Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Gospel of Foolishness

As I write this, we are four days from April…and equally as far from Easter. You see, for the first time since 1956, Easter falls on April 1—and it won’t happen again for another 11 years. So, with this strange coincidence, it seems ‘foolish’ to not reflect on the inherent connections between Easter and April Fool’s Day. And I don’t think I’m stretching to find these connections.

Now, I enjoy joking around and the occasional prank as much as anyone, and pride myself being humorous, but my humor pales in comparison to the massive joke Jesus enacts on Resurrection Day.

The religious and governmental elites thought they had their obnoxious and pervasive issue put to rest. They had rid themselves of this prophetic insurrectionist and they could once again enjoy the perks of unchallenged power and authority. By Friday night, all was made right…by might. Jesus is dead, his followers had scattered, and the normal social hierarchy had been restored. While those closest to Jesus spent that Saturday in grief, the religious and political leaders spent that Saturday in relief.

But, of course, that wasn’t the end of the story. Sunday comes, the tomb is empty, and the Son of God gets the final laugh. Jesus pulls the most elaborate prank in human and cosmic history through defeating death and raising to new life.

“Ta-da! You thought I was gone. You thought you had won. You thought your problems had been (literally) buried away. Well, I’m back. Death couldn’t hold me down.”

The resurrection of Jesus is the most well-crafted and astonishing April Fool’s Joke ever.

But to take this line of thinking one layer deeper, Jesus’ resurrection also reveals the foolishness of thinking that violence is ever the solution to the world’s problems or that death could ever triumph over life. Jesus adamantly declares the incredible wisdom found in what the world would call utter foolishness: that peace doesn’t come through the sword, but through non-violence; that murderers and terrorists are not overcome through violence and war, but through love and generosity; that evil is not conquered through military might, but through the sacrifice of one’s self.

This upside-down paradigm most-certainly seems foolish through a worldly lens, but the Resurrection proclaims the wisdom in this backward way of thinking. Jesus has come bringing a new kingdom of love, grace, generosity, sacrifice, and powerlessness—and the joke’s on anyone who fails to recognize the inherent goodness and truth of this new, radically-different sort of kingdom.

All hail our Mischievous Messiah; our Playful Prince; our Spirited Savior. May we truly embrace the upside-down, mess-with-your-head nature of the resurrection—the foolishness of the cross.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Keeping Holy Week Holy

The donkey has been saddled, the palms have been waved, Jesus has entered Jerusalem, and the week we know as 'Holy Week' has begun. It's a week of mixed emotions, as we teeter between the frivolity of Palm Sunday and the desolation of Friday, which is anything but 'good.' It would be natural for us to be emotionally and spiritually shaken during this hectic week, but the frenzy of church activities that we wedge into this 8-day period can even leave us physically discombobulated.

Holy Week can pretty easily become anything but holy.

Holiness is about being set apart; about things being special and sacred and meaningful. So, I always fear that trying to sandwich so many events into a short period of time does not allow us to properly reflect on the special-ness, sacred-ness, and meaningfulness of the triumphant entry, betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus in the original Holy Week. 

Let's remember to keep Holy Week holy.

Let's commit to the spirit of contemplation, repentance, and worship that a week of this level of significance deserves. Let's take time to reflect and pray. Let's take time to process our own culpability in Jesus' death. And ultimately, let's take time to celebrate the great hope we have in the resurrected Savior, who has saved the world and opened up resurrection potential to us all. Let's allow the holiness of Holy Week to govern our hearts and minds throughout this week -- allowing this week to truly be special, sacred, and meaningful -- not just frenetically busy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring Has Sprung

I've lived in Montana long enough to know that we are nowhere near being done with snow for the year, but it has most-certainly felt more like Spring lately. Finally! Warmer weather has emerged and the snow piles are receding to remind us that the grass has been there all along, patiently waiting to re-emerge. 

What a welcomed sight!

My young family has been suffering from cabin fever for about a month now, so it has been incredible to get back to riding bikes, taking walks, and playing outside. We often celebrate the end of winter through signs like seeing our first robin or tulip of the Spring, but the other phenomenon of this season is the appearance of our neighbors again, for the first time in months. We've all re-emerged from the winter cocoons of our warm homes to rejoin the land of the living. I've missed seeing our neighbors, catching up across the fence, and casually chatting as we meet at the mailbox.

Which has left me processing my role as a neighbor. 

Jesus leaves no doubt about what it means to be a faithful follower of God: we MUST love our neighbors. You want to love God...then love your neighbor. They're one-in-the-same. And while 'neighbor' could certainly be interpreted broadly, with everyone being our 'neighbor,' I'm convinced that when Jesus commands us to 'love our neighbors,' he specifically means the people next door. On our block. In our neighborhood. The people we rub shoulders with each day. The people walking their dog past our home. 

Jesus wants me to love Jerry and Laurie, Greg and Trisha, and Carol across the street. Jesus wants me to be a presence of love, generosity, and hospitality in the place he has located us. On our block. In our apartment building or dorm. At our local school or park. Jesus wants me to intentionally engage with my neighbors, getting to know them as a means of ministering to their specific needs. 

At the very least, Jesus would want me to know their names!

So, how will you take seriously the call to love your neighbors this Spring and that you'll actually see them more often? Do you know your neighbors' names? Do you know anything about them? Have you stopped to talk and listen? Are any of them struggling and could use some help? How might God be calling you to be a presence of blessing in your geographical context, working toward the flourishing of your place?

And more overtly spiritual, who goes to church on your block? Who knows Jesus...and who doesn't? Who could use the presence of God in their lives? Who could benefit from the blessing of deep Christian community? Who would come to an Easter service if you invited them? So, will you be willing to talk to your neighbors about faith, church, and how Jesus has impacted your life in a meaningful way? Will you take the risk of being an inviter -- to the challenging, yet compelling journey with Jesus -- and to a church community that is striving to faithfully take that adventure? Let's commit to the God-ordained and Jesus-demonstrated calling to love our neighbors.