Pastor’s Devotions #118

“One Wind Swept January Day”

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.”
Psalm 39:4

 

It was all gone. Houses turned to match sticks. Memories and belongings turned to rubble. A surprise January tornado struck an unsuspecting town in Alabama. One life was lost. 30 people injured. A destructive pathway was cut through the heart of the town and left an unbelievable wake of wreckage behind. Lives were shattered, tattered and torn to shreds.

Here I stand, on that same January day, mudding and taping and sanding dry wall in my guest house. I have been working and refining for hours – a nick here, and bubble there, a scar sanded away. Such a different experience. I’m watching the eagles fly, while others watched their homes fly. It seems surreal. But who is to say what tomorrow might bring? In one brief moment, surprising winds could whip up on Camano Island and take down a tree and tear through my home. So many things in this world can be ripped right out from under us, just as it did for the people of the crimson tide.   

Tomorrow, we begin the Season of Lent. Lent is to be a time of deep reflection and clearer perspective regarding one’s faith. Tomorrow night, at our Ash Wednesday Worship service – we will be reading probing Scriptures to help us reflect upon the condition and pace of our walk of faith.

We will read about David, looking deeply into his own life as he wrote Psalm 39. He writes, “Lordremind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeting away.” He continues, “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends to nothing.” He concludes the psalm with these words, “Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears. For I am your guest – a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me. Spare me so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more.”

Yes, we are travelers passing through. So many things can be taken from us in this uncertain world. But one thing can never be torn away. One thing remains certain. The love of God, shown through his Son, Jesus Christ. Lent concludes with Holy Week. And Holy Week concludes with Easter Sunday. All of our reflections and journeys are to lead us to the clear and certain perspective that life is finally, truly found in Him. And the truth is, nothing can separate us from that love in Christ Jesus. We remain safe and secure when we receive Jesus’ final words from Matthew’s Gospel: “Surely, I am with you ALWAYS, to the end of the age.”

No matter what winds are whipped up, may the wind of the Holy Spirit sweep through this Lenten Season and bring you greater strength and greater ability to stand.

Hope to see you tomorrow – Ash Wednesday Worship – 7 p.m.

God Bless You All,
Pastor Mark 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 11

“Consider Holy Saturday”

“Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” John 19:42

 

Jesus died on Friday. He arose on Sunday. Have you ever considered what happened on Saturday? Some Christian traditions call it, “Holy Saturday.”  If you are to truly consider Holy Saturday, you must remove thoughts of Easter Sunday because it has not arrived – yet.

Saturday is the time between death and new life. To consider Saturday, your heart is going to be more heavy set because you are going to be wrestling with death more than life. Catholics might want to liken Saturday to purgatory because to them it is the place one rests between death and before heaven.  But since the theme of purgatory cannot be found in the Bible, we do not want to pause on this idea very long. Holy week has been likened to that of a caterpillar going through a metamorphosis. The caterpillar goes through a process and transforms into a butterfly. The demise of the caterpillar happens on Friday. The butterfly beautifully emerges on Sunday. It is the cocoon that remains on Saturday. Have you ever considered what actually occurs in the cocoon? 

What about the time between Winter and Spring? Winter represents death. Spring represents new life. Have you ever considered what happens right at that razor’s edge moment when winter becomes spring? A transformation of buds and flowers will follow, but in that sharpest of moments, Saturday stands.

What about the time between a mother’s heart-breaking miscarriage and the thought of conceiving again? It is on Saturday, when she has to wrestle with the deep loss of life and the longing for new life. The painful question stands, “Should we take another chance?”

For an eight year old boy – Saturday is the time between dropping his ice cream cone on the pavement and wondering whether his father will buy him a new one.

If I were to try to find words that might describe this razor’s edge moment, I would suggest the words, “Painful Hope.” And Saturday would lean toward the pain. The wounds, the memories and the feelings of loss are still so very fresh on Saturday. Yet there is some sense, somewhere in the darkness, that possibly something new might come. Maybe it’s just a faint flicker of light that can easily be quenched – but it still flickers ever so slightly. It’s Saturday. Have you ever considered that “painful hope” is where most metamorphosis takes place? Painful hope is where a change or transformation of attitude, ideas or perspective emerges. Living this painful hope is the preparation and maturation needed to press through into this new life. This path through the cocoon is not easy. The paths through miscarriage and winter and the jumbled miscue of an eight-year-old boy are not either – how could they be. It’s Saturday.

Jesus tells the story of, “The Prodigal Son” – also called, “the Graceful Father.” The Prodigal Son dies on Friday. He dies to himself, when he comes to himself. He sees the death of his soul. Sunday is the day that the prodigal returns home to his Father’s outstretched arms. It’s Sunday that the prodigal is reborn and reinstated as a true heir. But it is Saturday, when the boy is on the road going home. Have you ever considered the conversation the prodigal had with himself on the road? Jesus tells us some of the conversation. There were thoughts of shame, being unworthy, a smell of humility and a taste of brokenness. The son is willing to be his Father’s servant. The prodigal faintly hopes, “If only my Father will allow me to live in the barracks with the other slaves; that would be enough.” But it is Saturday and he is not sure if he has a chance. Perhaps the prodigal gives us a picture of “painful hope.” The pain of looking back at his deathly decisions but somewhere in that darkness, he hopes for a crumb of mercy. Indeed, it’s Saturday.

Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They would experience Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They have always struggled with God. Sunday would not come until they walked down the road on Saturday. They disobeyed God. That would be the death of the older generation. Friday would arrive. Yet from their death, a new generation would arise – a new birth. Sunday also would arrive. But this new generation would have to suffer on Saturday. It was Saturday that this new generation set up camp on the other side of Jericho. They were leaving the wilderness but they were still a stone’s throw away from the land of milk and honey. Before God would bring them into the Promised Land, a metamorphosis would need to take place. It would be a painful, physical slice, splattered with a bit of hope on its blade. God said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” (Joshua 5:2). Make note of the word, AGAIN. Once again, need I remind you? It’s Saturday. The razor’s edge was once again felt on Saturday.

So here we are today. It’s still Saturday. We feel the pain of no actual treatment for the coronavirus. Too many lives have been lost on Friday. Hope runs thin. There is a glimmer of hope that antibodies and vaccines are in the works. But that hope still seems like a string dangling in the wind. What do we do with this reality on Saturday? It has been said that if one has faith as much as a mustard seed, they could say to this mountain move from here to there, and it will move. Perhaps on this Saturday, even though there is only a tiny hint of honey resting on that Saturday blade – only a tiny bit of honey is all that is needed. That one droplet of honey will get us over the edge to Sunday. How can this be, you might be tempted to ask? Because, it has also been said, that nothing is impossible with God!

And when Sunday arrives, Saturday will be a mere memory. Yes, some scars will remain. Why? They are the testimony to the transformation that just took place.

The truth seems to taste a little sweet and sour. Oh, it’s sweet – trust me, the sour will fade with time.

He Has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!

SEE YOU SUNDAY!!

God Bless you all on this Holy Day.

Pastor Mark