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Good News

“And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’”  Mark 16:2-3
 
Have you packed really well for a trip, but still you brought the wrong stuff? You packed for winter, but it was 87 degrees in Texas that weekend in January, a record even for them. You never touched those three sweaters that you brought. Or, you flew back from Florida in April, straight into a late Wisconsin snowstorm and you were wearing shorts and sandals. You were in the wrong place with the right stuff.

The women in our text had all the right things packed. They brought the spices to anoint Jesus. They were right there early in the morning. They even had the right question about who was going to roll away the stone. They were prepared, but not for the right day. The world had changed overnight and they found themselves in a new place.

Our world has certainly changed in these last few weeks. I expect that you had packed for a different April than the one we’ve had so far. You had plans for work and travel but those plans have been put aside. You were all ready for a different time than the one we have.
 
But the good news is that Easter is the greatest change the world has ever seen. Easter has come and brought us the change that lasts and needs repeating in our frightened world. Jesus has risen and the tomb is empty. Those plans of our past or present, the ones of fear and death, those plans have been put out of date because Easter’s truth has come again. Even this year, strange as it is, cannot cancel the truth that Jesus has risen from the dead and so death has lost. Life has come to the dead and our own tombs will stand open. We don’t need to pack for death and darkness. We are the people who have seen the empty tomb and believe the best news. He has risen. Why be packing for death? Why carry the trappings of the tomb?  The good news has come: Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, we have been packing and preparing for the worst news. Thank you for the best news ever:  Jesus is risen from the dead. Help us to carry that news instead of the burdens we’ve been carrying. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

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A Devotion for Easter Monday: A New Day

brown wooden cross against wall

“Behold, I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:1-5
 
During my final year of seminary, I saw a pile of old boards outside of the gymnasium. When I looked closer, I noticed they were floor boards. Original hardwood from the seminary gymnasium- I was ecstatic! I had a piece of history in my hands as I scooped them up and brought them home. I thought about what I should do with these boards, and I decided, since my wife was pregnant, to make a bassinet for our newest child. I gave those boards a new purpose, and I was pretty proud of myself.
 
On this first day after Easter, we take time to reflect on how God is making all things new. God is taking your life and making it new. God is taking all the ingredients of the world and repurposing them, refashioning them for eternity. Everything has changed once Jesus rises from the grave. As John writes, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4). All those things that used to hold you captive? Those chains have been destroyed. All those commitments that made you feel tied down? Redeemed by God. All those illnesses, wounds, injuries, and woes? Healed and restored in Jesus. “Behold, I am making ALL THINGS new!”
 
That bassinet sits in storage now, even though I made it new. It is now an old, dusty piece of furniture still destined for decay. It still wears out, but what God has planned? This “all things new” has already begun, almost 2,000 years ago on this first Monday after Easter. And on that last day, every storage shed, every grave, every life that feels like it’s been left on the shelf will be taken out and made new. For good. The wood of the cross has been repurposed. The master carpenter is making all things new.
 Prayer: Dear God, we hear your words. Help us to believe them for ourselves, that truly you are making all things new. We want to experience your new life now, and we trust you to make us eternally new, by the same power that rose Jesus from the grave. It’s in his name that we pray; Amen.

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A Devotion for Easter Sunday: Resurrection Day

brown rock formation during daytime
 
Jesus Can Walk Through Any Door

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them “Peace be with you.” [John 20:19]

Do you still leave your front door unlocked? I’m sure you remember a time- or remember some stories from older relatives, “Back in my day, you never had to lock your door!” That’s not the case anymore. We lock and check, and then re-check before we go to bed. We drive back home to make sure we put down the garage door. We have a lot to protect, so we need to keep our doors locked.

It’s good to take necessary steps to protect your family and possessions, but we can take the same mindset with our hearts. We have to protect ourselves from hurt and harm (we generally learn this after we opened the door of our heart to someone who trampled it). We work hard to make sure we don’t get hurt. 

Wasn’t that exactly where the disciples found themselves on Easter Sunday, after they heard from the women that Jesus rose? They were still behind locked doors, protecting themselves from the same fate that befell Jesus. But no locked doors can keep us from God. Jesus can walk through any door. However well you are protecting your heart, or trying to keep God from seeing the pain or darkness or sadness or sin, Jesus can and will make his way through it. And he will say, “Peace be with you.”

Oh, and why would we want to protect ourselves from Jesus’ work? He rose from the dead! Sunday marks the resurrection, and each first day of the week- every Sunday- stands as a doorpost into eternity. Let today be the sure and certain hope for you, that Jesus has a resurrection in store for you, too. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia! 

Prayer: Lord, God, we thank You for Your plan to work peace in our lives through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Help us to live always in light of eternity- that You have unlocked the door of heaven through Your Son. We love You! Amen!

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A Devotion for the Saturday of Holy Week: Tomb Day

white cross on green field at daytime

The next day…the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that imposter said, while he was still alive, after three days I will rise. Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day.” Matthew 27:62-64.

 
The day is called Holy Saturday, and perhaps more than anything else, at least based upon the first Holy Saturday, it is a day of being afraid. In Matthew 27, we see a group of people who were afraid on that first Holy Saturday. The Pharisees gathered before Pilate demanding that a guard be placed at the tomb of Jesus. They remembered that Jesus had said He would rise from the dead. And while they didn’t necessarily believe that resurrection would happen, they were afraid that someone might come and steal the body and say that it had. They were afraid at what might happen next.
 
The disciples certainly would have been afraid on this day. Jesus had died, and everything they knew or hoped or trusted seemed to have been turned upside down. They were afraid for themselves. While we are not told exactly what the disciples were up to, we could safely assume that the disciples would have been doing on Saturday what they were doing on Sunday when the first news of Jesus’ resurrection came. They were probably huddled together behind locked doors. They would have been wondering whether the next people through those doors might be soldiers, intent on doing to them what had just been done to Jesus. They would have been afraid at what might happen next.
We shake our heads at those disciples. They should have listened to Jesus. They should have believed that He would rise. They should not have been afraid. So I wonder then, what’s our excuse? We live in a time of fear, fear of what might happen next. And yet, are we not certain that Jesus rose from the dead? How much worse it would have been for those disciples in that they truly were unsure of Jesus’ coming resurrection. We’re not. We know it happened and we know, from the resurrection, that Jesus is victorious, and thus, so are we. The words that Jesus spoke each time He appeared to his followers after He rose are so precious for us today. Do not be afraid!
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are confident of your resurrection. Because of your victory, may we be assured by you in times of fear. Amen

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A Devotion for the Friday of Holy Week: Death Day

Jesus Christ on cross painting

34And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  Luke 23:34-37

As I’ve spent more time in my house these past couple weeks, the TV and radio has been on much more often. Every so often I hear a commercial that says, “If you just buy this product you’ll feel better about yourself.” Or a speaker on a show says, “Just follow these easy steps to feel fulfilled in life.” There’s so much around us today that says, “Just focus on yourself. Do whatever is the best for you.” We’re surrounded by these messages of if you do this then everything will be better for you.

Isn’t this also what Jesus faced on the cross with those who watched and yelled at him? As the people watched, they mocked Jesus and challenged him by saying if you really are the Son of God, then just save yourself. Save yourself. That’s all that the onlookers focused on as Jesus hung on the cross. At that moment they could only think of Jesus being like themselves, self-centered. They could only focus on the idea that if Jesus had the power to save himself, he would! However, contrary to their thoughts Jesus does not save himself and dies on that cross.

After all of the physical pain and torture he went through that day along with now being nailed on a cross for all to see, Jesus had to listen to insults and lies being thrown at him. What’s incredible is even in this moment Jesus was not thinking about himself. While people were telling him to save himself, Jesus called to God saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Instead of calling on the Father asking for Him to take him off the cross he instead intercedes for all of the people and asks not for wrath or judgement on them, but rather forgiveness. 

While he hung there in pain, suffering from all of his wounds, Jesus didn’t think of himself but rather he thought of us. All the people who stood before him mocking him, all of us living right now. He was focused on you and what had to happen so he could save you. By Jesus refusing to save himself from the cross he gave salvation to you. As we spend today reflecting on the death of Christ, remember all that he went through and how much he cares for you. He loves us so much that he was willing to die so we could be saved.

Heavenly Father, thank you for all that you have given us. Thank you for the salvation we have been given through the sacrifice of your son Jesus Christ. Help us to focus on others and what we can do for them, just as Jesus focused on others even as he died. Be with us and strengthen us as we continue on in our lives, reminding us of what Christ has done for us and through whom we have been saved. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 


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