Practicing Resurrection

On the tide of Easter morning, those who went to look for Jesus found an empty tomb. Some discovered him along the way, others went to look again, others were surprised that Jesus was the one to seek them out and find them. These companions of Jesus, women and men, inspire us to keep looking for the risen Christ. Where are you seeing signs of new life in your everyday life? Which practices help train you to keep looking?

Isaiah 43:16-21 NIV
This is what the LORD says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word or phrase that stood out for you – that spoke just to you? Note it here, and then write 2-3 sentences about it.

What did you notice was your inner response as you listened? (longing, agitated, curious, confused, peaceful, joy-filled, hopeful, frustrated, anger nothing, etc.?)

Would you be willing to speak to God (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) about these feelings? Allow God to see you as you are. Ask for what you need. Linger in God’s presence.

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Signs & Evidence of New Life

One of the most significant shifts in my faith has been the inclination to look and keep watch for signs of new life. Evidence of God’s continual work of renewal is oftentimes very difficult to see. Today’s text points to specific observations and details in an empty tomb.

May we keep turning to wonder in empty, dead places. Jesus how are you renewing life here and now?

John 20:1-10 (NLT)
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 2 She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3 Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. 4 They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7 while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. 8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— 9 for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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A Time To Die

For everything there is a season…
A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance…Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

This is the great mystery of God’s continual work of renewal in this world and in our lives. Jesus goes before us to show us the way.
For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame (Hebrews 12).

Perhaps something is dying away in your life right now. The grief may be unspeakable and unbearable. As you are able, allow Jesus to minister to you in this death and wait with him to instill hope that new life will come. Always, he walks with us toward wholeness.

John 19:28-37 (NLT)
Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was Passover week). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. 34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35 (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe.) 36 These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular? Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

This sacred passage is full of graphic details which engage all of our bodily senses. If and as you are able, notice which emotions and sensations arise within you as you dwell in the text. As part of your prayer, extend your compassion to Jesus, his companions and yourself however you are feeling in this moment.

Savor any comforting words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

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Living Fully Alive in Community

Finally we are at the point of Lazurus' resurrection! Here Jesus pulls back the veil of this world to give us a glimpse of what is coming. There is so much more. The possibility to live fully alive is available to each of us. What keeps us from living fully alive in Christ today? What needs to be loosed? Unbound in us? How are those around us already participating in helping to remove our own grave clothes? You are encouraged to share a part of your story with a safe, compassionate listener. The process of telling and retelling our stories is part of how we become unbound, real and more fully alive.

John 11:38-44 (NLT)
 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

Place yourself in the story and enter into it as it unfolds. Who are you? Who is interacting with you and around you? What are you seeing, smelling, sensing, hearing, touching? Write about your experience in the story and allow it to be your prayer.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

Ask God to provide a safe place for you to share your story.

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How to Really See Your Brother (or Sister)

When I come to a complicated passage of Scripture which seems to challenge my beliefs about a compassionate, just and merciful God, I have learned to pause and turn to wonder. I prayerfully enter the swirl of the story and ask God for help to see the overarching story line. I look for life. Where do I see God's work of renewal in the story? I choose life. As I prayed with this passage, these are the words which came as I wrote in my journal. I share them that they might encourage you to journal with Scripture for yourself. These words are not meant to be a complete exegesis on the text.

Come, let us go see him. Come, we go together. I [Jesus] will truly teach you how to see your brother - how to see to the shalom of your brother. Watch me. Watch my response. Watch my grief. Watch what I will do. You are right. This will feel like going to the death with me. You are about to learn to die: to your own way of seeing what is really happening; to your fear of persecution because of being with me. You will come to know faith in a whole new way. Come, we go together. I'll hold your hand. I'll have your back.

Jesus, I want to be continually looking to the shalom of my brothers and sisters. Give me your heart for my brothers and sisters, in each person I meet. Help me not hurry past them. Help me to see the person in my every interaction. Show me what to pray, when to speak or act, and how to do it.

John 11:11-16 (NLT)
Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”
12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.
14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
16 Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which “stood out” for you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture? Talk it over with Jesus in your prayer.

Using all of your senses, place yourself in the story. Who are you and what are you witnessing or experiencing? Write out the story in your own words, allowing the story and conversation to be your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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The Life You Say You Want

At times we may approach the bible as a self-help manual."What do I need to do to be saved?" We might pick apart the text deciding what fits, what's impossible, and what we can and must do. Often this approach leads to despair, continual shame and self-loathing. What if we approached this sacred text honestly and humbly as we are? What if we simply gave ourselves to wonder, allowing the stories to soak in like morning dew watering the seeds of life God has already planted in our heart? Such a gentle, beneficent pace can give us the space we need to grow in the discernment and wisdom needed to discover the desires of our heart, those desires planted deep within by God.

   Do we know what our heart truly wants? Do we need the Spirit's help in sifting through our wants and desires? Do we need to hear ourselves say aloud, what we truly want? And what do we need from God to help us choose life? We can courageously take these questions into our prayer with God. Always, we can listen and live into the answers.

John 5:31-40 TMG
If I were simply speaking on my own account, it would be an empty, self-serving witness. But an independent witness confirms me, the most reliable Witness of all. Furthermore, you all saw and heard John, and he gave expert and reliable testimony about me, didn’t he?
34-38 “But my purpose is not to get your vote, and not to appeal to mere human testimony. I’m speaking to you this way so that you will be saved. John was a torch, blazing and bright, and you were glad enough to dance for an hour or so in his bright light. But the witness that really confirms me far exceeds John’s witness. It’s the work the Father gave me to complete. These very tasks, as I go about completing them, confirm that the Father, in fact, sent me. The Father who sent me, confirmed me. And you missed it. You never heard his voice, you never saw his appearance. There is nothing left in your memory of his Message because you do not take his Messenger seriously.
39-40 “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture? Talk it over with Jesus in your prayer.

Where are you currently finding life? Where is life being drained from you? Bring this refection into conversation with God.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

Listen To Live

Steeped in the love of the Father, we are strengthened to listen and enabled to become truth tellers and truth hearers. Each time we pause to listen, we hear words which are filtered through our interpretation of the tone of voice, the context in which they are spoken and our trust of the intent behind the voice. How do we check out if what we are hearing is true? This text gives us clues to how we can bring prayerful discernment to our filter of what we are hearing. Which words (tone, content, intent) lead to abundant life? and which words bring destruction and death?
Before you listen to these words of Jesus, become quiet and still before the Father and allow his love to meet you as you are. When you have found a re-connection to his love, begin listening to these words of his Son.

John 5:24-30NLT
 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

Where Are You Seeing God At Work?

The beloved John continues to bear witness to the complex, crazy-making, critical culture created by scrupulous rule following. He contrasts these Jewish leaders with Jesus who is focused on watching for his Father's initiative and action. His words invite us to consider where we see life and renewal happening in and around us. His ways invite us to participate in God's life giving work through observation, contemplation, prayer, discernment and action. Begin with stopping to see. Where are you seeing God at work around you?

John 5:16-23 (NLT)
So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. 17 But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.
19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear or see as you listened to the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Without judgement, gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. What does Jesus say to you?

What are you seeing the Father doing? Where are you seeing God working?

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.