Why do you search for the living, among the dead?

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“Why do you search for the Living amongst the dead?”

They had travelled from Galilee, served his practical needs, hung on his every word, and watched him die.  Where else would they search?

They had seen him battered and bleeding, mocked and mutilated, seen the spear plunged into his side and his body carried from that horrific cross to the cold tomb of a rich stranger. Where else would he be?

They had cringed at his pain, feared his enemies and felt angry with his betrayers.  They had spent the sabbath waiting and spent their money on embalming spices.

What more could they do?

And they are greeted with an obtuse question…

Why do you search for the living among the dead?

If the Resurrection happened today in the UK, I wonder whether the grieving women would have taken offence at the angel’s question?  We live in a culture wracked by insecurities, each covered with defence mechanisms.   I can imagine a modern reaction would have been to try to justify themselves or find fault, blaming this radiant man in the garden as harsh and cruel.

But the women weren’t like us.

They were humble, they had listened to Jesus and they remembered his words.

The question came, as everything does from heaven – saturated in love.

God doesn’t ask us questions in order to find out information.

He asks us questions to pull us out of earth’s story to be a part of heaven’s story.

On earth, all was black and desolate.

Strangers lost in a hostile city, grieving their closest friend,  directionless without their leader and bereft of their shield and protector.  Their band had dispersed, the movement was over, the vision had died.

In heaven, all was glory and victory.

The conquering hero had returned, with captives set free and the keys of death in his hands.  The beloved son had fulfilled his mission, had shown his amazing love and trust, the Father had demonstrated his power and the Spirit was just waiting to launch a new era of hope.

The angelic man in the garden asked a simple question to pull them from one story to another.

Why does God ask us questions? –

So that we see things differently.

He wants to take our minds away from the bleak or mundane anxieties of earth and into the hope-fuelled joy of heaven.

Away from the poverty of earth, into the glorious riches of our inheritance.

From fear, into faith.

From passivity, into purpose.

From decay, into creativity.

From anxiety, into prayer.

Away from cynical dismissal of what’s unseen, into being sure of what is hoped for.

The one who taught us not to worry, knows the questions to ask, to help us see differently.

Why do you search for the living, amongst the dead.? –

 He is not here, he has risen.

 

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The Cross has said it all

Good Friday meditation

I’ve meditated on Jesus death on the Cross this morning and seen the flood of pictures and quotes on social media as we seek to express and celebrate this most wonderful event.  As I’ve done so, it occurred to me that we respond differently.  Psychologists have described us according to 5 archetypes, I’ve found Jim McNeish’s teaching on Bioenergetics hugely helpful in this.

So this is a meditation on the manifold ways we might respond to the cross today.  My hope is that where we recognise ourselves, the truth may sink a little deeper.
Our first group are those who love to escape, our home is the world of ideas, data is our rock, understanding is our language.  How can we handle Good Friday?

The_Way_of_the_Cross_at_sunsetWe look at those silhouettes of Crosses against sunset backgrounds and our first thought is of the technical skill of the photographer (or editor, I wonder what software they used?)

The bleeding of others’ emotions only triggers our guilt, but today we can’t use cynicism to label them as sentimental, we can only yearn to feel like they do.

For us the Cross makes sense of love.  We are justified, its just-as-if we had never sinned.  Guilt gone, dealt with, finished. It brings love alive and into three dimensions.  Now we can understand it.

Meanwhile, the dying saviour slowly demolishes our fear as we encounter perfect love.

 

Our second group: we love to be loved.

Where is it all happening? Who can I talk to? Give me people or I die!

What a night the Last supper must have been! last_supper1b

“Jesus, at supper with his friends…” a meal, a celebration, the coming together of a group of friends and then Jesus loves them, washes their feet, shows them each that they are precious.  Oh to have been there, to have been part of the group, to have been so close, to have had my feet, washed, by him.

But we can hardly cope with the horrors of Good Friday.  It’s…just….too… awful.

The pain, the separation, the desolation of Jesus alone, dragged away by those brutal soldiers, betrayed and rejected.

Yet, he did it for me!  Yes, he died for me! Even if there was no one else, he died to show his love.

He poured out his love and his grace and his mercy and his acceptance, of us!  He paid the price to buy us back, we were worth paying that ransom.

Today as I feel the despair, the loneliness, the darkness and desolation, I begin to feel his arms of love wrapped around me, he did this so that I can know him.

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Third we meet those of us, who can only describe ourselves as ‘humbled’, by the amazing sacrifice Jesus made.  Today is the time to honour him, to lift high the cross.

We remember Jesus’ words ‘When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself’.  What a glorious saviour, what an amazing king, the model of true kingship for us.

We celebrate the Cross as the great demonstration of true power.  Darkness defeated, Satan crushed under Jesus’ feet as the curse and the fall are overturned.  Love conquers death, the old reality of self righteousness, replaced by the new reality of grace.  Those crowds who turned on him, his close friends who betrayed him, all turned around by his mercy, his amazing demonstration of a better way to live.Crown

“Crown him, with many crowns” we chant with every breath, exalting the greatest king, the greatest victor; our king, our Lord.

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We bow the knee in surrender to him, grateful to be included in his great purpose of redemption, humbled to be a part of his new kingdom.  Let’s tell the world all about it.
How strange that a crown could hurt.  How would it feel to wear a crown of thorns?  How could he endure that mockery and humiliation?

In stark contrast is our fourth group: those of us who love the suffering servant.

As we clear up the dishes from the Seder meal, we reflect on that amazing moment of washing their feet.  Jesus, the leader, was willing to serve – how beautiful.

wonky wineWe find a discarded bread roll and a half drunk glass of wine, and remember how he took those simple symbols of hospitality and shared about pouring out his life for us.  It all brings back the beauty of Isaiah 53, the one who poured out his life, for me.

He did it in our place.  He stepped in and took the pain for me.  That guilt and shame, the agony, that punishment, he took it instead.  He paid the price, so that we can be free. We are the ones who should have been beaten and nailed to that cross and yet he was, in our place.  We are so sorry that he had to do it for us, so all we can feel is gratitude, he did it, so that we didn’t have to.

He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a slave and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Maybe today, we are allowed to pause, to sit and enjoy that.  It might feel strange, passing through that layer of guilt that we should be doing something for him to say thank you.  But as we sit still, as we let him serve us, even that guilt can be washed away, it’s a delicious taste of freedom.

 

And our final group, are smitten by what love can achieve.

We long for change, we long for connection and we believe that love really can overcome the agony of separation and rejection.

The cross has said it all.  It is the ultimate, the greatest demonstration of love.  Death is defeated, guilt washed away, freedom won, salvation is secured, light overcomes darkness.  What a victory!

But it’s a victory of self sacrifice and powerlessness.  Jesus shows us something that we can all learn from, that victory comes not through a demonstration power, but a choice of powerlessness.  Love wins, through humility, through vulnerability and being willing to soak up the pain for a greater good.

Today we celebrate all that Jesus achieved on that cross.  The great turn around, the fulfilment of prophesy, the moment of breakthrough.

He was punished, for our mistakes.  That is an extraordinary transaction, it hardly seems fair.  Maybe, just maybe it isn’t, and that’s ok, because love is greater.

So which are you?

How do you respond to the Cross?

Which truth today can slowly erode your deepest fears?