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 seventh in a group of seven original poems composed for Holy Week, including:

The Weekend Wanderer: 11 April 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


116036“Before Christ Rose, He Was Dead: The truth of Holy Saturday is that God is with us, even in our mortality” – There may not be a lot of attention in some Protestant churches to Holy Saturday, but that is the celebration of today. When Kelly and I attended an Anglican Church immediately during our latter years of college and both served on staff there afterwards, the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday was a highlight of our year. Here is Travis Ryan Pickell reflecting on the meaning of Holy Saturday, and why it is so powerful for our faith.


merlin_170541216_a781cc8f-885d-4337-83d3-e626a77abebf-superJumbo“I Miss Singing at Church” – The Christian faith is a singing faith. Paul writes in Ephesians that believers should encourage “one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). While our family does sing together, in the midst of COVID-19 one of the things I miss most is singing with other believers around me. Here is Tish Harrison Warren reflecting on the same sort of thing in The New York Times: “I miss the congregation singing at the church where I’ve served as a priest for three years. If I could hear them sing this morning, I wouldn’t mind if the person behind me was off key. I would even take a whole load of my least favorite songs, the ones I find plodding or cheesy or overdramatic, if I could just hear them sing with me.”


singing“People Are Remembering What Music Is Really For” – Speaking of singing, here is Spencer Kornhaber in The Atlantic highlighting the way people are engaging in good old-fashioned sing-alongs during this time. Perhaps it is a recovery of what music is really for. For those of us in singing churches, we likely already know this, but the implications for the broader culture are significant artistically and socially. “Here is the kind of crowd culture we can, when we’re lucky, enjoy during isolation. Everywhere, the coronavirus has turned empty streets into acoustically rich amphitheaters.”


Every Moment Holy“Every Moment Holy: New Liturgies for Daily Life” – I first became familiar with Every Moment Holy when our friends came over for brunch and we shared in one of these simple liturgies together. These simple liturgies open up aspects of everyday life to God, while simultaneously opening our awareness to God in the midst of everyday things. They have shared some free liturgies during the time of COVID-19 that you may find meaningful, such as “A Liturgy for Those Flooded by Too Much Information” or  “A Liturgy for Medical Providers.” Enjoy.


Priest taping photos in worship“With coronavirus shutdown, priest tapes photos of his parishioners to pews” – The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel offered this view into how different ministers are dealing with leading worship and preaching with empty pews during the time of COVID-19. Here is the rector of the Basilica of Saint Josaphat, Rev. Lawrence Zurek, borrowing an idea from creative priests in Italy, taping photos of his parishioners to the pews throughout the worship space.


Francis Collins“How NIH chief Francis Collins is trying to get people of faith to wake up to coronavirus realities” – Some of you may be familiar with Francis Collins through his book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. You may not know that Collins is the longest-serving director of the National Institute of Health, which also makes him the supervisor of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has featured so prominently in the press briefings related to COVID-19. Here’s a taste from this interview with Collins at The Washington Post: “There’s a natural instinct for people of faith who are loving and wish to give themselves to others who are hurting to rush in the direction of people who are vulnerable or who are suffering. And over the course of many centuries, people of faith have, to their great credit, put themselves in harm’s way. Right now, they could focus their efforts on trying to supply, nurture and support all of their flock who are struggling right now. This is stressful. This may lead to people having fears, anxiety and other mental-health issues. Pastors ought to be doing everything they can to maintain that connection but not put people at risk.”


Anna Wilson“Anna Wilson: I’m more than a basketball player and more than Russell Wilson’s sister” – A friend shared this ESPN interview with Anna Wilson with me last week, and I found it to be a really interesting read. As the title suggests, there is so much more to her story than her Stanford basketball career and her life as a sibling to football star Russell Wilson. Anna recounts how her faith in Christ has shaped her life in very profound ways, even in the midst of personal suffering.


45005996815_d784be17f1_o-1536x960“2,500 Museums You Can Now Visit Virtually” – In the midst of these terrible circumstances of the pandemic, there are some beautiful things happening. With reference to 2,500 museums that you can now visit virtually, Hakim Bishara provides a sort of top twelve list of museums you can visit while under “safer at home” restrictions.  If you really do not know what to do while stuck at home, don’t miss the chance to visit the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the National Gallery in DC, the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, or some of these other gems.


 

Music: Matt Maher, “Christ is Risen,” from Alive Again

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Senior Pastor Video Update in the Time of COVID-19 (April 8, 2020)

Here is my latest video update for Eastbrook Church as we navigate the time of COVID-19. I will continue to re-post these weekly video updates here at my blog for those who have not seen it or who are not part of our church but could use the encouragement. You can watch it here or at the Eastbrook Church Vimeo channel.

In my video update, I mention Eastbrook’s Holy Week services and experiences for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. You can access it all here, and I encourage you to look at some of the resources and experiences ahead of time so that you can utilize them at home on that day.

For Maundy Thursday:

  • resources for older and/or younger children
  • recipe for unleavened bread and communion service
  • foot-washing ceremony
  • simple seder meal  instructions

For Good Friday:

  • resources for older and/or younger children
  • fasting
  • observing silence from 12-3 pm
  • experiencing the Passion

You could also participate in an online “Way of the Cross,” a virtual walk through Jesus’ final moments..

10 Reasons Holy Week Can Become More Powerful during the Time of the Virus

Rembrandt - The Three Crosses

Holy Week is the pinnacle of our Lenten journey, drawing us into the Passion of Jesus. This year, our Holy Week journey finds us simultaneously facing into one of the worst crises of our lives with the COVID-19 pandemic. This past weekend I reflected on the significance of this intersection of Holy Week and COVID-19, leading me to write these ten reasons our Holy Week journey can become more powerful during the time of the virus.

  1. Stripped – In this time, our activities and lives feel stripped of so much that seems normal. We can fight against this, or we can enter into it with an openness to what God may want to do with us during this time. I think of the physical reality that Jesus was stripped of His garments (Matthew 27:28) speaking to His complete yielding to the Father’s will. May we, too, enter into this Holy Week with humble openness to God. This is no passivity nor resignation, but the living trust in God as our Good Shepherd these days.
  2. Helplessness – During this time, we encounter our helplessness more clearly than ever before. We are put in touch with one of the central realities of the Lenten journey, which is that we are helpless in life apart from God.  We can more deeply cry out to God, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).
  3. We all will face death – Lent teaches us about the fragility of life, and the truth that we will all face death. Death is unavoidable for all human beings, even if we do believe that there is hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ journey to the Cross brings into sharp focus this great reality, while also reminding us that “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
  4. Consolation removed – Because of public health considerations, we face the removal of many of our normal consolations in life, such as friendships, meals with others, and many of the normal pleasures of life. In Holy Week, we see Jesus stepping beyond the consolations of human experience into the place of desolation. He loses His dignity, His clothing, His friendships, and eventually His life. As we let go of many of our own consolations, it reminds us of everything that Jesus lost during His Passion.
  5. Forsakenness – The ultimate desolation is Jesus’ forsakenness from the Father, and the isolation that results. Some of us  may feel abandoned in this time, even forsaken by God. Jesus’ cry of dereliction from the Cross shows us how great the sense of abandonment was between Jesus and the Father as He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In our own forsakenness and isolation we experience some measure of the weight of Jesus’ forsakenness for us.
  6. Suffering surrounds – In the news and in our lives, we are suddenly surrounded by human suffering. We cannot shelter ourselves from it, as some of us have had the luxury of doing in times past. When insulated from the suffering, we often wonder why Jesus’ suffering should be necessary. However, when we face suffering so clearly, we are put in touch with the reality of Jesus’ suffering on the way to the Cross. This makes us more aware of the cost of Jesus’ Passion in Holy Week.
  7. Mental anguish – When praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Luke tells us that Jesus experienced such anguish that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). As we wrestle with mental pressure and struggles with anxiety because of COVID-19, we are able to have some sense of the weight of the world pressing in upon Jesus during Holy Week.
  8. Tears for those in need – Because of the pandemic, we now see the suffering of others so clearly that it becomes heartbreaking to us. Often times our hearts are hardened to others, but this is softening us to the reality of human need. As Jesus looked at Jerusalem after the triumphal entry, He “saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Our tears meet with Jesus’ tears over those in need for humanity as we journey through this week.
  9. Hungry to belong – Our hunger for belonging is high in this time of physical distancing. We miss shaking hands or giving hugs. We miss having grandchildren sit on our laps to read a story or passing dishes around the table with friends. We want to experience relationship, and we can do that thanks to technology, but the barriers are high. This leads us into an encounter with our own needs and loneliness that we often try to avoid. We realize that underneath this is not just our longing for God, but also the God who longs for relationship with us. His longing is so high that He will suffer anything to bring reconciled relationship and belonging.
  10. Longing for hope – Our longing for hope – for life after this death – pulses like the beating of our hearts. We cannot wait for this to “be over,” so that we can return to “life as normal.” We all know that life will not be the same normal that we experienced before, but we still hope for it. How much more meaningful is the resurrection of Jesus Christ than in these days where the longing for hope rises up more sharply than ever before?

A Crash Course in the Gospel (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Ephesians

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the Psalms. Through the Psalms I have learned how to pray. One of my other favorites is the Gospel of John. John’s telling of Jesus’ story has helped me connect my spiritual longings with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ so powerfully. Right after the Psalms and John comes Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here, the basic contours of right thinking about God and right living with God come together in such a short space that every sentence strikes with power.

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, as I continued with our series “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity,” I had the privilege of addressing one of my favorite Scriptural texts in this favorite book of mine. I turned to Ephesians 2:1-10 for “A Crash Course in the Gospel.”

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.

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