Thanks, Mom, for Not Killing Me (Yet)

“Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the earth” (Exodus 20:12).

Does this mean so they won’t follow through on their urge to strangle us with their bare hands on so many occasions?  Maybe.

Or act upon our oft-repeated, “My mother would kill me if she knew”?  Probably.

I am reminded of Bill Cosby’s threat:  “I brought you into this world; I can take you out.”

This is the weekend set aside to honor our mothers.

The ones who did not (yet) kill us.  Instead, they scolded us, punished us, “trained” us, gave us “the look,” put us in our place, forbade us to go certain places with certain people and do certain things which we so desperately wanted to do, and pretty much cramped our style for so many years.

They cried privately when we said (or made it known by deed), “I hate you!”

And they forgave us.

The last frontier of forgiveness this side of heaven is a mother.  God help us if we ever cross the line where even a mother’s love can’t reach.

So . . . whatever your relationship with your mother . . . honor her with a thank you.  If you are reading this, she has spared you.  And I would venture to say, she is thinking of you with love . . . the First Corinthians Thirteen kind of love that “believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

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Monday’s Cross

On Easter Sunday, this was the cross I saw:

Cross Easter

The very next day, the cross looked like this:

Cross Monday

Wow!  What a downer, right?  The cross, stripped of its glorious Easter finery?  Just standing there . . . bare . . . taken out of the sanctuary and placed in temporary storage in the “media room.”

But wait . . .  look again . . . what is right there on the table behind it?  Brochures full of info on various ways the church reaches out.  See . . . if you look closely, you can see the edge of the map with several mission fields pinpointed.  And, just out of the picture, is where a large box usually sits as a collection spot for clothing and other goods for those in need in the community.  This room is filled with ways we can follow Jesus’ command to “love one another” and his directive to “feed my sheep.”

So, on second thought, without its flowery embellishments (which, indeed, lift our spirits and renew our souls), the bare cross is very much at home amidst the struggles and challenges and issues of the real world.  This is the everyday cross, the workaday cross, the cross Jesus asked us to “take up” as we follow him.

This is Monday’s cross.

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Monday Musings

Today is April Fools Day.  Perhaps that is why the following question keeps coming to mind:  Where did Jesus get his Easter clothes?

Only a foolish person would focus on such a trivial detail in light of the miraculous, glorious, supernatural event of the resurrection.  Right?  But  I have to admit that such trivia does come to my mind from time to time.  He had been wrapped in a burial cloth, but he was wearing a robe when he appeared to Mary.  So . . . ?

Also, where was Jesus on Monday?  He made several appearances on Sunday, but what did he do the rest of the week?  I can’t help wondering where he went and what he did until he once again appeared to the disciples the following Sunday.  Again . . .  ?

I guess there is much I just can’t know.  John addresses such foolishness when he says in verses 30-31 of Chapter 20, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Jesus himself had just said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

And then, just so that fools like me would finally “get it,” John reiterates in verse 25 of Chapter 21, “Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Wow!  Okay, there are numerous things that we can’t ever know.  But what we do know is more than enough!   (Mark Twain once said that it was not the things that he didn’t understand about the Bible that worried him; it was the things that he did understand that bothered him the most.)

Luke, who identifies his sources as “eyewitnesses” (1:2), records Jesus’ words to those with whom he walked to Emmaus, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”  (Luke 24:25).

Okay, on this April Fools Day, I will not spend time foolishly belaboring what I don’t know or what I can’t understand.  Instead, I will choose to focus on what I do know in my heart to be true.

Christ has died.  Christ has risen.  Christ will come again!

Thanks be to God!

(Just one more thought:  I wonder whether Jesus ever wonders where we are Monday through Saturday.  Just sayin’)

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“He is not here. He is risen.”

Artwork by Katrina Adams

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Saturday’s Silence

On Saturday the chief priests and Pharisees were worried.  They went to Pilate for help in securing Jesus’ tomb, and he accommodated them.  They went to the tomb, put a seal on it, and posted Roman soldiers to guard it.  All was silent for a while.

The silence of Saturday speaks to the soul of everyone who has ever been disappointed, disillusioned, or desperate.  “Where is God?!”  It seems that he has disappeared.  Death and despair oppress the spirit, making the heart heavy and the steps slow.  The stone has been set in place, sealed, and secured.

All seems lost and hopeless.  We continue to do the routine tasks and fulfill our obligations, but our heart is not in it.  The days are long, as I imagine that silent Saturday so long ago was an unusually long one for Jesus’ followers.

But for today’s believer, the silence of that Saturday should also speak volumes about the nature of  God.  He is always there.  He has a plan.  He works in his own time.

Sometimes we just have to wait.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6).

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Good Friday Spoiler Alert

Churchyard Chick, in her zig-zag ramblings, sometimes “overhears” things.  I wouldn’t necessarily say she eavesdrops; that would be rude, which is so unlike her.  It’s just that she stays “tuned in” just in case some interesting little kernel should come her way.  Today, for example, the Fifth Friday Book Club conversation:

” . . . so that wraps up our discussion.  Who has a recommendation for our next book?”

“I have one.  It’s called The Gospel of Matthew.  Everyone’s talking about it.  In fact, it is the first of a series.”

“Well, give us a synopsis, and we’ll think about it.”

“Okay, it’s about this man Jesus . . . he is born of a virgin, and . . .”

“Wait!  What did you say?”

“Yes, that’s right . . . born of a virgin.  But wait till you hear the rest!  He heals and teaches and feeds five thousand people with just five loaves and two fishes.  He even walks on water!  He becomes very popular, which totally upsets this group of religious leaders called the Pharisees, so they plot to kill him.  He is betrayed by one of his own followers, and then, on a Friday they . . .”

“Wait!  Don’t spoil it for us.  This sounds like something we might want to put on our reading list.”

“Oh, good!  I’m so excited.  You just won’t even believe what happens!  There’s such a surprise ending!”

Churchyard Chick smiles (in her heart of course).  She has already read the entire series, and she knows that the “ending” is just the beginning!

She continues on her way, for she has eggs to boil.

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Maundy Thursday

“What does ‘maundy’ mean?”  I had asked in years past.The Last Supper

“Holy” was the answer, and that was as far as I had ever investigated until recently.  I don’t know why I had never looked it up for myself.  Shame on me!

A simple trip to the dictionary informed me that “maundy” is from the Latin and means “mandate” or “command.”  In connection with Jesus’ sharing the Passover meal with his disciples, it refers to what he said to them after he had washed their feet.  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

John reports that Jesus went on to say, “You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you . . . This is my command:  Love each other” (John 15:14-15 & 17).

Friends!  Friends of Jesus!  What greater honor than to be called his friend?

And then, John goes on to pass along words from Jesus’ lips that should be dear to every Christian’s heart, as he prays for all believers.  “My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me . . . May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23).  My trusty NIV note tells me an awesome thing:  “All future believers are included in this prayer.”

Wow!  That blows me away!  Jesus was praying for us that night.  The night he wants us to always remember.  Maundy Thursday.  The night he commanded us to love one another.  How could we ever forget?

And yet, sometimes we do.

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

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Stained glass showing Lamb of God with vexillu...

Stained glass showing Lamb of God with vexillum and chalice, from chapel that used to be part of a convent (now a Baptist church and school complex) in El Cajon, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was Jesus doing Wednesday?

We don’t know. The scriptures are silent about this day in the middle of Holy Week.   I wonder . . .

Did Jesus visit with his family? Did he spend some time with his mother?  Did he try to reassure her that everything would be okay and tell her just to trust him?  Did he continue to stay in the home of his close friends, Lazarus and Mary and Martha?

If so, were they involved with preparations for the approaching holiday — the holy day — Passover?  Is there no record of Jesus’ activities or whereabouts on this day because people were doing what they had to do to get ready?

I wonder if he watched as Martha fretted over her list and fumed because no one was helping her.  I wonder whether he reminded her of what he had told her before — that she was worried and distracted over many things.  I wonder if he shook his head as she thought about the Passover lamb, not even realizing that she was in the presence of the Lamb of God Himself.

Was everyone simply too busy to notice Jesus that day?

Am I?

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Teaching Tuesday

Dispute of Jesus and the Pharisees over tribut...

Dispute of Jesus and the Pharisees over tribute money (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1-2).

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a).

I love this:  The Word.

Not “words,” but THE Word.  What a difference.  Again, I am turning to the NIV notes for further enlightenment.  They inform me that Greeks used the term “Word” to refer not only to the spoken word but also to the unspoken word, the word still in the mind — the reason.  When they applied it to the universe, they meant the rational principle that governs all things.  Jews, however, used it as a way of referring to God.

To me, they were both talking about the same entity:  The “rational principle that governs all things” IS God.

And this Word that IS the Great “I Am” became a man and shared his thoughts with those around him.  “The Word became flesh.”  Wow!  How it blows my mind to entertain the idea of the abstract actually transforming into the concrete!

Did they comprehend when “The Word” Himself said, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.  When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.”  John goes on to quote Jesus further:  “So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:44 & 49)?

Did they understand when He warned them, according to Luke 21:17, “All men will hate you because of me”?

Did they know what He meant when He told them, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31)?

Were they astonished when He was so bold as to call the teachers of the law “hypocrites” and “whitewashed tombs” and “snakes” and “brood of vipers” (Matthew, Chapter 23)?

(I can only imagine what the “word on the street” was after that episode:  Something like, “Word” to the Pharisees).

And then, from the lips of “THE WORD”:  ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Jesus was busy on Tuesday.  He had a lot to say.  He shared many words.  He shared THE Word.  He shared Himself.  The words of Jesus ARE Jesus, for He IS The Word.  The Word of God in the flesh.  Amazing!

“Word” to all of us:

“He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15). 

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Clean Monday

“Clean Monday” is a term I had never heard until a couple of weeks ago.  I was researching “Lent” itself when I ran across it.

Why was I rethinking Lent?  I don’t really know.  Suddenly I found myself wondering about the scriptural basis for it.  Perhaps it had something to do with my giving up T.J. Maxx for Lent.  The temptation lies right across the street from “my” Walgreens, so maybe I decided I had inflicted constraints upon my own self that even God would not require.

At any rate, I found that “Lent” simply means “spring” and was really instituted by the early church as a loose connection to Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness.  I also discovered that the name “Easter” really comes from worship of a pagan goddess, causing many people to prefer “Resurrection Sunday” instead.  (Thus far, even having found an “out,” I have stood by my original commitment, which, I have to say, has been a good thing.)

Back to the topic at hand.  I like “Clean Monday.”  Apparently, when I first ran across it online, someone had misrepresented it altogether, referring to it as the day Jesus cleansed the temple of the merchants and moneychangers.  Hmm . . . according to scripture, that would be a good term for this day of Holy Week.  So I ran with it (even though subsequent research produced the very different definition as the beginning of Greek Orthodox Lent).  Some scholarly person will have to enlighten me.  (I have never claimed to be a scholar, only a questioner/seeker/observer/etc.)

In the meantime, I am choosing to think of today as “Clean Monday.”  The day after Palm Sunday, Jesus went up to the temple.  What He found there disgusted Him.  Moneychangers and dove-sellers taking advantage of folks.  He drove them out and overturned tables and benches.  He would not allow people to carry their “merch” through the temple courts.  According to Mark 11:17,  He said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’  But you have made it a ‘den of robbers.’ ”

“Written”?  Written where?  My handy-dandy notes at the bottom of the page inform me that Isaiah 56:7 assured godly non-Jews that they would be allowed to worship God in the temple.  By allowing the court of the Gentiles (one of several “outer courts”) to become a noisy, smelly marketplace, the religious leaders were interfering with God’s provision.  They were not only taking advantage of out-of-towners who needed to exchange money and purchase offerings, but they were also robbing the temple of its sanctity.  Also, apparently people were using these courts as a shortcut between the city and The Mount of Olives.  No wonder He was angry!

“For all nations.”  I guess this phrase has escaped my notice until now.  Jesus was upset because the court of the Gentiles had been defiled.  He was cleansing the temple on behalf of “all nations.”  I love that.  He, not we, invented the term “inclusive.”  Thanks be to God!

Perhaps today I should allow Jesus to cleanse my very own “temple” of some things that corrupt it, like materialism and shortcuts.  Maybe my misinterpretation of “Clean Monday” is not so bad after all.

“For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16b).

Note to readers:  Please enlighten me.  I welcome any info on “Clean Monday.”  I had never heard of this until now.

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