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From the domestication of fire and the invention of the wheel, to air travel and the creation of the Internet, human beings have achieved remarkable things. Yet in spite of all of our advancements and accomplishments, Easter forces us to come to terms with our limitations. We are not all-powerful. We are not all-knowing. Though we try to deny it, we are all running a losing race with time. We daily feel the effects of sin and death on our bodies, families, and communities. The discovery of our brokenness, however, is the very way we enter into a life of worship, wonder, and overwhelming joy! Easter celebrates the power of God that triumphs over our weakness and inabilities. It displays divine love towards needy creation. It exalts God’s great victory over sin and death in the resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. When we focus fully on the wonder of God’s power to accomplish the impossible, we join our hearts with the Psalmist and say, “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad” (Psalm 118:23-24). Today is a day of great rejoicing. We join with the Church in heaven and earth and say “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death!” Easter turns us away from the despair of our limitations and invites us to celebrate God’s miraculous intervention. Let us follow the risen Christ as his faithful disciples. As the great Anglican hymnist Charles Wesley put it, Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia! Following our exalted Head, Alleluia! Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia! Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! This, indeed, is cause for great joy!
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When tears are spent, and then art left alone
With ghosts of blessings gone, Think thou are taken from the cross, and laid
In Jesus’ burial shade Take Moses’ rod, the rod of prayer, and call
Out of the rocky wall The fount of holy blood; and lift on high
Thy groveling soul that feels so desolate and dry. John Keble (1792-1866) Though life certainly has countless blessings and joys, we also find ourselves at times in seasons of great pain, despair, and grief. As you read the words to this classic poem, perhaps you can relate? You may be in a season where your tears are spent and the blessings of life are but a distant memory. If you find yourself in this place, take the second part of this poem to heart and enter into a time of prayerful waiting. Join your heart with the Psalmist who cries out, “In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness” (Ps. 31:1). In many ways, Holy Saturday is a day of waiting. We have walked the painful road to Calvary and have seen the suffering of the cross, yet the joy and triumph of Easter still awaits us. Much of our lives is spent in this place of waiting, where we have seen the love of God shown on the cross and know a day is coming when all will finally be made right. But in the time in-between, we wait. We must remember that waiting is not the same thing as inactivity. You may find yourself filled with anxiety and fear. Your thoughts may rush to the pain of broken relationships or lost loved ones. Yet this brokenness must not leave us paralyzed in our fear, shame, or doubt. It is precisely in these moments that God wants you to cry out to him in prayer, trusting in his love and gracious care for you. Your faith may feel feeble and weak, yet today find comfort in our Lord who was no stranger to pain, isolation, or death. As you meet the Lord today in the chill of the tomb, have faith that you will also meet him tomorrow in the joy of the resurrection.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the desperate cry of David in Psalm 22. These same words are the final words of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s gospel account as he cries out with a loud voice from the cross. Alone, betrayed, deserted, abandoned. The skies pitch black; an earthquake. What terror the disciples must have felt? Their own pleas to God are not recorded, but surely on their lips: “Where are you God?” “What on earth are you doing?” “Why have you abandoned us?” All words, all cries, all pleas, all prayers met with the same response. Utter, absolute silence. Have you ever been in this place? Crying out to God in desperation? “Where are you, God?” “Why are you silent?” “Why have you left me alone?” “God, do something; please help me!” Begging, groaning, grieving, pleading, sighing. “God, why have you forsaken me?” Most of us have had seasons of suffering and loss beyond what we thought we could bear. There have been moments of wailing in agony over a devastating event, the death of a loved one, the death of a relationship. And perhaps for us, too, our desperate cries were met with silence. Every year it is hard to hear Psalm 22 as it is read at the Maundy Thursday service. God, how could they do this to the one who is Love? How could we? For we, too, had a hand in the suffering and torture and excruciatingly painful death of the one we call Savior and Lord. But Good Friday reminds us that the one who is fully God stood for us and with us. We are not alone. We have not been abandoned. Today, on this day we call Good Friday, we stand before the Cross which stands at the center of all history. The cross, which was the instrument of suffering, torture, and death for Jesus, is for us the instrument of our rescue, our salvation. Today we wait at the foot of the cross. We wait hopefully, expectantly, as we remember the final words of Psalm 22: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.” It is finished.
Welcome to Holy Week. What an opportunity we have to slow down and tune into the life of Jesus.
When was the last time you sat down and just read Jesus' words? A few years ago some friends and I decided to read aloud together all four gospels during Holy Week. Yes, we were all single and none of us had children. But it was still easy to think, "There's no way I can afford this," or to measure our time purely in terms of what's "productive."
We did it anyway. And I can remember few times in my life more intimate or moving, simply reading aloud to one another for hours the words and deeds of Jesus. They are so direct, so astonishingly alive. They comfort, they heal; they rebuke and sting! There is so much Christ said and did (and says and does) which strikes us to the heart. These are the moments that shape us into lovers of God.
Can we find time for leisurely love of the Lord? Sit alone this week with a few chapters from Matthew? Join a Holy Week service? Fast a meal? Sit in silence? Step back? We have a whole week to re-awaken, to breathe deeply the freshness and power of the gospel. Take advantage of it as you are able!
This week's schedule encourages students, too, to join the church in meditating on Jesus' life and death before we get to Easter.
We'd also love for them to join in getting to know our new Rector-elect, Fr. Paul! God is at work among us, y'all. Taylor and I feel so glad to be a part of it!
This weekend we welcome our Rector-elect back to Christ Church as guest preacher. It is a joy to receive him again.
As a special honor, Monika and their four beautiful daughters will be here, too. Please give them all a warm Christ Church welcome. In addition to Sunday, we invite you join us on Saturday evening to witness the confirmation and ordination of many people in our parish. Our bishop, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Todd Hunter, will confirm over 50 men and women, including some young teens, all of whom have made the effort to study the Anglican Way of Christianity and affirm their faith and intention to live a life of committed discipleship.
These events occur on a momentous weekend: Pentecost. As you will hear in every message this time of year, the Feast of Pentecost is when God the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples to empower them for the ministry that Jesus had called them to undertake. Without the Holy Spirit, we are just spinning wheels; the Church goes nowhere.
How fitting, then, that we join in prayer for the 50+ confirmands, your new priests, and your Rector-elect, Fr. Paul, that they all would be filled with the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.
When we read the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation we encounter the story of God’s unceasing faithfulness to his people. Time and time again God’s people find themselves in need of saving, and each time God comes to their rescue: slavery in Egypt, David vs. Goliath, exiled in Babylon. The list could go on and on. This weekend, Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and in this celebration we encounter another key moment where God’s people are crying out for salvation. Hosanna literally means “save us.” So when we hear God’s people crying out, they aren’t simply singing songs of praise or thanksgiving, but are joining their voices with the psalmist who in Psalm 118 cries, “Save us, we pray, O Lord!” In Jesus’ day, God’s people lived under the rule and oppression of the Roman Empire. When they thought of their need for salvation, what first came to mind was their need to be saved from the Romans. For this reason, when the crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, they thought they were welcoming the revolutionary King who would overthrow Rome and set them free. Jesus is without question a revolutionary King who comes to save us, but his revolution is not against a nation or state. It is against our true oppressor: death. To truly set us free, God’s rescue mission must go to the very root of our bondage. He knew in the ancient world that there was a bondage far deeper than Roman oppression, and He knows in our world today that there is a bondage far deeper than financial struggle, relational brokenness, or substance abuse. These challenges are symptoms of a much deeper ailment. Jesus’ triumphal entry is ultimately his triumph over sin and death. He is the King who comes to die and rise again, defeating death once and for all as he does. When we see Jesus as he truly is, and when we see our own brokenness and need, we should rush to join our voices with the crowd and say afresh, “Hosanna, God save us!”
Dick Hall, a talented member of the church, demonstrated his jewelry making hobby with the residents of the Plano Community Homes last week. The residents were allowed to pick from Dick’s premade inventory of earrings, bracelets, and necklaces, and they watched as Dick fashioned custom jewelry from their selected stone and glass items. We give thanks for Dick’s skills and for demonstrating Christ’s love to the elderly in our community. Anyone interested in sharing their crafts and other talents with the residents of the Plano community is welcome to schedule an event. Please contact Jeff Reaves at JReaves@ChristChurchPlano.org if you would like to participate in local outreach.
On Sunday we welcomed our sweet second grade students and their parents to participate in a Christian Seder. It was a wonderful multi-sensory lesson that helped them “experience” some of what they have been learning in class. There were special foods and smells and colors and symbols to teach them. The children remembered how God saved and set free His people held in slavery in Egypt. They connected with the Passover feast where Jesus broke bread and commanded us to do the same. Finally the students learned that Jesus invites all of them to His Table to commune with Him each and every Sunday as His children. God keeps His promises to His people because of His great love for us. I was reminded of this again as we taught through the Seder. This message is so easy for our little ones to receive, but it can be so difficult for us to remember as adults. Do I trust His plan for me? For my children? Am I able to let go of what I thought I wanted for my life now that I see His plan is different? Are the promises made in Scripture meant for me too? Is His love for me as powerful as He describes in those ancient words that are still real today? Yes. Yes. Yes. What a sweet and also powerful message to teach our children. I pray that you have eyes to see His amazing love for you as we step into Holy Week next week.
Have you ever experienced an event or season in your life that seemed too good to be true?—something that only God could do that you will never forget? We see in the verses above that God had moved in a wonderful, dramatic, and unexpected way in the lives of the Israelites. Psalm 126 was written after the end of the 70 years of Babylonian captivity (538 B.C.) when the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem to settle in their own land and rebuild the Temple. The Psalm begins with the remembrance of what God has done in the past. The exiled peoples knew the promises of the Prophets, that one day they would return to Zion. When the actual moment came, it was an overwhelming experience. Their sorrow had been so great while in exile, yet the restoration filled their hearts with happiness as they proclaimed with laughter and shouts of joy what God had done for them. It seemed like they were in a dream, for the Lord had done great things for His people. So great was this act of restoration to Zion that the “nations” heard about it as well. Whenever the Lord does great things for His people, His works testify to His great power and sovereignty. The last three verses of the Psalm are prayers of petition asking the Lord to pour out His blessing on them once again. The Israelites are a people who are living in the middle, between an extraordinary time of abundant blessing and another good time hoped for. Eugene Peterson writes, “And now God, do it again!” Many of us live much of our lives in the middle, too. You and I will face difficult times and deep sorrows. We remember a time when the Lord moved in our lives in a mighty way and we cling to the promises of hope for a better tomorrow. Psalm 27:13-14 states, “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” We can be confident that God will move and act in our lives as He is faithful even if His ways are different than our expectations. As you and I live in the middle, let us wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart, for He is faithful.
As I have grown in my faith over the years, it seems that every Lent, I am still drawn to places in my life where I am not abiding in God. And as we have been journeying this Lent, we should not be surprised to find that God has dredged up thoughts, attitudes, and patterns of behavior that betray the idols in our lives. The closer we stand to the light of Christ, the more clearly the darkness of sin shows itself, no matter the size. While these particular idols may be temptations in and of themselves, another equally dangerous temptation exists: to ignore the sin that has been brought to light. Why is this so dangerous? Because sin is like an infection; if not treated quickly it can fester and grow. Small acts of rebellion against God can multiply, causing us to wither and stunt our growth (John 15:6). The longer we remain in patterns of sin, the harder it can be to see what God is doing in our midst. In our Psalm, David says that keeping quiet about his sin felt as if it was sapping his strength like a hot summer day (Psalm 32:4). But we are not without hope! When David brought his sin to light and confessed before God, the weight was lifted and God forgave him. This is precisely what the gospel is all about! Pastor Tim Keller puts it like this: “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” We can confront the sin in our lives head on during Lent because we know that Jesus has forgiven it. Jesus has come into the depths of our sinful world and overcome it through his life, death, and resurrection. However, that means that we must acknowledge the sin and truly trust in God’s total forgiveness. So brothers and sisters, confess boldly. God wants to be at work in your life, but we must acknowledge our faults and trust that he will make a way for us in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we know the steadfast love of God, it should not only cause us to grieve our sin, but also lead us to repentance and reconciliation with God. So break the silence by confessing and abiding in our most merciful God!