Grief

Grief

If you have lived long enough, you have had a death in your family. The grief is intensified by the closeness of the relationship. The closer the tie, the stronger the grief and the deeper the loss. I have watched people process their grief in many ways. Some never quite process it at all. It hits them so strongly that years later they are still paralyzed by the grief. Others process the grief and move on with healthy responses. It does not mean they quit caring or quit grieving. It just means they have handled it to the point that the grief comes in memories, fragrances, foods, sayings, and events. It is those triggers of memory that bring the twinge, the tear.

We all have them. The more close ones you lose; the more opportunity for the triggering of memories. Even children that lose parents when they are young have those fleeting memories engraved in their minds and they continue to affect their lives as adults.

But think with me as to the disciples at the trials and crucifixion of Jesus. There was a lot of trust given to Jesus. They had traveled with him for three years. Hundreds, if not thousands, had come to believe Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus being the Messiah would have promised the ascendency of Israel to world rulership and life evermore. That is a tall order and a tremendous amount of trust and faith given to him. The things Jesus said to them about going to Jerusalem and dying just did not register or ring true to their hopes and expectations. But in one night, the fortunes of their hopes were dashed rapidly and out of control for them. I do not blame them. His trials were swift and out of their control or ability to help.

In a matter of hours, Jesus was hanging on a cross. In moments he was gone. He was buried before Sundown. In less than 24 hours it was over. No one was waiting at the tomb. Their hopes and aspirations were dashed. The question of who would sit at his right and left hand of Jesus seemed silly now. I am sure many of them would have considered themselves fools to have believed. The grief was real and deep. Questions would have been numerous. Why? Why? Why? They gathered, hiding from the Jews, fellow religious countrymen who were riotously happy with their defeat of this Messiah guy.

The disciples would have be grieving the loss of Jesus, deeply. The hours following the death of a loved one are difficult, painful, depressing, hopeless many times. Particularly, the death of Jesus was deeper in its grief because Jesus carried such a message of hope and power and kingdom. This love was beyond a good friend; it was the death of a movement.

Three days they would have been in the dumps, wondering, ‘what do I do now.” Plans were being laid as to how to live from here on. The three days were the same as the days following the death of a loved one and maybe more intense. We know the history; so we rarely identify with the disciples because we know what is coming. Resurrection. They did not. When Jesus overcame death, they are amazed, struck with doubt, but as the reality came, life returned to the message and the plans of despair were replaced with the zeal of the Living Savior. The message was true, is true, and forever true. He is alive!
-Pastor Bill

The Resurrection

Resurrection Day

Resurrection Day! This is the moment that changed everything. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but would die later of old age. The widow of Nain’s son was raised, but would pass later. BUT Jesus, NO. This man would never die again. In fact, he is still alive. This sets him apart from any miracle recorded in the Bible or any history. He is alive evermore. The tomb is empty, his body transformed to an eternal body, but still flesh and bone. He is called the first born from the dead. He has paved the way for all who believe in him to once again live as a whole being: body, soul, and spirit. Death lost its power over mankind in Jesus. Those who believe have escaped death’s grip as well. There is a day coming when the grave can no longer hold power over the body.

This moment in history has changed the fate of man from eternal damnation to hope in Christ. This moment has been celebrated now for centuries. There can be quiet reflection and gratefulness to gallant pageantry in its celebraton. Christians around the world and in different faith streams all celebrate this moment. The resurrection is what sets us apart from all other religions. We do falter with tombs of religion founders…ours is empty. We do not visit monuments of deceased leaders…ours is alive and well. We do not have a death and dumb idol to serve or a philosophy to follow…ours speaks to us and guides us daily.

The resurrection not only made Jesus alive, it makes us alive! We live because he lives. We hope and have purpose because he gave us purpose and hope. 

I have often thought of those who traverse this life without a thought or preparation for eternity. I see the results of this kind of life. There are the beginnings with its plans of education, the diplomas, the career training, the ideas of what they can be. There come the disappointments, life altering events such as sickness, death, premature responsibilities. Then disillusionment can settle in and medicating life’s disappointments with various forms of addictions including drugs, alcohol, and, even more insidious addiction because it is hidden in supposed success, are those who chase wealth, possessions, power, political favor etc. These pursuits can provide acceptance, but be as hollow as those lost in drugs.

It may not be apparent till later in life where the addict meets the social burnout at the same place of hollowness and meaninglessness. Solomon in Ecclesiastes noted the folly of all that pursuit without true happiness nor meaning. Solomon concluded after all the depressive illustrations that the best man could do was to bless God and enjoy life.

I have observed that wealth does not bring happiness. It is no guarantee of joy or health. I have also observed that many who have just enough are the most content and peaceful. Paul, the apostle, made comment that he had learned how to abound and be in need and still be content. I find that the resurrection of Jesus and the power it extends to us brings a confidence and peace if we will just embrace it as an empowering reality and not a historical fact, a life changing spiritual impact and not a religious festival. 

-Pastor Bill

The Passion

The Passion

I went to see Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. I sat in the theatre ready for a Hollywood portrayal, one that would satisfy the masses who would see it. Expecting something that would tell the story once again, the story we so often hear from the pulpit, the Sunday school lesson, the picture bibles for kids. What happened in that theatre was way beyond what I had expected.

The daring of Gibson to portray the Passion, the suffering of Jesus, was brutally honest, raw, torturous to see, agonizing to view. Somehow we have dressed up those moments to satisfy our holiday. Easter has been made into a spectacle more kin to a festival than to reality. We have made it day of color, spring fashion, chocolate, rabbits, chickens, eggs. We date it to coincide with spring rites.  We have followed the traditions laid down by the church leaders centuries ago. We have not questioned or wondered why. 

It was Passover. It falls on the same date annually. It is based on the Exodus from Egypt, not our current moon phases. It was the fullness of time when the significance of Passover was going to be fulfilled in the death, the sacrifice of the Son of God. The blood sacrifice that was going to be offered on a Roman cross once for all time, for all people, in all places. God was bringing to an end the need for daily sacrifices, the slaughter of animals to cover temporarily the sins of man. 

Theologically, we say “yes” he paid the price. We say that it was a substitutionary death for us, for me. We teach all around that. We accept it. Nice, neat, packaged for consumption of the mind without cutting the groove too deep where it hurts. I grew up with that. I had no other reference. No one was malicious or hiding the truth, it was just glossed over.

But sitting in that theatre, Gibson took the reality of the time and graphically portrayed it on film. The ruthlessness of the Roman soldiers, the hatred of the pharisees, the horrible vendetta orchestrated by the high priests, all were shown with emotion. The heartbreak of Mary and the followers, the hopelessness that ensued, the defeat of expectations were there.

The scenes of Satan’s plot, the agony in the garden helped reveal the true crisis of the soul and spirit of Jesus. The Kangaroo courts of the Jews, the lack of due process, the rush to judgment revealed the true spirit of men who hated but dressed it in religious robes.

But what I could not bear, that brought tears and grief to me, so much so that I cannot view that scene again, was the scene where Jesus was beaten, brutally, unrelentingly, with vengeance from Roman, angry soldiers; and then with his flesh ripped from his frame and bone showing, he is forced to bear a cross through the streets to Golgotha.

It was ugly, brutal, savage. But he did it for you and me. It was not pretty, colorful. It was red with blood everywhere, the blood that gave me eternity with him.

 

  • Pastor Bill