This is an article I actually wrote many years ago when my church at the time, Peace In Christ Lutheran in Walkersville, had undergone the major change of buying a new church building and moving to a different location. I think the ideas are still relevant today.
Our daughter Kate, age 20, who is living and going to college in South Carolina, called recently. The old car we gave her finally died. So she went out, bought a new car, and got her own insurance. When I told a friend about this, she said, “Joan, that’s a good thing!” And it is. Parenthood is all about guiding your child to independence. I’m proud of Kate and relieved she is now able to take care of so many things on her own. But, at the same time, I feel a pang of loss. She doesn’t need me as much as she once did.
For some of us at Peace In Christ, the church was for many years “our baby.” Church social events took place in the homes of our members as we didn’t have a kitchen or fellowship hall. My husband even taught adult Sunday School in our living room one year! Just about every active family had a member serving on either the Church Council, Board of Elders, or Sunday School staff. The success of an event depended upon all of us pitching in and being there. We were truly members of the same body and the body needed every one of us to function.
At the new facility things have changed. We’ve grown in numbers and no longer know everyone; there is a greater variety of interest and level of commitment; communication doesn’t just “happen” anymore. This brings a feeling of loss and in a way, even death–death of the close community and roles that were valuable to us. Elizabeth O’Connor, in her book, “Many Selves” says, “those who participate in change must participate in death.”
However, during this Easter season I am reminded that death is not the end. We’re called to practice resurrection–which isn’t easy during the painful uncertainty of transition. Here’s a quote from “Hope for the Flowers.” Two caterpillars are discussing becoming a butterfly:
” ‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar’, Stripe said. ‘You mean to die?‘ asked Yellow. ‘Yes and no,’ he answered. ‘What looks like you will die, but what’s really you will still live.'”
When I put on the mind of Christ, I know that what’s really Peace In Christ will continue to live through all of the changes.
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27
I couldn’t close out the month without this verse which is one of my personal favorites. It’s from the book of Job, which some scholars think is the oldest book in the Bible. It records events that took place during the time of the patriarchs, approximately 2000 BC. There was no doctrine of bodily resurrection at this time, yet here Job is, professing his faith in it. This could only be through God’s inspiration and is a wonderful example of how the Old Testament “informs” the New. When I read it, my heart also years to see God.
These verses also form the basis for a couple of wonderful hymns, one written in the 1700’s, the other modern. I love them both. Here are the words to the old classic:
I Know that My Redeemer Lives
By: Samuel Medley
I know that my Redeemer lives!
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living head!
He lives triumphant from the grave;
He lives eternally to save;
He lives exalted, throned above;
He lives to rule his Church in love.
He lives to grant me rich supply;
He lives to guide me with his eye;
He lives to comfort me when faint;
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears;
He lives to wipe away my tears;
He lives to calm my troubled heart;
He lives all blessings to impart.
He lives to bless me with his love;
He lives to plead for me above;
He lives my hungry soul to feed;
He lives to help in time of need.
He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly friend;
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while he lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King!
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.
He lives, all glory to his name!
He lives, my savior, still the same;
What joy this blest assurance gives:
I know that my Redeemer lives!
Hymn # 264 from Lutheran Worship
Author: attr. John Hatton
Tune: Duke Street 1st Published in: 1775
This devotion goes along well with our theme of resurrection, and particularly the hymn, In the Garden.
“…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there…” John 20:14
Most of you are probably familiar with the hymn, In the Garden, but you may not know how it came to be written. This story of it’s origination comes from the book, Then Sings My Soul, by Robert J. Morgan.
The author of the hymn was a pharmacist named C. Austin Miles. He began writing gospel songs and became an editor of hymnals and songbooks, as well as a music director for camp meeting, conventions and churches. His hobby was photography and he found his darkroom to be the perfect place to read the Bible and meditate on the Scripture. One day in 1912, while waiting for some film to develop, he turned to his favorite chapter of the Bible, John 20, the story of the first Easter. Here’s his report of what happened:
“As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene …A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat as if to choke back sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in and hurried away. John appeared…then came Peter….As they departed, Mary reappeared, leaning her head upon her arm …She wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing; so did I. I knew it was He…..Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words would be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.”
I never knew until I read this book that the hymn was referring to the meeting of Mary Magdalene and Jesus in the garden after His resurrection. Here are the words:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.
Does the story of the hymn, and the Scripture put a fresh perspective on the words for you?
This is a quote from G.K. Chesterton’s book, The Everlasting Man.
On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.
I have to admit, I haven’t read this book, but the quote makes me want to read it. What an interesting insight into the resurrection. In a recent Bible study we came to the following passage from Romans 8:19-20
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage of decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Sometimes we forget that just as we were tarnished by sin, so was the entire world and everything in it. So the resurrection does not just offer hope to us, but to everything God created.
Has anyone following the blog read this book by Chesterton? What can you tell us?
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13
I just got home from a funeral. Yes, the man was elderly. Yes, he was suffering. Still, he was a father and grandfather, he had family and friends. People will grieve his death, and that’s okay. The Bible doesn’t tell us not to grieve, but it does tell us that as Christians, we will grieve differently than the rest of the world. Because of the resurrection, we grieve the loss of our loved one now, but not without the hope that we will be with them in Christ at some point in the future.
When our daughter, Kate, was fifteen she went to Germany for a year as an exchange student. To be separated from our child for a year seemed like a long time. We were discouraged from making a lot of phone calls because she needed to adjust to her new environment. It was hard. I missed her. However, I knew she was having an amazing experience and that in time, we would be reunited. That took some of the “sting” out of our separation.
For Christians, death has lost it’s sting (1 Cor. 15:55) for some of the same reasons. Right now Art, the man who died is in the presence of God. I know it’s a wonderful experience. In the Book of Revelation the apostle John tell us:
“He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore because the former things have passed away.”
His Christian family and friends will see him again, and share in his joy. Because of the resurrection, our separation is not permanent. “… Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15:56
“The resurrection consists not in words but in life and power. The heart should take inward delight in this and be joyful.”
I have to admit, I’m obsessed with the brain. I fail to see how anyone can believe this complex organ simply “evolved” without divine plan (but that’s a subject for a different post). Anyway, in case you didn’t know, the brain has a quality called plasticity, which means your brain can change! Sometimes after an injury, or stroke, different parts of the brain learn to take over for the area that was damaged. If we practice something over and over and over, it causes new pathways to form in our brain. The truly amazing thing is, an experiment showed that people who thought about playing the piano showed the same changes in their brains as those who actually did it! In the book, Switched On, John Elder Robison describes how after experimental TMS treatments, he “heard” music differently and his son “saw” brighter, enhanced colors.
Here’s where I am going with this: when we are reborn spiritually, I believe our brains actually change. Yes, the Bible talks about this. When we think spiritually, we “hear” and “see” in a new way:
. “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The Lord has made both of them” (Proverbs 20:12).
When Jesus teaches his disciples, he tells them, “…blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”(Matt. 13:16). He also tells them that many …”shall indeed hear but never understand, and …see but never perceive.”(Matt. 13:14). When God said, “… I am making everything new. ”Rev. 21:5, that included the transformation and renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). When we are reborn in Christ, we put Him on, He lives in us! Our brains are changed! For some of us, this happens in an instant, for others it is a process.
Have you experienced this brain change? Let us hear about your experiences.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor rulers, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
When our daughter, Beth was a youngster, she took clowning lessons. One of the classic clown skits she learned was entitled, “Dead or Alive?” The humor of the skit arose out of a dichotomy – a clown who is seemingly dead – stiff and unmoving through a variety of physical manipulations – is ultimately revealed to be alive.
The surprising thing about Christians is that we, too, may be dead in the eyes of the world – friendless, destitute, depressed, afflicted by debilitating illness—and yet remain alive. That is because God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3. At Easter we express this hope in the ringing statement: He is risen! He is risen indeed! Jesus who seemed to be dead is alive and He is with us in every circumstance or trial. Even our physical death will not be able to separate us from Him and His love. Our hope in Christ is the one hope that will never disappoint us.
So, what about you? Are you dead or alive?
For further reading check out: Job 19:25-27 Psalm 16:8-11 John 15:9-10 Hebrews 6:19-20