My First Ordained Easter

My inaugural Easter as an ordained minister was one of my last first things.

Firsts matter. They are remembered, defining or confining us.

In the summer after a bishop laid his hands on me, with the title “Reverend” linked to my name and vocation, I served—for a first time—communion. I would marry teenaged sweethearts (they divorced a few years later), participate in baptisms, visit the dying, comfort the grieving, witness open graves and closed hearts, teach Sunday school, help celebrate Christmas, make a hundred (or more) mistakes, and once or twice I even preached.

Having wrangled a position as a student intern—taking a year off from seminary—I worked with several other pastors in a suburban congregation.

With a summer start, Easter was forever away. And then it came. Being ordained made it different. Though “only” an intern and newbie pastor, anticipating that first Easter loomed as a pivotal experience.

Church was part of my family’s life since before I could remember. And yet, truth be told, on several childhood Easters, my church-going-Bible-believing-Christ-centered-God-loving parents announced we were home-bound.

“It’s too crowded,” Mom explained. Continue reading →

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Easter Became Easter

John 20:1-18Easter Sunday – for Sunday, April 16, 2017

“Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark . . .” (John 20:1)

Above, the leaves on the trees shimmered, and below each blade of grass glowed a green flame.

Still dark.

Half-light.

Gray dawn.

Before Easter became Easter, it was a moment and movement of shadows. There was dashed hope and incredulity, simmering anger and personal regrets, sweet memories and a bitter future, and a splintering of once brash and committed disciples that were—again—fearful, hesitant, self-doubting individuals.

Some disciples had fled. One had deceived. All trembled.

The Beloved Disciple (the “one whom Jesus loved”) bent down to gaze at where Jesus had been laid.

Until now, his eyes had seen everything, from the first unexpected call to discipleship by the backcountry preacher, to the towns and villages with miracles, healings, parables, and tender mercies.

Many were stunned by Jesus’ wisdom, with so many lives transformed through his message: the wayward and wounded, the ill and the ill-begotten, the women and children, the poor and the rich, the whores and tax collectors, the haters and lovers, the strong and silent, the young and elderly, the forgotten and the cursed.

But then came Jerusalem. Continue reading →

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Easter’s Other Women

Luke 24:1-12 – Easter – for March 27, 2016

“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.” (Luke 24:10)

empty-tombEaster has devolved into a slurry of candy bunnies, lilies with a shelf life at the supermarket, a little time off from work, and a tease for the looming, longer summer vacation. Eggs, real and plastic, are painted by the dozen, hidden, and hunted.

Where is Jesus?

That was also what they wanted to know at the first Easter.

I read Luke’s account of the empty tomb again. Was it for the hundredth or five hundredth time? I’ve studied it, analyzed it, de-Greeked it, and have dutifully compared different translations of the third Gospel’s twenty-fourth chapter. Inside warm, cozy churches and outside at chilly sunrise services where plumes of breath appeared like smoke announcing a new pope, I’ve preached it honestly, preached it poorly, and—until this last week—would claim I knew the passage well.

There was no denying my surprise at the 10 times (in the Common English Bible version) Luke’s passage included the words “they” or “the women.” And I admit bewilderment at Luke’s solitary use of “the other women.”

According to Luke, the women visited the tomb after the crucifixion to care for his dead flesh with “fragrant spices.” They find the tomb has been opened. They enter that tomb. They can’t help but notice . . .

Where is Jesus? Continue reading →

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