Mercy

As we continued our journey with the Psalms of Ascent, “Ascend,” this past weekend at Eastbrook, I opened up Psalm 130 for us. I explored the mercy of God as part of our spiritual journey with God in terms of prayer, forgiveness, waiting, and hope. In the midst of that I brought in the story of Jonah, illuminating parallel verses in Ephesians and Jude, an excerpt from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and a reflection on the life of Viktor Frankl.

You can watch the message and follow along with the sermon outline below. You can access the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast. We also have a reading plan for this series, which you can participate with here.

 

Read More »

Peace

We began our journey with the Psalms of Ascent, “Ascend,” this weekend at Eastbrook, spending time with Psalm 120. In this message, I explore themes of the spiritual life with God as a pilgrimage or journey, honesty and hopeful prayer, the need for community, and living in peace instead of hatred or hopelessness.

Here is the video and sermon outline of this first message of the Ascend series, “Peace.” You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast. We also have a reading plan for this series, which you can access here.

 

Read More »

Elizabeth in Shadows

woman in shadow.jpgIn the midst of all the grand things God is doing at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, there is something much smaller going on. In the midst of the story of God playing out in human history and the incense of the Temple in Jerusalem with Zechariah, there is a woman standing in shadows of shame and her name is Elizabeth.

Sometimes we wonder if as human beings we are mere cogs in the universe. Even if we believe in God, we may wonder if we are simply hidden, unnoticed beings before the divine majesty. I think it precisely in moments like this that the words of Luke 1:23-25 are for us:

Listen to the last verses of today’s passage:

And when Zechariah’s time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

I love this because in the midst of all God is working out in cosmos through Jesus Messiah, there is still a message of salvation that is so relationally personal.

Elizabeth, who was last described by her barrenness (Luke 1:7), now experiences a work of God that is personal and transformational. She declares aloud: “The Lord has done this for me…In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

She knows that God has done this for her. A good theologian might want to correct Elizabeth by reminding her of the bigger thing God is doing in the world and for salvation. Yet here we encounter an important truth: God’s grand story always involves our personal story.

God is not so great that He forgets about us; in fact, He is so great that He remembers us.

Elizabeth’s childless years – the years of mourning have been changed. She has a child. It is a miracle child that promises something great for Israel and all the nations of the earth…

But this child speaks to Elizabeth that even for her, God is bringing a promise:
a promise of hope, of change, of new beginning.

As it says in Psalm 30:

“Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me….
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth & clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”
(Psalm 30:2, 11, 12)

So, for those of standing in the shadows of shame like Elizabeth, the work of God in Jesus Christ is also a personal, relational, and transformational. God is doing something new in Jesus now…for us.

 [This is an excerpt from my message “Promise” as part of our series on the Gospel of Luke.]

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.]