Church Calendar

It’s the End of the Church Year as We Know It and I Feel Fine

It’s the End of the Church Year as We Know It and I Feel Fine

The end of the Church Year as we know it is coming and we should feel fine about that reality.

All good things must come to an end. For those of you who are new to the Church calendar, we are coming to the end of the Church liturgical year. The Church year goes from Advent to Advent. You are going to see a change in liturgical colors if you attend or are visiting a liturgical church like mine. We go from greena to purpleb. Pentecost is the final season of the Church, because it re-enacts for us the going-forth of the Gospel to all the world. The green represents this fertile land prepared to be harvested by God. Green speaks of the life the gospel gives. But beginning this Sunday, November 30th, we re-start the entire Church year and begin anew this cycle of expectation, coming, glory, and power.

Why do we go through this cycle again and again? We go through it because we love the Gospel. We love to see it embodied in a baby and we love to see it embodied in an exalted, resurrected King.

The Church Calendar for us is a glorious repetition of what the world was before Christ, what the world became after Christ, and what the world shall be in Christ. The end is coming, but a new beginning is near.

  1. On Pentecost Sunday, we wear red to signify the fire of the Spirit of God descending  (back)
  2. Purple signifies the expectation of God’s people  (back)
For All the Saints

For All the Saints

We will confess this morning in worship the unity of the body, and by doing so we are confessing our union with those gone before us. In Christ, we are connected to a new creation.

We have read many times the list of biblical martyrs in Hebrews 11. At the end, they are commended for their faith. We do not worship past saints, we do not kneel before past saints, but we do honor past saints. And we do so enthusiastically. Why? Because from their hands was the faith once delivered to us. We are heirs of the promises of the Gospel given to us by the hands of the saints gone before us.

No institution can succeed—whether the Church or the family—without models and heroes. In fact, the liturgical year is about “the cloud of witnesses who have lived the life before us.”[1] These witnesses shape our ecclesiology.

So how is history forcing you to re-consider the saints gone before us? Who are your models, your children’s models? What is shaping our church’s definition of a saint? This is a question we must all ask. When you consider a hero, what characteristics are you using to make such a determination? Is it faith, hope, love, loyalty? What is it?

For the biblical writers, we cannot know God properly without knowing the saints He has used to shape the world.

All Saints’ Day is a day to remember those who from their labors rest by faith before the world confessed the name of Jesus, who is forever blessed. Alleluiah! Alleluiah!

Prayer: O Most Holy God, you have formed a Blessed Communion, a fellowship divine! We are grateful for uniting us under the Lordship of your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Strengthen us in that unity and cause us to love one another with the love you have given to us so freely and abundantly. Do this for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

[1] Models and Heroes, Joan Chittister.

What is the Ascension of our Lord?

What is the Ascension of our Lord?

The Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord today. Since most churches are not able to have Thursday services, traditionally many of them celebrate Ascension on Sunday. The Ascension of Jesus is barely mentioned in the evangelical vocabulary. We make room for his birth, death, and resurrection, but we tend to put a period where God puts a comma.

If the resurrection was the beginning of Jesus’ enthronement, then the ascension is the establishment of his enthronement. The Ascension activates Christ’s victory in history. The Great Commission is only relevant because of the Ascension. Without the Ascension, the call to baptize and disciple the nations would be meaningless. It is on the basis of Jesus’ enthronement at the right-hand of the Father that we image-bearers can de-throne rulers through the power and authority of our Great Ruler, Jesus Christ.

The Ascension then is a joyful event, because it is the genesis of the Church’s triumph over the world. Further, it defines us as a people of glory and power, not of weakness and shame. As Jesus is ascended, we too enter into his ascension glory (Col. 3:1) This glory exhorts us to embrace full joy. As Alexander Schmemann once wrote:

“The Church was victorious over the world through joy…and she will lose the world when she loses its joy… Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.”

A joy-less Christian faith is a faith that has not ascended. Where Christ is we are.

And we know that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is ruling and reigning from his heavenly throne. The Father has given him the kingdom (Psalm 2), and now he is preserving, progressing, and perfecting his kingdom. He is bringing all things under subjection (I Cor. 15:24-26).

We know that when he was raised from the dead, Jesus was raised bodily. But Gnostic thinking would have us assume that since Jesus is in heaven he longer needs a physical body. But the same Father who raised Jesus physically, also has his Son sitting beside him in a physical body.  As one author observed:

Jesus has gone before us in a way we may follow through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent, because the way is in his flesh, in his humanity. a

Our Lord is in his incarnation body at the right hand of the Father. This has all sorts of implications for us in worship. We are worshipping a God/Man; one who descended in human flesh and who ascended in human flesh. He is not a disembodied spirit. He is truly God and truly man.

As we consider and celebrate the Ascension of our blessed Lord, remember that you are worshiping the One who understands your needs, because he has a body just like you and he rejoices with you because he has a body just like you.

  1. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World. Paraphrased  (back)
Devotional for the Easter Season

Devotional for the Easter Season

Easter CREC Devotions 2014 – Download now for FREE a

  1. Provided by the Communion of Reformed and Evangelical Churches  (back)
5 Lessons I (Re)Learned in Lent

5 Lessons I (Re)Learned in Lent

Easter Season is here! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Easter came with all the glory expected. Every year it just seems more and more meaningful. But as I am slowly immersing into the season of abundant joy, I ask myself what to do with the season that is now behind us, namely Lent?

The 40 days of Lent a provided some genuine times of reflection, introspection, and renewal. The Season went by faster than I anticipated, but it left a profound mark in my life. There are five lessons I thought I’d share as I enter the Easter Season with a tremendous appetite to see Christ exalted in everything I do.

First, I learned that Lent is needed. We tend to think that we can meditate on everything without any order or sequence. We simply can’t. God loves time. He gave it to us. He knows we need to be structured as human beings, and He gave the Church wisdom to help us structure our meditations and concerns. To do so, He gave us Jesus. Jesus is with us all year long as we live, move, and have our being in Him through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost (Trinity). We need not just Christ, but His entire life lived, crucified, and raised. Consistent meditation on one theme over the others causes misdirection in affection and the Christian experience.

Second, I learned that Lent is for loving. We live for others. We live for the community. We follow the Head, and following Him means serving the body. Lent is for going the extra mile in service and charity.

Third, Lent is for dying. Life is structured as a death/resurrection pattern. We all enjoy the latter motif, but we find the dying part to be a bit outrageous. Perhaps our expectations need to be re-shaped. Lent is for dying to self. It’s for taking up the cross. It’s for weeping with those who weep. Lent is the realization that the joy of living is dying, so that others may live.

Fourth, Lent is imprecation. In Lent we learn that God has enemies.  In Lent we pray that God would act justly upon those who humiliate, abuse, torture, and murder the innocent. I learned that imprecation is the most powerful response to such cowards. In Lent I learned that God’s justice is always perfect and His acts always timely.

Finally, during Lent I learned that I do not love the cross as I ought. I learned that crucifixion and death are still too foreign to my way of thinking. I learned that the death of Jesus continues to have serious consequences for the way I live my life.

Through Lent, I learned that I needed Easter and that Easter needs Lent.

  1. also known as Quadragesima  (back)
The Resurrection Does Not Happen All At Once

The Resurrection Does Not Happen All At Once

Athanasius once wrote:

               “A marvellous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.”

There is a reversal that occurs at the resurrection. Sadness turns into joy; weeping turns into feasting. But it should be noted that the effects of the resurrection do not occur all at once. They take time in the life of God’s people. Personal battles we face, the problem with addictions, the culture of death, and much more are not outside of the control of God. God is in charge, but his in-charge-ness does not mean that we find ourselves free from these evils by our own volition or our good intentions.

The Resurrection is the death of death, but from the time of the resurrection until now, we know that death has an incredible blood supply, because it keeps bleeding, but it does not ultimately die until the Second Coming. So, on this day we pray that God’s resurrection justice would come speedily on the ills of our time, the many sins that tempt and consume us at times. Come, Lord Jesus! Cause us to see the resurrection as you have taught us. Show us daily that the tomb is empty and deliver us from evil by the power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Let us prepare our hearts to worship our Risen Lord!

Prayer: Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

What is Maundy Thursday?

What is Maundy Thursday?

Holy Week is inaugurated on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday is the unfolding drama of Jesus’ last week before his death. As the King enters into Jerusalem to inspect his holy city, received by a multitude of rejoicers, he discovers that the city is corrupt (Zec. 9). As the week continues, Jesus enters into a host of confrontations with the religious leaders of the day, which caused them to detest the Paschal Lamb, and ultimately crucify Him.

The events of Maundy Thursday are powerful events in the life of the Christian Church. The name “Maundy Thursday” is derived from the Latin word mandatum meaning “commandment.” In John 13 :31-35, Jesus tells his disciples that he has a new commandment, that you love one another. Obeying this commandment serves as the way the world will recognize the children of God.

Another element of Maundy Thursday is the administration of the Eucharist. Maundy Thursday describes the disciples’ Last Supper with their Lord. It was during that meal that Judas was identified as the one who betrayed our Lord. Judas’ kissing the Son of Man was the confirmation that he himself had become the son of perdition. His betrayal by a kiss is indicative of his all-consuming hatred for the message of Jesus. Judas, who partook of Christ at the Last Supper, now partook of Christ’s body by the kiss of death.

Maundy Thursday is a service of love and gratitude. On this day, the people of God join others to renew their love for one another, and to renew their commitment to our Lord as we eat his flesh and drink his blood. By this they will know that we are His disciples.

Holy Week: The Reproach

Holy Week: The Reproach

The reproach:

My people, What have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
I led you out of Egypt; but you led your Savior to the Cross.
For forty years I led you safely through the desert,
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to the land of plenty; But you led your Savior to the Cross.
O, My people! What have I done to you that you should testify against me?

Holy God. Holy God. Holy Mighty One. Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

Which Crowd?

Which Crowd?

Doug Wilson summarizes well that the crowd that received Jesus is not the same crowd that cried out “Crucify him:”

There are many things that can be drawn out of this story, but this morning, we are just going to focus on one of them. When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem—where He was to be lifted up and draw all men to Himself—He was greeted by multitudes. Contrary to the popular assumption that the Triumphal Entry crowd and the “crucify Him” crowd were the same people, we have no reason for identifying them. These people who greeted Him were doing so sincerely. Jesus was approaching Jerusalem in order to save multitudes, and He was greeted there by multitudes. Their central cry was Hosanna, which means “Save, we pray.” In other words, we are praying that You would save us. “Yes,” He answered.

Palm Sunday Meditation

Palm Sunday Meditation

We celebrate today the coming of the King into Jerusalem. I think if Hollywood were to put Palm Sunday into a movie they probably would have Jesus coming in a military tank surrounded by an army ready to declare war. But Hollywood has never read Zechariah. Jesus is King, but Jesus is a king in a far different way than all other kings are kings. As king, He comes endowed with salvation, humble, mounted on a donkey, even a colt, the foal of a donkey. As king, He conquers by offering Himself for His people. And if we want to share His conquest, we must go and go likewise.

The way of kingship is cross before crown; suffering before glory. Jesus turns everything upside down: his coming was filled with nuanced symbolic meaning. His arrival was true to the Hebrew Scriptures, but it was true in a way that they did not expect. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that one way Christ executes his office of king is by ruling and defending us. The Jews wanted to be ruled and defended, but they did not want to be ruled and defended in the way Christ wanted to rule and defend.  Sometimes we want a king, but we want him to function the way we think best. Palm Sunday is the announcement that Christ’s kingship is expressed in a unique way; in a way that puzzles the crowd, but still in a way that gives them hope. May this hope be ours today.

Prayer: Almighty God, on this day, your son Jesus Christ entered the holy city of Jerusalem and was proclaimed King by those who spread garments and palm branches along his way.  Let those branches be for us signs of his victory, and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our Lord, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life.  In his name we pray. Amen.