Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A New Experience of Easter


Easter Sunday is perhaps the most important day of the Christian year. While Easter could not happen apart from the incarnation, the work of Christ is not complete apart from Easter. As Paul wrote, “If Christ is not risen our faith is in vain.” No Easter, no church.

Personally, Easter is also my favorite day of the Christian year. Advent, Christmas,  Epiphany, and Lent – the other “big” seasons and days – are important of course. But these seasons tend to lead me to more contemplative practices and quiet reflection. In addition, Christmas has become so commercialized, that I find is difficult to focus on Christ with all the parties, presents, and other preparations of that season.

By contrast, Easter is pure joy. Our family has never allowed this most joyful of days to become infected with bunnies, baskets, and the like. The focus has always been Christ. That not only means less work for me, but also the blessing of triumphant celebration for the miracle of the resurrection. At Easter, the road of suffering has given way to jubilant victory over death. All the ways that sin has marred this world, as John Calvin says, have been defeated. The new creation has begun.

This Easter was different, in a good way. It was more joyful, more rich than any I have celebrated before. This year I saw Easter through the eyes of age. You see on January 5 my husband and I became grandparents. And this past Sunday, Easter Sunday, our first grandchild was baptized. This baptism also happened to be the birthday of our son, his father.

As our son and daughter-in-law presented their son for baptism the pastor asked them for his name. They stated his name and the pastor asked them a series of questions. “On behalf of the whole Church, do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?” Each time they answered, as expected, “We do.”

And then the final question, “Will you nurture this child in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example he may be guided to accept God’s grace for himself, to profess his faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?” Once again, “We do.”

Suddenly it occurred to me, in a way that it had not before, that the promises of God made to our son at his baptism twenty-nine years ago were being affirmed in a rich new way before my very eyes. Our son had accepted God’s promises some years earlier through his profession of faith. But now another layer was being added. The covenant promises were being extended to the next generation. On this Easter Sunday we were witnessing the promise of new life in Christ being offered to our son’s child. This was resurrection multiplied.

I felt just a little like Simeon. I had witnessed God’s salvation. I have lived to see my children’s children. But more than that, I was witnessing God’s ongoing covenant faithfulness to his people, from generation, to generation…..

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


“Peter followed at a distance.” Luke 22:54

This little line comes after the last supper, the betrayal by Judas, praying on the Mt. of Olives, the tussle in the garden with the soldiers, and finally the arrest. “Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.”

Its not hard for me to imagine being Peter. I can be impulsive, like him. I can be stubborn, like him. I can be passionate, like him. And its not hard for me to imagine myself following….at a distance.

He’s not ready to give up yet. But he has no idea what is going on. He has invested three years of his life following this man. He loves Jesus. He really does. He was ready to fight for him. But Jesus said no. Swords are not the weapons of this kingdom. Perhaps Peter is waiting for Jesus to unleash the power of God on these people. But instead he sees Jesus mocked, beaten, and humiliated. So Peter does what he has been doing. He follows. But now at a distance.

We talk about doubting Thomas. Maybe here we have doubting Peter.

Maybe he thought he had been wrong.

Maybe he wondered if he had merely been caught up in the excitement of a new movement with a charismatic leader.

Maybe this worried that this whole thing had been a costly mistake.

I can almost feel Peter’s sense of loss. ‘How could I have been so dumb – again! I got caught up in this whole thing just like…..(some other time). When am I going to learn?
Confusion. Denial….denial! Jesus said I would deny him! Grief. Loss. Loss of my friend. Loss of the dream of a new kingdom. Loss of everything.’

Maybe part of Holy Week is remembering and confessing our own denials, our own doubts in the midst of our own losses. But unlike Peter that dark night so long ago, we can do this with the empty tomb in the background.

Even as we grieve our own doubts and denials that seem to come with great loss, we can remember what Peter did not yet know. Out of death – and only out of death – comes resurrection life.