Wednesday, April 8, 2015

30 for 30 . . .


For the past several days, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been on trial in Boston for his alleged role in the Boston Marathon bombing.

He was tried on thirty counts.

During the last hour, the verdict on each count has come down.

Guilty on all counts.

Seventeen of those counts make him eligible for the death penalty.

Now the penalty phase begins.

The question is, will the jury--the same jury who found him guilty on all counts--decide that he should die for those crimes?

That is the next phase. 

The penalty phase starts next week.

My gut says that he should get the death penalty . . . but if the jury gives him death, he may get what he wants, which is, martyrdom for his "cause".

I'm hoping the jury will take their time and not be pressured, either way.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

When God got the last laugh

Today, God got the last laugh.

The laughter began before dawn, when a dead body regained consciousness in a cold tomb.

Or perhaps it began with an earthquake, which rolled a stone away and scared guards so that they became "like dead men".

I'm not sure if Jesus strode out boldly with a swagger, or if he just peeked out from the tomb, thinking, "Where is everybody?" and then walked out.

The party in hell was over.  The party in hell had broken up with screams of horror and shouts of anger.  How dare he?  How dare he get the last laugh on us?

The first person he revealed himself to was a woman, Mary of Magdala, whom we know today as Mary Magdalene.  This was the Mary that wept because they had taken her Lord away and she didn't know where he was.

It was when he said to her, "Mary," that she knew who he was.

I wonder if, when she turned towards him, Jesus was smiling.

I wonder if he smiled when he appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus.

And I wonder if he smiled when he first appeared to the apostles who were hiding in the upper room.  We know he said, "Peace be with you!" and showed him his hands and feet.  But I wonder if the expression on his face said, "Look!  It's me!  I'm here!  Isn't that great!  I told you it was going to happen, and it did!"

This is Easter Sunday.  

Easter is a holiday associated with bunnies (chocolate and otherwise), baskets, eggs dyed in different colors, new clothes, parades, and white shoes.  It's also associated with large dinners--usually with ham as the main course--with family visits and perhaps a surprise from the Easter Bunny.  (One year, a gift from the Easter Bunny came with a note and a carrot with teeth marks in it.  I told everyone who would listen that those teeth marks were proof that there really was an Easter Bunny.  It was years before I realized that my dad had written the note and probably had bitten into that carrot as well!)

This is the holiday where people and Easter lilies will crowd churches, and many will repeat as part of a liturgy, "He is risen." "He is risen indeed."

But do we really understand that, on this day, God got the last laugh?

If man had created God in his own image, as is sometimes alleged, hope would have died at the cross.  The apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 15:12-19, says:

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (emphasis mine, TAS)

The cross would have been proof that God was created in the image of man, for the cross meant death--physical death of a man, the death of hope, the death of dreams the death of everything. 

But God got the last laugh. 

Jesus said he would rise from the dead . . . and he did.

The witness of men, the witness of Scripture speaks--indeed, it shouts--that "Christ has indeed been risen from the dead!" as I Corinthians 15:20 says.  

When we speak today that "Christ is risen indeed," it is not merely a recitation of a liturgy that has been passed down for two thousand years.  Instead, it is a testament to a God that got the last laugh--over Satan, over sin, over death.

I wonder, if when the disciples saw Jesus, he looked like this, as painted by artist Jack Jewell:

This is the day when God got the last laugh.

He is risen.

He is risen indeed!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

When Satan threw a party

Today, the party in hell that started when Jesus died on the cross continued.  I imagine it to be like a fraternity party on steroids, with debauchery everywhere. 

Satan laughed and the demons rejoiced.  Because what they wanted had been accomplished, the death of God.  As Nietzsche would write nearly 1800 years later, "God is dead.  God remains dead.  And we have killed him."

They had won.

On earth, the body of Judas had been discovered, broken, with his bowels spilling out. 

The rest of the disciples were in hiding, behind locked doors, afraid that they would be next.  Peter drowned in shame, hearing the words in his head, "I don't know the man!" and starting every time he heard a rooster crow.  Perhaps he heard that rooster crow in his nightmares. 

Mary?  Where was Mary?  Overcome with grief and pain and heartbroken, as I would be if it were my son. 

Death had come and killed God, and Satan was in the middle of throwing a party.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The day man killed God

Man killed God today.

Man, in the guise of a Roman ruler, his centurions, and people who screamed, "Crucify him!"  killed God.

Man stripped him, beat him, mocked him, "hailed" him as "king".

And then man led him out to a cross.

Man watched while he stumbled along the Via Dolorosa.  Some jeered him, some wept, some wailed, some didn't pay attention.

Man, in the guise of trained centurions, picked up nails--long, cruel nails--and, using a mallet, drove them, blow by blow, into skin and muscle and bone and blood vessel.

They did it three times.  One for each arm, and one for both feet, crossed together.

And then they sat back and gambled while God gasped for breath, slowly suffocated, bled, and died.

And if that wasn't enough, someone rammed a spear into his side. 

Then the broken body of God was picked up and carried to a borrowed tomb, wrapped in linen, and laid to rest.

The last act was the sound of a stone rolled over the entrance, then the final thud as it landed in its place.

This was the day that man killed God.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Stephanies

The story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, begins in Acts, chapter 6.

It seems that there was a tradition in the early Christian church of feeding widows.  Greek Jews complained because their widows were being ignored in the "daily distribution of food" (Acts 6:1).

So the Twelve (the original disciples of Jesus, minus Judas Iscariot and plus Matthias) gathered the believers to suggest a solution:  pick seven men from among you, and the food distribution will be their responsibility. 

Stephen is the first man listed.  The first man to die for the Christian faith began his ministry, so to speak, in a soup kitchen. 

Once a month, on Wednesdays, I help serve lunch to our seniors' Bible class.  These are "seasoned" men and women who come to our church building to  listen to the word of God, and then stay to eat lunch afterwards.  Lunch is catered by a local restaurant.  Volunteers, mostly women, from my church help serve.  We are supervised by a wonderful servant of God. 

Our fearless leader has been in charge of serving lunch for about the last ten years.  She makes sure that the tables are set and decorated, that the food is ordered, and that the money for the food is collected.  She also encourages others to volunteer as well.  This past year, I decided to join the group and help serve lunch. 

Yesterday, I figured out the name of our group:  

The Stephanies. 

I said this to one of the women volunteering, and she said, "Huh?"  

When I explained, she laughed.  
It does sound a bit funny . . . but work with me here.    

People in the first church needed physical feeding as well as spiritual feeding. The Twelve couldn't do it all. They needed help to fill a legitimate need, and they wanted those people to be full of the Spirit and of wisdom.  "Waiting tables", in this case, was a service performed for God--perhaps you could say that it was an act of worship.  It is an act of caring, of making sure that a most basic need--the need for physical nourishment--is filled.  

We "Stephanies" do the same thing for our seniors' class.  They get their spiritual nourishment from their class, and then we give them their physical nourishment.  I don't know if I can say that I am "full of the Spirit and wisdom".  I have the Spirit, because every believer has the Spirit, but I am not sure if I am full of wisdom. 

But I do believe that offering food to these people is an act of service, just like when Stephen and his companions began their work of making sure that widows were fed.  

So that's why we should be the Stephanies.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.