Posted tagged ‘open tomb’

Following a Laughing Jesus

February 2, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          February 2, 2020

                            

Christians follow the events of Jesus during Holy Week— his entry into Jerusalem, his last supper with his followers in the Upper Room, the betrayal, his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, arrest, trial, beating, and crucifixion. The Holy Week events go hand in hand with Jesus being referred to as “a man of sorrows.”

As an African-American preacher once preached, however, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”, and he laughed deep and delighted. His words brought grins to the faces of his congregation and shouts of “Hallelujah!”

Some followers of Jesus seem to have been convinced that Jesus was a man of sorrows from birth unto death, that he would have been described as a solemn child who never cracked a smile. It may be an excuse for the dreariness and dryness of their own spiritual journey. 

I remember in my first years of ministry having someone scold me about the fact that she had walked by the room where the Wednesday Night Youth Bible Study was being held and heard laughter. How could I teach the Bible to these kids and let them laugh? I wanted to ask her why her face always looked like she was sucking on a lemon…but I didn’t? I was the rookie and she was one of the church pillars, stone cold and unyielding. 

Scripture tells us that Jesus got upset with his disciples when they rebuked parents for trying to bring their children to Jesus. Children delighted Jesus. He said that the kingdom of heaven belonged to such as these. 

In my years of being a pastor I gave hundreds of “children’s sermons”. I can only remember there being one time when I didn’t laugh at something that one of the kids said in the midst of the story. That ONE TIME was the Sunday I had the ingeniously idiotic idea of doing two children’s sermons in the same worship gathering. During the second sermon it was like herding cats. The kids were crawling behind the communion table, trying to escape, and looking curiously at the musical instruments close at hand. It was…memorable! Now, years later I chuckle every time I remember it. 

I can not imagine Jesus being the man of sorrows as children gathered around him. 

In the seriousness of the world Christians need not just the vital image of the Suffering Servant nailed to the cross, but also the joyous Jesus who grinned in the hallelujah moments of His journey.

I find it interesting that science and psychology are doing more research about the effects of laughter. The findings have revealed how laughter relieves stress, boosts the immune system, and relaxes the muscles. 

It seems to me that Jesus-followers should laugh the loudest and longest. After all, we know that after Jesus’ death on that Friday his burial tomb was empty on Sunday and the stone had been rolled away. In essence, He had the last laugh!

Looking Outward From A Tomb

March 26, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   March 26, 2016

                                    

Today is Saturday, the day before Easter. It is a day of waiting for many of us. Being a Christ-follower, I know what tomorrow means. It’s a day where I’m between death and life…Jesus is laying dead in the tomb, not back alive…not risen…the rock hasn’t moved an inch.

Sunday is different. I’ll put my sweat pants and t-shirt to the side and put my suit on that will make me look fashionably alive. I’ll speak to a group of believers gathered at First Baptist Church in Simla about the hope that the day tells us about.

As a pastor I’m living in the Sunday event even today as I prepare tomorrow’s words. It’s a unique perspective. In essence, I’m speaking from inside the tomb, but also looking outward from it. What words might Jesus have to say to the mourners of his death? What are the words that the church needs to hear?

Looking outward changes your view. It’s impossible to forget the primary purpose of the place you are standing in, but it also intensifies the excitement of the outward opening. Like the welcoming of a new breath of air for someone emerging from a deep dive into a lake, an opening in the tomb signals a path from death back to life.

So often I live for Jesus inside the grave. I turn my back from the hope and become the walking dead in Christ. I go through times of doubt, just like his disciples, and wallow in the self-pity of the demands of my faith. There is a tendency to close the story on Saturday and communicate the faith of a cranky, embittered Christian.

On the other hand, I see Christ-followers who detour past the tomb and live out a faith that seems to jump from the sweet, cuddly baby Jesus to the glorious glowing resurrected Jesus. Pain and suffering don’t make the cut in the abridged story of the messiah.

I’m becoming more convinced as I grow older that Jesus desires that I view life as a tomb person looking outward. That death is not the conqueror…that hope emerges out of hopelessness…that life follows death…these are the words to remember and the message to proclaim.

From inside the tomb I can speak about what is no longer true. I am able to tell my own story, that once I was the walking dead, but now I am spiritually alive. I understand who I was and, by the grace of God, who I now am.

Drawing Close to Death

March 18, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              March 18, 2016

                                      

The Passion Week of Jesus is about to begin. In many ways it’s an unsettling time. One day Jesus gets paraded through town with cheers and singing, and a few days later he gets paraded towards a hill of death with jeers and mocking. It is a lonely week, a week of being deserted, betrayed, and tortured.

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday experiences are solemn and reflective…and avoided! Many of us are ready to get to the celebration of Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus’ tomb was open and the body was no longer there, and by-pass the days of suffering and death.We often even see this in our funeral services. The tendency is to rush by the grieving and embrace the rejoicing. If the departed had a close walk with God people sometimes feel guilty about being sad, about mourning the loss of a loved one. “Well, he’s with the Lord now, so we shouldn’t be sad!”

Yes, he is with the Lord, but he is no longer with us in the same way he has always been with us, and for that I’m grieving. Ben Dickerson, a good friend and ministry colleague of mine, passed away suddenly a few years ago. Ben was man of prayer and depth, a mentor and confidant. His death set me back. I struggled with the nonsensical nature of it.

I could not get to the celebration! Hear me on that! I could not get to the celebration. I was still dealing with the Good Friday grief! Just as cancer patients deal with the loss of health, and anxiety about the future moves into the room that has been occupied by future hopes and aspirations, I must deal with the closeness of death in my life.

Perhaps it seems silly, but I’ve grieved the loss of every one of our five cats: Tickles, Prince Charming Kisses, Duke, Katie Katie CoCo Puffs, and Princess Mailbu. Don’t mock me! My daughters named them all. Even as I write this I’m getting a little teary-eyed thinking about them.

Death is hard, and important to draw close to. When Moses died Deuteronomy 34:8 says “The people of Israel wept for Moses in the Plains of Moab for thirty days. then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end.”

Thirty days! In our culture it is more likely that the memorial service can’t be scheduled for thirty days due to schedule complications.

There is a time for celebration, but there is also a time for grieving and remembrance. Death precedes eternal life…profoundly!

Good Friday needed to occur for a rolled away stone to signal that something significant had just happened.

Our culture has a hard time dealing with death. The pull is to just move past it and get on with life.

And so Good Friday services that bring us to scenes of Golgotha will be slightly attended, unless the pilgrim comes from a traditional that mandates attendance; and Resurrection Sunday will see pancake breakfasts, and balloons, and chocolate crosses…and crowded sanctuaries.

My belief…you don’t have to accept it if you don’t want to…my belief is that we can not fully appreciate and understand the incredible news of the resurrection unless we draw close to the death of Jesus’ crucifixion.