Archive for March, 2010

Getting or Receiving

Life Notes—March 25, 2010 

“It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.  Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’”  Mark 15: 25,29-30 

Two thousand years ago, people didn’t get it.  They observed Jesus, dying on the cross, and said, “If you’re so great, save yourself!”  If he was truly the Messiah he would come down from the cross so everyone could see and believe. Priests and scribes mocked him and said if he saved others he should save himself.  But he didn’t save himself.  He didn’t pounce, super-hero-like from the cross to the ground.  He just hung there and died.  Luke (23:34) even records Jesus saying from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Two thousand years ago, people just didn’t get it. 

Two thousand years later…do we get it?  I confess: I don’t—at least not intellectually.  What more could Jesus hope to accomplish by dying such an awful, shameful death than by continuing to live a full life of teaching and healing others?  How much more quickly and effectively would the Gospel have spread if Jesus carried it himself beyond the Jordan River valley?  Where was the glory in dying young and humiliated on a cross? 

Many Christians believe Jesus had to die such an awful death because the punishment for the sins of the world would necessarily be awful beyond description.  Jesus knew if he left any of that punishment behind, left any sins unpunished, we would not be seen righteous in the eyes of God and there would be no eternal life with our Maker.  Some Christians further believe that, as witnesses to Christ’s suffering, we are made more humane.  Having seen how miserably we are capable of treating others, we are inspired to fight suffering and injustice.  Others draw strength and comfort knowing how Jesus suffered, making their own suffering more tolerable.  Jesus walked a painful path before us to help show that we, too, will get through our pain. 

Many of us speak with familiarity and emotion about the crucifixion, but do we really ‘get it?’  Do we really understand why this God-man was destined to be utterly destroyed by the world he was born to save?  My brain may not get it; but my heart recognizes this holy and suffering servant who traded his life for mine.  My soul rejoices in a love so pure; and ‘getting it’ pales in comparison to receiving it. 

This Sunday we celebrate both Palm Sunday and the Passion.  Tom’s sermon title is “Living Words,” based on the scripture Mark 15:25-39.  Life worship is at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Come, rejoice and receive.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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A Little Relief

Life Notes—March 18, 2010

“After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene…” Mark 15: 20-21a

Jesus has been tried and convicted by the Temple leadership, tried and convicted by the Roman governor, tried and convicted by the crowd. The Roman guards are taunting and humiliating him in the courtyard of the governor’s palace. He has been beaten, scourged, spat upon, mocked and crowned with thorns. Finally, he is led to Golgotha, the place of a skull, to be crucified. I suspect Jesus’ suffering, at this point, had to be beyond imagination. He had been up all night and was drowning in a dizzying, agonizing, ocean of intense pain and shocked confusion. No doubt, the pain intensified with each breath, with each minute, with each step. And it was about it get worse. He was being led out across a valley and up a hill to be nailed to a cross and hung out in the hot sun to suffocate over a period of several grueling hours. Surely death would have seemed a welcome relief.

Other gospel accounts relate that Jesus began the journey by carrying his own cross, but the guards eventually recruited a passer-by to carry it, possibly in hopes of speeding the trek up the hill to get the messy crucifixion business over with. Perhaps the guards tired of watching this broken shell of a man struggle hopelessly with the object of his impending death. Perhaps it was a show of compassion. Either way, Simon of Cyrene, carried the cross at least part of the way for Jesus. It was one painful task he didn’t have to do alone, and maybe the removing of that task brought some small measure of relief.

As we pass through our days we are often confronted with those who are suffering. Sometimes we are compelled to help, sometimes we willingly offer assistance, sometimes we simply continue on. Sometimes, when we continue on, we realize there is nothing we can do to fix the situation so we do nothing. But often we are not called to fix the situation; we are just called to offer a little temporary relief—like Simon of Cyrene…

This will be the fifth Sunday of Lent. Tom’s sermon title is “Sacrificial Love,” drawn from the scripture found in Mark 15:15-24. Life (Living in Faith Everyday) worship is at 10:45 in Brady Hall. Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00. Contemporary worship at the west campus at 9:30.

Come home to worship this Sunday. Journey with us to the cross of Christ.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—March 11, 2010 

“Pilate asked them, ’Why, what evil has he done?’ But they cried all the more, ‘Crucify him!’  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.”  Mark 15: 14-15 

The temple leadership, the Sanhedrin, held their mock trial in the middle of the night, convicting Jesus of blasphemy and deserving of death.  He was handed over to Pilate, the Roman governor, to be put to death.  Pilate had a custom of releasing one prisoner during the Passover festival and offered Jesus to the crowd.  But the crowd cried out for the release of Barabbas, a murdering rebel, and for the crucifixion of Jesus. 

Isn’t this an odd occurrence?  Surely at least part of the crowd was made up of people who had heard Jesus teach, been healed by him, been counted among his followers just hours before.  Why would they now cry for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus?  Was the crowd hoping Barabbas would rejoin the insurrection he had been a part of?  Were they such devout Jews that when the Sanhedrin pronounced him deserving of death, they accepted that sentence?  It just seems like a strange and rapid turn of events. 

And yet, what if Jesus had been released and Barabbas crucified?  What if Jesus didn’t suffer and die on the cross for the sins of the world?  Surely the death of Barabbas could not have brought about our salvation.  Instead of Black Friday where Jesus is led to Golgotha, Jesus might have ridden quietly out of Jerusalem, back into the hills and continued his ministry to a ripe old age and died of natural causes.  Had Jesus walked away that day, there would be no resurrection, no Easter, no assurance that we, too, will one day die to this life, only to be reborn into another. 

We tend to vilify Judas, Pilate and the crowd.  Ditto for Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, and I’ve always accepted that vilification to be justified.  But what if one of them hadn’t followed through on their evil deed?  What if Judas kissed Simon instead of Jesus?  While we despise the nasty way in which Jesus spent his final hours, we sometimes forget that very suffering was a necessary, if sometimes difficult-to-understand step in our salvation.  And a number of people were required to bring that suffering about, right up to and including us… 

This is the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Tom’s sermon title is “A Good Look at Ourselves,” drawn from the scripture found in Mark 15: 1-15.  Heather Clinger and Nolan Frank will lead the Life music this Sunday at 10:45 in Brady Hall as I will be out of town.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Remember and reflect on Jesus’ final hours.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Blood in the Water

Life Notes—March 4, 2010 

“Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’”   Mark 14: 39-40 

Jesus, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, is kissed by Judas, a sign identifying him so the Temple guards could drag him away to trial.  Conflicted Peter is trying to be invisible outside the Temple, wanting to monitor the events without being identified as one of Jesus’ followers.  He is recognized by others in the area and three times denies knowing Jesus; just as Jesus told him he would do.  His denial was like a little white lie that suddenly takes on a life of its own.  His first denial was matter-of-fact, but by the third one he was cursing and swearing an oath.  Sometimes, when a lie is not accepted, there is a desire to repeat the lie in vulgar or extreme ways to try to make it more believable. 

I remember being told it is always best to tell the truth, especially if you have a poor memory.  In Peter’s case it wasn’t just a matter of getting caught in a lie.  It was a matter of being victimized by a frenzied, unruly crowd seeking action in the dizzying night.  I picture the scene resembling ravenous sharks smelling blood in the water.  Peter, tired and confused and seeing the central focus of his life treated as a common criminal, reacts in a manner consistent with most of us mortals—self-preservation.  History is full of people who have found themselves on the wrong side of right by refusing to challenge the crowd in the interest of personal well-being—Nazi Germany comes to mind.  There is Peter.  There, too, am I. 

I know there have been many times in my life when someone in my presence has been treated unfairly and I ignored opportunities to stand up for them, to stand beside them.  Likewise, I cannot count the number of times I’ve stood by silently as others around me have spoken words diametrically opposed to what I know and believe about Christ.  I might as well have shouted, “I don’t know this man!”  Fortunately, Peter’s experience reminds us we are loved and understood, in spite of our weakness.  Grace is amazing. 

This will be the third Sunday of Lent.  Tom’s sermon title is “Condemned by the Righteous,” drawn from the scripture found in Mark 14: 53-72.    Our church-wide Lenten study, “24 Hours That Changed the World,” continues with several Sunday morning classes, and others throughout the week.   Life service is at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday—a safe place to admit you know your Savior!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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