The First Day

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. (Luke 24:1)

the first day:
walking with heavy loads and burdened hearts
to the place His breathless body lay.
every hour seemed so still
since that dark day.

but now, the first day:
their hesitating procession to the tomb
finds the place, but not Him;
and aching emptiness
meets anger’s anxiety.

yet, on the first day
two men send shivers of loud light
mingled with a message:
‘He’s alive like a new day’s dawning!’
and they remember His words.

this first day is the third day
that sends the dark day running.

[This is the fifth in a group of original poems composed for Holy Week, which begins with “Unseeing in Sleep.” Read the next poem, “Unbelievable Words,” here.]

Joseph’s Offering

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus….With Pilate’s permission he came and took the body away. (John 19:38)

as the crowd dispersed
i came to honor Him.
perhaps it was too late…
but the cost was real for me,
as others from the Sanhedrin
turned their dark looks upon me.
our entourage gathered His limp form
with painful effort from the tree
and wrapped it with care.

standing there, at the Executioner’s workplace,
i couldn’t help but think that
He deserved more than this;
that my present actions were a feeble attempt
to cover my earlier inaction.

Jesus, wrapped in linen and death’s shadow,
seemed like a gift Jerusalem
was not worthy to hold.
so we took Him to the tomb,
with the women following close,
and placed Him gently within
for safe-keeping until the day of the Lord.
but my heart ached within me.

[This is the fourth in a group of original poems composed for Holy Week, which begins with “Unseeing in Sleep.” Read the next poem, “The First Day,” here.]

Three Figures

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. (Luke 23:32)

three figures floating above the ground
one with fire in his mouth
rages in desperation against existence
one begs for deliverance
in a strong moment, pleading
with the third for rescue
the last One speaks hope and peace
amidst such hopeless violence
split apart at the place of the Skull
He opens the cosmos wide
with painful grace for all
and welcomes us in

[This is the third in a group of original poems composed for Holy Week, which begins with “Unseeing in Sleep.” Read the next poem, “Joseph’s Offering,” here.]

Broken to Heal: a Good Friday message

Here is the complete text from my Good Friday message given yesterday at Eastbrook Church. You can view the message here.Chosen Words Series Gfx_Web Ad

The Apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest companions, begins his telling of Jesus’ life with profound words. John describes Jesus as the ‘Word of God’ – that perfect wisdom and revelation of God – who “was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1, 2). He says Jesus was “the true light” shining “in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome” that light (1:5, 9). John even goes so far as to say that Jesus surpasses Moses in His authority as a teacher because Jesus is “the One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father” (1:17, 18). These rich words show us how highly John thought about Jesus and exactly who we are dealing with when we come to the Gospels: Jesus’ timelessness, Jesus’ authority, Jesus’ wisdom, and Jesus’ divinity.

If we had never encountered the story of Jesus, it may strike us as odd when we read the following words from John nestled amidst those earlier descriptions:

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory.” (1:14)

The lofty One comes into our midst in human flesh, John says, and that is a revelation of His glory. Certainly, it could be a slight surprise to hear this. The glorious Word – unstained and pure – steps into rough and tumble human experience – right where we live.

Yet that slight surprise is nothing compared to what we encounter later in John’s story: that Jesus would suffer the brutality of violent execution by human hands. This is exactly what we have heard from another early Jesus follower, Matthew, in his record of Jesus’ life read throughout the service today. It is a litany of broken human experience: Jesus’ isolated and suffering alone in prayer while His disciples fall asleep; Jesus’ betrayed by one of His own followers named Judas; Jesus arrested by Temple guards without clear accusation; Jesus facing authorities who bend justice to match their own aims, even as they stand as representatives of God; Jesus’ utter rejection by a close friend, Simon Peter; Jesus’ life exchanged for the freedom of a known murderer, Barabbas, at the request of the crowds; Jesus humiliatingly mocked as a broken king by the Roman soldiers, complete with a robe, a staff, and a crown of thorns; the voices of cynics shouting insults as Jesus is heaved up on a cross to slowly die of asphyxiation or heart failure.Read More »

Resurrection Hope

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Beginning this weekend with our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, we begin a new series at Eastbrook entitled “Resurrection Hope.” Over the next five weeks we will explore the questions: “why is the resurrection so important to Christianity?” and “what does it mean for us today?” The series will be rooted in 1 Corinthians 15.

April 19/20 – “Resurrection Grace” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

April 26/27 – “Resurrection Matters” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

May 3/4 – “Resurrection Timing” (1 Corinthians 15:20-34)

May 10/11 – Resurrection Bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)

May 17/18 – “Resurrection Victory” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58)