Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter isn't over!

I saw something on Facebook this morning that made me pause. The statement on the post was "Now that Easter is over..."

I tend to bristle at how significant events in the church, particularly Christmas and Easter, have become so commercialized. It never really bothered me much before. But as I have journeyed and grown as a follower of Christ involved in a Lutheran tradition, I have become sensitive to, and appreciative of, the liturgical calendar. For example, Advent is the time leading up to Christmas Day, then Christmas STARTS on that day, and finishes on Epiphany. Lent is the time leading up to Easter, and then the Easter season STARTS on Easter Sunday, and continues until Pentecost, 40 days later. So, seeing such a statement that Easter is over bothers me. Why?

For those very first Christians, those frightening and uncertain days following Jesus' death, and even to the extent, His Resurrection, were part of their Easter narrative. I have read and seen a few comments on how those early Christians, when referring to the Resurrection, didn't mean the event that took place that early Sunday morning: they referred to the following weeks, when they saw and experienced the Risen Lord in His fullness. Think of it: a man you thought had been dead, and WAS dead, now walking among you. His wrists and feet marked with the wounds caused by the nails. His side and its scar from where He'd been pierced to confirm He was dead. And even the marks on His forehead where the crown of thorns had been placed and pushed down. And this same Jesus was alive, fully, eating, drinking, laughing, hugging, those people, THAT was the Resurrection!

So, let's not say Easter is over yet. Let's CLAIM it, embrace it, and say to our Christian brothers and sisters "He Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!"

Soli deo Gloria

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Journey continues - into Holy Week

A while back I wrote about taking a journey through my faith. I must confess that lately, while on the surface my faith may seem strong, it still is tenuous. I will state that I have a strong belief that the Old Testament, for the most part, is purely mythological, particularly Genesis. When you read of God (I'll call him Yahweh since I really refer to the Hebrew god of the first five books of the Bible), I see a god that has very human characteristics: remorse; anger; genocidal tendencies; fickleness; even arrogance. I find THAT god, Yahweh, to be very hard to take seriously. I really doubt most everything in the book of Genesis is fact, because that's where we see Yahweh, not the God of the New Covenant as manifested in Christ. 

But a major part of me has an issue with reconciling Yahweh with the loving God as shared with humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. I have doubts about the concepts of "original sin", and if it was "introduced" in a fictional Garden of Eden. I have serious doubts about the mythical Tower of Babel (where different languages were supposedly to have originated), the Great Flood (which parallels the Epic of Gilgamesh), and even the Hebrew enslavement and release from Egypt following Moses. It's just all too fanciful, and more like a comic book movie than fact.

But sometimes I fly in the face of all these doubts with an uncertainty in the reality of Jesus. I have lately been wondering if he actually existed as a historical person. There are arguments that he did, and arguments that he did not. And, sometimes I wonder if he really WAS and IS God as he claimed to be. C.S. Lewis stated once that anyone who makes that claim is either certifiably nuts, or is speaking the truth. And for me, there are several litmus tests that I see as being the reasons for the very truth of Jesus, and those are the things that for now are holding my faith together.

For me, the very fact that the Gospel narratives - all four of them - do NOT perfectly match in content or dialog, is one of the litmus tests. I believe that if the Story was false, the four authors of the Gospels would have worked diligently to make sure that the details of their own stories matched, in order to insure its veracity. But in fact, they don't match, facts are jumbled. There are inconsistencies among all four of the Gospels. And to me, that actually strengthens their legitimacy and veracity. 

And as we come to Easter, I think of these days, from the night when Jesus was betrayed, to his ascension 40 days after Easter (and I don't really think it WAS 40 days, because 40 is a number of great significance - probably picked because the Great Flood story said it rained for 40 days and 40 nights). But other things about the Passion ring true: the great denial by Peter (who was not with the program yet became the greatest of the Apostles); the efficiency of the cross as Christ's death; the public humiliation of crucifixion; the fear of the disciples following Jesus' death (that alone to me is a powerful statement of the truth of Jesus); the constant nonacceptance of Jesus' followers that he was alive, even when he was in their midst; the FACT that the church existed, and that men, women and children would willingly die for something that would have been false; and finally, THERE WAS NO BODY - where was it? After all, if the Romans or the Jewish leaders wished to disprove the news that this Jewish prophet from Nazareth had, of all things, risen from the dead, why didn't they just go and get the body and say "here. Here's the proof that your so-called 'Messiah' is dead." But that didn't happen.  

When I find myself shaky in my faith, I think of those pivotal few days, when the world came crashing down on these men and women. And, then, on a quiet Sunday and in the days following, these same fearful folk witnessed the true Resurrection - seeing Jesus alive, and they went on tell anyone and everyone that Jesus is Risen. And my faith, for the moment, is solidified in that Truth.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, March 20, 2016

When the world seemed a little less scary

Today is Mr. Rogers' Birthday. 


Today, I find that my mind escapes to those simple times of kid-hood, when the smooth, mellifluous voice of Mr. Rogers emanated from the TV and into my room. His rather silly and pretentious puppets, who always learned an important life lesson from their experiences, to his slow and deliberate way of talking. Oh, sure, comedians like Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams poked fun at him, but I never took it as attacks, but satire, and even to a point, maybe appreciation. But why today, when I'm in my 50's, does Fred Rogers still speak to me and have such an influence on me? Because there are still many others who share with me that same experience. 

It has been often said that Fred Rogers never talked down to his audience of children: he talked TO them. That is a great difference. I think of another show that my own kids liked (and I did too for that matter), "Blues Clues". The hosts of that show did kinda make it sound like they were talking to kids, with higher pitched voices, and a vocal cadence and delivery that suggested that they were trying to get the audience engaged by making them think everything was exciting. But Mr. Rogers simply talked to the kids - simply. No big words, and even big concepts were delivered in very easy and simple terms. And he could hold onto a child's attention by talking to them - talking DIRECTLY to each child - as if that child was the only one in the world. 

Lately, I've seen stories posted in social media about some things that Mr. Rogers did that show his very human side, and of course, most people know that he was ordained clergy. But you'd never know that seeing the man on PBS. He was the local guy who changed into his Vans and sweater, fed his goldfish, talked to and welcomed all his neighbors onto his porch or into his home, allowed for and encouraged imaginative play, and made each child feel like they were his sole focus for that brief time each and every day.

I didn't live a traumatic childhood, but I am sure that there are many children who felt unwanted, unloved, unworthy, and they'd see this gentle man tell them that they WERE special - to him. What a wonderful and glorious thing he did for humanity.