An Exercise in Futility–Day 3 of Passion Week

[Each day of Holy Week, I am going to publish a communion meditation that I wrote and delivered, while serving as an Elder, over the past seven years where I worship at Northwood Christian Church, in Springfield, Oregon.]

An Exercise in Futility

As Jesus moved into the third year of his ministry he talked more about his being put to death and rising again.  We can forgive the people of Judea if they were more than a bit skeptical about this claim.  They were intimately acquainted with death.  The average lifespan at that time was less than fifty years.  Dr Jon Berquist, a biblical scholar in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has stated that half the women giving birth died during delivery.  The infant mortality rate in some years exceeded 50%.  Add disease, war and malnutrition and you can see that death was a constant presence and threat.  And as for Jesus’ claim to rise and live after dying?  It was almost laughable, after all dead was dead was dead.  Everybody knew that.

Yet.  Yet, that is what Jesus kept saying would happen to him.  As you read the accounts in all four of the Gospels, even the skeptics begin to wonder.  There was something about Jesus, in the way he taught, in the way he seemed to have this unfathomable connection to God.  When they executed Jesus on the cross, the skeptics had become so unnerved by his claim to rise on the third day that they posted guards at his tomb.

It was an exercise in futility.  Half a generation later, the Apostle Paul would write to the church at Corinth: “So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is shown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body…it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body”(I Cor 15:42, 44).  That is our hope, our belief, and what brings us to this table today.  Here we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, his body broken for us, his blood shed for us.

June 26, 2005

He Set His Face to Jerusalem–Day 2 of Passion Week

[Each day of Holy Week, I am going to publish a communion meditation that I wrote and delivered, while serving as an Elder, over the past seven years where I worship at Northwood Christian Church, in Springfield, Oregon.]

He Set His Face to Jerusalem

Jesus knew his time on earth was coming to an end.  The Feast of the Passover was approaching, and he knew it would be his last.  Jerusalem was calling to him and the shadow of the cross loomed large in his heart.  Yet Jesus did not hesitate.  The gospel writer Luke states Jesus’ determination: “And it came about, when the days were approaching for his ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51, NAS).

Jerusalem still calls to us as 21st Century Christians.  But that call is not to a place such as the Wailing Wall of the ancient Jewish temple, or the Muslims’ Dome of the Rock mosque.  Our call is to an event in an upper room of a house whose true location is lost in the dust of history.  Our call is to remember what Jesus did for us, an act of grace not bound to a place or time.  Today, here, this is our Upper Room, this is our Jerusalem.  For the Risen Christ is with us at this place and moment just as surely as he was with his apostles in Jerusalem on that night two thousand years ago.

Listen to Luke’s account:

And when the hour had come, He reclined at table and the apostles with him.  And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  [And having taken a cup, when He had given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”] And having taken some bread, when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “this cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” (Lk 22:14-20, NAS)

March 6, 2005

Veni, Veni–The First Day of Passion Week

[Each day of Holy Week, I am going to publish a communion meditation that I wrote and delivered, while serving as an Elder, over the past seven years where I worship at Northwood Christian Church, in Springfield, Oregon.]

Veni, Veni

The ancient Hebrews knew that God had promised to send His Messiah.

Everyday when they woke up, it was with the expectation that today might be the day the Messiah would appear.  But when he came, they missed him.

They scoured the scriptures for prophesies of the Messiah; they taught and preached incessantly about his coming.  But when he came, they missed him.

Over the centuries, their culture and religion became more convinced, more focused on the coming of the Messiah and all that he might be and do.  But when he came, they missed him.

I can take no satisfaction in that, however.  I know I am no smarter, more insightful or devout than they were.  Perhaps I would have missed his coming, too.

But come, he did.

For three years he taught in their midst, challenging their expectations, their interpretations of scripture, the very foundation of their belief in the Lord God.  And some saw the light shining in the darkness and understood he had come.

On one night, locked in an Upper Room, he told his gathered followers that the bread that he blessed and broke represented his body broken for them, and that the wine that he blessed was to represent his blood shed for the forgiveness of their sins.  And some saw the light shining in the darkness and understood he had come.

On one day they nailed him to a Roman cross, some certain this one man was not the Messiah, others terrified that he might be.  Yet, some saw the light shining in the darkness and understood he had come.  And in that I can take satisfaction!

Veni, veni, Emmanuel.  O come, O come, Emmanuel.

December 3, 2006