Archive for the ‘Easter’ Tag

Good Friday Sacrifice   5 comments

What’s the one thing you look forward to most on Easter?

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Easter is the high holiday for evangelical Christians like myself. While Christmas gets all the flash and bang by society, Easter is the pivot point of our faith. The entire life and work of Jesus Christ, right up to and including His death on the cross, means nothing outside of Easter. None of it would have had any effect had He not risen again.

Image result for image of the Lord's Supper

For me, Easter starts a couple of weeks before the actual date. Baptists don’t celebrate Lent … actually, I’ve never really understood that word “celebrate” in connection to Lent, which is a time of self-deprivation. I tried it one year with some friends as an experiment and, while dealing with the sudden cravings for chocolate that I’d never had before I chose to give it up for Lent was interesting, but I didn’t have a spiritual experience from it. My pastor at the time suggested this was because Baptists already practice self-control in many areas that society thinks are odd, so saying I wasn’t going to eat chocolate for 40 days was simply just practicing a skill I already possessed. Maybe.

But back to the subject. Once a quarter during the year, our church does the Lord’s Supper and Good Friday is one of those times. I do a more relaxed format of this every quarter, but Easter is when I really try to be formal with myself. A couple of weeks before the Lord’s Supper, I essentially start a Step 4 inventory of my life and sins. I try to be ruthless with myself, digging deeply to jot down people I owe amends to, which includes God. As I write out my list, I am constantly offering prayers to Him for what I know to be failings in my walk with Him. Over the years, my list of people has grown shorter just because I practice self-control more in my personal and thought life. Yeah, sometimes the people who are on my list have no idea that I owe them amends because the sins I’ve committed against them were inside my own head. Yes, I still list them because whether they know it or not, God knows it and that’s the real point of this exercise.

My goal is to be done by Palm Sunday, the list written out, sometimes my apologies made, occasionally my amends underway. It’s not always as clean as that because life is messy, but I try to be at peace with God by the time I approach the Lord’s Supper table. In this, I fulfill Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 – “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV).

There are some people who will always be on my list because reconciliation is impossible with them. It may be that they wouldn’t accept my overtures or it could be that they have done something for which there can be no reconciliation. This doesn’t mean that I don’t take the Lord’s Supper or that I feel like I am taking it unworthily. Ultimately, Christian salvation is the sole work of Jesus Christ and not at all dependent upon me or my efforts.

There are things in life that we can’t fix. Very likely, if I’d had a wonderfully spotless life, I wouldn’t be a writer. The point of the process is to bring me to self-awareness and forgiveness … both my forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of me. There are relationships that can’t or shouldn’t be mended. There are people I have forgiven for things they’ve done to me who I have no intentions of reconciling with because it wouldn’t be healthy for me to do so. There are sins in my life that were a part of my life the first time I worked through this process and will still be struggles I have when I stand before the Bema Seat. The point of the exercise is not to become sinless, incredibly self-aware or to feel like I’m worthy of God’s grace because those things are impossible goals. The point is to stand before God, knowing what I have always known … that my salvation relies wholly on Him and none of it on me.

For me, the best part of Easter is right after I’ve taken the Lord’s Supper on Good Friday, when I know that … at least for a short period … I have laid the burden of my ongoing sins at His feet, secure in the hope that I have perhaps moved a little closer to where my Savior wants me to be as a believer. Once again I feel the way I felt the day I accepted Christ, awed and humbled by His grace and mercy to me who does not deserve it.

Posted April 10, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Pascha   4 comments

This week’s blog hop topic is, appropriately, Easter.

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Growing up in the very secular state of Alaska in an unchurched family, I don’t have a lot of family traditions associated with Easter. So when I look at Easter it is from an adult’s perspective. My husband was raised in a Catholic home (Boston Irish Catholic), so he came with traditions that changed when he became a born-again Christian. Not too surprisingly, we have had to examine Easter (and other church holidays) in light of our salvation.

Contrary to popular belief, the Emperor Constantine did not have a whole lot to do with Easter. There was a 19th century book Two Babylons: Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and his Wife by a virulent anti-Catholic by the name of Bishop Alexander Hislop that is the source of many of the common allegations of pagan influences in early Christianity. Hislop’s book seems really authoritative, until you check out the source documents for his footnotes and realize he’s making a lot of vague “This seems similar” arguments. I’m not focused on that. Look for The Babylon Connection by Ralph Woodrow for a critical analysis of Hislop’s book.

Image result for image of lords supperConstantine’s relationship with Easter (which was called Pascha in his time) was pretty brief and tenuous. He convened and opened the Council of Nicaea and then … well, he wasn’t involved in the actual council itself. Christian bishops from around the Christian realm at the time ran the conference and were the ones who made the major decisions. Constantine may have provided lodging and snacks. It’s actually pretty likely that Constantine himself was not a Christian in  the Biblical sense. He saw Christianity as a means of uniting his empire and he really didn’t care what the council produced so long as the bishops came to some agreement and issued some sort of proclamation to assure Christian unity. In fact, Constantine was not baptized until he was on his death bed and then he was baptized by his cousin, an Arian bishop who denied the dual nature of Jesus.

Like many issues of the early churches, Easter existed in glorious anarchy (I definitely would have approved). Some churches celebrated “Pascha” on a Sunday while some churches in Asia Minor celebrated Passover in the Jewish manner, on the first full moon of spring, regardless of the day of the week. This bothered the control freaks among the bishops, so the Council of Nicaea resolved this issue by establishing a common Sunday celebration of Easter and the eastern churches apparently agreed to adopt this custom.

The cultural baggage of Easter eggs and rabbits are indeed fertility symbols that worked their way into Christianity by way of folklore customs associated with pagan seasonal observances.  They came from Germanic and Celtic traditions and not Babylon, but either way I don’t think they have a place in church celebrations and I’ve never gone to a church where these were a big deal. Easter egg hunts aside, our worship is focused on the Bible. Even the name “Easter” appears to have come from Celtic Christians … the first mention of “Easter” was by St. Bede, who recorded that the British Celt called the holiday this and that he thought it was related to one of their former pagan holidays celebrated around the same time. And that’s the history.

Pascha (otherwise known as Easter) is the feast of the Lord’s resurrection and it is THE most ancient observance in Christianity. In non-English speaking Christian cultures outside of Europe, the holiday of Easter is called by some variation of Pascha, which is the New Testament Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word pesach, meaning Passover. This is consistent with ancient Christian practice. The Lord’s Supper, which in my church is observed on Good Friday, was the only ritual the early church seems to have celebrated regularly. Ignatius, writing in the late-1st century or early-2nd century identified all Sunday worship as very similar to a Pascha celebration. Early Christians commemorated the Lord’s resurrection weekly with the Lord’s supper, in keeping with Paul’s teachings.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes1 Corinthians 11:23-26

For us at University Baptist Church, the Lord’s Supper is observed about quarterly. We could do it weekly, but there is a strong feeling that weekly observance makes it into a rote ritual rather than something we think about and prepare for. Although my church does not observe Lent, I do sort of. Brad does. He usually restarts his workout and stops drinking sodas in preparation for the summer’s active season. I use the time to consider what my sins might have been and who might have a grievance against me for my past behavior. If I’ve had some time, I will attempt to make amends. When I approach the Lord’s Supper, I do not want to be unworthy, but the fact is any baptized person who claims to be a Christian can take the Lord’s Supper at my church. Nobody asks for proof that you are a Christian or that you’ve been baptized. We’re on the honor system.

Image result for image of lords supperFor me, this is a very spiritual time, the week leading up to Easter/Pascha. I spend time with God in seeking His forgiveness and guidance. And when I come to the Lord’s Supper service, I know that I’ve at least been honest with myself about my failings before God. We serve these little crackers of unleavened bread, though I have been to a church where the pastor (who liked to cook) would make unleavened bread. The unleavened bread is accompanied by grape juice, which gets around the whole sobriety issue for Brad (yet another reason he’s no longer a Catholic — and, yes, we know there are stigmatized ways around the Catholic wine). When we eat the bread, I try to remain focused on Jesus on the cross, His sacrifice for me. There have been times when I’ve heard the sound of hammers in my head. I don’t cry easily, but there have been times when I’ve so affected by His willing sacrifice on my behalf that I have wept. When we drink the juice, I try to imagine the weight of sin lifted from me by His forgiveness.

Good Friday service is usually a time for reflection and quietly filing out to go home. We remember that WE killed Jesus. The angel of death may be passing over us, but not because we deserve forgiveness, but because Jesus voluntarily gave His life to take on our sin. It’s His blood on the doorpost.

And then everyone shows up in bright florals on Resurrection Sunday, celebrating that He is risen and we are forgiven. This is appropriate because Jesus is no longer on the cross. He has risen and we should not continue to mourn by His grave.

His is risen! Rejoice.

Posted March 28, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Happy Resurrection Sunday   Leave a comment

Not Easter – a celebration of the goddess Isthar, replete with egg hunts and bunny hops …

Resurrection Sunday – a celebration of the life, ministry, voluntary death and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ the Savior God.

When the Least Become First   Leave a comment

Mary Magdalene was a woman of ill repute. The Bible doesn’t tell us that she was a prostitute. That was a pope in the 7th century who laid that on her. But she was possessed by seven demons before she met Jesus. I suspect she did some things that she wasn’t proud of later. And yet Mary was the one Jesus  chose to be the first witness to His resurrection — in essence the first Christian.

On the morning of the third day, the women went to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body. They were mourning. They were probably afraid. Their men were in hiding. Only the women were brave. And when they got to the tomb, they found the guard that had surrounded the tomb gone and the stone that blocked the door thrown halfway across the garden. They ran to the men because they didn’t know what else to do.

John and Peter ran to the tomb. John ran faster. They both saw that Jesus was gone, but they didn’t understand. He’d told them He’d rise after three days, but they hadn’t understood. They went back home, scared and perplexed.

Mary, however, looked into the tomb and saw two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been. They said “Why are you looking here? He’s not here.”

I think it’s odd that she wasn’t afraid of the angels or that she didn’t demand to know who they were. Except, this woman recognized angels. Why? Because she’d been demon possessed and the only difference between an angel and a demon is that one follows God and the other follows Satan. She knew what she was seeing, I think.

And, then she turned from the tomb and there was a man there who asked “Why are you sad?”

“Because they have taken my Lord and I do not know where,” she answered.

“Mary, don’t you know Me?”

Of course, she didn’t know Him. She expected Him to be dead. She was crying too  Her eyesight was blurred and her heart was in a very dark place. Of course she didn’t recognize Him.

Until that moment. And then recognition dawned, a light came on, and the whole of the universe was an entirely different place than it had been one second before.

Possible Site of Christ's Tomb by dufasnoop

He is Risen! by Brian A Petersen

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