Between Friday and Sunday

Open doorI know the end, which means I know the beginning.

And yet knowing is only a thin slice of believing.

The most athletic of dates, Easter annually leaps from March to April and back again. Easter represents the end: of Jesus’ earthly ministry, of the disciples having a leader in the flesh to follow, of the religious authorities confident they actually wielded authority, of the empire going about its business as the bully that won every argument. There on Friday, after all, Jesus died. In the end, he was dead and buried thanks to the quick assistance of Nicodemus and an Arimathean named Joseph.

But it represents a beginning, then and now: Easter dawned a morning like every morning and like no other morning. Easter began, long ago before it was dubbed Easter, with those women tramping in the dark toward nothing and everything. Easter, which for every modern Christian preacher has been clearly marked on the calendar for a year, arrives. Once it seemed far away. And then it was next Sunday.

God overcomes death, we preach.

Christ is risen, we preach.

Continue reading →

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 →

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 →