Holy Week Blog 2015, Saturday: What Do We Do On “Saturday?” AKA: What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Matthew 27:57-66 NRSV:

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[t] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”[u] 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

I’ve seen a lot of Easter stuff in the news this week. Lots of Egg Drops, Easter Egg Hunts etc. Rural King selling baby Chickens. Lots of candy going out. Lots of celebrations. Some stuff about Holy Week, but not a lot.

Here’s my question: What do you do on Saturday?

In this passage, lots of people did something on Saturday:

  • A rich man named Joseph honored Jesus.
  • John’s Gospel has Nicodemus providing about 100lbs of spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
  • Pharisees gathered before Pilate to cover their trails and hedge their bets a little.
  • Pilate continues to placate them, hoping this whole thing will just go away.

See, Saturday wasn’t a good day for Jesus or his disciples, and that’s what I want us to wrap our minds around tonight. It was terrible, hopeless etc.

What do you do on Saturday? When things are hopeless? When the Resurrection and all its life and hope seem a million miles away? What do you do when you don’t know what to do, and it doesn’t seem like God is speaking? “Saturday” can really stink. And if we blast through Holy Week doing Easter stuff, we will miss what Saturday has to teach us.

Then you’ve got the two Mary’s… What did THEY do on Saturday?

They waited. At the tomb. It’s almost like they’re waiting for something to happen.

And it does…

SO what do we do on Saturday?

We wait. And waiting is hard.

We trust, even when trusting is hard.

We worship, bringing our pain and suffering to God anyway.

We remember the first Saturday, when all hope was gone. And we remember that Saturday gave way to Sunday. We benefit from the perspective we’ve been given because of when we live. We know what the disciples didn’t. We know Resurrection is coming. And so with Mary and the other Mary, we wait at the tomb… anticipating something miraculous even if all hope seems lost.


Blessings,

Mark

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Holy Week Blog 2015, Wednesday: When His Heart was Troubled

John 12:27-36, NRSV

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[e] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah[f] remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”


It had to be discouraging for Him. He taught them, did miracles among them, explained it seemingly every way he could, and still they didn’t really believe. He was facing the cross, and in a few short days all of them would forsake Him, and he knew it. And still He trusted. Still His prayer was for the Father to be glorified in Him– even (and especially) in His death. Still He’s drawing them to believe.

It’s impossible for us to really understand where Jesus is coming from here in this passage. All I think I can really say is that I’m reminded of what Romans says when it calls us to have the faith of Jesus… even (and especially) when we face trouble.

So.

Lord God, I pray for the faith of your Son. I pray when we face troubles, you would grow something in us that’s like Jesus. I pray that your name would be glorified in our lives. I pray for perspective, that you would show us a little bit of the bigger picture, so our light and momentary troubles could be seen as just that. I pray for the light, that you would indeed light our way forward. In the name of your Son, by the presence of the Spirit I pray.

Amen.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 26: Paul’s Concluding Request

Ephesians 6:18-23, NRSV:

 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,[d] 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus will tell you everything. He is a dear brother and a faithful minister in the Lord. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, to let you know how we are, and to encourage your hearts.

23 Peace be to the whole community,[e] and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ


Ya gotta love passages like this in Paul. He’s in prison, chained for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus as the Messiah. His Jewish countrymen for the most part want his head on a plate. And as he concludes his letter to the church at Ephesus, he asks for their prayers. NOT so he can get our of jail. NOT that his circumstance will change. NOT so that he can get out there and start more churches or something. He asks them to pray that he would be able to preach with clarity and boldness about the Lord Jesus, which is the reason he’s in chains in the first place.

It’s almost as if he’s got other priorities than his level of comfort or something.

More I’m thinking about in relation to this, but I shant publish it publicly. 🙂

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 2: Grace and Peace

Ephesians 1:1-2

 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

NRSV

Okey… So I think I’ve decided to begin at least with Ephesians during this season of Lent… thought I reserve the right to change mid-stream or go somewhere unexpected when I finish Ephesians.

The opening 2 verses of Ephesians are easy to overlook. They’re the signature, address, and salutation of the letter. They look pretty much the same as every other opening paragraph from Paul. He identifies himself as the author, says to whom the letter is written, and gives a blessing. They’re almost all the same in Paul, and it’s easy to blast past them.

But not tonight.

It’s the “grace and peace” that give me pause tonight.

The first thing Paul does is bless his readers. And he blesses them by wishing them grace and peace.

Grace is a biggie in Ephesians… in chapter 2 Paul reminds us salvation comes only by grace through faith. Peace is one I haven’t done much New Testament word study on, though שלם (shalom, shalem, basically meaning “peace”) is important in the O.T. Philippians talks about the Peace of Christ passing all understanding and guarding our hearts.  It’s not lost on me tonight that Paul wishes (or maybe pronounces?) grace and peace to his brothers and sisters in Ephesus.

I think the rest of v.2 is important… grace and peace come from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. I think sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking grace and/or peace really come from ourselves. Or at least what we do or earn or attain (in terms of peace, anyway).

For me, tonight, I find myself keenly sensing my need for both grace and peace. When I think about my life currently, “peace” is not the first word that comes to mind. So for Paul to pronounce grace and peace to his hearers, I hope I’m one of his hearers. And it helps to remember that both come from The Lord.

Lent is about a certain type of hunger. We fast things during this season, so that when we desire them, we are called to prayer. We hunger after righteousness etc. Tonight, I’m hungry for the peace that comes through grace. Maybe you are, too.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog ’14, Day 43: Discerning the Body.

1 Cor 10:14-17, 11:27-32

Thinking tonight about what it means to “discern the body” during Eucharist. For sure we need to remember we are not alone and pay attention to the church– the Body of Christ. And Paul is all over the Corinthians for not paying attention to the poor at the table.

But there’s something else happening here, too:

We must discern the Body of Jesus.

Broken.

Bleeding.

Spent.

Powerless.

Poured out.

Obedient even unto death….

….on a Cross.

Simply put, our position in the church is not a power trip… it’s a death, and the death is ours.

So that we might be raised.

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count as loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

 

 

Blessings on Maundy Thursday,

Mark

 

LentBlog ’14 Day 34: All things to edify.

1 Corinthians 14:20-40

I’m engaging this passage from 1 Corinthians 14 tonight, and it just keeps coming up: All things are to edify the body. Chaos is bad. Everyone for themselves, doing their own thing, is bad.  When the church gathers, having order is good. Exercising our gifts together is good. But it’s not a “to each his/her own” kind of thing. It’s an “us” thing.

“In thinking be adults.” (v. 20). The other thing this passage is saying to me is centered on being intentional. When we gather, it’s a good thing to engage the whole experience with everything we’ve got, including our brains. So many times folks get caught up in the emotional aspect of a worship gathering… taking stock of how we feel during a certain part of the gathering etc. I think if we could find ways of partnering the depth of emotional stuff with a depth of thinking in our theology, we might really be onto something.  I think our people want to engage God at a deeper level… and not limited to a deeper emotional level. I think they want to think deeper thoughts so they can live more authentic spiritual lives.  I think that means we have to be intentional about how we are discipling people in our worship gatherings. In this passage, Paul says something like, “whatever you do, don’t do it willy-nilly. Be intentional. Be organized. Do everything for the maximum edification of the whole group.”

I think we can do a much better job at this.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog ’14 Day 7: On Using Your Brain.

1 Corinthians 2:1-13.

Engaging this passage this evening, I’m reminded of the times in my experience when passages like this have been used as reasons not to pursue theological education. “See!” I’ve heard, “Paul says let your faith rest on the Power of God, not all this human wisdom stuff. I don’t need to go to Seminary/take a class/be ordained/study in the School of Ministry. The Spirit will teach me everything I need!”

To which I say balderdash.  Paul uses his perceived lack of wisdom as a rhetorical device among the Corinthians. He did not proclaim the Gospel in lofty words, using the terminology of the wisdom of the day. This is not to say he couldn’t, folks. “Among the mature, we do speak wisdom…”

Now, to be straight here, Paul is pretty clear that wisdom (as the world knows it) on its own is pretty worthless when discussing the things of God. It is a dangerous and unfaithful thing to think we could reason our way to the truth on our own. (Thank you, Modernity, for nearly convincing us that we could… So glad you’re in the past now, at least in most circles. Please stay there.)

But neither is Paul saying we chuck our brains when we become Christians. UseYourBrain

The third option here is maybe something like this: the human ability to reason (which is really given to us by God in the first place, so it’s not like it’s ours or something apart from God’s grace), when married to and made subject to the work of the Spirit, can be a really cool thing.  Not that wisdom (or study, or school, or rhetoric) is the Way to the Father… in and of itself, human wisdom doesn’t even reach the same level as the foolishness of God… but that wisdom, as an act of worship, responding to and formed by the first Word God speaks in Jesus, is a very good thing.

For the theologian, then (and by the way, EVERY word any of us utters of God is theology), the words must be a worshipful thing. Using our brains with all our might, trying to engage these things admittedly too big for us to fully comprehend, we speak. We pray. We teach. We sing. And we must do it all as worshipful response to the Spirit, so that our faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

 

Blessings,

Mark