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Roll Away the Stone…

Thoughts From the Porch

Happy Easter! The rain passed last night, and brilliant sunshine filled our quiet cul-de-sac. The trees are almost a neon green reflecting the bright light. There’s an unusual silence these days. The birds are still singing but the distant interstate is void of traffic. The ‘stay at home’ order applies to Easter church services so there’s few people going anywhere, particularly on an early Sunday morning. Such is life during the coronavirus…

Today’s Easter service came via Facebook Live. It was typical of most church Easter services – a time of praise and worship followed by a message about the cross. I wondered how we came to see the cross as the symbol of Christianity. I get the sacrifice and atonement ideas, but the cross was absent from the early Church. The cross was an ugly symbol of Rome’s occupation and violence. The persecuted Christian minority didn’t exactly see it as a religious icon.

It wasn’t until 318 C.E. that Christianity became an accepted, and then state, religion. According to legend, Constantine the Great had a vision of a cross and the words in hoc signo vinces (“in this sign you will conquer”). He promised to pledge himself to Christianity if he could defeat his rival, Maxentius, for the throne. Though outnumbered by Maxentius, he won the battle and became Emperor decreeing Christianity to be the state religion. The cross became an icon for the Church.

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I often wonder what the early Christians thought about all this. They had every reason to be suspicious of the Emperor’s edict. Previously persecuted and reviled (‘Christian’ was a term of derision) tends to lead to suspicion. Moreover, I wonder how they viewed the new iconography of the cross.

I’m not trying to diminish the power of Jesus’ death on the cross, but I’m wondering if we haven’t concentrated on the wrong symbol. The cross has become so commonplace its lost meaning. It’s just a nice piece of jewelry most of the time. Hey, I’ve worn one…

Maybe I should wear a rock instead. You know, the stone that was rolled away (it’s a bit difficulty to wear an empty tomb…). It reminds me that I met the resurrected Jesus: the one who gives life “abundantly” (John 10.10): or as The Message puts it “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”. The resurrected Jesus brought me into a life better than I could ever had imagined. That, my friends, is truly good news. Living life to the full…

Jesus summed it up well in his first recorded public speaking engagement:

“When he stood up to read (at his synagogue), he was handed the scroll of Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place it is written,

God’s Spirit is on me;

He’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,

Sent me to announce pardon to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,

To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, ‘This is God’s year to act’!”

(Luke 4.17-21)

That sounds like a pretty good life to me…

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Easter People…

Thoughts From the Porch: Another beautiful Spring Day here in Fort Worth so it’s off to the farm. No time to write this morning. Before I go, I just wanted to say I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. We did here at the Joel household! Any time you spend you get to spend a whole weekend with close friends it’s a great weekend!

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“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask but when we are challenged to be what we can be.”   — Morris Alder

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“Easter says to us that despite everything to the contrary, his will for us will prevail, love will prevail over hate, justice over injustice and oppression, peace over exploitation and bitterness.”   — Desmond Tutu

Easter symbolizes resurrection and rebirth. May we all live as Easter people today.

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Good Friday

Thoughts From the Porch: The wind is a bit frisk this morning, but all is well on the porch. It’s still too wet to work on the farm so I’m enjoying the quiet solitude of our little cul-de-sac and my second pot of coffee.

Today is Good Friday. I’ve always been curious how it came to be called “Good” Friday. I get the idea that Jesus’ crucifixion led to a Good Sunday (Easter), but there’s really nothing good about hanging someone on a cross. Maybe Christians would do well to change their iconography for the cross to a stone. I’d rather constantly remember the resurrection than a barbaric and humiliating form of capital punishment. I want to be a resurrection disciple.

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Those who have experienced God’s grace on a deep level tend to be aware of the price paid for their redemption. They know spiritual death. They know what the proverbial “end of the rope” is. They know what it’s like to have nowhere and no human being to turn to. They know that accepting God’s grace is the only thing that will bring us back to life and there’s no doubt how costly that grace was and is. They eagerly cling to Easter and resurrection.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to stay stuck on the crucifixion, to live in the past, and forget that the real joy in life comes from the resurrection. God did, and does, the impossible. He often does for us what we cannot, and sometimes will not, do for ourselves. That’s where the real power lies. Not in the cross, but in the rolled-away stone…

“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”. John 10.10 (The Message)

Today, I’m living in the present, enjoying the resurrected life I’ve been given…

“Yes, all the things I thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant”. Phillipians 3.8 (The Message)