A Good Friday Greeting

I have often wondered what the appropriate greeting for Good Friday should be.  You can’t say “Happy Good Friday” or even, “I hope you have a good Good Friday.”  Good Friday is a day to commemorate something that is definitely neither happy nor good… even when we know the rest of the story.

But I feel like there should be some kind of acknowledgement.  What does one say about Good Friday?

The answer – or at least an answer – came to me unexpectedly in the form of an email from a friend:  We should say about Good Friday the same thing we should do about Good Friday.

We should contemplate it.

So here is my Good Friday greeting to all of you:

P&C –

Peace and Contemplation –

A peaceful and contemplative Good Friday to you.

Lord, help us to remember what this day signifies.  Help us to experience your peace even as we contemplate the day that Jesus died.  What was I doing today at 9 a.m.?  At noontime?  At 3 p.m.?  Was I standing at your cross?  Was I recognizing that even here – because of here – there is peace?

It was nine in the morning when they crucified Him (Mark 15:25).

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The Beginning of the Easter Story

Jesus the Christ was born on Christmas Day, but that is not the beginning of the story.

The coming of Jesus was foretold throughout the Old Testament.  The prophets announced throughout Israel’s history that a Messiah would come.  But even that is not the beginning of the story.

We could argue that the Easter Story begins with us.  After all, our sins are the reason Jesus came.  We are the ones being connecting back to God through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We are the reason for the Easter Story.  But I don’t think that is the beginning of the story either.

The need for a savior is first manifested in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve go against God’s only command.  “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die… Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 2:16-17,3:1).  We know from the passages that follow and from the intent of this serpent that this is no ordinary serpent.  This is not one of God’s good creations.  This is the Great Deceiver and the Great Tempter, masquerading as a lowly serpent.  No one but Satan would prod God’s good creation to question God’s authority, wisdom, guidance, and love.

Eve and then Adam made humankind’s biggest mistake – they listened to Satan’s whispering and went against God’s command.  Indeed, as Satan had suggested, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to good and evil, but at a terrible cost.  Sin was unleashed into the world, and they were powerless to escape it.  They hid.  They covered themselves with leaves.  But the release of sin was not something they could erase.  It would be passed down, generation to generation.  Every generation would be just as powerless as the last to staunch the rush of sin.

Except that God made a promise – even then.  Although Satan would wield sin, it would not overcome us.  Somewhere down through the generations, an offspring would crush Satan’s head.  “You shall bruise His heel,” God told Satan.  “But He will bruise your head (Genesis 3:15b).  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).

So we see that God’s promise came first in the Garden of Eden.  But even that is not the beginning of the story.

It is John who tells us where the Easter Story truly begins.  In the beginning, John wrote, was the Word.  And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God… the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-2,14).

Jesus was in the beginning with God!  Jesus was God!  God is the beginning of the Easter Story.  Consider for a moment what that means.

We can feel our need for the Easter Story in our own failures.  We can hear the promise of the Easter Story in the Garden of Eden and in the prophets’ proclamations.  We can witness the Easter Story in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  But we can trace the beginning of the Easter Story to only one place.  The beginning of the Easter Story is God.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The Easter Story does not begin with us reaching out to God, or even with God becoming one of us.  It begins with God himself.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

Thanks be to God.  For He is the beginning of the Easter Story.

In the beginning, God… (Genesis 1:1)

Flying Sushi

The other night I went to a sushi restaurant with some friends.  We rode a motorboat across the lake to a giant floating raft that housed the restaurant.  We were ushered into a long rectangular room where we sat on low benches.  Japanese waitresses in colorful flowing gowns walked quietly among the tables filling plates from kettles they carried on towel draped arms.  I looked down the table and realized I didn’t actually know anyone there.  The whole experience suddenly took on a “Hotel California” feel.  And I don’t even like that song.

“What is this?” I asked, pointing to a platter that looked like a halved avocado covered in fish eggs.  They answered, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying.  Not because they were speaking Japanese; that would make sense.  It sounded more like pidgin or Old English or something that was almost comprehensible.  But not quite.  It was at that point that I realized the bench I was sitting on was actually a trapeze.  Yes, a trapeze.  I was hoisted into the air and began careening around the room, smashing my feet into the stucco walls hoping to slow myself down.  Each time I hit, I only seemed to pick up speed.  I hurled back through the crowded tables with people and bowls of food parting before me.  Flakes of stucco cracked off the walls as I rebounded.  (Someone was going to have to completely spackle that room by the time I was done.)  The last thing I remember was the terrified look on some newcomer’s face as I barely missed her head and found myself clinging, bat-like, to the corner of the wall.

Then I woke up.

Perhaps I should have started this blog post with a disclaimer.  Earlier this week I was having back spasms and was given muscle relaxers and pain killers that had me sleeping 19+ hours a day for four days straight.  Then my doctor cut me off.  The four days were rather uneventful, at least, as far as I recall.  (If any of you told me something important earlier this week, you better tell me again.) The return to non-drug induced sleep, however, has been a bit more memorable.  Not only am I having crazy dreams about eating sushi while on a flying trapeze, I wake up feeling as though I have been eating sushi while on a flying trapeze: pounding headache, churning stomach, sore muscles and all.

The other morning I woke up at 3 a.m.  I am typically not a nocturnal wanderer, but this night I needed a break from the crazy dreams.  I slipped from bed and made some toast and tea.  I pulled a Bible Study from my shelf that a friend had given me but which I hadn’t had time to use.  I read about Psalm 120:1 In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. 

He answered me.

You know, people talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus.  I don’t always know what this means.  When I first became a Christian, it sounded a bit too… religious.  Sometimes I would just smile and nod and step away.  Except that in the last couple of years, I’ve seen it.  I’ve seen people that do have a relationship with Jesus.  They have that hope about which Peter says we should always be ready to give a testimony (1 Peter 3:15). They aren’t just Christians.  They are truly friends of God.  They have a relationship that makes me say: I want what they have.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have a relationship with God.  But it is qualitatively different than where I am headed.  I talk to God all the time.  What I don’t do very well is wait for His answer.  “Okay, God,” I say, “Here are all the things I’m thinking about today.  Got it?  Okay.  Catch you later.”  And I’m off.

In my distress I call to the Lord.  But I’m completely missing His answer.

Until He sits me down at 3 a.m. with a cup of tea.

I learned from my 3 a.m. study that the word translated as Lord in Psalm 120:1 is the Hebrew word Yahweh, which refers to God’s nature as a covenant maker and covenant keeper.  This makes the words of Psalm 120:1 that much more powerful to me.  The Lord answered the Psalmist and He answers us because He is the God who keeps His promises.  Promises like, I will not leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5).  Promises like, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  Promises like, I have called you friends (John 15:15).

Friends.

We can be more than Christians.  We can actually have a relationship with God.  We can be a friend of God.  Have you ever paused to look beyond the jargon and think about what this means?

If not, a 3 a.m. cup of tea is a great place to start. 

In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me (Psalm 120:1).