colors of resurrection

On Sunday, our church's cross transformed from a drab empty piece of wood to a colorful image of life.

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pt. 1:3).

New birth.
Living hope.

The colors of resurrection - the impact of God's love in our lives and in this world - are beautiful indeed!

"resurrection wonder"

"It is not easy to convey a sense of wonder, let alone resurrection wonder, to another. It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard, to circumvent expectations and assumptions. Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement" (Eugene Peterson).
Easter is full of surprises. Embrace the wonder: He is risen!

Resurrection wonder indeed!

waiting

Mark 15 retells the story of Jesus' trial, crucifixion, death, and burial. This year, I've been particularly challenged by the implications of Jesus' burial.

The stone is rolled over the entrance. The door is closed. And if we place ourselves with the women there, we’re forced to wonder, is this the end? As one writer reflects, “Joseph’s stone is like the period that stops the sentence. Boom!—the story’s done. And when the story’s over, the very air is empty…silence” (Walter Wangerin). Like the women left lingering after their dead leader is buried, we cry out, “Jesus, Without you I am a nothing. I am nowhere. You are dead. My world is gone…”

And so we wait.

But we don’t like waiting. In our fast paced lives where efficiency drives our social and self-satisfaction, waiting is weak. We hate waiting. Waiting in line. Waiting for our birthday. Waiting to find a spouse. Or, waiting for our spouse! Waiting to save enough money for that vacation. Waiting to get healthy. Waiting for that person to forgive me. No one really likes waiting.

So we find ways around it. We skip ahead in line. We buy our own birthday gifts. We rush into relationships. We pay for things on credit. We demand forgiveness instead of waiting for it.

Yet along with the suffering of Jesus, Good Friday is all about waiting…

Mark tells us that Joseph of Arimathea was waiting “for the kingdom of God.” His waiting, in fact, led to a risky action even Jesus’ own family or disciples wouldn’t do. A respected member of the very group who hours earlier pushed Pilate to execute Jesus, now asks for Jesus’ body. What would people think? Won’t Pilate be confused? Or worse, threatened? That’s dangerous. Do nothing! But you see, we often think waiting is passive or a waste of time. Joseph’s waiting is purposeful, intentional. We remember, he's waiting “for the kingdom of God.” Joseph’s is a risky type of waiting. Waiting doesn’t have to be a waste a time.

Part of the mystery of God’s love in Jesus on the cross is the waiting. Death and sin aren’t easily overcome. There is a cost. We are forced to wait. And it’s hard. It’s uncertain. “The thunderous events on Golgotha give way to a scene that is subdued and sober, an almost anticlimactic finale to the passion story…Jesus is indeed dead and buried” (Donald Senior). The stone is rolled over the grave. Jesus is gone.

And like Joseph. Like the women. Even like the other disciples, who have all deserted Jesus in this dark hour. We wait. We’ve seen the injustice and suffering borne on our behalf. Jesus has walked the path we were destined to walk. And now, in his suffering and death, he’s disappeared behind the stone. That was supposed to be us! And now he’s gone. Buried. The end?

We’re left to wait…

helplessness and hope

With a mug of coffee ready to indulge my senses, sun beaming on my cushioned corner of the local coffee shop, I sat to read and reflect; and mainly, to clear my head of a stressful situation swimming in the corners of my consciousness. Ahh...finally, an escape from suffering.

Not so fast.

Have you ever tried reading a book when you’re distracted by something? Reading has to be one of the least productive activities one can participate in when stressed or distracted. It feels more like tedious work than a relaxing indulgence of story and ideas. In my case, no matter how warm and bright the rays of sunshine were, it felt more like a dark, rainy day - the persistence of stress washing away any sense of peace.

It’s a helpless feeling, really.

Life’s stresses and complications often bring a clear sense of futility, a deep-rooted feeling of helplessness and an inability to overcome whatever obstacles we face. It’s paralyzing. We lose hope. At least we’re in good company. The psalmist cried out, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13). Thankfully, it’s not wrong to feel helpless.

But it’s difficult.

And often hopeless. Hopeless, that is, until something breaks through our distraction - a glimpse of hope in despair. For me it wasn’t any sort of deep illumination or practical solution to my stressful circumstance. Nor was it a mental escape or numbing of the emotional exhaustion. I couldn’t fabricate hope. Hope came from outside of myself.

Piercing my reading stupor, there echoed a raw lyric of reality and hope from the coffee house airwaves:

there ain't no reason things are this way

its how they've always been and they intend to stay
i don't know why i say the things i say,
but i say them anyway.
but love will come set me free
love will come set me free
i do believe
love will come set me free
i know it will
love will come set me free
yes (Brett Dennen, “Ain't No Reason”)


I’ll admit, I don’t like stress. I don’t like feeling out of control. I don’t like that at times God can seem absent. I don’t like that I can’t explain my problems - “no reasons...I don’t know why.” In these words I heard my blight. These feelings of futility inform so much of human suffering.

But love will come set me free

At the core of our helplessness is this longing to be released, to have hope overcome the futility in making sense of our suffering. My hopeful escape lasted only three minutes in a coffee shop corner, problem unsolved. Suffering remained. Yet I was left with an unexplained hope captured in a moment through the honest words of a musician:

But love will come set me free

The backdrop to Easter is suffering. But a suffering infused with hope. The Suffering Servant (Is. 53), as we know, rises to new life to bring healing and restoration to all things (Col 1:20). In our attempts to manage and overcome our own suffering, it may very well be true, “There ain’t no reasons things are this way.” In Easter, however, the futility of suffering is overcome with the assurance of God’s love.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Palm Sunday ambivalence

Last year I called Palm Sunday "bittersweet." This year I'm ambivalent about the whole celebration. Here's part of the story from Mark's Gospel (11:8-10):
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”


“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”


“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
My ambivalence is with this: the celebration is misguided. These same people change their tune in a matter of days. "Hosanna" turns into "crucify him!" (Mk. 15:13-14). When Jesus doesn't look and sound like the king they expect, adulation shifts to condemnation. A mob-mentality has a powerful effect, no doubt. “Everyone deserted” Jesus in the days following Palm Sunday, even his closest friends (Mk. 14:50).

Makes me wonder, how often is our faithfulness to Jesus caught up in a sort of mob-mentality akin to Palm Sunday and Passion Week? Are we able to admit it when this is in fact the case? Just a few questions arising from my Palm Sunday ambivalence...

it's that time of year again!!!

I mentioned a few weeks back how our culture has it’s own sort of liturgy. Basically, liturgy refers to public ritual, typically associated with religious worship. “Cultural liturgy,” then, refers to those public rituals that command the attention of our culture at various points throughout the year.

Well, for many, today marks a high point in Canada’s cultural liturgy. The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs! For Vancouverites, the first public gathering - dare I say "worship" - takes place tonight when the Canucks take on the Blackhawks to open up round 1. As Canucks fans we have been waiting a whole year for another chance to beat Chicago. The excitement is palpable.

I can’t wait!

And speaking of liturgical calendars, this Sunday is Palm Sunday too. Oh, and game 3 starts at 5pm PST, so you shouldn’t have a scheduling conflict.

Hmm, wait a second...

Perhaps it’s time to pause and reflect on my reaction to these two liturgies in my life. Which one commands greater attention!?! Puts things in perspective, that’s for sure.

how to read a book (and not miss the point)

So, I’ve finally read Rob Bell’s Love Wins and am working on a review. When I think about all the controversy surrounding the book, I wish more people had a chance to take a study seminar I took while studying at Regent College.

Professor John G. Stackhouse Jr. offered these helpful tips for reading nonfiction. Note how actually reading a book’s main content is step five! And considering these tips, it makes you wonder how much time and energy could have been saved responding to Love Wins!?!

1. Examine the front cover. Ask yourself: what can I learn about the book from this first impression?

2. Read the back cover. It typically provides good summary of the book’s argument.

3. Take time with the front matter (e.g. publication info, table of contents, preface, introduction). This step is key! These sections will most often reveal the background to the book’s content and the author’s intent for writing the book (definitely the case in the preface for Love Wins).

4. Read the conclusion before the body of the book. This allows you to find out where the book is headed without getting caught up in unnecessary confusion over specific parts. And really, it’s not like it’s a novel where the ending will be spoiled :-).

5. Read the body of the book. This comes last! And in doing so, to avoid getting bogged down, but your primary focus on the introduction and conclusion of each chapter. Again, this will help grasp the main points.

summer school!?! Or, why you need to take an edu-vacation at Regent College

No doubt the thought of summer school is far from positive for you. Memories of forced confinement in the heat of summer for past academic negligence likely makes the idea of choosing summer school ridiculous. Been there, done that!

Well, I urge you to reconsider. In particular, consider Regent College summer school.
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But that’s for pastors, you say?

Well, if you know me personally, I can see how you’d think that. Isn’t Regent College a seminary with the purpose of training Christian leaders for “The Ministry.” In many ways, that’s what it was for me. But that’s only a small part.

Regent College - a Christian graduate school (not a seminary) - began in the 1960’s with the specific intent to give all people a chance at Christian theological education. As their mission states,
Continuing the vision of its founders, Regent takes seriously the education, nurturing and equipping of the laity—the whole people of God—to live and work as servant leaders in vocations within the home, the marketplace, and the church.
Regent’s summer program offers a variety of courses intended to address the intersection of faith and life. Perhaps you’re in business - why not sit in on “Business as Mission: Engaging with Christian Social Enterprise.” Or for you green-thumbs, how about “Gardening the City of God”? For sports enthusiasts, “Grace and Play: Christianity and the Meaning of Sport” may peak your interest. Or consider a course on the Psalms with renowned OT scholar, Bruce Waltke. And the list goes on. Here’s your chance to redefine your image of summer school!

So, even if you aren’t a pastor - no, especially if you aren’t a pastor! - why not consider taking a course from Regent College this summer? Instead of a staycation, consider an edu-vacation!

And I promise, it will be far from the forced confinement of your youth!

(If I’m wrong - which I won't be - I’ll apologize by taking you to Grounds for Coffee near UBC for one of their amazing cinnamon buns. I promise, it will make up for any wrongdoing on my part :-)