WC-UMC

Walker Chapel UMC

Sanctuary Open for Prayer: Sunday, 9:00 am
Adult Study: Sunday, 9:30 am
Worship: Sunday, 10:30 am
Children's Sunday School: Sunday, 10:45 am

 

 


April 2018

Suggested reading: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Friends, Easter is the day and season many of us have been looking forward to since Ash Wednesday. Since then, in scripture, we’ve journeyed with Jesus to the wilderness, overheard the secret conversation between him and Nicodemus, and witnessed the healing of the man born blind. We’ve taken a brief side trip with Paul to Rome where he addressed the Christians concerning the covert war raging inside each of us, the war between the Spirit and the flesh. We’ve gone with Jesus to Jerusalem where he rode across the Kidron Valley and into the city on the back of a colt, to the upper room where he shared his final meal with the disciples, and, finally, to Golgotha where he was crucified and died.

Now the waiting is over. Easter is here. In the words of the psalmist, “This is the day which the Lord has made.”

But to most fully appreciate the psalmist’s words in Psalm 118, it’s important to note it’s original context. The references to the nations and battle imagery suggest it’s a victory song, reformulated to celebrate Israel’s return from exile and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. It’s also the psalm still read by Jews with the sharing of the fourth cup of wine during the Seder or Passover meal.

We Christians, of course, have re-appropriated the psalm and interpret it as referring to the day of Jesus’ resurrection when the women rushed to the tomb and found it empty, when they ran to tell the others what had happened, and when we say God vanquished the power of sin and death forever.

I hope these are more than mere words for you, for I am convinced that it is God’s desire that we be free from the power of sin and the fear of death, a fear that now so tragically pervades much of our country and the world. It’s why the stock market soars and tumbles, why terrorists haunt us, and why nations continue to go to war with other nations.

Easter has changed that! Oh, I know how wildly presumptuous that must sound! So, let me explain.

Madeline LEngle, the author of numerous prize-winning novels and inspirational books, once wrote of a place in the woods near her house where she used to go to pray and to be alone. On those occasions she would take an icon, a crucifix, and attach it to a tree. She said it helped her pray. But one day she returned to find that a hunter had put a bullet through it, destroying the icon and wounding the tree.

At first, she said, she was upset and angry. But then she began to see the tree as a poignant symbol of the risen Christ.

Like L’Engle’s icon, so the cross has come to mean more to us than a first century instrument of torture and death. It has become, instead, paradoxically, a sign of life in the midst of death and the symbol of God’s victory over sin.

This triumph of life over death, you may recall, was the substance of the prophet Ezekiel’s great vision back in the 6th century BC. This was the one where the Spirit set him down in the midst of a valley of dry bones. There God asked him, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Or, in others words, can Israel be reborn? Can it, after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC, ever be restored to even a semblance of its former glory? And the prophet sagely answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

Then the miracle occurred; God caused flesh to come upon the bones and to cover them with skin, so that Israel would know, the prophet declared, that Yahweh is Lord!

That valley of dry bones probably can and should be seen as those places in our lives where God is not yet present, places where God does not yet dwell, and where we fear he may never take up residence. The Bible describes it as being like when our enemies surround us on all sides, when bees blaze like a fire of thorns, or when we’ve been pushed so hard that we feel like we’re falling.

I know there are places like that in your lives. You’ve said so. There must be places like that in all our lives. But the promise of Easter is that if we will but open our hearts to the power of God through prayer, God will enter in.

Recently, I was reviewing some photographs I took a few years ago in Jerusalem when I noticed one, in particular, of a building on what the Jews today call the Temple Mount and the Muslims refer to in Arabic as the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). There, on one of the buildings located across from the famed Dome of the Rock, stood a door ajar. I can’t fully explain what may have been going on subliminally in my mind as I gazed again at that photo. All I know is that I was suddenly reminded of Revelation 3:20 wherein Jesus is remembered to have said: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

I hear that as God’s promise to you as well as to all good people of faith. Indeed, it’s the promise to everyone who honestly seeks to be transformed by the renewal of his or her mind rather than simply conformed to the all too sorry standards of our time. St. John the Apostle called it “the power [Gk. Dunamis] to become.” “He was in the world,” John wrote, “and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power [there’s that word!] to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” That’s the great promise of this Easter season. 

Yours in Christ,
Mark