Rise and Shine!


Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Isaiah 60:1-3 (English Standard Version)

Today is Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday.  This is the day we celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead.  If you read the Gospel Resurrection Narratives, you see that is was early in the a.m. that Jesus rose from the dead.  However, for my Scripture text I wanted to go “ol’ school” and use the words of the prophet Isaiah.

Although the above text originally described Israel’s future glory, it aptly describes the Risen Christ-humanity’s present glory.  How Jesus’ light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon him.  How there was darkness on the earth-the darkness of Good Friday during the crucifixion; and the darkness of spirit in those who sent Jesus to his death-including us.

However, the darkness didn’t last forever.  God’s glory arose on Jesus, and was seen by his disciples in the days ahead.  And even today, people are still coming to the light of Jesus.

May the glory of God shine on us through His/Her Christ this Easter Day, and in all the days of our lives!

Grace and Peace and a Blessed Easter!

Image of the Sun rising over the Earth (courtesy of wakeupworld.com)

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Now What?

Where do we go? (Image by Me)

I decided to republish this post from Holy Saturday, 2012 for this year’s Holy Saturday, with a couple of edits.  Grace and Peace.

Today’s the day we call Holy Saturday-marking the time Jesus’s body was in the tomb. However for Jesus’s disciples, it was far from being a holy day. The day before, they’ve witnessed their beloved rabbi and friend, Jesus being betrayed, arrested, tortured, crucified, die, and buried.

Now what?

Now their world was shattered. The one who said he’d be with them always, who would usher in the Kingdom of God, the one some thought would usher in a new “golden age” for Israel and overthrow Rome, was dead. Dead from the most humiliating and painful death anyone-especially a Jew-could die: crucifixion.

Now what?

Those two little words were making a big impact on the disciples that day:
“Jesus is dead. Now what?”
“Are we next in line to be crucified? Now what?”
“Our future is questionable. Now what?”
“Judas betrayed him. Now what?”
“Peter denied him. Now what?”
“Mary lost her son, her help for old age. Now what?”
“Mary Magdalene lost her beloved. Now what?”

Peter asked, “Now what?” after denying Jesus and answered by going back to fishing.  Judas asked, “Now what?” while regretting his betraying Jesus and answered that by committing suicide.  The other disciples asked “Now what?” and answered by going into hiding.

“Now what” can be a painful question that’s asked at painful times:
Your tests came back positive.  Now what?
The cancer you thought was completely removed returned and spread to other parts of your body.  Now what?
The spouse you were married to for years, and hoped to grow old with suddenly leaves you-either by death or desertion.  Now what?
Your hoped-for pregnancy ends in miscarriage, or worse, stillbirth.  Now what?
Your only child dies a senseless death.  Now what?
The only job you had since high school,where you worked your way up the ladder, and hoped to retire from was terminated through no fault of your own.  Now with no other marketable skills, you face unemployment.  Now what?
You lose your house to foreclosure.  Now what?
You, or a loved one, get arrested for a crime you did (or did not) commit.  Now what?

We all have had, have, and will have our “Now what?” times in life.  Sometimes they seem to go on, one after the other, in painful succession.  Like the disciples, we start to wonder about the future and how will we fare.  As one who’s had his share of “Now what” moments in succession himself, I can’t give a nice and easy pat answer.  We can be like Peter, and find something to escape to.  Or sadly, we can be like Judas; not committing literal suicide, but killing our feelings by whatever means we have, or shutting down completely.

Or, we can face those “Now what?” moments with the dignity and grace God gives us each day, taking one moment at a time as we discover the answer.  Take it from personal experience, all you can do is know that God’s presence is there as you begin to find the answer to your “Now what?” moment.  It won’t be easy or quick, it could be an inexorable process that will push your spirit to its breaking point.  But you’ll discover the God-given strength to make it through that moment.


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a good friday reflection

R1-04880-0010scripture references are the trial, crucifixion and burial narratives: matthew 27; mark 15; and, luke 22:66-23:56

this is the day, the day when christ died.  he didn’t die any ordinary death, his was an extraordinary one, one that still impacts us today.

jesus did nothing wrong.  he taught the kingdom/queendom of god. he lived fully and loved wastefully.  he healed, delivered, comforted, raised from the dead, and fed many.

what he did “wrong” to his enemies was that he wanted to bring god back into the picture-a picture distorted by the religious elite of his day.  also, he spoke truth to power-the power that was abused from jerusalem to rome.  jesus spoke of god’s kingdom/queendom-a realm not dictated by temporary human politics, but by the eternal truth of the divine.

and for all that, jesus was tried all night long in a kangaroo court, taken before herod and pilate-both who really (according to history) didn’t give a damn about the man.  then jesus suffered torture at the hands of the guards-a first century victim of police brutality.  then jesus was given a cross to carry through the mean streets of jerusalem, through jeering and abusive crowds that shouted “hosanna” only a few days earlier.

then jesus suffered the worst fate anyone could suffer-especially a jew-death by crucifixion.  it was a painful death the romans used for state criminals. the condemned-after carrying their own cross-was suspended on the cross for all to see in such a way that they won’t die right away-it could take days.  their crime was placed on a placard atop the cross for all to see.  their family would have to watch helplessly as their loved one hung in humiliation.  the condemned was exposed to the elements and even to animals that would start on their dying body.  then after death, the body was tossed in a rubbish heap; unfit for jewish or roman burial.

after being on the cross, jesus finally died after submitting his spirit to the father/mother.  then jesus was taken down and buried in a new tomb.  end of story.

many of us would say that, “jesus died for my sins.”  however, i beg a different question: what did jesus died for, and who-or what-killed him?  think about it this good friday.

oh, by the way.  you’re wondering why i’m writing this post in lower-case?  you see, after what jesus has been through for what he did for us, everything else seems “lower case.”

grace and peace.

image: “exit only” gate from deserted amusement park, keansburg, nj.


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A Particular Passover

Scripture References: Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13 & 18

Today’s Maundy Thursday-the day we commemorate the “Last Supper”-Passover Seder-that Jesus had with his disciples.  Plus it’s also the night when Jesus was betrayed into the hands of the Powers That Be, was arrested, and tried.  We’re also in the midst of Passover as well.

However, when we focus on this story, I find the most intriguing part is the Seder that Jesus shared with his disciples.  Jesus probably celebrated the Passover with his disciples in the past, however this one particular Passover had a unique twist to it: Jesus knew that it was his last.  And despite this knowledge, Jesus still took time to teach his disciples-and us-some Divine truths.

Jesus taught us about service.  It was at this Seder Jesus took a towel and basin, and went about washing the disciples feet-feet that were dusty and dirty from the outside.  Here, Rabbi Jesus did a servant’s job to his disciples.  Jesus taught us that no one is above serving; and that no one is below being served.

Jesus taught us about love in the midst of betrayal.  Jesus knew that his disciple, Judas was to betray him to the Powers That Be.  However, Jesus still loved Judas despite it all and was willing to share the bread that sopped up the lamb drippings with him.  Jesus taught us to love even those who would sell us out.

Jesus taught us about love in the midst of denial.  Jesus knew that Peter would deny him before the night was over, despite Peter’s declarations to the contrary.  Jesus still loved Peter, served Peter (by washing his feet), and shared the Seder with Peter in spite of the upcoming denial.

Jesus taught us about joy in the midst of sacrifice.  It took a lamb to be sacrificed for the Passover; Jesus knew that he too was to be sacrificed.  Jesus knew that he was going to be the “Passover Lamb” for all of humanity.  Yet, Jesus “longed” to have the Seder with his disciples and enjoyed that special-yet poignant-moment.

In all this Jesus taught us about love.  You see, the above paragraphs all point to love.  Instead of using the Seder to look back, Jesus used it for us to look forward.  True love doesn’t look back at what was; it looks forward at what could be.  Jesus wanted his disciples to have that special meal-even without him-in love.

We too are called to come together when we fellowship in Jesus’ name: be it Passover Seders, Maundy Thursday fellowships, or at the local diner.  Jesus taught us all the above so we too can be his disciples as well.

Jesus made a Passover a particular one.  May we also do the same in our gatherings.

Grace and Peace.

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2013-09-28 23.19.26Scripture reference: The Olivet Discourses (Matthew 24-24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-36)

Whatever your interpretation of the above Scripture texts, it all boils down to this:  Jesus calls us to open our eyes and look.  “At what?” you may ask.  Well, I’m going to leave that for you to figure out!

Grace and Peace.

Image: LOOK sign at crosswalk, Lower Manhattan (NYC).


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Getting Down to Business

Reference: Matthew 21:12-17, 23-46 (I’m using this Gospel since [to me] it’s easy to work with for this post).

This post is a “two fer” since I’m writing it as Monday segues into Tuesday during Holy (Passion) Week.  You can read the following in the above Scripture text and in the other Synoptic Gospels.

After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we see him going into the temple where he finds merchants selling animals (namely pigeons) for sacrifice. Jesus immediately trashes the place and quotes the ancient Scriptures:

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers. (Citing Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 ESV)

Then Jesus immediately healed the blind and the lame that came to him.  In one swift move, Jesus turned the temple from man’s marketplace back into a place of Divine healing.  Mind you, the crowds outside were still crying, “Hosanna!” at the same time; which ruffled the feathers of the chief priests and scribes.

The next morning, Jesus returned to the temple and taught the people in parables, which included the Parable of the Two Sons and The Parable of the Tenants.  This teaching gives the people and insight (and a warning) about who will comprise the Kingdom/Queendom of God.  Despite the chief priests and elders’ questioning his authority, Jesus puts them in check and continues to teach.  Here Jesus opens the temple to all who desire to hear him, and uses the temple as a place to speak truth to power.

Putting it bluntly, Jesus got down to business.

Coming to today, are any of us willing to get down to business?  To challenge American Christianity’s obsession with power, wealth, and influence?  To turn our Father’s/Mother’s house back into a house of prayer, a place of healing for all people?  How many of us are willing open our church doors to the marginalized of our society: GLBTs, addicts, former convicts, the homeless, the jobless, the returned vets, the single parents, and many more?  To kill the “country club” attitude of our churches?

How many of us are willing to be teachable by sound doctrine?  As the African-American proverb implores, “Each One Teach One” to our fellow humans by opening up our churches for all to come to?  To realize that belonging to the “right” crowd doesn’t automatically qualify us for the Kingdom/Queendom of God?  To use our temples-our churches-as places to speak Divine truths to sinful power at every level? To risk having our Divinely-placed authority challenged by the Powers That Be?

How many of us are willing to get down to business?

Grace and Peace.


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Down To The Homestretch


Reference Texts: The Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11;1-11; Luke 19: 28-44; and John 12:12-19).

It’s Palm Sunday. The day we commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Here we see the people cutting down palm fronds and waving them as Jesus enters the city on a donkey; others laying their cloaks on the street. It’s a paradoxical beginning of Holy (Passion) Week since by Good Friday (or Thursday by some accounts) we see Jesus on the cross.

Time for Jesus is starting to wind down. As noted in the last post, Jesus knew what he was going to face: his trial; his crucifixion; and, his resurrection. Those of us on this side of history knew what happened in the Gospel Passion narratives.  Every year at this time, we have our Palm Sunday services where we recount the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, we start having Passion dramas portrayed (my church had its Palm Sunday musical re-creation, “The Crucifixion” this evening), palm crosses dot rows of cemeteries, and preparations are being made for the week ahead up to Easter.  Like watching a favorite movie for the umpteenth time, we know how it will all play out.

But for Jesus it was a whole different story.  He would see it as the “homestretch” of his life; likened to the races at the Roman hippodromes that dotted Judea in his time where runners (or charioteers) would have that last stretch of track to conquer before reaching the finish line.  Jesus was eying his “homestrech” leading up to the cross.

Jesus knew that his teachings already got him in deep shit with the religious and political elites of his day; and with Rome’s boot on Israel’s neck, some would see him as an enemy of the State to be crucified.  Even now, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, he knew that some of those praising him would one day call for his head.  Whether we see him as the Divinely-infused rabbi or a political leader using the Scriptures of old to start a movement, Jesus knew he was taking a big risk entering that city.

A more recent example was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon delivered in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968-the night before he was assassinated.  Many of us remember his words (I edited out the audience noise references so you can read):

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out, or what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers.

Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter to with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life–longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Like Jesus, Dr. King knew trouble awaited in Memphis.  And like Jesus, Dr. King voiced this fact to his people.  However both men stared down their respective homestretches and made that move.

How many of us would stare down our “homestretch” to whatever end we have to face?  How many of us would enter a place or situation for a Higher (Divine) purpose, for a greater good, knowing full well we may not come out alive?  And it may not be physical death, like with Jesus and King: we may “die” by losing a part of ourselves that we may hold dear like a relationship, a position, our reputation, etc.  We may be tried, threatened, falsely accused, and/or abandoned in the process as well.  If you ask me, I think very few of us would.  Given a choice, I’d avoid the whole thing altogether and be gone.

However, Jesus didn’t (neither did Dr. King).  And because they didn’t and went down their homestretch, the world took one step closer to being a better place.

Grace and Peace.

Image: Palm Sunday fresco by Giotto di Bondone, 1266–1337. (Thanx to Bible Gateway)




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