EASTER REALITY THIS YEAR: SOME BORROWED THOUGHTS

EASTER REALITY THIS YEAR: SOME BORROWED THOUGHTS

Easter Sunday is almost here, but many of us have been thinking about it for several weeks. This morning I reviewed some of the articles I have read during this time and thought some who read my blog may be interested in reading them.

Looking back over these selections, I was drawn to them again as I was originally by their titles. It was the titles that got my attention because each one was so powerful that by itself it said so much.

Below are four of the titles with minimal commentary by me and the link to the article for those who might like to read more. If you don’t have the time or interest to read them, I think the titles alone will stimulate your thinking.

 

Have Yourself a Bittersweet Easter by Todd Hunter (March 31, 2020)

Bittersweet, of course, is the basic point and describes what we’re feeling as we come to the greatest day of celebration in the Christian year. Hunter says what’s true when he reminds us “a normal Easter is out of reach this year.” We rejoice that Jesus rose from the dead. But our world is shaken by the COVID – 19 impact with so many forced changes in our lives as well as victims of the virus. Hunter notes, “This year we celebrate in the context of deep lament.”  https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2020/march-web-exclusives/bittersweet-easter-holy-week-coronavirus.html

 

An Easter without Going to Church – The pandemic has laid an egg on our worship. By Daniel Harrell (March 25, 2020)

Harrell refers to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines and rightly reminds us “Easter worship as we’ve known it is doomed.” However, he quotes another writer’s statement of truth, “The church remains the church whether gathered or scattered.” And then he adds, “The church remains the church online, too.”  https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/easter-without-church-covid-19-coronavirus.html?utm_source=connection-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=25166636&utm_content=705070787&utm_campaign=email

 

Not Even the Gates of a Hellish Pandemic Will Prevail over God’s Church (April 6, 2020) by Esau McCaulley

“The somber season of Lent seems perfectly suited to the moment. This is a time of national lament. But as we turn the corner for Easter, dare we say more?”

“If the prophets of the Old Testament have anything to teach us, it’s that precisely in the darkest moments of our history, we need divinely inspired and freshly articulated hope.”

“I don’t know what the future of Christianity holds in the weeks and months to come. I do know, however, that the church will not be overcome by a virus. I know this is not the end, and I know that we will in fact worship together again.”                                                                                                                       https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/easter-coronavirus-covid-19-not-even-gates-hellish-pandemic.html

 

The Resurrection Has Not Been Canceled by Timothy Dalrymple (April 8, 2020)

This just came today and sparked the idea for this post. Don’t you love the title?

“Church doors are closed. Schools are no longer meeting. Businesses are shuttered. Restaurants and cafés are empty, cinema screens are dark, and concert halls are silent. Countless meetings and gatherings, weddings and funerals, conferences and events have been canceled.

The resurrection is not canceled. God is always in the business of bringing life out of death. Jesus emerged from the tomb so that we can do the same—on Easter and every other day. There is nothing in all the world that could have stopped the resurrection of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, and there is nothing that can stop it today.” https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/coronavirus-easter-resurrection-not-canceled.html?utm_source=ctdirect-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=15819991&utm_content=706425458&utm_campaign=email

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PRIME TIME

The phrase Prime Time is used in a variety of contexts. Most prominent, perhaps, is the period of TV programming in the middle of the evening when the most people are watching. Many years ago when we purchased a timeshare (that we finally unloaded a couple of years ago) I noted that certain weeks of the year were designated Prime Time and the rules for using the timeshare those weeks were different.

For the past 45 years or so in my life, Prime Time has meant something different to me vocationally and personally. Prime Time for me comes once a year, but is not the same time each year — it varies. Nor is its length always the same for me; it’s sometimes longer and sometimes shorter. This year Prime Time began for me on Monday.

Prime Time for me each year is anywhere between seven and three weeks before and including Easter Sunday. It was Prime Time for me vocationally all these years because I was serving as a pastor. I never preached the same series, but I always preached a series of sermons leading up to Easter focusing on the life and ministry of Jesus, concluding with his resurrection.

But the reason the time leading up to Easter was Prime Time for me was not just because of the preaching. That period was Prime Time for me also because I always used it to focus on and cultivate my personal spiritual life. Preparing to preach was part of it, but certainly not all of it.

This year will be the fourth Easter since I retired after 30 years as pastor of Discovery Christian Church. It will be the fourth year I haven’t prepared a sermon series leading up to Easter or preached on Easter Sunday. And I am fine with that. Preparing sermons and preaching is a great joy and privilege, but it is also a lot of work!

I haven’t prepared a series or preached on Easter the past three years, but I have maintained my practice of focusing on and cultivating my personal spiritual life. I started reading the Gospel of Mark on Monday thinking if I read a chapter a day five days a week I would read about the crucifixion (chapter 15) on Good Friday and the resurrection (chapter 16) on Saturday or Sunday.

If you don’t have a plan for this year’s Prime Time I invite, challenge, and encourage you to join me. One chapter a day five days a week of Bible reading doesn’t take long, but can be very rewarding—especially during Prime Time!

(Let me know below if you are going to join me in reading Mark these three weeks and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.)

 

 

 

ARE YOU GOING TO SEE RISEN?

With a few exceptions, I have been disappointed the last several years with the movies I have seen based upon the Bible. If you saw Noah and/or Exodus: Gods and Kings you know what I mean. If you didn’t see them you were wise not to waste your time or spend your money.

I saw the new film Risen yesterday and I am pleased to report that not only was I not disappointed, I was impressed and enjoyed it. I agree with both Fox News’ reporter Todd Starnes who proclaimed “It’s a miracle! Hollywood finally tells a great Bible story” and Christianity Today’s chief film critic Alissa Wilkinson who reported it “is not quite like any film based on the Bible that I’ve seen before.”

As the title indicates, Risen is about Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday following His Good Friday crucifixion. Others may not agree with me, but I thought the movie was biblical, realistic, inspirational, and touching. It cost me $21.50 for my ticket, diet coke, popcorn, and candy; but the $8.25 for the ticket was worth it as was the time it took to see it. (Note I did not say the diet coke, popcorn, and candy was worth $13.25).

Was the movie perfect? No. No movie made from a book or novel will be perfect. Think about some of the movies you have seen that were made from a novel. I remember years ago reading Jaws and then how surprised I was when I saw the movie. The movie was not like I had imagined it would be based upon reading the novel.

Does Risen add to the Bible’s account? Yes. Is what it adds speculative. Yes. To make a movie from the Bible requires that some speculative addition be made. Risen tells the story of what happened after Jesus rose from the dead through a Roman tribune soldier named Clavius who was Pilate’s right hand man. His assignment is to find the corpse of the crucified Nazarene so they can refute the rumor that He rose from the dead.

Of course there is no Clavius in the Gospel accounts, but Matthew 27:62-64 does tell us the chief priests and the Pharisees were aware that before His death Jesus said He would rise again. Those verses also tell us the religious leaders were afraid Jesus’ disciples would steal His body and tell people He had risen. And Matthew 28:11-15 tells us the chief priests paid the soldiers to lie about what happened. In the movie almost everything Clavius deals with from Jesus’ death to His ascension has some basis in the Gospels. That is why I said above the film is realistic.

In the midst of a lot of biblical material in the movie, there are a few dislocations of sayings in terms of where they appear in the Bible. I can live with that as I was pleased to see so much Bible in the story’s speculation and additions. I don’t know if any Roman soldiers became believers after Jesus’ resurrection and before His ascension. But I do know that when Jesus died some soldiers remarked, “Surely he was the Son of God!” And Acts 10 tells us about a centurion name Cornelius who later became a Christian.

You have to decide for yourself if you want to see this movie. Having seen it I can say it was not totally satisfying, but it was worth seeing.

Reply with comments below and share this post with others who may be interested.

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