Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alive Again

Jesus was relationally sad. The night before his death, Jesus shared his last meal with his twelve buddies. He looked them in the eye as he broke the bread for the last time. He held back the tears as he blessed the cup. Peter would soon deny him. Not once. But three times. Judas would betray him. Not just any betrayal. A betrayal that would cost Jesus his life. Goodbyes are never easy. Denials and betrayals are as tough as it gets. Heartbroken. 

Jesus was emotionally spent. His trial couldn’t have been easy. The soldiers mocked him. They asked if Elijah was coming to save him. They even spit on him. The very people he came to serve and save ridiculed him. Dejected. 

Jesus was physically abused. He took a beating. Nails through the hands. A sharp crown of thorns on his head. He was bruised and bloody. He hung on a cross gasping for air. Broken. 

Jesus was spiritually searching. He cried out with a loud scream: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” He didn’t use the word Father. He used the word God. Not close enough to call Him Father. Only close enough to call Him God. Isolated.

And then three days later he rose from the dead. None of the Gospel writers give much detail as to what happened because the details don’t really matter. What matters is that Jesus is alive again. 

Heartbroken. Dejected. Battered. Isolated. Alive again. 

The betrayal was overcome. The dejection was destroyed. The brokenness was restored. The isolation was overwhelmed. Death was defeated. 

We worry about tomorrow. We carry hurts from the past. We wonder if there is more to life. Our busyness consumes us. It seems hopeless that the future will be better than the past. We are sick of being tired. We are slowly dying. 

The big stone was rolled away from the tomb. We don’t know if Jesus limped or leaped as he re-entered the world. We only know God raised Jesus from the dead. And we know that God was just getting warmed-up because He has been raising people from the dead ever since. 

Our worries. Our hurts. Our fears of dying. Our fears of not living. Our busyness. Our hopelessness. Our fatigue. Our broken hearts. Our rejection. Our dejection. Our brokenness. Our loneliness. God invites us to experience resurrection in all areas of life. He invites us to experience new life so that we can be alive again. 

Happy Easter, 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

But It's Easter

A prayer for Easter Sunday

Dear God, 

The morning begins with darkness and despair. 
     My transgressions. The sin of the world. The hatred of many. 
     Fear is widespread. Satan delights in Christ's death. 
     My worries. The helplessness of the world. The hopelessness of many. 

But it's Easter.
     Satan’s party has come to an abrupt and amazing ending. 
     The once broken and lifeless man has emerged from the tomb. 
     Christ is alive again! 

It’s a new day. 
     Faith calms fears. Love replaces hate. 
     Goodness repairs evil. Light overtakes darkness. 
     Grace forgives sin. Life resurrects death. 

I celebrate this day. 
     It is a day You have made. I rejoice! 
     The day Jesus rose from the dead. 
     Neither death nor life will ever be the same again. 

The day death died. 
     Death is swallowed up in victory. 
     The tomb couldn’t hold Jesus. 
     Nor can it hold those who follow him. 

You redeemed the world. 
     The cross was once a symbol of disgrace. 
     It now represents restoration and hope. 
     Erase my mistakes and fill me with Your grace. 

You comforted the world. 
     When the fatality and fragility of Friday comes into my life - 
     Remind me of the sweetness and salvation of Easter morning. 
     Heal my brokenness and let me begin again. 

You entered the world. 
     To seek out the lonely and lost. To serve the least and the little. 
     To save the sinner. To send out the saints. 
     To show humanity how to live and love. 

You changed the world. 
     You gave direction to the searching. 
     You forgave the prostitute of her sin. 
     You raised Lazurus from the dead. 

Enter my world and change my world. 
     Give me focus and direct my path. 
     Forgive me of my failings and sins. 
     Resurrect me to new levels of life – now and forever. 


Friday, March 22, 2013

Harvard is Annoying

Twenty-five years ago Harvard sent me a rejection letter. Last night they ruined my opportunity for the elusive perfect bracket. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Holy Week Explained

Holy Week. It has been celebrated for centuries. 

It starts with Palm Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem wasn’t much to write home about. If you had been there, you wouldn’t have been too impressed—somebody from nowhere important riding on a donkey into a city. No television stations or bands were present. But for Jesus, it was his moment of triumph. People waved palm branches. Palm branches were given to Olympic Champions. A symbol of victory. The people also hailed Jesus: “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.” Hosanna means to save or rescue.

The songs and the symbolism on Palm Sunday are as powerful as it gets. The songs are about being rescued: from ourselves, from hurts, from addictions, from death itself. The children wave palm branches to celebrate the victory we claim through Jesus. Victory over our brokenness, victory over sin, victory over our fears, victory over death. 

But within a week, the people were saying a different phrase, “Crucify him.”

We’ll gather again on Thursday night. Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy is only used in the church. Maundy is from the Latin mandatum, the first word of Jesus’ teaching from John 13:34 - "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" - "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus was sharing his last meal with the twelve men who would be responsible for taking the Gospel to the nations. No time for small talk. Not even time for good stuff. Only the best stuff. “I’m going to make this simple. You need to remember this: Love others as I have loved you.”

Less than a day later we will gather again on Good Friday. The symbol is the cross: the essence of the Christian message and the heart of the Gospel. “Good” seems to be an odd way to describe the day. It was the day Jesus died. No laughter. Only tears. No joy. Only sorrow. But because of what happened two days later, we experience that death is not the end. Death is necessary for new beginnings. Fear dies and becomes faith. Sin dies and becomes grace. Despair dies and becomes hope. Bad habits die and become healthy behaviors. Death dies and becomes eternal life. Nothing seemed “good” about that Friday at the time. Looking back, the day Jesus died was the day “good” was reborn.

Then there is Easter Sunday. The pinnacle of Holy Week. The bunny and the eggs and the pastel clothes – they neither add nor subtract much because there is nothing that can really be added or subtracted. Jesus is alive again and so are we! The resurrection gives our lives meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what our circumstance. Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life. It is a day like no other.

Because of Easter, the best is yet to come…


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Prayer

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Who is this Man? Empowering

Lots of people had to miss because of the snow -- so here is Sunday's entire service.

This week's WE Grow guide.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

4 Things

Sunday's column on Thursday...

A Little Bit About The Four Things 

1. Loving God 

No better season exists in the life of the church to love and be loved by God. March 24th is Palm Sunday. Our worship space will be filled with palm branches and children singing as we start Holy Week. Beginning on Maundy Thursday, March 28th and ending on Easter Sunday, March 31st, we will have eight worship opportunities to love and be loved by God. Check out other places in the bulletin for times and locations. 

I am already excited about worship in April. We will be doing a four-week series called The Circle Maker. It will be a time when we will pray circles around our dreams, our families, our challenges, and God’s promises. These four weeks are for those of us wanting a deeper prayer life, those of us wanting to face our fears, and those of us who want to trust more fully in God. We will also have an accompanying four-week small group curriculum.

2. Connecting to Others 

Speaking of small groups, we are in the middle of our winter / spring session of small groups. Between our adults and students, we have almost 40 small groups! I’m grateful to see all the friendships that are being formed and deepened through our small group ministry. God’s vision for humanity is for people to live in community. It’s cool to see God’s vision happening among us.

3. Partnering with Families in Discipling Kids 

Our third graders are concluding their Bible mentoring program. Thirty-two students and mentors started this program in September. They are learning how to use the Bibles they received last fall. The church is grateful to all the mentors who invest time and energy serving these children and their families. April 22nd is Confirmation Sunday. Eighteen eighth graders will be baptized or have their baptism confirmed. These adult mentors are a blessing to the students and their families. 

4. Serving Our Community and World 

Your generosity has been outstanding this year. In two short months you have purchased a van for Release Ministries, given thousands of dollars to The Hope Center, and purchased over 5,000 meals for hungry people in Omaha and throughout the world. Over twenty people from our congregation are preparing to head to Belize in June. We have about $5,000 left to resource our mission team. The participants pay their own way and the rest of the church will help fund medicine, vitamins, eyeglasses, medical supplies, and hope for people in Belize. I can’t wait to hear stories this summer of what God is going to do. 

The best is yet to come…