Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

“The worst conceivable thing has happened, and it has been mended…All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~Julian of Norwich

I’m not sure when I first read this quote, but it came to my mind that awful morning.   And I played it over and over in my head, reassuring my broken heart that indeed, the worst had already happened, and been mended.

Death had died.

Christ was risen-the firstfruits of many brethren.

When the Sabbath was over, just as the first day of the week was dawning Mary from Magdala and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. At that moment there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven, went forward and rolled back the stone and took his seat upon it. His appearance was dazzling like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook with terror at the sight of him and collapsed like dead men. But the angel spoke to the women, “Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here—he is risen, just as he said he would. Come and look at the place where he was lying. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. And, listen, he goes before you into Galilee! You will see him there! Now I have told you my message.”

Matthew 28:1-7 PHILLIPS

Dominic had closed his eyes on earth but had opened them in Heaven-never to close them again.

My son’s body was here, but he was THERE-with our Risen Lord.

A few years ago, our church choir sang this song for Resurrection Sunday.  At the time, a very dear friend, a faithful follower of Jesus, and a beautiful, grace-filled lady was about to meet Jesus.  I sang this with tears streaming down my face, because I imagined her running, healed and whole, to the arms of her Savior.

Now, I can barely make it through just reading the words-because I see my son there as well.

 “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

Listen here:  I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin

So how does this broken-hearted mama face a new day?

How do I wait with hope while longing for that heavenly reunion?

I remember…

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:19-23 (NIV)

 

Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection beause the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

There were many points in the story when things could have gone a different way:

  • When taken by the religious leaders-surely, they thought, He will explain Himself, they will let Him go.
  • When taken before Pilate-Rome will refuse to get involved with our spiritual squabbles, Pilate won’t authorize His death.
  • When presented to the crowd-no Jew would rather have a wicked murderer released instead of a humble, healing Rabbi.

At every turn, every expectation they had for a “happy ending” was dashed to the ground.

But here they were:  Jesus was dead.  His body was taken hurriedly to a tomb.  And they were hiding, praying-fearful they might be next.

There is a popular church saying:  “It’s Friday….but Sunday’s coming!”

Meant to be comforting and encouraging, it can also be confusing and condemning.

Because there are many people who will live their lives on this earth between Friday and Sunday.  They will live out their years, wondering just what Jesus is doing, why He didn’t act in ways they expected and exactly when they will receive the fullness of His promises for abundant life.

Here I am: my son is dead.  It is certainly not what I expected.  It’s not how I thought God would honor my prayers of safety and long life for my children.

Yes, I live on the other side of the Resurrection-I know the end of the disciples’ vigil-I am convinced of the empty tomb, the ascended Lord and my Great High Priest’s intercession at the right hand of the Father.

But what I long for I cannot hold.  What I hope for I cannot touch.  What I know to be true I cannot see.

I live in the space between “it looks like everything has gone horribly wrong” and “Hallelujah!”.

It is painful.  It is hard.  And it will last for a lifetime, not just a few days.

I am thankful for the resurrection, and I live each day longing for Christ’s return.  But my heart hurts in the meantime, my arms ache to hold the child I love.

So be patient with me if I  cry harder when singing the hymns of heaven.  And be gentle when reminding me of my hope in Christ.

I am living between pain and promise and waiting desperately for Sunday.

There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death! As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.” When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it’s obvious that he couldn’t at the same time be walked on. When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!

I Corinthians 15:25-27 MSG

Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

“On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more.
On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.”

~C.S. Lewis,  Miracles

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

I trusted Jesus at an early age and I have lived my life beneath the shadow of the wings of the Almighty God.

But I never-not really-grasped the horror of the crucifixion until I watched as my own son’s body was lowered in the ground.

Death. is. awful.

We should hate it-we should long for the day when its black arms no longer claim victims. It reminds us that this world is not what it was created to be.

But one death is also beautiful.

Jesus.

Yeshua-“The LORD saves”.

The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.  

Jesus’ willing obedience to suffer in my place made Him the one and only perfect sacrifice, sufficient for eternity to make relationship possible with His Holy Father.  I can come boldly before the heavenly throne, because I come by His blood.

Good Friday–“good” because now we know that Jesus didn’t stay dead. Good because we know that through His death, burial and resurrection, those who trust in Him have everlasting life.  Good because Christ’s death conquered the power of death.

Don’t rush past this remembrance of the price paid for our rebellion.

Don’t tick off the hours and neglect to embrace the cost of Christ’s compassion.

Don’t fail to linger at the foot of the cross, looking up into the eyes of Love.

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Psalm 85:10 KJV

 

 

 

 

Maundy Thursday

Today is the day on the church calendar when we pause and reflect on the Last Supper, and the last words of Jesus to His disciples.

A year’s worth of sermons is contained in John 13-17 but this week I have been drawn to just one verse:

[Jesus said] “Now I am giving you a new command—love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is how all men will know that you are my disciples, because you have such love for one another.”  John 13:34 PHILLIPS

The Israelites were given circumcision as the sign of the covenant.  The shedding of blood as the mark of belonging.

But Jesus knew His blood would be the final and complete sacrifice required for sin. He knew the debt would be fully paid. And blood would no longer be required.

So a new mark is given, a new seal is declared:  LOVE will be the designation by which others know who belongs to the Father through Christ, His Son.

I look around, and see how far we have fallen from the example and standard Jesus set for those of us who follow Him.

How we are known, not for our love for one another, not for our service to one another, not for our care for one another– but for our divisiveness, our competitive nature, our exclusion, our anger.

Jesus died to make us free from the penalty of sin and death.  But He LIVED to give us an example for LIFE.

Jesus washed the disciples’ feet-He took on a task that was considered the lowest, the most degrading household job and did it with love.

If this is how my Master served, what job can be too menial for me?  What task can be too humbling for me?

The One in Whom all is held together, held the dirty feet of dirty men, who in just a few hours would desert Him.

I look forward to Heaven every day because part of my heart already lives there.

But as long as I am left on this earth, I want to live in love.

I want to reach out with the same heart that my Master has for the lost and hurting and lonely and outcast.

I want it to be obvious to Whom I belong.  

love brother

 

 

Some Days are Like That

I am better able to face the morning than I was in the first days and weeks after Dominic’s death.  I am more adept at laying aside the overwhelming sorrow and focusing on what needs to be done.  I can flash a smile, make small talk, act “normal” and participate in daily activities.

But there are still days….

Days when I cannot think of anything but the fact that he’s gone. Moments when sadness invades my heart and fills my soul. Hours when I just want to find a way to forget that every tomorrow will include the absence of Dominic’s presence and the fullness of joy I once knew before my world included burying a child.

And on those days and in those moments, a quiet word of encouragement can send a piercing ray of hope like a silver light into my heart.  A smile, a nod, a hug or a note can be the thread I hold onto as I struggle to pull myself up from the depths of despair.

I’m not the only one walking around with wounds.  I am not alone in the darkness of pain and heartbreak.

Jesus came to offer hope to the hopeless.  To lift up the downtrodden. To free the captives and open the eyes of the blind:

  The Spirit of the Almighty Lord is with me
    because the Lord has anointed me
        to deliver good news to humble people.
    He has sent me
        to heal those who are brokenhearted,
        to announce that captives will be set free
            and prisoners will be released.

Isaiah 61:1-2 GW

Our Savior walked tenderly among us and did not crush even the most wounded:

“A broken reed He will not break [off]
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish [He will not harm those who are weak and suffering];
He will faithfully bring forth justice.”

Isaiah 42:3 AMP

As we move toward the celebration of life over death, victory over defeat, hope over despair, may each of us be a beacon of light to someone walking in darkness.

May our hands reach out to help, our lips speak mercy and grace and may our hearts be so full of love that it spills out onto everyone we meet.  

Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged….When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

 

Choosing Transparency

I’ve had two conversations in as many days that revolved around how hard it is to be transparent in relationships.

And it seems that the difficulty lies not only in our own desire to present ourselves in a way that casts a positive light on our actions, thoughts and feelings but also because of an unspoken rule in social transactions that demands (and I don’t think “demand”is too strong a word) we conform to the “I’m doing just fine” standard that is prevalent everywhere you turn.

All around me, people are faking life.

They are acting as if there are no hurdles, no burdens, no wounded places in their own hearts.  They run around proclaiming, “this is my best life now!” somehow convinced that if they say it loud enough and long enough it will be true.

But everyone sees what we think we are hiding.

Many know what we think we’re not saying.

And we all walk around, seeing and knowing but never acknowledging the truth:  we are not as strong or as perfect as we wish we were.

All this fake life is costly.  It’s costly to us who try so very hard to keep up appearances-it robs our lives of energy that would be better used in loving and serving others.  It is costly to the people around us because as long as we play the game, they feel like they must play along too.

And everywhere, hurting people hurt alone.  Scared people remain isolated in their fear.

That is not the life Jesus came to give us.  That is not the way to build true community among His called-out ones.  That is not the way to teach our children how to lean into and hold onto the strength and hope that Christ died to bring.

When I lost Dominic, many feelings overwhelmed me-sorrow, pain, disbelief-and, to my surprise, humility.

For the first time in my life it made sense to me why in many cultures bereaved people sit in the dirt and tear their clothes.  Because I remember saying over and over, “I am cast to the ground, and ashes are my food.”

And while that feeling is no longer as strong as it once was, it still echoes in my heart and mind.  I carry it with me wherever I go.  It has freed me from the game of “let’s pretend” that held me hostage to other people’s expectations of how I should act or what I should hide from public view.

Let’s just STOP.

Let’s be honest.

Let’s refuse to hide our scars, our tears, our fears and our failures.

If those of us who love Jesus refuse to acknowledge our weakness, how do we expect others to acknowledge their need for a Savior?

“The Christian often tries to forget his weakness; God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it; God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness; Christ teaches His servant to say, ‘I take pleasure in infirmities. Most gladly …will I…glory in my infirmities’ (2 Cor. 12:9)’ The Christian thinks his weaknesses are his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God; God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness”

― Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ

Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

As we enter the week on the Christian calendar when most churches celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am reminded that often we race past the road that lead to Calvary and linger at the empty tomb.

But to understand the beauty of forgiveness and the blessing of redemption, we MUST acknowledge the sorrow of sin and the burden of brokenness.

When our sacred spaces draw boundaries around what we can bring to the Lord’s Table, we exclude the very ones who are desperate for the bread and cup.  When we treat the path as unimportant and only acknowledge the destination, we discourage those that are struggling to keep up.  When we welcome only the triumphant, we exclude those that are trying.

Let’s throw open the doors to the church and

Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness [remove the obstacles]; Make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3 AMP)

Let’s invite the outcasts, the limping, the hurting and the broken to the table.

Let’s declare to the wounded that in Christ there is healing!

As I’ve written before: “The truth is that none of us escape hardship in life.  All of us have hidden heartache.  We all have cracks in our polished persona.”

Read more:  Beautiful Broken