People ask, and rightly so, why things happen such as in the case of the Oklahoma mega-tornado. For people who are at least marginally related to Christianity the question usually relates to the notion that such might be inexplicable if God is a “loving God.”
So “why”” does this kind of thing happen? My answer is, “I do not know.”
What I do know is that when God manifested God’s self completely in the person of Jesus Christ, wholly God and wholly human, not even Jesus claimed to have all the answers. This was revealed at two times. The first in Matthew 24:36 in regard to end times, and another as he himself faced evil. On the cross he questions the Father thusly: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
There is something about the human condition that is unable to comprehend the bigger picture at “the gut level.” When Jesus cried out on the cross, I do not believe it was a rhetorical question. It was a visceral and existential question of the highest order.
Led by Jesus’ example, I believe that we are to ask those hard questions and not be tempted to make lame efforts at trying to answer for God. Usually such answers end up sounding absurd to both people of faith and atheists, and everything in between.
So let us return to Jesus in the midst of what I believe, and orthodox Christians believe, is the event of God’s greatest love, the event of the Lord’s death on the cross. There with Jesus we ask “My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?” At first an answer is not distinguishable. But later, the answer comes. “I haven’t.” “I have not abandoned you.”
What we learn in a thorough study of Scripture is that death is God’s enemy. It is not God’s desired end for us. We see this in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Here God’s intent is made clear. Christian theology says that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus encompasses within it the final battle between good and evil, life and death. The outcome and verdict on all that is evil is initiated in that event. In that event, in the victory of Easter, God conquers the powers that hold humankind in bondage to sin, death, and the adversary.
So we live in the “between times.” There we are invited to engage God’s work, redeeming a broken creation. There we find courage, develop character, and have an opportunity to show what we are really made of as we work for what we pray. “Thy Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.”
In other words, I don’t have all the answers, although I believe God does. So I pick myself up, just as the early Christians did when they encountered evil in all its forms. I pick myself up with other Christians believing whole heartedly that God has not abandoned us. That is why you will find the Church in all places standing in the midst of devastation and wreckage, offering every form of resource to mend what is destroyed and help to heal the brokenhearted. We do so with our hands and hearts lifted upward as we proclaim in radical protest, faith, and witness, “Christus Victor!” See how he loves us! Take heart, and be of good courage.
Grand Island, NY
Yesterday, being Easter Day, our worship attendance doubled. It is common among clergy to speak negatively about "C & E" Christians. "C & E" Christians are those we usually see only on Christmas and Easter, and sadly at their funerals. I take a different perspective on this, however, and I would like to say that I was so very glad the visitors came. I believe, in fact, that it was God who planted in their minds that they ought to celebrate Easter. I am thankful that God is able to do far more than this preacher can, even reach and influence those for whom faith is only a periodic thought. Easter reminds us that in life, death, and the possibility of life after death, God is the major player. We are only the supporting cast. My prayer is that either through us, or inspite of us, our Easter message was able to be used by God to touch and influence people's lives. If even one of the persons who attended was touched by God's message of the possibility of eternal life when people come to faith in Jesus Christ, our Easter services were a grand success, celebrated this day even in heaven.
Larry Baird, senior pastor
Is 43:1 "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine."
Well, this part is over. Many of us who gave up something for the 40+ days of Lent were relieved that we made it, and now could return to 'normal,' whatever that is. Those of us who took on something extra can also return to our 'normal.' But I would bet that somehow something was and is changed.
Since Ash Wednesday, I have taken on the discipline of reading the Upper Room each day. I have a sense of accomplishment because I fulfilled my promise - albeit a few times at minutes before midnight.
Each year, we hear the words, "He is alive!" "Christ the Lord is risen today. Alleluia!" If Christmas is the birthday of Jesus, Easter is the birthday of the church. Each year we, the believers, are in a different place in understanding what it means that Jesus is alive. We will have another day, month, year to fulfill Jesus’ message of God's abiding love.
So, this part is over, but it is only the beginning for each of us, builders of the kingdom of God on earth –step by step, brick by brick, prayer by prayer. We go with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Ginger Mason
For the Jews in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, today was the Sabbath when the observant Jew was bound by restrictive rules “To keep the Lord’s day holy.” And so it is not until the first day of the week, Sunday, that the women go to the tomb to perform the ritual cleansing of Jesus’ body.
But today is Saturday. Where was Jesus on Saturday? Surely, Christians know that he was not in the tomb early Sunday morning. Dan Dick ponders this question in his blog “United Methodeviations.”
“All is darkness. Was Jesus sentient at all on the Sabbath? It is a disquieting association –Sabbath rest with death, yet on this seventh day, Jesus rested. At what point did resurrection occur? We know when the followers experienced it, but when did it begin? When did the pneuma — the breath, the Spirit, the essence — return? When did awareness dawn? When did Jesus come back to himself, and begin the return journey? . . .”
From “United Methodeviations” by Dan R. Dick, an ordained United Methodist minister, http://doroteos2.com/author/doroteos2/
What was Jesus doing in the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the hours between the time of his physical death and others’ awareness of his physical resurrection? Today, as I go about the regular activities of Easter preparation: the food prep, egg decorating, candy buying, Easter basket filling, (and this year, birthday celebrating for Laura who will be nine-years-old tomorrow), I will ponder this question. Ginger Mason
Mark 15 "42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then Joseph[l] bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body,[m] wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus saw where the body[n] was laid." (NRSV)
For Jesus, the agony and the reason for his life and death are finished. But for the rest of us, our life purpose has just begun. Sometimes, I wonder if I would have been as brave as Joseph of Arimathea - a man of authority in the Jewish council. Joseph, a believer in the promise of the restored glory and power of the Jewish nation. Joseph who went before Pilate and asked - boldly asked, Mark tell us - for the body of the rabble-rouser, blasphemer, the one whom Pilate had just put to death. Joseph who had everything to lose!
I can picture Joseph carefully removing the bloody and broken body of Jesus and tenderly cradling it as he wrapping it in linen. How did Joseph become brave enough to stop caring about his safety or reputation? Maybe Joseph was the first to carry on, followed by the Marys at the tomb, and, eventually those who walked, talked and ate with Jesus. And let's not forget Saul/Paul; who could forget Paul!
We, in the 21st century, stand at the end of the long line of those who throughout history have heard the message of Jesus and carried the message forward. For us who carry on, it is not yet finished! Ginger Mason