Easter Sunday

April 21, 2019

In His Resurrection from the dead, Jesus conquered sin, death, and Satan.  None of these three have any power over those who are in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In Him we have eternal life.  In Him the enemy’s accusations fall away in the Truth.  In Him we have full forgiveness of ALL of our sins.

In Psalm 103:8-12, King David praises Almighty God singing:  

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever.  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities.  For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Our God is merciful.  He has given us the free gift of repentance, and in His grace and mercy He has removed our sins far from us—as far as the east is from the west!

On this Easter Day, let us remember that God loved the world so much “that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  We all know this verse by heart, but do not miss the good news in the next:  “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).  He came NOT to condemn us.  He came to pour forth the Father’s mercy on us.

Let us conclude with the benediction given to us by our first Patriarch.  As you go forth this Easter, “always remember the Gospel: that God was in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us.  God loves you, God has forgiven you, God is not mad at you and God will never leave you nor forsake you.  And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you forever. Amen.”

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Holy Saturday

April 20, 2019

Images

Read Acts 10:9-11

There is tremendous power in images.  The Eastern Orthodox recognize this and promote the use of Christian Icons in their worship of Christ.  Many a saint, known and unknown, have come to Christ through the ministry of iconography.  But God’s invitation to repentance is not limited to iconographic art.  The gift of repentance can come through much more common images.  Norma McCorvey, who was known as “Roe” in the court case Roe vs. Wade, had just such an experience.  She said, 

I was sitting in O.R.’s (Operation Rescue) offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’…something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby!  It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth—that’s a baby!  I felt crushed under the truth of this realization…Abortion—at any point—was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.

Norma McCorvey was granted the gift of repentance through the power of an image.  

There are images all around us: in Church, yes, but also in nature, art, even children’s doodlings.  But are we actively seeking Him?  Are we looking for Christ in the everyday images of our lives?  Are there images God has given to you—signs—that you are ignoring?

God is calling us to relationship, repentance, and newness of life.  He is sending us images to alert us to His Truth. 

Good Friday

April 19, 2019

Events

Read Acts 9:1-19

St. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is one of the most famous examples of the gift of repentance.  Though there were words spoken to Paul by Jesus—words that only he could understand—the primary means Jesus used to call Paul to repent was the event itself.  There was, as it were, a pyrotechnic display of Christ’s power and authority, such that Paul’s immediate response was to humble himself before Jesus and call Him Lord.  

Sadly, there are many Christians who have had a similar type of experience and are waiting for the sequel—an encore performance.   There was a young woman in my second parish who had come to the Lord through a “Damascus Road experience” in her early 20s.  Subsequently she desperately sought a repeat performance, attending every revival and Christian conference she could in order to be present for the promised “signs and wonders.”  She also doubted my salvation because I could not point to such an occasion in my life.  Miranda was, as she describes, “quick fried” with a Pauline type experience.  I, however, have grown up knowing the Lord, never having known a time when He was not real to me.  Miranda describes me as a “slow drip Christian.”  For this young woman, and many others like her, unless there is a specific event in your life that you can point to as your gift of repentance moment, a specific moment in time when you accepted Christ, your salvation can’t be real.  This is not the case.  Our God meets each one of us in the unique way that we need so that we may acknowledge Him.

Have you had an intimate encounter with the Lord?  Are you waiting for an encore?  Or have you been a slow drip Christian and now want a pyrotechnic display?  Or maybe you want to avoid such because it is “not your style.”  God is sovereign.  He knows what each of us needs.  Let Him lead you to repentance in His way.

Maundy Thursday

April 18, 2019

God Touching Mind, Body, Spirit

Read Luke 1:18-20,59-64

Sometimes a head cold is just a head cold.  Other times it is a wake up call from God, a reminder that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and need rest, nourishment, and exercise.  And sometimes God touches our body, our mind, or our spirit in order to call us to repentance.  In the passage noted above, John the Baptist’s father was struck mute by God in order to bring him to obedience and repentance.  He accepted the gift and rejoiced greatly in God in a Spirit inspired song of praise (Luke 1:67-79). 

My father was a nominal Christian most of his short life.  But at the age of 48 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that changed everything for him.  During an exploratory surgery to determine the possibility of removal of the tumor he died on the operating table and was successfully revived.  During the time his heart was stopped he had a revelation of Christ’s love for him.  Upon awaking he called for our parish priest and made his confession.  His life was transformed.

God is trying to speak to us, to invite us to receive the gift of repentance.  But are we listening?  According to the FDA over 17 million Americans take analgesics every day, not simply to treat pain, but to avoid it completely.  However, pain is one way that our bodies speak to us, and a means for God to communicate with us via our bodies.  There is obviously a right use of analgesics; however pain avoidance may be inhibiting our ability to hear from God.  Are you doing self-administered palliative care to avoid repentance?  Or maybe you are experiencing a troubling in your mind or spirit.  Are you paying attention to these signs and lifting them up before the Lord?  He wants to speak to us, and He often uses our bodies as a vehicle of communication.  Don’t hide from Him, embrace Him and ask Him to speak to you personally.

Wednesday of Holy Week

April 17, 2019

The Absence of God

Read Luke 24:13-24

In the book, Come Be My Light, about Mother Teresa’s spiritual journey, we get a glimpse of her struggle over a period of fifty years.  She confesses to various spiritual directors, priests, and bishops her sense of the profound absence of God in her life.  In one letter to her confessor she offers this prayer:

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love–and now become as the most hated one–the one You have thrown away as unwanted–unloved. I call, I cling, I want–and there is no One to answer–no One on Whom I can cling–no, No One.–Alone … Where is my Faith–even deep down right in there is nothing but emptiness & darkness–My God–how painful is this unknown pain–I have no Faith–I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart–& make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me–I’m afraid to uncover them–because of the blasphemy–If there be God–please forgive me…

As you can see from the quote above, the perceived absence of God prompted Mother Teresa to cry out in repentance and beg for His forgiveness.  When I was in college I worked as a house sitter for various college professors.  It was a difficult time for me financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  I was thirsty for God, but afraid because He seemed so distant from me.  One night, in a fit of great pain, I cried out asking God why I was so desolate.  He clearly responded, “Because in the desert you must grow deep roots.”  I broke down in tears and asked Him to forgive me for my doubts and anger toward Him.

Are you experiencing spiritual dryness or desolation?  The temptation is to try to “cure” the problem.  But can you experience the absence of God as invitation?  A gift of repentance?

Tuesday of Holy Week

April 16, 2019

The Word Spoken Through Others

 Read Acts 2:36-38

In 1996, I had the privilege of attending a Billy Graham Crusade in Charlotte while attending the school of Evangelism.  I was sitting in the upper section of the Carolina Panthers’ stadium.  Two young men sat down behind me and it quickly became obvious from their conversation that one had twisted the arm of the other to be there.  The reluctant one ridiculed just about every aspect of the proceedings and insisted that “I’ll be damned if I go down to that field.”  Then Billy came on, and in his pleasant, southern drawl proclaimed the Gospel.  The young man’s ridicule ceased, and I could hear him utter statements every now and then like, “What did he say?”  “How can that be?”  And so forth.  Then came the altar call, and his friend couldn’t get out of the way fast enough for this young man to reach the aisle.

All too often we are reluctant to give heed to certain people because of prejudice or preconceived notions of who God would choose to be his vehicle of proclamation.  In Acts 2:13 Luke tells us that the people thought the disciples were drunk.  There was doubt and ridicule in abundance until Peter began to preach and several thousand were added to the number of believers.  Bishop Costantino, who died in 2006, experienced such an event at a conference where he was the featured speaker.  A woman came to him after his first talk and told him that she had a word for him.  He assured her that God wouldn’t send someone like her to give him a word.  She insisted, so he said, “Ask God what sin I confessed yesterday, and if he tells you I’ll listen.”  She came back  and told him, “I asked, and God says that He has forgotten.”  To his credit Bishop Costantino let her give him the word.

Are there people from whom you won’t receive the Word?  Why is that?  Ask God to open those channels for His gift of repentance.

Monday of Holy Week

April 15, 2019

The Written Word

Read Daniel 9:1-5

Rosaria Butterfield, a UNC Western Literature professor and a former lesbian and atheist, was won over by reading the Word.  She recorded her conversion in her book titled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into the Christian Faith.  She has become a powerful witness for Christ, declaring, “…repentance and victory over sin are God’s gifts.”

In her testimony, Butterfield says, “I was working on a book ‘exposing’ the religious right from a lesbian feminist point of view. I approached the Bible with an agenda to tear it down because I firmly believed that it was threatening, dangerous, and irrational.  But when I came to Christ, I experienced what nineteenth-century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called ‘the expulsive power of a new affection.’ … As my union with Christ grew, the sanctification that it birthed put a wedge between my old self and my new one.  In time, this contradiction exploded, and I was able to claim identity in Christ alone.”

In the same way, Daniel came to repentance through the Word.  We have already examined Daniel’s experience of repentance in the meditations of 3 Lent.  But what prompted that act?  Daniel records, “I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years which, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years” (9:2).  The written Word is a formidable witness to the redeeming power and love of God.  But are we spending quality time in the Word?  Jesus said, “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me” (John 5:39).  Are you spending meditative time in the Word, or simply “study” time?  The Pharisees study the Word.  The faithful embrace the Word, both written and Living!