Cleophas and Elizabeth Visit Easter Sunrise Service

We have a tradition in our church of having Biblical characters visit our Easter sunrise service in the park. This year Cleophas and his wife, Elizabeth, from Emmaus told us about their encounter with the resurrected Christ.

First Person Drama, written by Pastor Bob DeGray and performed by John Bauer and Zion Early. Based on the story of the meeting with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-35.

Christ the Lord is Risen Today by Charles Wesley

Lyrics: Charles Wesley, 1739. Written in celebration of the first service of London’s first Wesleyan Chapel. This chapel was known as the Foundry Meeting House because Charles Wesley purchased an old foundry building to house his growing number of converts.

Music: EASTER HYMN, unknown author, first published in 1708.

Theme: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures . . . I Corinthians 15:3-4.
Black Resurrection

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say! Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high: Alleluia!
Sing ye heavens, thou earth reply. Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done; Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won: Alleluia!
Lo, our Sun’s eclipse is o’er; Alleluia!
Lo, He sets in blood no more. Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal; Alleluia!
Christ has burst the gates of hell. Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise; Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise. Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King! Alleluia!
Where, O Death is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save; Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies. Alleluia!

What though once we perished all, Alleluia!
Partners in our parents’ fall? Alleluia!
Second life we all receive, Alleluia!
In our heavenly Adam live. Alleluia!

Risen with Him, we upward move, Alleluia!
Still we seek the things above, Alleluia!
Still pursue and kiss the Son, Alleluia!
Seated on his Father’s throne. Alleluia!
The Resurrected Jesus Reveals Himself to Mary Near the Tomb

Scarce on earth a thought bestow, Alleluia!
Dead to all we leave below; Alleluia!
Heaven our aim and loved abode, Alleluia!
Hid our life with Christ in God; Alleluia!

Hid till Christ, our Life, appear, Alleluia!
Glorious in His members here; Alleluia!
Joined to Him, we then shall shine, Alleluia!
All immortal, all divine. Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven! Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given! Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now: Alleluia!
Hail, the Resurrection Thou! Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

The “Alleluia” at the end of each line of the poem was not originally part of the Wesley’s hymn. An unknown editor added that responsive repetition to better fit words to music. Wesley’s original poem also had eleven verses, and I finally found all eleven in this post at Dr. Mark Roberts’ blog.

Resurrection Sunday 2016

Over the past few days, I’ve been republishing some edited posts from Resurrection celebrations of the past twelve years that I’ve been writing this blog. And I’ve written a few new posts to intersperse between and among.

Last year on Resurrection Sunday I wrote about the most important and significant thing in my life—and about what I wish for each of you who read this blog. Today I want to say it again, in different words perhaps, but still the same old, old story because it’s that important: it bears repeating that Jesus is Lord.

I’m just a fifty-eight year old mom. I’ve read a few books, birthed eight children, made a lot of mistakes, told some lies, and discovered one overwhelmingly important Truth: Jesus is Lord.

I don’t know where you are in your journey of faith. Maybe, like me, you know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to God the Father except through Jesus. Maybe you’ve died to yourself, been
“born again” and dedicated your life to the proposition that Jesus is Lord.

Or maybe you’re just not there (dare I say, yet). Maybe you have doubts about Jesus, doubts about God, fears that admitting the truth of Jesus’s lordship over your life will mean a descent into religiosity or intellectual suicide or fluffy self-delusion. Maybe the very idea of becoming a Christian, following the commands of Jesus as they are set forth in the Bible and asking Him for forgiveness for your mistakes and your brokenness and your sin, is anathema to you. Still, Jesus is Lord.

I don’t know much. Sometimes I think I do, but then events usually conspire to show me that all my great knowledge and intelligence are not enough to even run my own life properly, much less that of anyone else. And I’ll leave those who think they can do it to run for president and presume to become the “leader of the free world.” Maybe God is leading someone to do just that. Goodness knows, somebody’s got to govern the country. But whoever becomes president had better know one thing: Jesus is Lord.

Not only do I not know much, but I can’t even say what I do know very well. I certainly don’t speak with the tongues of men and of angels. If God were waiting on my eloquence to convince a dying world of hurting people to turn to Him, we would all be waiting for a long, long time. All I can really say is: Jesus is Lord.

Today is Resurrection Sunday. Jesus, who died and then rose again, is here in this puny little world, and He is Lord, Lord of the earth, Lord of the stars, Lord of the galaxies and black holes and comets and planets and quarks and quasars and anything else that anyone can imagine, as well as many things we haven’t even begun to conceive. That same Jesus who was crucified between two thieves is also the resurrected Lord, Owner and Director of all things in heaven and on earth. Jesus is Lord.

And that great Lord, mighty and powerful and full of all the immenseness of the universe, is a Lord of Love. He loves me. He loves you. He knows my name and my thoughts and my psychological complexities and everything about me, just as he knows you in all your depths and heights and quirks and qualities. Of all the bigness of everything and all the smallest infinitesimal molecules, Jesus is Lord.

Jesus is Lord, and He loves. The only rational response to that vast and intimate loving knowledge is to fall before Him and worship and give thanks and live in joyful gratitude and praise. Of course, I’m not always rational. Neither are you, probably. I muddle along, forget to pray, forget to seek Him, act as if Jesus’s death and resurrection never even happened, try to figure it all out all by myself instead of asking Him to show me the way. Nevertheless, Jesus is Lord.

This one thing I know: Jesus is Lord. He is risen from the dead, and He is Lord. He loves you and me, and He is Lord. The question remains: what am I going to do about that truth? What are you going to do about it?

My prayer for each of us on the Resurrection Sunday is that we will recognize and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is Lord.

Eucatastrophic Resurrection

Edited and reposted from Resurrection Sunday, 2013.

You know when you’re reading a story, especially a thriller or a mystery and there’s a lovely little (or big) twist at the end that is completely unexpected? It’s not where you thought the story was headed, not how you thought it would end, but it works. The ending or surprising climactic scene is something you never would have predicted, and at the same time it’s just what the story needed to tie or untie all the plot knots and make everything come out just right. The story, factually, and in mood and quality, succeeds.

Well, Jesus’s resurrection is sort of like that unforeseen but perfect ending. If I were the Author (thank God I’m not) of the story of creation, sin and redemption, I wouldn’t have been able to dream up the resurrection, not in a million years. My story, if I had been creative enough to write one at all, would have ended with the crucifixion. Jesus, a good man, lived and taught and died—an innocent sacrifice to the cruelty and blindness of both the Romans and the Jews. It’s a sad story, a tragedy, but perhaps one with a moral to it: we humans are hopelessly lost, and we have a tendency to kill those who tell the truth and demonstrate radical love and self-sacrifice.

'Opening of roadside tomb_0654' photo (c) 2007, James Emery - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Maybe we’ll do better next time, having learned the lesson of Jesus. Probably not.

Jesus is dead at the end of my story. He’s really, truly dead, by the way; this isn’t the sort of story where the hero was only mostly dead but turns out to be revivable. A Roman spear was thrust into his side. His body was sealed in a tomb with a big rock across the entrance, a seal of some kind over the rock, and Roman guards posted outside so that no one could steal the body and pretend to resuscitate it. Jesus’s followers were scattered, demoralized, and discouraged.

And then—the surprise hits me in the face, if I haven’t become inured to the shock from having heard the story so many times. On Sunday some women go to visit Jesus’s tomb, and they meet an angel who tells them that Jesus is not dead. He’s alive!

Whoa, whoa, whoa—wait! You mean the story is that he didn’t really die; he just got badly injured, but he was able to recover and make his way out of the tomb. Or he was a magician with a magic protection coat that made spears and nails seem to pierce him but not really hurt him at all. You mean he became a ghost and appeared to people in a spirit form. Or he was just asleep and looked dead.

Nope, Jesus was dead, and now he’s alive again. Resurrected, as Christians term it.

Could you have predicted that the Author of the human story would have inserted himself into history, allowed himself to suffer and to be killed at the hands of his own creatures, and then . . . come alive again? JRR Tolkien invented the term “eucastrophe”, meaning “a dire situation which is nevertheless salvaged through some unforeseeable turn of events.” (Wikipedia, Eucatastrophe) A resurrection is a really unforeseeable turn of events.

But, and here’s the kicker, the resurrection makes the story work. Without the resurrection, we have a weak, powerless, probably dead god who maybe had good intentions? Without the resurrection of Jesus there is no resurrection, no life after death, for any of us either. Paul said in I Corinthians 5:17, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” If Jesus is not alive, we have no hope of knowing God or having friendship with Him or making any kind of connection. He’s either dead or so distant that we can never get there from here. Without the resurrection, the whole story of human history, including the story of that “good man” Jesus, is essentially meaningless.

When I say story, I mean a True Story. If we are real, actual entities living in a real, fallen world full of real evil, we need a Real, Resurrected Savior who physically not only died but rose from the dead to reign over all things eternally.

And lo and behold, eucatastrophe!(I like that word), in a three-day turn of events I could never have scripted or invented or predicted, Jesus not only died and was buried, but he also rose from the dead and lives eternally. “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

We serve a living, creative God of eucatastrophic artistry and imagination. And we have a Risen Savior because of the story-making ability and sacrifice of that same God.

Hallelujah! Eucatastrophe! (Thanks, Tolkien, and with some intellectual indebtedness to my pastor’s sermon this morning.)

Funny Eggs

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. I John 3:2

If Easter Eggs Would Hatch by Douglas Malloch

'Pisanki / Easter Eggs' photo (c) 2012, Praktyczny Przewodnik - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I wish that Easter eggs would do
Like eggs of other seasons;
I wish that they hatched something too.
For—well, for lots of reasons.
The eggs you get the usual way
Are always brown and white ones
The eggs you find on Easter Day
Are always gay and bright ones.

I’d love to see a purple hen,
A rooster like a bluebird,
For that would make an old bird then
Look really like a new bird.
If Easter eggs hatched like the rest,
The robin and the swallow
Would peek inside a chicken’s nest
To see what styles to follow.

The rooster now is pretty proud,
But wouldn’t he be merry
If roosters only were allowed
To dress like some canary!
And wouldn’t it be fun to catch
A little silver bunny!
If Easter eggs would only hatch,
My, wouldn’t that be funny!

Not to project too fine a point onto a simple imaginative poem, but how do we know what we might become when we are someday “hatched” into new resurrected bodies? We will be like Him, and we will be the continuing and eternal creation of a very creative God.

My, won’t that be funny!

Hymn to Christ

Edited and reposted from Easter, 2013.

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11

Christian songwriter and artist Michael Card writes in his book (co-written with his wife, Susan), The Homeschool Journey: Windows into the Heart of a Learning Family:

“In Philippians 2:6-11 we find a wonderful passage of Scripture that was a hymn used in the worship services of the early church. Known as the “Carmen Christi” or “hymn to Christ” it is a song that first-century spies overheard the Christians singing at a time when the church was meeting in secret. It was a hymn which undoubtedly afforded them a measure of comfort in their trials because it offered a vision of Christ was and what he had accomplished.

In this hymn, Jesus’ incarnation is highlighted by its three central characteristics: servanthood, humility, and radical obedience. It is from this simple, ancient song that Susan and I derive our vision of who Jesus is and what he means to us. It is the vision that shapes our individual lives, our marriage, our family life, and even the way we choose to educate our children.”

Are we serving one another with humility and in obedience to Jesus Christ who gave himself for us? Are we waiting patiently on the Lord of all things in heaven and on earth, making ourselves like Him in our actions here on earth so that we can be with Him in heaven?

Now that’s an Easter goal that embodies the Christ-like

Easter Eggs

What about Easter eggs?

Do you have an Easter egg hunt at your house? What do you tell your urchins about Easter eggs? Who hides the eggs? What do you put inside? Or do they come already basketed to your front door? What do Easter eggs have to do with the celebration of Easter? Have you ever had an egg tree? What else do any of my readers have to suggest about Easter eggs?

Here’s a post on what we usually do with Easter eggs in Semicolon-land.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I first read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities when I was in ninth grade. Three of us—Christina, Teresa, and I— wrote a chapter-by-chapter summary of the entire book, making our own little study guide to the novel as a school project. We did this before the age of personal computers and before any of us knew how to type. Type written nevertheless but means of the hunt and peck method, I can’t remember exactly what the finished product looked like—it did have a picture of a guillotine on the front— but it was a lot of work.

The themes of death, burial, imprisonment, rescue and resurrection are woven throughout Dickens’ tale set during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Doctor Manette is rescued from a living death inside the Bastille. Jerry Cruncher is a “resurrection man” who digs up dead bodies to sell them. Charles Darnay is rescued and recalled to life twice during the novel, once when he is on trial in England and again when he is headed for guillotine in France.

But the most vivid representation of death and resurrection comes at the end of the novel when the reprobate Sydney Carton gives up his life to save Charles and Lucy Darnay and to ensure their future together. Carton is walking down the street when he remembers these words from Scripture read at his father’s funeral long ago:

“I am the resurrection, and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.”

Now, that the streets were quiet, and the night wore on, the words were in the echoes of his feet, and were in the air. Perfectly calm and steady, he sometimes repeated them to himself as he walked; but, he heard them always.

The night wore out, and, as he stood upon the bridge listening to the water as it splashed the river-walls of the Island of Paris, where the picturesque confusion of houses and cathedral shone bright in the light of the moon, the day came coldly, looking like a dead face out of the sky. Then, the night, with the moon and the stars, turned pale and died, and for a little while it seemed as if Creation were delivered over to Death’s dominion.

But, the glorious sun, rising, seemed to strike those words, that burden of the night, straight and warm to his heart in its long bright rays. And looking along them, with reverently shaded eyes, a bridge of light appeared to span the air between him and the sun, while the river sparkled under it.

The strong tide, so swift, so deep, and certain, was like a congenial friend, in the morning stillness. He walked by the stream, far from the houses, and in the light and warmth of the sun fell asleep on the bank. When he awoke and was afoot again, he lingered there yet a little longer, watching an eddy that turned and turned purposeless, until the stream absorbed it, and carried it on to the sea.- “Like me!”

A trading-boat, with a sail of the softened colour of a dead leaf, then glided into his view, floated by him, and died away. As its silent track in the water disappeared, the prayer that had broken up out of his heart for a merciful consideration of all his poor blindnesses and errors, ended in the words, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

On Good Friday, when we are in the midst of death and sin and darkness, it does sometimes seem a if “Creation were delivered over to Death’s dominion.” A blogging friend sent out a tweet earlier today saying that he had “difficulty ‘pretending’ on Good Friday that Jesus is dead.” Of course, Jesus isn’t dead, but as far as imagining the feeling of despair and “being delivered over to death”, I have no trouble whatsoever. Sometimes things in this world are very dark, and the very hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our eventual resurrection with Him is all that keeps me from utter despair.

Thank God for Resurrection Sunday!

Lenten Blog Break

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. For several years I’ve taken a break from Semicolon and from blogging for the forty days of Lent. I’ve been blogging since October 2003, almost twelve years, and I plan to continue blogging. I just feel that this break is a good time of rest and reevaluation for me and for my family.

I will continue to post the Saturday Review of Books each week, but I may not be able to read your reviews until after I get back in April. I also have a few posts and re-posts and links set up to come online on certain dates while I’m gone. However, things will be a little slow here at Semicolon for the next few weeks. I hope your Lent is a time of worship, contemplation, and joy as we follow the year into the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, this year on Sunday April 5th.

Observing Lent

Books for Lent to Lead You into Resurrection

Lenten Links: Resources for a Post-Evangelical Lent by iMonk.

At a Hen’s Pace: An Anglican Family Lent

Semicolon Lenten Thoughts 2005

Hymns to Observe Lent

Hold a true Lent in your souls, while you sorrow over your hardness of heart. Do not stop at sorrow! Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross. . . this will bring back to us our first love; this will restore the simplicity of our faith, and the tenderness of our heart.
~Charles Haddon Spurgeon

On the Resurrection

I’m still celebrating, still stuck on the resurrection of Jesus because that one event makes every day a celebration.

“A Jewish revolutionary whose leader had been executed by the authorities, and who managed to escape arrest himself, had two options: give up the revolution, or find another leader. We have evidence of people doing both.

Claiming that the original leader was alive again was simply not an option. Unless, of course, he was.” ~Who Was Jesus? by N.T. Wright.

“Let us band together to invent all the miracles and resurrection appearances which we never saw and let us carry the sham even to death! Why not die for nothing? Why dislike torture and whipping inflicted for no good reason? Let us go out to all nations and overthrow their institutions and denounce their gods! And even if we don’t convince anybody, at least we’ll have the satisfaction of drawing down on ourselves the punishment for out own deceit.” ~Eusebius, 263-339 AD

“I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claimed to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination. He said hallucinations are an individual event. If 500 people have the same hallucination, that’s a bigger miracle than the resurrection.” ~Lee Strobel.

“The Gospels do not explain the Resurrection; the Resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the Resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith.” ~John S. Whale

'Resurrection!' photo (c) 2010, chicagogeek - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” ~The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller