Monday, April 25, 2011

The Day After

Easter is over, unless you are among the select few home from work because "Easter Monday" still means something.  The kids are coming down from their sugar highs and we gear up for grilling out and sporting the American flags as the Memorial Day/Fourth of July holiday season is upon us.  We are winding down from our school years and preparing for family vacations.  Beaches and pools beckon us.  And likely, church pews will empty.  Our charity and consideration for others so present during the winter season of Thanksgiving and Christmas wanes and our minds turn toward escape and relaxation.

I'm not sure if this is a fair description of what happens now, but for myself it becomes very easy to slide into this rut.  But today I think about what the day after resurrection means.  For Jesus' disciples, Maundy Thursday through Saturday must have been so confusing and sorrowful.  Easter Sunday would be incredulous and jubilant, perhaps so much so that they were stopped in their tracks.  But what about the day after.  The realization that the man in whom they had cast their hope, who had apparently died and left them abandoned and alone in their folly, had indeed defeated death and returned from the dead only to ascend before their eyes into heaven.

Do we really believe that?  Because the idea is pretty crazy.  Crazy enough that starting with the day after, Jesus followers had to honestly start asking themselves "what now!?"  Really, do you just drop your jaw and say "wow, Jesus just died and came back to life and I'm watching him ascend into heaven" and then just go back to whatever you were doing, or just start moving on toward the next "normal" holiday or season in the year.  The disciples knew this required action and they followed Jesus instructions to "go and make disciples."  They built the church and established the legacy that would sustain the Christian faith for millenia.  That's what they did the day after Easter. (ok, I'm using the word day in a metaphorical sense, but the question remains)

What are we doing the day after Easter?

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Psalm 37:40

The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

So on this Easter eve I come to the end of my journey. Forty verses in Psalm 37. I'm not a big fan of analysis; when we break things apart they lose their identity, but for this Psalm I have done just that. I do think that working with individual verses has been tough at times, but now at the end, I feel that I get the message of this Psalm-- the whole Psalm better for having done it. So this verse comes at the end of a Holy Week. Saturday night, almost 36 hours after noon Good Friday. I imagine the disciples, restless and weary, a dead messiah in a tomb, thinking about what the day after Sabbath would bring.

Then I think of all the messages of Psalm 37. Patience, trust, abiding, righteousness. I know that when I wake tomorrow, the tomb is going to be empty, but in my life, I wake many mornings wondering "how I'm going to move the stone." The women walked toward the tomb with that same thought on the first Easter. How could you maintain faith in those circumstances? But they still did not desert their Lord, they were faithful even in His death and just like Psalm 37 promised, they received the reward of Good News. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Psalm 37:39

But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in the time of trouble.

"Waves of regret, waves of joy, I reached out to the one I tried to destroy. You, you said you'd wait till the end of the world." It is Maundy Thursday, and that quote is a line from a U2 song. It refers to Judas, who would dine with Christ on Thursday, and partake in the "Last Supper" with our Lord. Today, we remember our time with Christ as he shares the truth that he is the bread of life; the way and the truth. We have no righteousness in ourselves, but only from the Lord. Tomorrow, we remember the day that the world failed to see the only source of our righteousness as we look to our salvation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Psalm 37:38

But all sinners will be destroyed;
the future of the wicked will be cut off.

So many ancient religions seem to focus on not only creation but destruction. We've come to see destruction in a negative way, hardly wanting to associated it with a deity. Creator and destroyer, tear down and build up. Could we be facing our destruction as sinners? Does this mean I will be destroyed? Perhaps it does, and maybe I should look forward to it. Maybe the only way to have a future is to allow the sinner in me to experience death cutting away the future of wicked with only a justified self to walk into the future.

"Justified until we die, you and I will magnify.... Magnificent!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Psalm 37:37

Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
there is a future for the man of peace.

This verse contrast nicely with the previous verse. The temporary versus the permanent. The valuable versus the truly valuable.

How do we find a future? A real future that lasts and not just a few extra minutes to do more of the same. We stop looking for the wicked, we stop fretting over others, and we consider, observe. Who is blameless? Who is upright? We have many close examples in our world and from history. Certainly they are good to follow, but God has provided the blameless and upright for us to observe and consider.

With our eyes set on Christ, not caring for directions or map, but one step at a time following the only righteous and holy one into our future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Psalm 37:36

but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.

On several occasions I've dealt with the grief of losing a student or former student. When a student dies, you remember the petty things that you used to get caught up in, or how the behaviors that once drove you crazy no longer seem so severe. You realize that while education is invaluable and important, there are other things that matter more. That is the balance it takes to be a good teacher. You must realize at the same time how important you are and how unimportant you are to the life of a student.

Life can be the same. It is valuable and precious, but it isn't everything. This verse indicates that what we might think is everlasting will fade away. The trials of today have been overcome though we must still endure them. This world will pass away, at least the world known to us. May we spend our time on things eternal.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Psalm 37:35
I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,

I've never had much luck with plants. I think much of my trouble is not understanding the right timing, placement, and soil preparation. Most of the time I just stick a bush or plant in the ground somewhere it is going to look nice, and then forget about it. I suppose that anything can flourish in its right place. That is probably why Paul described the "fruits of the spirit." If you simply drop a seed in its ideal location, it can grow like crazy. But when you're planted out of your element, it takes much more work. Sometimes I feel like this is the work of a Christian. To learn to grow out of our native soil.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cross

I had the most unusual experience today at church.  Of course, today is Palm Sunday, a celebration of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  It marks the beginning of Jesus journey to the cross.  Churches across the world wave palm fronds and remember the crowds shouting "hosanna, hosanna" to welcome the King.  The rest of the week takes a turn for the worse as Jesus partakes in the Last Supper with his disciples before his arrest.  Afterward he is turned over to the authorities and in no time, that same crowd is shouting "crucify him."

Our pastor chose to mark the alternate designation of this day as "Passion Sunday," rather than jumping from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the celebration of Easter.  Without crucifixion there would be no resurrection.  For this Sunday, our scripture was a lengthy passage from Matthew.  I've read it many times, Jesus before Pilate leading to his crucifixion.  I guess that sometimes familiarity is a bad thing.  I had to read the scripture for the congregation and right in the middle around verse 26, I came to a realization as if I were reading this for the first time.  Reading this passage about Jesus, being led as a lamb to the slaughter-- at least sacrificial animals were treated with some level of dignity and respect-- reading this passage I teared up and had to stop.  In that moment I clearly realized that I wasn't reading just a story on the page, but the story of a world gone mad, a world ready to snuff the very Son of God.  And even worse, I am a part of that world.  Not only do I live in it daily, I contribute to making it what it is.   This is the lesson of Holy Week, and the reason that Easter means so much.

 11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
   “You have said so,” Jesus replied.
 12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
 15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
 19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
   “Barabbas,” they answered.
 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
   They all answered, “Crucify him!”
 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
   But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
 24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
 25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.  27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.  32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
 38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:11-54, New International Version, ©2011)

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Psalm 37:34
Wait for the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

Patience comes up again. Waiting requires submission and trust. Impatience can be a sign that we aren't confident that things will work out so we start making our own plans. Usually in our anxiety we make poor decisions and act on impulse rather than reason. Sometimes I live my spiritual life this way. I start moving because I'm ready to see things happen so I forget to wait on God and His way. The result is usually bad. When I wait, and keep His way, I begin to get a glimpse of the land that I will inherit.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Psalm 37:33

but the LORD will not leave them in their power
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

We spend so much time worrying about others. What they think of us, how they judge us. Sometimes the world beats us down so bad we accept its judgment of who we are. This verse lets us know that with God, we are not under their power, that their judgments mean nothing. The condemnation of the world is not the condemnation of God. It reminds me of Jesus words in John- In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Psalm 37:32

The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
seeking their very lives;

That sounds pretty paranoid. This Psalm talks much about the righteous, but Paul tells us there is none righteous, no, not one. So does that make me the wicked. I'm sure that I fit that category at times, but I am convinced that I have a righteousness that comes not from myself, but God's grace. I really don't think that "the wicked" are sitting around plotting a way to kill me, but I do think that often the ways of wickedness subtly slip into our lives and drain it.

I've been trying to live more healthy the last six or seven months. I remember a scene from "Super Size Me" where Morgan Spurlock downs a large McDonald's meal and gets sick from eating so much. When I first saw that I thought it was crazy. I could knock back a large McDonald's meal without missing a step. But now, I understand. It is easy to let our bodies become compromised by the food we eat without ever realizing the slow toll it is taking on our lives over the years. Over about sixteen years, I put on nearly thirty pounds. Those pounds come on slow and unnoticed, but if I'd kept up the pace, by the time I turn 55 I would have weighed 260 pounds. Hardly healthy. If I eat an value meal today, my body will protest.

We allow the same thing to happen in our spiritual lives. We let things slip in that seem to be no harm, but they slowly eat away at us. When our lives are in order, our souls will protest, but when we let our spiritual health slide, those same things just keep slowly stealing our lives until we're basically dead.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Psalm 37:31

The law of his God is in his heart;
his feet do not slip.

When I think about the law of God being in my heart I think of the phrase "I know that by heart." Odd that when we refer to something memorized we say "I know that by heart" and not "I know that by mind." When we really practice something and get good at it, we don't think about it any more. That's why it is so enthralling to watch a master musician perform, or awe-inspiring to watch a world-class athlete at their craft. There is an effortlessness about their mastery.

People don't watch me play guitar, because with the exception of a G and C chord, I cannot play by heart. I play by mind, and my efforts are clumsy and forced. You could tell by watching me that I know what to do, I'm just not very good at doing it. If we could have the law of God in our heart, our lives might look just a little bit smoother. Watching us live might be a joy as we effortlessly navigate the trials of life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Psalm 37:30

The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.

Justice and wisdom. Justice seems like folly in a world gone mad.

Reparations, amnesty, debt relief, free trade, open immigration, adequate housing, access to health care, fair trade, right to work, right to life, right to education, redistribution of wealth.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Psalm 37:29

the righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.

I find it interesting that dwelling seems to be the most important descriptor of what we shall do in this land that is inherited. There is so much to do with land: farm it, subdivide it, build upon it, work in it, but over and over it is dwell. We walk this earth for a finite season; so short we’re not even dwelling here, we’re on our way. Forever scares me and sometimes I’d prefer to think that I will have an end. But I don’t think that we will. If this land relates to our eternity, then what shall we do—we shall dwell; abide. The journey will be finished; the struggle behind. We shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.

Saturday, April 09, 2011


Psalm 37:28

For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
They will be protected forever,
but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;

So much of what we find in scripture is a reversal of our perception of reality. He who gains his life will lose it type of thing. I wonder if we don’t find the same here. The just are looking out for justice… for all. The wicked are looking for justice… for themselves. I think that we err this way with our patriotism sometimes. We are so bent on protecting our home, our borders, our children; that the children of the world suffer in war zones, refugee camps, sweatshops and brothels.

We disparage immigrant workers because we “can’t take care of our own.” But there aren’t very many of our own starving compared to the world. If we devote so much of our time on Earth to protecting—we clearly aren’t looking out for our treasure in heaven. Perhaps the faithful are doing just that, looking out for their treasure in heaven because they certainly don’t have anything of value in this world.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


Psalm 37:26

They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed.

In our world, we like to think that our children come first. I’m not so sure that is always the best; for us or them. When we spend much of our time elevating our child above others, making sure our child has the best, making sure out child doesn’t miss an opportunity.

A few years ago I attended a kindergarten program at my son’s school. You could hardly see from the back because of all the parent’s standing to video the show. And they all had to have their own video because their child was the star.

The righteous are generous and lend freely; living a life of giving openly displayed for their children. They don’t horde their possessions to shower their children, they allow their children to join them in sacrifice and love for others instead of love for self.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Psalm 37:25

I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.

This one is tough. Will the righteous not face hardship? Do the oppressed and violated somehow have a hand in their fate because of their lack of faith? The horrors of warfare, holocaust and genocide; were they all wicked, deserving to be abandoned by God?

Are we not even told by Jesus that in this world we will have trouble? Yes, and we are also reminded that He has overcome the world. Jesus spoke to us about living water, and the bread of life. He urged us to store up our treasures in heaven, and asked what it is to gain the whole world at the cost of one’s soul.

Perhaps we expect a physical solution to a spiritual problem?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Psalm 37:24

though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

I guess it would be important to understand the difference between a stumble and a fall. I’ve done both. When I stumble, it startles me for a moment. My heart rate goes up, my muscles jump to attention. I look around to see if anyone saw it, whether it counts or not. Sometimes I feel stupid and I’ve stumbled because I didn’t pay attention or was doing something I shouldn’t have. Sometimes I’m thankful and my stumbling makes me more mindful of my steps as I continue. I stumble a lot; I’ve got a weak ankle and it turns frequently. I drop just a bit and catch myself.

Sometimes I fall. When I fall, it doesn’t even matter if anyone is looking. When I fall it usually hurts, and sometimes leaves a mark. Usually my clothes get dirty or torn. If I’m going somewhere, often a fall will derail those plans or at least severely alter them. Sometimes when I fall I try things in desperation to keep myself upright and that usually ends in disaster; I pull something or someone else down and make a mess.

God tells us that if He delights in our ways, we may stumble, but we will not fall. I know what it is like to fall, and I sure want to stay on my feet; even if I trip up from time to time—it’s just not the same as falling.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Psalm 37:23

If the LORD delights in a man's way,
he makes his steps firm;

Firm steps. That’s what we all want, to walk without slipping, to progress without faltering. God will do this for us if He delights in our way. If he is pleased by how we live. This is another one that seems to just make sense. Sometimes it is my “stumbling” or “falling” that teach me the most. When I am travelling in a way unpleasing to God I should rejoice that my steps are not firm, that I will likely slip and fall at any time rather than continuing on in the way of destruction.

I’m reminded of the Tower of Babel when God said, we’ve got to stop them; if they’ve come this far imagine what they might do next. Only when our ways please the Lord will our actions serve to truly build up ourselves and humanity, and only in those ways do we deserve to walk with a firm step.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Little Easter Reflection 3

I'll never forget several years ago, an interim pastor at our church invited everyone back the next week for Easter by saying it is the day that we celebrate "God's greatest joke on humanity."

I thought it was brilliant. Death, the ultimate end of humanity, the fear of all, the proof that we are broken and finite-- defeated by death itself on a Cross. How ironic that the King would bleed and die to save. I'm reminded of Paul's words that the wisdom of God seems foolish to the world.

We've lost that. It was foolish to die on a cross when He could have destroyed all who opposed Him, it was foolish of Him do heal the soldier's ear who was there to arrest him. It was foolish to open his arms in love to the embrace and kiss of Judas. The love of Christ for humans appears foolish in our view of the world. If it wasn't so foolish, we'd probably show much more of this love than we do.

We've come to look at Jesus death and resurrection as tool for entry to heaven that we are thankful that he did it; don't totally understand why; but unwilling to accept it as the example of wisdom in our own lives.

Some might be offended by referring to Easter as a joke. When we refuse to love like Jesus but expect him to save us by His death- that is when we truly make a joke of Easter.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Psalm 37:22

those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be cut off.

Blessings and curses. These words take us back to Abraham. God told him that he would be blessed to be a blessing to the earth. But those who curse him, God will curse also. God has entered the world of humanity to show it the way. This way will lead to blessing, a way that brings us closer to God. The Hebrew Bible shows us how impossible it is for humans to follow this way of God. It leaves us wondering how God can decide who to hand out His blessings and curses to. He first blessed one who understood that a blessing from God was for others as much as self. Through inheritance this blessing continued through generations and a people meant to be a holy priesthood showing God to the world.

God told Abraham that whomever blessed him, God would also bless and whomever cursed him, God would also curse. I think that then as it is now, the status of blessed or cursed often comes from the choices that we make in relationship to God. We choose to claim our inheritance through Christ or we choose to seek another way. Being cursed and cut off seems harsh and cold, but if I have spent my life avoiding God and moving away from Him, would I even want to inherit the promises He’s given?

Friday, April 01, 2011


Psalm 37:21

The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;

Does anyone borrow and not repay? Of course it happens, but I bet if you compared the number of people who think someone owes them money with the number of people who think they owe someone else the numbers wouldn’t match up. At best we may think “oh yeah, I really need to pay that person back,” but we probably never say “they’ll never see that again, it is all mine now.” I guess at the heart of this is the fact that I feel righteous by this verse. I don’t borrow money from people, and I always honor my household debts, that’s one point, but I also think that I’m pretty generous compared to most people in my situation.

But any scripture that makes me feel “good” causes me to worry a bit. I know that I can’t measure up to God, so when I start feeling like I’m getting close I think that I must be missing a point somewhere. So how have I borrowed, and not repaid? I think about the land that I walk on, and the small piece of property that I claim to “own.” Can I possess a piece of God’s earth and claim my own sovereignty over it? From whom do I borrow this land? I think about my education and the knowledge that gives me a title. Does this knowledge belong to me that I should hold privilege because of it and earn my way to comfort and luxury? I think about the institutions of school and church and government that have afforded me values, ideals, and prosperity; I consider these mine, but do I take the time to consider the backs that were broken and the lives that were given and taken for this.

Ultimately, I consider my life. Do I consider it my own, to spend as I see fit? Have I borrowed this life from my creator without a thought of repayment or have I given all, generously given all that I am in recognition that there is nothing in me apart from God.