Surveying the Wondrous Cross
Written by Nancy Paul - Holy Spirit Anglican Church - Akron, OH
Jesus took me by the hand, led me out beyond the Church. He walked me through the desert to a Cross we were to search.
It was laying flat upon the ground; He turned and softly said, "Come with Me and walk the Cross to truly understand - the depth, the height, the width of Love within the Father's plan.
He took me to an arm of it, a "Crossroads" so-to-speak, and there we got down on our knees, its Mysteries to seek.
He pointed out the splinters, every crevice and hidden place. We went so far into the wood, blood trickled down my face.
Deep cried out to deep as His eyes searched me to the bone; "Remember, My dearest one, you are not alone. The purpose of this journey is to identify with Me, so that now in telling others, you've embraced The Rugged Tree."
You are a living testament of My sacrificial Love, knowing Resurrection Power with the coming of the Dove. Your waiting to be rewarded, whilst I'm taking out the dross...
Well done, My faithful servant! You've Surveyed My Wondrous Cross.
Early in the Morning
Written by Gretsie Ames - Wife of Bishop Roger C. Ames
“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore and said
“Come, have breakfast ” (John 21:4-14)
Alive, well, Jesus appears to His disciples for a third time after he was raised from the dead. At this time, they are still overcome with grief and at loss as to know what to do. Then Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” Something familiar, something physical, something they can all do together. Something to take their minds off the numbing loss of their best friend.
So they all go, and fish all night, and catch nothing.
Another loss. Another disappointment.
Jesus, watching them from the shore, calls out to them, “Friends haven’t you any fish?” “NO”, they answer. “Throw your net on the right side of the boast and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
John, then says to Peter, “It is the Lord”.
When they arrive at the beach with fresh fish to put on burning coals and fresh bread, none of the disciples dared ask him “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
But here the story takes a dramatic turn.
Yes, they KNEW IT WAS THE LORD. But He was changed. He was different. Nothing was as it had been before. Nothing they had hoped for, nothing they had expected had happened. And suddenly they were faced with a new reality and they didn’t know how to respond.
When Jesus had first appeared to them, the disciples were overjoyed! He came through locked doors and said “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”, and He breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit” and told them that if they forgave anyone’s sins they were forgiven, if not, they were not.
But what were they to do?
The second time Jesus appeared, was a week later, and specifically to Thomas who had not been with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. Jesus wanted to convince Thomas that he was indeed raised from the dead.
Now, here we are, all together, on the shore having breakfast that Jesus himself has orchestrated and prepared. The most common, familiar, and personal thing they could do together- to share a meal and to break bread together. Jesus knew that His friends needed to be anchored in the reality of His Resurrection and their commissioning in the Kingdom of God with the old as well as the new.
And so it is with us, dear ones.
Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning,
And God does provide comfort for those who mourn.
This post-Resurrection account from John’s Gospel shows us how intimately and deeply and personally God cares for each of us when we suffer loss. No matter what the loss, when it is crushing to us, and breaks our heart, and paralyzes us with grief, Jesus is present to heal our broken heart, set us free to live again.
But He does it in community. He does it with friends who will walk alongside us and suffer with us. Yes, suffer. It is a costly ministry. But one that is LIFE-GIVING both to us, and to the one we serve.
When my sister Karen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the last stages, it was numbing. She was my older sister, my hero! Two years older, she fought all the battles for me and protected me in those war years when we lived with our grandparents and our dad was on the Western Front.
Not particularly religious, Karen was a staunch church member and I knew she believed the Gospel. Nonetheless, I was unprepared for the grace and courage with which she faced her untimely demise. It was stunning.
I’d gone to Florida to be with her and her husband for what I knew would be our last time together. One day, Karen said, “Tell me about the after-life, I need some help here. What will it be like?”
I took a walk on the beach and she took a nap.
When we came together again I said, “ Well, I only know from the Gospel of John that Jesus REALLY lived after his death on the cross, in a body, and appeared to His disciples and ate fish with them and broke bread with them and talked with them and made the fire himself early one morning on the beach.
And Jesus is our pattern.
“Oh, that’s wonderful!”, Karen exclaimed. Truly delighted!
Karen and I grew up each summer from the time we were two years of age with our Grandparents on the shores of Peconic Bay, Long Island in N.Y. Facing the east, the summer cottage had a wide porch all across the front with glass doors letting in the Sun’s rays as it came up out of the Bay, sending silver sparkles across the water and turning the sand bluffs to gold.
I knew that Karen’s favorite time there was in the early morning, with her coffee, her two minute egg, and her piece of whole wheat toast out on the front porch watching the sun rise up from the Bay.
When the call came that Karen had passed, I wept. I was so sad. But tears of sheer joy mingled with my grief. Why? Because Karen had died peacefully with her husband by her side, early in the morning, and at the sea shore.
I knew that Jesus had called her to Himself saying, Karen,
“COME, HAVE BREAKFAST.”
And so, dear ones, we too, must grieve, and not be ashamed. Jesus understands. And our knowing the Lord Jesus doesn’t preclude this process, rather it invites us to join with Him in the process, fully and deeply, which then allows us to enter into His JOY. As the Africans say, “Weeping and Rejoicing’ al;ong The Way. And as Louis Evely, has said.
“JOY IS SORROW OVERCOME”.*
(*The title of a fine book by this Catholic Theologian on the Resurrection)
May this season from Easter until Pentecost be ALIVE with Fresh encounters with the Risen Lord!
Expectations on the Work of the King
Written by The Rev. Dcn. Nathan Sharp - St. Patrick's Anglican - Lexington, KY
Much of the tension that comes about in human relationships has to do with expectations. Whether they be familial, friendly, or romantic, we all have certain ideas about how a person should act or what a person should be like. Healthy relationships learn to navigate these expectations through such means as respect, trust, time, and appreciation. Expectations can be good, but what happens when our human expectations meet reality in an expectation-breaking way?
This is what happens time and again in the gospel narrative. For example, Jesus did not meet the expectations of those who were waiting for a King to arrive in Jerusalem. His healings and His teachings they could get on board with, but for many the coronation was too much. Although Jesus exceeded their expectations for life and for a king, God's plan in Christ did not meet the visual or physical expectations of a kingdom come.
It can be difficult to take in the significance of Palm Sunday with Good Friday and Easter on the horizon. The celebration of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem is bittersweet when viewed from the safe distance of 2,000 years and the knowledge of His coming crucifixion. It can also be easily bypassed on the way to the resurrection. Thankfully, we have the ability to see things in perspective, which Jesus' disciples and the crowd at the time could not. Even still, I wonder what kind of things we would expect had Jesus showed up in our lifetime. How might we have responded to His arrival and the accusations eventually brought against Him? Would our expectations or actions have been any different than those present at the time? As a fellow human, I acknowledge probably not.
Upon His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus is met with praise and acclamation. "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" the whole multitude of Jesus' followers shout. While we have no need to question the sincerity of their praise, it is difficult to overlook the messianic expectations of the time. The acknowledgment of Jesus as King is tempered by the expectation of a savior who has come to clean house, to set culture and religion free from the hands of a powerful and oppressive state. Instead, we find the suffering and afflicted servant of Isaiah 53, more interested in cleaning up His Father's house (Luke 19:46) than in toppling the political authority of His day.
Jesus did not meet the expectations of those who were waiting for a King to arrive in Jerusalem. And yet in the midst of the clamber and praise, Jesus proceeds to surpass all earthly expectations. The people may not yet fully understand the colt-riding King they are welcoming with waving palms, but Jesus proceeds in fulfilling His true role and purpose. God is establishing a kingdom and renewing the life of the people, just not in the way that meets the expectations of those around Jesus.This shouldn't really surprise us, for if stones can worship in the midst of our silence (Luke 19:40), what actions or misunderstandings of humankind can thwart the glory of God?
It is easy to place expectations on the work of the King, whether it be in how I think He should answer my prayers or what I expect a certain act of worship to produce. I find that my expectations, while sometimes healthy, can fail to take into account the reality of God's expectation-breaking acts or the shortcomings of my own understanding.
I find, too, that the yearly celebration of Easter can easily bypass the liturgical movement of God's masterful work in the story of redemption. With that acknowledgement, I step with great anticipation into the triumphal entry of Jesus and His Holy Week journey. May my expectations for this season and for life be based not on my own preconceptions, but in the truth of Scripture and the great anticipation that actively waits in God's self-revealing nature and kingdom-establishing love. May I make room for God to act as He will, as He continues to teach us to live in healthy relationship with Himself and with one another.
Written by Kathryn Kircher - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Illustrated by Rhonda Logan Bailey
“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Luke 10:19 NKJV
“I’m having trouble believing it’s true, LORD. I’m sorry. I know You don’t lie. But really! “Nothing”?! “By any means”?! No harm? Ever? I don’t think so! That’s just not my life experience. And I’ve never met anyone else for whom this is true. I just don’t know how to reconcile this with all the trouble, hurt, and harm I’ve experienced.”
Devastating earthquakes (not one, but two—in separate countries).
Immediate family ravished by addiction, infidelity, depression, suicide, and imprisonment.
What am I supposed to do now? Where do I go with this quandary?
Being a geek for Greek, I had to make sure the original meaning is really so emphatic. Sure enough, there are two separate Greek words that give double emphasis:
Well, that has me stuck! How do I reconcile the truth of these words with my own life experiences?
But thankfully, my stuck-ness doesn’t last very long. Within a matter of hours, I hear a speaker on a podcast say, “Faith is visionary, not blind. You have seen it in the unseen realm.”
As I hear these words, it strikes me: this verse starts with the invitation, “Behold.”
Behold. Look at God. See what He’s doing. Look into the unseen realm. Exercise faith that is “visionary not blind.”
In short, be like Jesus: “I speak of what I have seen with my Father.” “The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.”
Because when we behold, when we look at God, when we exercise our eyes of faith, we’re not blind to the realities before us or to the truth of our life experiences. But we have the privilege of going to Papa God and asking for a bigger picture. “How do You see this situation?” “What are You doing here?” “How would you like me to partner with You in what You are doing?”
Once we behold, we’re able to exercise the authority Jesus gives to His disciples—the authority that tramples on serpents and scorpions, and exercises rule over all the power of the enemy. Because, like Jesus, we’re speaking of what we’ve seen with our Father and doing what we see our Father doing.
It’s true: none of us has avoided all the trouble, hurt, and harm this world has to offer. But maybe we can help one another experience something closer to “nothing shall by any means hurt you” if we will stop and consider the situation from Father’s viewpoint, then exercise our authority.
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