The Eastern Gate

Meet Gene Larson!


Gene Larson is a lay person and the Chairperson of the Worship Committee at First United Methodist Church in Normal, IL.  I have found him to be a very capable in engaging both theology and Bible.  He graduated from Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS) and found his way to the Bloomington-Normal area where we worked for State Farm.  My first meeting of Gene was with his dogs.  He is a dog lover and is as dedicated to his canines as they are to him!

Today I welcome Gene to my blog and invite you to read his perspective on Resurrection and New Life.

One of my re-discovered musical groups is the Statler Brothers.  I have always enjoyed country music, at least the form it took 30 and more years ago.  As country music changed, I moved away from it and lost touch with some of the great artists that contributed much to  my enjoyment of it.  The quartet that I enjoyed most had its roots in gospel music and throughout their long career always included some of it in their concerts and shows.  Recently, I was searching iTunes for some new music and ran across a gospel compilation of the Statlers.  One of the songs included was entirely new to me—“The Eastern Gate.”  


This song is referring to a gate on the eastern side of the wall around the old city of Jerusalem.  It is the gate that is closest to the Mount of Olives and it quite likely the one most frequented by Jesus on his comings and goings to the city.  It is almost certainly the gate He used on Maundy Thursday to visit the mountain garden to pray after the Last Supper.  It is very likely the one through which the captured Savior was returned to face the ultimate persecution, prosecution, and execution.  


If you are not familiar with the gospel song, its message conveyed in several verses and repeated chorus is that Jesus will meet us “Just inside the Eastern Gate over there.”  It is an up-tempo piece, at least in the Statler’s rendition of it.  Other gospel artists tend to be less so.  Once you hear it, if Southern Gospel music is to your liking, it is a tune and lyric that is hard to put out of your mind.  As I’ve listened to it numerous times over the last few months, I’ve come to understand what its message might hold for me and, perhaps, for you. .  

The Eastern Gate is a song that at first blush seems to dwell, as much of the related music also does, on our individual deaths and the condition of our souls at the time.  Perhaps one of the reasons the genre’s following is limited is because so much of the music seems to dwell on this singular and personal topic.  The songs we like to sing are more uplifting than the rather somber idea that ultimately we will die and whether or not we will meet the test of the Judge who sits inside the gate.  


The insight for me into this song and others is that it is not just about the end of our human lives, but about the process we go through as we live each day of our lives.  In twelve-step parlance, life that is lived in fear of tomorrow or haunted by the past is far less likely to make it successfully through this day, today.  So my contention is that The Eastern Gate is not one to be avoided or circumvented as we go through life.  Rather it is a place, a process that will lead us to answers about ourselves that will be important to understanding what we need to do to wear the mantle of a disciple.  


Let’s be honest, we are less likely to look closely at what we’re doing with our lives if the only ones we’re trying to please is ourselves.  If however, the person we will meet “…in the morning, over there,” is a wise counselor and friend who can help us understand what the better part might be for us to pursue.  When Jesus said to Martha, “Don’t worry about Mary, she has chosen the better part,” He was telling her that life is more than being a perfect hostess, the best cook, the one with the cleanest house.  He was telling her that choosing to love and care for another is more important than the clothes on our back or the possessions we take so much pride in accumulating.  

The process of self-examination is not easy and most likely is not something we can pull off by ourselves.  We need the independent and yet compassionate advice of someone who cares for us and wants us to succeed even more than we to do.  That presence in our lives is interested not in our stuff but our souls.  That helper, guide, and friend is looking out for us for our sake not for what they can get out of it.  We, on the other hand, tend to look out for “…numero uno” and that is where the problems start.  

When the Ottoman Turks controlled Jerusalem they sealed the gate to prevent the return of the Messiah.  Jewish tradition has it that the Messiah will return to the city and restore the temple via the Eastern Gate.  How like the Turks we are.  We seal off the advice and counsel of those who have our best interests at heart by refusing to look at our lives from any other perspective than our own and by worrying constantly about avoiding the inevitable.  There is nothing we can do about the inevitable.  What will happen will happen and it is up to us to prepare the way as best we can.   That may sound quite final and even judgmental, but I think it is the basis of faith.  Living life for the best result today is what will do the most for us in preparing for any eventuality.  My, our, ultimate salvation is by the grace of God, not the by the works of our hands, feet or money.  The result of life is not what we attain or accumulate.  It is what kind of memories we leave with those whose lives we have touched.

As long as there are free people anywhere on this planet or in this universe, names like Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, King, Jr. and others will never be forgotten.  The memories of what they did and how they sacrificed to make the world a better place for others is the basis for immortality that cannot be refuted.  Even a person who has no religious bent at all can name for you the persons in their past that has given them strength to get up each day and go on to achieve whatever they could to make the day worth living.  It is without doubt the Way on which we can build a legacy that will carry us into whatever form immortality may take for us.  To be sure, there are others whose presence in this world will also be remembered, because forgetting the atrocities they perpetrated is to allow them to fall into places from which those lessons from the past cannot be resurrected.  

Let’s go inside “The Eastern Gate” and see what the words of this song might say to each of us.  

“I will meet you in the morning.  Just inside the Eastern Gate.
 Then be ready, faithful pilgrim,
 Lest with you it be too late.
Refrain: I will meet you, I will meet you, Just inside the Eastern Gate over there.
 I will meet you, I will meet you, I will meet you in the morning over there.
If you hasten off to glory,
Linger near the Eastern Gate,
 For I’m coming in the morning;
So you’ll not have long to wait. [Refrain]
Keep your lamps all trimmed and burning;
For the Bridegroom watch and wait.
 He’ll be with us at the meeting.  Just inside the Eastern Gate. [Refrain}
O the joys of that glad meeting
 With the saints who for us wait!
 What a blessèd, happy meeting
Just inside the Eastern Gate! [Refrain]”
These verses lead us from where we would take ourselves to where our God, our Higher Power wants us to be.  The urgency of not putting off our faith journey is where we start.  The reality of the uncertainty of this life is underscored and the request is for us to not linger, but for our helper and guide to be just inside the gate when we get there.  The allusion to a parable of Jesus concerning the preparations of the wedding party for the main participants is reinforced.  And, finally, the joy of our welcome to the immortality of our friends and family who shaped, led, admonished, and cheered us to victory over the world.  A world that would just as soon have torn us to bits and scattered our remains so as to put whatever good we possessed in a place where our lives could be of no use to anyone else.

That is not what the God I put my trust in is going to do with my life.  He waits for me to come to Him for that advice and counsel that will turn me from who I am to who I can be.  And, the people who will benefit from the change wrought by God in me are those people who I fed, clothed, visited, healed, and loved in the same way I have been treated by the power that has sustained and will never forsake me.  Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn it. He has no need to condemn anyone, we are perfectly capable of doing that to ourselves.  

The Eastern Gate beckons and calls to each of us to pass through and converse with the love that will never let us go.  

Amen.
New Life
babycarnes

My wife and I have been wanting to get pregnant since late last summer.  It was frustrating month after month without the results for which we yearned.  One morning in February my wife woke me up with the exclamation that she was pregnant.  I was glad, but it didn’t seem real.  The only indication was a stick with a symbol on it.  I waited for it to ‘feel real,’ but the feeling didn’t come, at least right away.  I went with my wife to see our OB doctor a few weeks later but wasn’t expecting too much.  I had seen many people post those black and white sonogram pictures on Facebook and I have never been able to make out anything that resembles a life-form.  My lack of excitement had been a let-down and I expected to be equally underwhelmed by that visit.

My experience at the doctor’s office was very different from what I expected.  As the baby became visible on the screen, I was mesmerized.  I could actually see the little heart beating!  My heart leapt.  The doctor put the heartbeat on speaker while she measured it.  I could hear and see the incredibly fast thumping of that little heart.  My eyes were glued to that screen and when the doctor told us that our baby looked very healthy, so far, and that its heartbeat was very strong, I felt pride and joy all at once: It flooded over me in a totally unexpected way.

New life comes to us in very unexpected ways and seldom on our terms.  When we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit we can experience a newness of life: we can experience God in all new ways.  But it can be frustrating when it doesn’t happen right away:  there have been times that I prayed…fervently…yet I didn’t feel God in the way I expected.  But, experiencing God requires us to learn about ourselves and practice faith.  Much like those months of trying to become pregnant, It can take some time to experience God more closely way, but, once we are open enough to God it will just happen.  And when it happens, you will feel it.

For me, I didn’t experience the joy of new life when I expected to: at that first moment of finding out about the pregnancy.  No, I experienced overwhelming joy much later in front of an ultrasound machine.  Yes, the joy of new life often catches us unaware.  Week after week and month after month I pray that you will go to scripture, join together with other people of faith, worship God, and be in prayer.  When we become committed to these practices we will eventually and unexpectedly experience a new life for ourselves and grow in faith and with God.

Blessings,

A Season of New Life

Today’s scripture:  1 Corinthians 15:1-11


Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing. I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time. I’m the least important of the apostles. I don’t deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church. I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me. So then, whether you heard the message from me or them, this is what we preach and this is what you have believed.

This message of Paul is of Resurrection and New Life.  Paul is talking about Christ’s bodily resurrection, but he is also talking about his own experience of new life.  For Paul, experiencing Christ gave him something deeply personal and connected him with God in an incredible new way.  Most importantly this inward change brought an outward change as well.  He was convicted of the message of Christian-Jews, but he also changed the way in which he lived his daily life.  In fact, he became a wholly different person.

During the Season of Easter which starts on Easter Day (March 31) and runs through Pentecost (May 18) we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.  What does that mean?  God came to experience humanity, to experience all the facets of human-ness in order to love and be loved in a deeper way.  The experience of Easter is about experiencing God’s love in a personal way and the freeing experience of a new life in Christ.

For the remainder of the Easter Season you will hear stories of Resurrection and New Life from me and my friends through this blog.  Perhaps over the next few weeks you will be impacted in some way by the message of Christ and experience, through these writings, New Life!

Blessings,

Graphic created by Scott Carnes for First United Methodist Church, Normal, IL.  Copyright 2013

Reboot

What does it mean to start over?  When it comes to a cake, you have to trash the whole burnt mess and start with all new ingredients.  Luckily starting fresh in life doesn’t have to be so violent (or messy), but it can be.  Sometimes we have to lose our lives in order to start over.  Jesus said something about that in the Bible, in fact….

For me, starting over wasn’t an obvious thing.  I didn’t even realize it was happening nor did I have that intent.  Yet, over the last few weeks I’ve come to realize that I look at certain things differently.  My worldview has shifted ever-so slightly.

I notice it in things as simple as my sleep schedule.  Over the last few months I’ve been going to bed earlier and getting my day started sooner.  Is it because I look forward to what tomorrow holds?

I notice it in my attentiveness to my wife.  I don’t know if she notices, but I’m a little more aware of what is happening for her, although a new church appointment has kept me from investing more time in my marriage.

I notice it in my outlook on issues and, even, moments of “crisis” around me.  I think the experiences of a brain tumor, two neuro-surgeries, and a near-death experience in my hospital bed have changed my world in ways I didn’t even realize…  somehow for the better.

I don’t think you will notice the changes I have experienced.  I don’t think it is in overt ways, necessarily, but it happened all the same.  As a pastor, I look around at the world and wonder…is that what faith does?  When we begin to see that there is hope and love in this world, does it change us?  I think so.  We don’t always notice the change right away, but when we see the world through the lens of possibility instead of impossibility…when we see that this world is more filled with love than hate…when we recognize that God can give us hope for a brighter tomorrow…I think it changes our world and us a little at a time.

Well, enough rambling for now!

Resurrection & New Life:  Pentecost

Meet Rev. Dr. Mark Fowler


Dr. Fowler is a professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  As one of his former students, I can tell you that he is just as much a pastor as teacher and as much a man of deep compassion as he is a mentor and role model.  He is the Murray H. Leiffer Associate Professor of Congregational Leadership and is the Executive Director of the Institute for Transformative Leaders and Communities.  He received his BA from DePauw University, his Master of Divinity from Boston University, and his Doctor of Ministry from Andover Newton Theological School.  Please warmly welcome to my blog, as today’s guest blogger, Mark Fowler!
Pentecost

Today’s Scripture: Acts 2


I have often thought of Pentecost and the activity of the Holy Spirit as wind and fire, of the birth of the church with thousands of folks swept up in the witness of Peter (although I have been amazed that the church does not utilize the scripture from Joel that Peter used in this “birth” sermon of the church, hmmm!)  It is a dynamic and dramatic experience that is reported at Pentecost.

In an age when we are drawn to the “big show”, the dramatic increase in numbers, the pyrotechnic displays and the moment-by-moment sensory overload so central to our consumer culture, the Pentecost story could be easily exemplified as a reasonable expectation.  Shouldn’t the people of God, using God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, use the craft and expect the results of Pentecost to draw the world?
 

In a time when the traditional church is in traumatic dislocation, loss of privilege, bereft of its traditional social influence and seemingly in disarray.  At the recent United Methodist General Conference, proposals for changing ecclesiastical structures are left on the table, traditional covenants of ministry are tossed aside for a more effective way in which “only the temporally effective pastors are allowed to stay on the bus” (without a similar capacity for assessment being placed on the unassailable Episcopal office) and a casual vote declares a rather sizable number of delegates have put a restraint on the prevenient nature of the grace of God, a distinctive principal of the Methodist movement and a hallmark of its proclamation and effective evangelism. And, we all will move forward to try to capture lightening and wind in a bottle as an assurance of the future survival of the denominations.  

For me this year, Pentecost has been preceded by a delightful bit of weather in Chicago.  It has drawn me to the lakeside to sit and relax, reflect on the future.  I have felt close to the experience of the disciples prior to the amazing events on Pentecost that gave birth to the church, a ten day retreat in the upper room.  My mind flew to John Wesley prior to the Aldersgate Street experience that renovated his soul and was the source of the regeneration of the church through the birth of the Methodist movement.  It came to clear memory that in a difficult turning point in my own ministry, that it was preceded by a time of wilderness in the desert southwest where I experienced the disorienting reality of my own life in the vast and unfamiliar landmarked desert.  


In this anxious time for the church, we cannot fancy ourselves capable of doing the work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of the church.  Nor do we exactly know what form it will take or what methods of evangelism and discipleship will be most effective to be embraced in the mission dei  toward the fulfillment of God’s purposes for the creation and the beloved.  We must discipline ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit’s presence and work among us and in the creation.  We must Sabbath intently and yearn for God and trusting the promise that “in these last days, God will pour out the Spirit on all flesh…and the daughters and sons will prophesy and the old will dream.”  And, the dreams and visions will be of a world re-born and the loving purpose of creation will be fulfilled in our experience!

Resurrection & New Life: God At Work


Meet Andrew Mortonson





My guest blogger, today, is Andrew Mortonson.  He is a member of First United Methodist Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin and is active at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign (UIUC) where he will (in August) finish his Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering.  …And I am really proud of Andrew’s most recent announcement:  He has already gotten a job with Rolls-Royce as an Engineering Associate after graduation!






Beginning to See God at Work



Today’s Scripture:  Luke 24:45-49


There was always a plan – a reason, a goal for tomorrow. I had always known the next step in life and was always fully prepared to take it. I had a stable family, good education, and a loving church home. I knew where I would go to college since before I started high school, and there was never really any question I would get in. I was blessed in many ways as a child. 


I grew up in the church, and for a large part, my faith was always laid out before me. Unlike many of the other kids my age at church, I learned and grew in my faith and continued being an active participant after confirmation. Being an active Christian wasn’t necessarily the cool thing to do, but in a Christian community like Green Bay, you never are really challenged in your faith. I often found myself in more discussions with other denominations, especially Catholics. 

When I went to college, I moved into a fraternity, and most of my influences were anything but Godly. I continued to succeed in school, but I felt incomplete and often alone. The summer after my freshman year, people from my home church asked me if I had found a new church to serve at school. When I admitted I hadn’t, they often encouraged me too look, or gave suggestions. I agreed that I would look at the Wesley foundation on campus, partly just to keep people off my back. I fortunately found a new home and gained many new supportive friends.

For the next two years, I felt like I knew where I belonged. While I occasionally struggled with friends and classes, I knew that God was providing for me. However, in my senior year, that feeling began to fade. I thought I had lost God’s call; I wasn’t really sure what my future path should be. I graduated college with Honors, but like far too many people that year, I had no job, and returned to live at home. Once again, I felt very much alone. Even though I was living with my family and had many loving people around me, I was completely lost.

I can understand what the Disciples must have felt around the crucifixion. Only a week before, they entered with Jesus triumphantly into Jerusalem. Going to serve with Jesus was not easy, but I’m sure after a while, they all felt like they were where they belonged. Only a few days later, they were lost, and felt very much alone. 

My story did not turn around in just three days, yet I know that even in those times, God was working in my life. I began to get involved in the praise band at my home church, and the other members often helped remind me that I was not alone. But the real point where I began to see God working was when one of the women in the church came up to me and started asking me details about my life. She knew that I had been looking for a job, and she wanted to know what kind of job, and what I was interested in. Then she told me that she needed to know all of this so she could properly pray for me. She prayed with me, and hugged me and promised me that her prayer group would continue to keep me in her prayers. 

It was about this time that things started to turn around. I applied to grad school and began to attend that fall. Through the two years that I have been studying, I only recently was assured funding for the remainder of my program, but I trusted wholly in God. Within a few months of returning to school, I began dating the woman who became my fiancée, and now within the last week, I was offered a job after graduation. Almost exactly the position I had wanted three years earlier. 

After Jesus arose on Easter, the Disciples went on to spread the gospel throughout the world. But they needed fellowship and support from other believers, and to fully place their trust in Jesus. In the same way, I could not be where I am today without the prayers of family and friends and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Even more, I know that I can impact the lives of others simply through words of prayer and support. At our lowest points, the promise of God’s perfect grace, through the resurrection, allows us to put all of our faith in Him. In Luke 24, Jesus appeared before the disciples who had gathered after the crucifixion. 

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’” Luke 24:45-49 (NIV)




**top image found at:  http://imlivinginadream.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/on-101-goals/
**image of Andrew Mortonson found on his Facebook.

Resurrection & New Life: New Life Springs Forth!




Meet RaeAnn Beebe!

Rev. RaeAnn Beebe is the pastor at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  Her church is related to the Northeast Wisconsin Association of the United Church of Christ.  She is a 2010 graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois where she was a classmate of mine!  I thank RaeAnn for sharing this devotion and hope that you all enjoy it as much as I did!













New Life Springs Forth!



Scripture: Isaiah 43: 18-19 (Common English Bible)



Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
(Isaiah 43:18-19)
This year I had a very bad case of Spring Fever. I’m not sure if it was because of the unseasonably warm weather early on or the fact that I love Spring and was excited that it was coming early. Whatever the reason, I found myself wanting to be outside getting my garden planted. Spring is an annual reminder of resurrection for me. Maybe not this year, but normally in Wisconsin winter is long and cold; a time when I just want to stay indoors and hibernate. Just when I think I can’t take it anymore, spring arrives to say that new life is possible. From the barrenness of winter new life springs forth – birds reappear and wake me up with their singing, buds appear on the trees and then begin to open, flowers sprout from the ground slowly and then suddenly burst out of the ground and the garden is full of color. One day winter and the next spring is here. I love it and am reminded of the new life we find in Christ.

We often think of new life encounters with God in just this way – bursting forth suddenly. One day our lives are in shambles, then we have an encounter with God and everything changes dramatically and suddenly. While this can happen, I think more often we experience new life in the ordinary passages of our lives. For me this occurred when my sons grew up and left home to go to college. I wasn’t needed by them in the same way and I found myself in a time of transition. My old way of life was gone and I had to find that new thing that God was calling me too. I had to find the way God had made in the wilderness. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually, I found the way in the wilderness or the river in the desert that Isaiah talks about. I went to seminary and started on a whole new career path.

We experience many transition times in our lives. Maybe it is when you first move away from home or enter a new relationship or welcome a child to the family or lose someone you love. These times of transition can be very unsettling, but they can also be opportunities to experience new life when we are open to the places God is calling us to. Isaiah says that we should forget about what was and look toward what can be. And that is new life.
Resurrection & New Life:  Hid In Christ

image from http://christianbackgrounds.info/the-cross-sunshine/





I’d like to introduce today’s guest blogger, Adrienne Trevathan.  She is the Director of Christian Education at Northminster Presbyterian (the church where I interned during seminary).  She is a 2009 graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary where she attained a master of divinity.






Our lives are hid with Christ in God.
Scripture:  Colossians 3:1-3
There is a lot at stake when we talk about our beliefs about resurrection.  There are many different ways to speak of the resurrection of Jesus, and different meanings we attach to it.  What has struck me particularly this year is the idea that when Chrsit rises from death, we also rise with him.  In the same way that we observe Lent and remember the suffering of the cross, we ourselves “rise” in a sense as we welcome Easter.   There is something about our identity that is hidden in God, that we uncover (and continue to uncover) as we live as followers of Christ.

When we live as people with hope, who willingly follow someone who knowingly walked into death and danced right out of it, we come a bit closer to finding our true identity.

When we surround ourselves with others who join us in making this proclamation, “He is risen!,”

we are able to understand the deepest part of ourselves that God is preparing to use to address needs in the world; needs not only of our brothers and sisters, but of all creation.  The groaning of creation is matched by the longing within us to make meaning in life.  We have the responsibility of cultivating the Spirit in our lives so that we are able to recognize and respond those signs of new life when they spring up (often in unexpected places).

When Christ rises, we rise – together.  Our identity is no longer static or predictable; what we can become together is a mystery and possibility.  It is a reason to rejoice.
Resurrection & New Life: The Why Question

My guest blogger today is Rev. Dr. Larry Duane Pickens, Esquire, an Ordained United Methodist Pastor in the Northern Illinois Conference.  He holds degrees in Political Science, Theology, Divinity and law from North Park University, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (my own alma mater), Bossey (Switzerland), Chicago Theological Seminary, and DePaul University.  Larry has pastored churches in New York and Illinois and led a global agency of the church from 2004-2008.  He is a distinguished pastor, lawyer and United Methodist who has spoken from pulpits and in front of national constituencies.  Please welcome to my blog…a friend and colleague, Larry Pickens!



The Why Question

It is said that if we are to plumb the depth of our lives, we must learn how to ask the why questions. It is the why questions that demonstrate with clarity, I think, the conditions of our souls and the nature of our existence. Perhaps, when we ask the why questions it represents the time in life when we are most honest with ourselves and God. Why questions- “why is there violence and injustice in the world?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why do the unrighteous prosper?” And the ultimate question, “Why is there suffering and death?”

The resurrection is also grounded in a why question that is posed to both Mary and Mary Magdalene. What is their reason for going to the tomb following Jesus’ death? Perhaps they were still in shock, suffering from some form of past traumatic stress syndrome, which drove them to a tomb with spices designed to ameliorate the smell of a rotting corpse lying in a tomb that was purportedly sealed by a boulder?

I would like to think that it was hope that drew these faithful women to Jesus’ tomb. The hope, inspired by Jesus’ ministry of inclusiveness, carried these women to the tomb in a death defying act of love and faithfulness. The why question that is posed in the tomb. Hope is a stubborn thing that sometimes grows frail but is very hard to kill. It was a stubborn hope that moved these women to the tomb. They became instruments of God’s death defying will represented in Jesus’ victory over the grave.

Diana Butler Bass has recently written a compelling book that is titled “Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening.” In an age when we find ourselves trying to repair creaking old church structures, Bass challenges our thinking, calling us to spiritual transformation and resurrection. She is calling us to make all things new for an age that still has its hope grounded in Jesus Christ. She states that we are at a critical stage in a completely new spiritual awakening, a vast interreligious progression toward individual and community transformation. Resurrection in our denominations and our local churches is grounded in the life giving and service driven gospel to which Bass speaks. But such compelling transformation is again grounded in the why questions of our lives.

I hope that you too are asking the why questions. But more so, my hope is that you are walking toward renewal, transformation and yes, resurrection with a stubborn hope.
Amen

Resurrection & New Life: Christ At Your Feet
image found at:  http://www.fwb21.com/2011/04/20/ministry-wednesday-feet-washing/

Scripture:  John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Let’s focus on just one piece of this scripture:
  “No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”
   Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”
  Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”
  Jesus responded, “Those who have bathed need only to have their feet washed, because they are completely clean. You disciples are clean, but not every one of you.”

Peter has an interesting reaction to Jesus, in this scripture, doesn’t he?  He first refutes Jesus, right?  Jesus goes to wash Peter’s feet and Peter says, “No way!”  Then Jesus tells that he must wash Peter’s feet and Peter wants more than Jesus offers.

It seems to me that a follower is pretty full of himself if he orders his leader around like Peter seems to do.  I wonder how we respond when we see Christ at work in this world.  Do we act like Peter or do we participate with Christ in the work He plans to do???   I mean, when we see the chaos of a soup kitchen do we accept that Christ is doing that work?  When we watch children at play do we really believe that Christ is shaping those lives?

First Peter denied Christ his chosen activity and then asked for more than Christ was offering.  Do we do this today?  Do we ignore Christ when it suits us (yes, the homeless man invisibly sleeping in a drainage ditch across town) and yet ask why God isn’t doing more to fix our world?

If we learn nothing else from Jesus’ teachings, we should at least know that Christ placed a high value on humanity.  Jesus came to life, did ministry, and died on the cross not because of how little God valued humanity, but because of how very much God valued our earthly life.  Here in this scripture, Christ is kneeling down to care for His friends and followers.  Today, still, Christ kneels down to wash our feet and his tears fall upon our flesh because fail to take part in His Holy mission.

As we journey with Christ towards the cross and Easter Sunday I ask that we keep our eyes open.  I beg that we, as people of faith, would keep our eyes open to the injustice that plagues this world and to take part in the work Christ is trying to do.  As a person of faith I beg you:  be the hands and feet of Christ so that we can take part in washing the feet of this world.  That we would participate in giving the world the gift of Christ.

Peter didn’t need to be washed.  Peter needed to have an experience of Christ.  There are so many people of this world who need to feel Christ at their feet, will it be you or I who will help them feel Christ in their lives this Holy Week?