Category: Resurrection (page 1 of 9)

So What?

One-hundred-eighty of us from the four downtown Amarillo churches and beyond spent most of yesterday together at Polk Street United Methodist for the first ever 4Amarillo Preachers Conference for Everybody. Each of us four churches brought in the best preacher from our own traditions to preach his/her favorite Easter sermon and then to give us 15-20 minutes of whatever they had burning in their bones to tell a room full of preachers from Canadian and Borger to Plainview and Tulia.

The theme of our two-day worship and preaching seminar was “Easter’s Coming. So What?” And it was fabulous.

Ron Scates took us on an imaginary bus tour across the state of Texas and helped us see our communities as if Jesus had never been raised. Alyce McKenzie described the shock and awe of the resurrection to those first followers who should have seen it coming, but didn’t. Chris Seidman, our CofC guy from The Branch in North Dallas, inspired us by pointing out the significance of the seal on the tomb of Jesus and the breaking of that seal to boldly proclaim that the situation does not belong to Pilate or the soldiers or to even Caesar himself, but to Almighty God who breaks the seal and does exactly what he wants to save the world. And then Joel Gregory reminded us that Jesus appears to the downsized characters on the road to Emmaus, he meets them and us right where we are, in the middle of our doubts and fears and shattered hopes.

The ecumenical spirit was turned up to eleven at First Baptist Sunday night. And the unity and fellowship was even stronger Monday because it included so many from at least a dozen other congregations of God’s people throughout the panhandle.

On top of all that, the optional offerings added up to $1,500 we’re donating to Amarillo’s Heal the City free clinic in the name of the Christian unity our Lord prayed for on that last night.

I am so grateful to Chris for joining us up here for this incredible event. I am thankful to God for the friendship and partnership I share with Howard, Howie, and Mark and our four churches in this city. And I pray that when we worship and serve together, it remains an undeniable witness that our Lord really is the Prince of Peace, and he is bigger than anything that might possibly divide us!

Peace,

Allan

Easter Blessing

The Day of Resurrection has dawned upon us, the day of true light and life, wherein Christ, the life of believers, rose from the dead. Let us give abundant thanks and praise to God, that while we solemnly celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection, he may be pleased to bestow on us quiet peace and special gladness; so that being protected from morning to night by his favoring mercy, we may rejoice in the gift of our Redeemer. Amen.

~ Mozarabic Sacramentary

First Importance

“What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” ~1 Corinthians 15:3-5

The resurrection of Jesus from the grave is the very foundation of our faith; it’s the energy behind our hope; it’s the source and the sustenance of our life; it’s everything.

First importance, Paul says. This is the whole enchilada. Apart from this, nothing else matters. Jesus died, he was buried, he was raised. And we know it’s a fact because he appeared to all these witnesses. Ask them yourselves. They saw him. They talked with him. They ate with him. Most of them are still alive, ask them!

Everything hinges on the resurrection. I hear people argue that it doesn’t matter if the resurrection really happened or if it’s just a metaphor or a spiritual concept — what matters is that we take the stories to mean we’re all going to heaven someday.

No! The resurrection means everything!

The resurrection totally eliminates any possibility that Jesus was just a good moral teacher or that Christianity is just a nice way to live a good moral life.

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” ~1 Corinthians 15:14

Paul says clearly and unapologetically if the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus has not happened, then Christianity is worthless. Jesus isn’t a good teacher, he’s a liar, he’s a fraud. Christianity is not a nice way to live, it’s a scam, it’s evil. If Christ is not raised, then death is not conquered. If Jesus is not alive, then I have no hope. None. And we are to be pitied more than anybody else on earth.

But Jesus was raised. Jesus is risen. He is reigning right now at the right hand of the heavenly Father and he is interceding for us. Right now. And because of that we have faith and hope and life. We have forgiveness and salvation and confidence and immortality and peace.

Peace,

Allan

Against All Odds

I don’t know how Easter Sunday is for you. Maybe you go to church on Easter and you’re great. You’re excited. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is a part of who you are every day — the power and the life — and celebrating it with God’s people on Easter Sunday is a true highlight for you. Maybe you go to church wanting to be excited, but once you arrive, it all seems like empty ritual. You feel like an outsider, not an insider. Like a spectator.

Or maybe it’s bad. You feel like the odds are totally stacked against you. You’ve had faith that the world is basically a good place but you can’t find proof of it anymore. Disease and hunger and violence are not going to be solved by arrogant dictators and power-hungry politicians.

You’ve had hope in our culture, that the advances of science and technology would heal us and bring us closer together. But we are sicker and more lonely as a people than we’ve ever been.

You looked for life in your family and friends, the people you trust, the people who love you. But they’ve let you down. They’ve disappointed you. They’ve hurt you.

Maybe you can’t even believe in yourself. You can’t sleep at night because of the things you’ve done in the past. You can’t look at yourself in the mirror because of the things you’re caught up in now. The obstacles to faith and hope and life have boxed you in. The odds are stacked against you. You feel like you only exist. On a dead-end street. Maybe.

Maybe the bad news in the world drives you to despair. Maybe the bad news at work or at the doctor’s office is overwhelming. Maybe the bad news in your marriage or with your kids or the bad news between you and your parents is too much. Maybe the bad news of your past and current sins — the odds are stacked against you. It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t feel good.

Let’s talk about bad news.

The bad news is Pharaoh’s army is going to win at the Red Sea. Those were the odds that day. Pharaoh’s army was favored by 497 points. The over-under was four-million dead Hebrews.

The bad news is the little shepherd boy with the sling is no match for a trained warrior giant.

The bad news is Peter can’t walk on water.

The bad news is a virgin can’t have a baby.

The bad news is the authorities crucified our Savior.

The bad news is dead people stay dead.

I’m telling you right now the declaration of the angels is true: Jesus is alive! Jesus lives! That stone was rolled away from the tomb not so Jesus could get out but so we could all look in and see for ourselves, so we could see and proclaim the truth that our God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were!

He calls the things that are wrong in your life, right. He calls the things that are broken in your family, fixed. He calls things that are missing in your soul, the things that are lacking and bad, he calls them found and saved and overflowing with goodness and life!

Psalm 112 says the one who belongs to God has no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

Can you hear the good news? Are you able to hear the power and the life our God so longs to give you by the resurrection of Christ Jesus? Hear the good news, believe the good news, and walk through the door into a brand new world where the ultimate reality is not dying and death, but where Jesus is the risen and reigning King and his gift is everlasting life.

Peace,

Allan

Hearing the Good News

Bad news is killing us. It’s everywhere and it’s doing us in. Bad news dominates the headlines and it rules the airwaves. Bad news crawls across our screens and flashes through our feeds. It’s in the email from your boss, the phone call from your mother, and the text from your friend. And it’s killing us. It gets inside us. Bad news diminishes our faith. It steals our hope. It drains our lives.

Good news seems scarce. It’s hard to find. When we do happen to hear some good news, it’s only a matter of moments before some bad news replaces it. The bad news is louder. And bigger. And more urgent. Seems like there’s more of it. All the bad news in our world and in our culture, in our governments and schools and churches, in our families — it’s making us numb.

Bad news doesn’t surprise us anymore. We’re used to it, we expect it. And as it diminishes our faith and steals our hope and drains our very lives, we’re kinda stopped looking for good news. If we do stumble upon some good news, it’s harder for us to believe it. To trust it.

On that first Easter morning, the disciples of Jesus heard some really good news that broke through and obliterated all the bad news they couldn’t quite shake. The message came directly from the divine lips of angels: Jesus is risen from the grave! Jesus is alive! The good news declared decidedly that everything broken in this world is now being fixed, everything that’s wrong is now made right; our faith can be restored, our hope can be renewed, our lives can be made full and whole. And this same good news continues to reverberate down through the generations into our ears and hearts today.

Jesus is risen from the grave! Jesus is alive!

This good news of great joy for the whole world is just as mind-blowing and history-changing today as it was then. It’s no less true for us in Texas in 2018 than it was for Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem on that first Easter. This great news causes our faith to soar, it brightens our hope, and it abundantly fills our lives today and for all eternity.

But can we hear it? Can we hear this good news?

The Easter sermon is the hardest one to write. It’s nearly impossible. And it struggle with it every year. I’ve been working on what I want to say Sunday for parts of the past three months. But it just hasn’t come together like I had hoped. It’s not enough.

Reinhold Niebuhr is quoted as saying he would always attend a “high church” on Easter Sunday where there would be great music but very little preaching. In his view, “No preacher is up to the task on Easter.” I think he’s probably right.

John Updike wrote a poem called “Seven Stanzas at Easter” that perfectly and beautifully captures every preacher’s frustration leading up to Easter Sunday. One of the lines is, “Let us not mock God with metaphor / analogy, sidestepping transcendence… / let us walk through the door.”

It’s a waste of time to try to explain the resurrection. Some things can’t be reduced to an explanation and are greatly diminished in the process of trying.

The task on Easter is proclamation, not explanation. On Easter, I should only offer an invitation to walk through the door into a brand new world where the ultimate reality is not dying or death, but everlasting life in the God Almighty of love and grace who brought our Lord Jesus up out of the grave. Proclaim the resurrection, that’s what the apostles do. And that’s what all us preachers should be planning to do Sunday.

Because our people need to hear the good news.

Peace,

Allan

Rising and Dying

Ash Wednesday begins the period of Lent, the forty days followers of Jesus use to prepare their hearts and souls in anticipation of Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is typically a day of fasting and prayer, a day for renewing vows and making promises. Lent is generally a period of fasting and prayer, six weeks of focusing on purity and cleanliness.  A putting away. A taking off. A solemn burial of the habits and issues that get between us and a complete commitment to our crucified and risen Lord.

I’ve suggested in the past that if Lent is for putting things away, then Easter is for taking up new activities in service of Christ. You shouldn’t rid your life of damaging attitudes and practices and not replace them with helpful habits and perspectives. If Lent is dying with Christ, Easter is certainly rising with Christ.

But, I’d like to revise my recommendation.

Don’t wait until Easter to start those new habits. Don’t wait until Resurrection Day to take up that new something that will draw you closer to our Lord.

Every day is a dying and rising with Christ. Every day is a taking off and putting on with Jesus. Living under his exclusive lordship  requires that we die to ourselves and rise to walk with him every hour. It’s the rhythm of the Christian life. It begins with our baptisms — dying and rising with Christ — and continues as our habit, our daily routine. Clothe yourselves with Christ. Put off and take on. Be buried and rise again. Every morning and throughout your day.

In unity with all my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, I’m fasting and praying today. I’ll attend the Ash Wednesday service down the street at Polk Street United Methodist Church this evening. And I’ll not wait until Easter to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus who gives us new life today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.

Peace,

Allan

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