Reflection for the Solemnity of the Resurrection 2016

27 March 2016 - By

resurrection-1887-1

Lift high
the Cross.

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.

Lift High the Cross was composed in 1916 by Sydney H. Nicholson. The lyrics used in the hymn were written in 1887. The scriptural theme is John 12:32 where Jesus says: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

Regardless of the season, the cross calls us to continual reflection. It was a place of such gruesome punishment for Jesus. Yet it is also a place of glory–where death and sin were conquered forever. On this day we remember in the most particular and special way the victory of Christ over death. We rejoice in our newfound freedom and the promise of paradise reopened to us. What a profound impact this cross has had on our lives. The cross, once a symbol of horror, is now the gateway to salvation. In the baptismal rite, which we are celebrating today, we place the sign of the cross on heart and forehead of the one to be baptized. They then are called to take ownership of the cross and of its promise. Let us recognize its power in our lives.

This hymn has five verses. Let’s reflect a moment on a few of them.

Come, brethren follow where our Savior trod, Our King victorious, Christ, the Son of God. We are called to follow Jesus, to walk His way, to live as He lived in complete dedication to the Father’s will for us.

Led on their way by this triumphant sign, The hosts of God in conqu’ring ranks combine. We conquer in the cross. This isn’t conquering in worldly terms, but in eternal terms. The cross is the sign of hope and victory. We wear this sign of victory on our bodies and in our hearts as a result of our baptism.

O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, As thou hast promised, draw men unto thee. The cross is a draw for all people. There is no distinction or differentiation because we all are made part of His one body.

Thy kingdom come, that earth’s despair may cease, Beneath the shadow of its healing peace. The great promise of those who live in the cross is freedom, release, and perfect healing. All that separates us and hold us back is removed.

The hymn also carries a message of baptismal action and outreach. It calls us to “lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim” so that the whole world will hear of what Jesus has done to free us.

Reflection for Palm Sunday 2016

20 March 2016 - By

fist-palm-group

Making
choices.

And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed.

Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week. Palm Sunday marks the start of a week in which tremendous, world-changing choices would be made and would be followed up on.

Choices big and small confronted the people we meet today. Would the disciples go and get the colt? Would the owner of the colt let them take it? Small matters, but unless Jesus arrived on that colt He could not be proclaimed the peace bringing King and Messiah of Israel.

There are those in the party of Jesus. They had made or were making choices. Peter would choose to react without thinking. Thomas would choose to doubt. John chose to stand by Jesus. After Jesus fed the multitudes Judas heard and saw Him refuse political power. Judas heard Jesus tell the crowds that He must be betrayed and must die. Judas chose to follow Jesus to Jerusalem so me might destroy Him. Jesus was not living up to the choices Judas made for Him.

The crowds appeared after they had all made their choice. They chose to cut branches and lay their cloaks on the road – honoring the King of kings. They shook their fists in the air proclaiming, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” They did this right under the nose of the Roman governor and his troops. Important stuff.

St. Paul tells us “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Yet so many choose to walk away from the Name of Jesus or even to step all over it.

Jesus had to choose. We think He was on autopilot and that everything He did was pre-arranged. Not so. At the supper He had to chose to leave us a lasting memorial, His body and blood to be real and present to us so we might partake of Him. In the garden He prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” He struggled and chose to accept and follow the Father’s will. He did so, not because it was easy, but because it was the ultimate act of love and surrender. Love freely given.

Each day we make good and bad choices. We live our Christian virtues and rejoice in doing so. We confront the ease with which we fall in our day-to-day choices. Who among them would do such a deed? We are weak Lord. Our deeds not yet one with You, not completely loving. Yet Your cross lifts us up when our choices fail You. Help us to choose You, Your way, Your love. “Jesus, remember me.

Reflection for Passion Sunday 2016

13 March 2016 - By

Passiontide

Getting back to
Eden.

It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.

We continue in our Lenten series on getting back to Eden.

Paul puts it so plainly. We are all on a journey back to Eden. We haven’t quite gotten there, but we press on toward that goal.

Paul cites himself as the best of examples of one who needs to keep working toward that goal, to the full maturity of faith needed to grasp onto Eden. He knew that he had faith, but he wanted it to mature, to become more and more intimate with Jesus.

The people he was writing to couldn’t quite understand that. Here was Paul, and apostle. One who met and was sent by the Lord. Here was Paul, one who had suffered in union with and for the Lord; Paul who had sacrificed so much in order to acquire justice before God. He had to be there already, hadn’t he? Paul had to be in a state of perfection. He shouldn’t have to do anything else.

Yet here is Paul clueing them in. We all need to increase our efforts to reach Christian perfection. Much remains to be done, and we really cannot rest on the merits of what has been done before.

We are all tempted to pause, pat ourselves on the back, and think we’ve got it done. Paul reminds us by saying that he must strain forward, press ahead, to what lies ahead, a continued pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

Today we have reflected on the times we have fallen short in our effort to press ahead toward Eden. We have removed the image of being all done, so we can start fresh. Our prize is not far from our grasp, we re-enter a state of sinlessness, we take hold of the promise of that beautifully perfect place, we have removed the fear caused by shame, we feel peace all around us, we re-engage in a cooperative relationship with God and each other. Eden is not far off.

Jesus is not far from us, but to reach Him it takes effort, introspection, and a commitment to developing more fully that intimate relationship that is at the heart of the Christian journey.

This is the time. If we haven’t done all we should then we need to take heart. The path is clear now and we are able to re-engage. Like the woman brought forward in that street so many years ago we hear Jesus say to us “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.

Freedom is before us. Eden is close by. Wrongs are forgotten. Sin is gone. We are free. We are ready to get back to Eden. The option is to do all required to strain forward.

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent 2016

6 March 2016 - By

reconcile

Getting back to
Eden.

Brothers and sisters: Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

We continue in our Lenten series on getting back to Eden.

St. Paul makes Jesus’ mission to the world explicitly clear for the Corinthians. He came to reconcile the world, to eliminate the old and make all things new. This is the practical application of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

The son had taken all of the gifts his father had given him and had wasted them. The father’s work and savings, a lifetime of achievement had been squandered: he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.

The son returns, somewhat penitent, but still in a way self-serving. He is going back to the father to once again take advantage of his generosity – even if as a slave. Yet the father welcomes and forgives.

God knows our selfishness, our sins, our failings, yet through His Son Jesus, He no longer counts this against us. The old paradigm, the old way of doing things has been destroyed. There is a new way of forgiveness, reconciliation and welcome in spite of our sins. “We must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”

How did the sinful son feel? Overwhelmed by his father’s welcome, by the freely given and unconditional love he received, he had to be changed. The selfish motive for returning had been removed by the father’s welcome. The past had been forgotten. No grudge existed. Healing did.

The world of Eden is a world of healing love – sin is completely removed. While we remain in a world marred by sin, we live in the promise of a world without sin. Sin weighs on us not because we expect punishment and retribution, but because God is so very loving. He welcomes us back to the Eden born of His great love. How can we not regret our sin, and pledge to improve our lives, when faced with such a great love?

St. Paul, in reminding us of this great love, tells us that we also have something to give back. We are to become ambassadors of reconciliation, making the promise of Eden known to all we encounter. We are reconciled so we may reconcile.

Total reconciliation with God is not something that exists somewhere in the future. In Jesus, Eden is for today and for all.

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Lent 2016

28 February 2016 - By

Getting back to Eden.

“He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
We continue in our Lenten series on getting back to Eden. Last week we looked at what life was like in the Garden of Eden before sin: Sinless, an environmental paradise, innocent and [...]Read More

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Lent 2016

20 February 2016 - By

Getting back to Eden.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.
We continue in [...]Read More

Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Lent 2016

15 February 2016 - By

Getting back to Eden.

What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart —that is, the word of faith that we preach—, for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
This reflection is focused on the scriptures for the First Sunday of Lent and our Lenten preaching theme – [...]Read More

Reflection for Quinquagesima Sunday 2016

7 February 2016 - By

Specks, logs, planks, whole trees.

"How can you say to another believer, 'Friend, let me take the piece of sawdust out of your eye,' when you don't see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye. Then you will see clearly to remove the piece of sawdust from another believer's eye.”
Today marks the last Sunday of the Pre-Lenten season. It confronts us with the hardest challenge [...]Read More

Reflection for Sexagesima Sunday 2016

31 January 2016 - By

A series of principles.

"Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a [...]Read More

Reflection for Septuagesima Sunday 2016

23 January 2016 - By

Time for a gut check, really.

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the [...]Read More

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