Easter Sunday: Jesus rose victorious

The Resurrection of Christ, 1700 (oil on canvas) by Noel Coypel (1628-1707)

We have good news today. Jesus came out of the empty tomb.  He was resurrected in bodily form on the Third Day, and rose to live again in the flesh.  He is victorious over death. This is huge. 

Coronavirus or no coronavirus. If death could not hold Jesus in the tomb, then death will not be able to hold us down in the grave either. 

Death is one of the biggest fears of humankind, especially now when COVID-19 is happening before us.  If God in Christ Jesus defeated death on Easter, we also have hope of eternal life with God forever. We have something to celebrate on Easter this Sunday.

I’m super stoked to recite the Apostles Creed out loud (even if I’m in isolation):

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Prayer of Easter, Resurrection Day

Hallelujah! The Lord is Risen! Hallelujah!

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us this day.
May this meal be blessed as we gather to celebrate together.
May your love be shared amongst us as we enjoy the gift of fellowship.
May we remember to offer grace and forgiveness that you have freely given us,
And may we always give thanks for your sacrificial love.
Amen.

The Resurrection of Christ, by Anthony van Dyck, 1631. Flemish. Movement: Baroque.

Comment on art: Wonderful…simply wonderful! This would be one of my favorite resurrection art pieces. It is filled with action and passion. The emotions of shock and glory of Jesus resurrecting is depicted in this extremely moving piece.

What is Easter?

Resurrection by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), tempera on wood, 70×92 cm, detail depicting Christ, 1457-1459

Easter comes two days after Good Friday. It is the fulfillment of the prophesied Messiah who was to come. We know the Messiah or Savior as Jesus who resurrected from the dead.

Christians commemorate Easter as the most holy day in Christianity. It is the reason believers in Christ Jesus believe in new and eternal life. Jesus rose again from the dead and defeated death; thereby, giving us the promise of eternal life that we will also rise again.

Holy week (Passion week) begins after Palm or Passion Sunday. Known as Pashchal (Holy/Easter) Triduum to Catholics, this includes the evening of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday (last three days of Lent). Devoted Catholics have traditionally observed these days with prayer, fasting and abstinence.

Everything builds up to the grand finale. Easter Sunday morning is like the grand finale when Jesus is resurrected from the dead. As Christians, Jesus resurrection is the reason we sing “Hallelujah” and give the Lord praise and glory.

Comment on art: This piece by Montegna is full of life. The Roman gaurds are in shock. Their expressions are priceless. Jesus stands one foot on the tomb pointing to the sky as if to say, “I have conquered death… and up is where I’m going.”

What is the origin of Easter

The Resurrection of Christ, 1700 (oil on canvas) by Noel Coypel (1628-1707)

Jesus’ resurrection happened over 2,000 years ago. Over 500 Christians saw Jesus personally after he resurrected in bodily form. He walked and talked with people right up to the time he ascended into heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). We as Christians have a very unique and wonderful story of resurrection. We also have a very unique God-man who lived in our human history. Jesus actually walked this earth. He healed the sick, lame, blind, and taught about good news that set people free from religious bondage. Best thing of all was that Jesus rose from the dead.

You might have heard that the origins of Easter were pagan. The word “Easter” comes from the word Ashtur or Ishtar. Ishtar who gave birth to Tammuz. The mythical Tammuz had died and was resurrected. Despite the pagan origins of Tammuz’ resurrection, Jesus’ resurrection is still unique and true.

Christianity assimilated old ideas into new ones. Jesus’ resurrection was huge. It liberated the old culture from its past. The glorious resurrection of Jesus has captured the hearts and minds of billions of people because of the truth of Jesus. People are being given a new and fresh life and faith in the One who saves–Jesus Christ.

There are books written about this pagan god and cult of Tammuz and Ishtar also referred to in the bible (here). There is only a distant connection and similarities. On the whole, Jesus resurrection is unique. Jesus was the most unique person to ever walk this earth. This is why we celebrate Easter.

Comment on art: The bewilderment of the guards and the delightful surprise of the two women at the resurrection stands in stark contrast. This pieces is filled with emotion, passion, and action. The color pops. The attention to detail is there. I just love this piece.

 

What is Good Friday?

Today is Good Friday. You’ve likely asked, “Why is Good Friday called Good Friday?” and “What is good about Good Friday?”

Some places refer to it as Black Friday. We’ve heard of Black Friday sales, but that’s not what it’s about. Some also refer to it as Holy or Sacred Friday, Great Friday, and Passion Friday. It’s all connected to this Easter weekend. Good Friday is a day of commemoration. Christians observe the death and sacrifice of God’s son on the cross. The third day after Jesus resurrected from death, comes Easter.

The word “Good” in Good Friday might have been a derivative of the Anglo-Saxon form which literally translates as God’s Friday (Ex.: Goodbye, a derivative of “God be with you”). Another reason was “good” was meant “holy” in medieval times.

Many people theorize about what is good about Good Friday. It’s good for us that Jesus died for our sins to free us from the consequences of death and give us new life (Romans 3:24-25).

Why on Friday? There probably isn’t any good reason. Given that three in the afternoon is when some think when Jesus died on the cross, the third day after his death comes Easter Sunday… or kind of the third day. Friday seems like a convenient day of the week. Why not? Easter used to fall on a Wednesday anyway.

Good/Holy Friday comes after the six weeks of Lent including Palm/Passion Sunday.

Historians say that Good Friday might have been practiced since the 7th century by Christians in Jerusalem (pre-sanctified Masses are referenced in the documents of the Quinisext Council, 692 AD).

The Way of the Cross is practiced whereby fourteen stations of the cross are preset at various locations. This is merely symbolic of what Jesus would have experienced on his way to the cross. Each location provides a place for the worshipers to pray in commemoration of the events that happened.

Have a good Good Friday this day, and an expectant Easter soon to come!

 

Fragrance: a good gift not only for Christmas

Wisemen from the East gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

At Christmas, we think of gift-giving. As a baby, Jesus received fragrant gifts of frankincense and myrrh. These were aromatic resins used for personal, religious and medicinal purposes and for burial.

Near the end of Jesus’ life, he would receive one final and generous gift from a faithful woman.  She would be remembered as giving a generous legacy-gift. It would become a sweet-smelling fragrance that would accompany him to his burial.  In Mark 16, this woman came to Jesus with a jar of perfume to anoint Jesus from head to toe.  Some well-meaning folks around Jesus were concerned that this expensive perfume could have been sold and the money be given to the poor. Jesus’ response them was:

“She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. (Mark 14:6-9, NIV)

a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

What a gutsy thing to say to those who are concerned about the poor!  A couple things here that Jesus knew early on: 1/ The good news would be preached around the world; and 2/  That her generosity would be recorded and be re-told as a legacy.

One, Jesus had already known that the religious leaders were after him and wanted to kill him. He had already made this known to them by clearly drawing an analogy about his perceived death warrant in his telling of the parable of the tenants (i.e., the murder of the vineyard owner’s son).  Jesus would have assumed his pending death would be like a seed being planted, and later, sprout into good news being spread around the world.

Two, Jesus would have expected his death be recorded on paper and/or spread via word-of-mouth. How else would this woman’s generous gift be re-told to future generations?  As the Son of God and the Human One, Jesus is omniscient (all-knowing) as God is all-knowing. He would have known his future would result in a grander legacy than merely a post-generational myth. His own futuristic vision lays a groundwork for a new faith that would reach far beyond a reformed-type ofJudaism.

Faith in Jesus would bring about a radical and worldwide transformation.  Today, Christianity has a worldwide following that is fairly evenly spread throughout all continents. It is not an ethno-centric religion like Buddhism in East Asia, Hinduism in India, or Islam in the Middle East.   Billions of dedicated adherents of every race, ethnicity, culture, and hemisphere, are following Jesus.  Many thousands more each day are coming to trust in the Lord.

Upon the Advent or Coming of Jesus Christ, we will be celebrating a grand birthday around the entire globe including Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe (now being the minority).  We have hope in the Expected and Anointed One.

Be blessed with comfort and joy

This Christmas morning, may you be blessed with the comfort and joy that Christ brings for all the world. The words of this carol are so powerful and touches my soul.

October 31 marks a freedom from good works

October 31 is a special date that marks the beginning of Protestantism.  No, not Halloween but the day one monk-professor protested the Church’s illegitimate rules and regulations.  It was the beginning of the western church’s road to reform.

Martin Luther, a young Roman Catholic priest before he was kicked-out, had nailed the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church.  This got him into big trouble–not for graffiti, but for his ideas.  It was sort of a declaration that stated the truths he wished all Christians would understand, including the Pope and bishops of the Church to whom he had given some constructive, but unwelcomed critique.  They were furious when they saw what he made public for all to read.  They tried him, and finally, wanted to kill him when they realized he would never conform.

Why was Luther up-in-arms about the Church?  Christians had been deceived into giving indulgences (or alms) to ensure the salvation of one’s loved ones. This was totally contrary to biblical teaching because scripture was clear that salvation was a free gift from God and cannot be bought.  Finally, in 1517 A.D., a fed-up Martin Luther began to argue for freedom from such non-sensical rules that were conveniently concocted by the church in order to secretly fund the construction of a big church building in Rome (St. Peter’s Basilica).  He argued that we are saved only by faith in believing that Jesus died for our sins, not by following the illegitimate laws of the Church.  He believed this was the Christian’s religious freedom from having to trust in the dictates of the law for our righteousness.

The great reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin, et al, have fought to restore the freedom of the Christian from having to earn our righteousness through good works.  It was a major sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears (literally).  Christians have died for this religious freedom.  Today, Evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic Christians have solid ground to stand upon the belief that we are not bound by having to do any good works to earn God’s approval or favor.  Paul also encouraged Christians toward good works, not to run from it (Galatians 5:9-10 and Ephesians 2:10).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
To do good works in the world is part of being a good human being.  It does not make you and I a better Christian.  What makes a person a good Christian is faith alone, in and through, the grace of Christ alone.  In light of our freedom we have today, may we be encouraged to live out our freedom to do even more good works, not because we must, but because we want to bless our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, and help our fellow human beings in this world.

We are the salt and light in a dark world.  May the light of the gospel shine as others see our good works to the praise and glory of God the Father.

Resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord – Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter.  This Sunday, Christians will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus whom God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit, raised from the dead to defeat sin, death and evil.  Praise the Lord!

The resurrection is God’s living proof to the disciples, and to us today, that he will fulfill his promise to also resurrect us on the Last Day.  It is the power of God that enables us to receive the good news…to see it and believe it that your sins are really and truly forgiven. The good news is that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven by God.  Praise the Lord!

St. John and St. Peter at Christs Tomb. Artist: Giovanni Francesco Romanelli

Easter Prayer of Confession

Gracious Father,
you sent your Son to die and rise to new life
in order that death might be brought to an end
and that we might live a new life in Him.

Yet we confess that we too often have chosen to remain
captive to doubt and fear and ways that lead to death.
By our thoughts, words, and actions,
we have scorned your love,
diminished the lives of others,
and defaced your image in us.

Father, forgive us for Jesus’ sake,
and enable us by His resurrection power
to live no longer for ourselves
but for Him who died and rose again for us. Amen.

(Prayer from: http://www.missionalchallenge.com/easter-prayer-of-confession/#.VtpVQpwrKhc)

Title: The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection.  Eugene Burnand (1850-1921)

In this painting, the artist captured Peter and John’s sense of urgency and determination.  There is also a sense of uncertainty and anxiety mixed with excitement (“could it really be true that our Lord is alive?”)  Some of us might have these same feelings. Pray that the Holy Spirit may give you certainty of Jesus resurrection and life hidden in Christ Jesus.

Lent – chance to live a new life

lentI was impressed by an excerpt from an article by Sr Joan Chittister. She says Lent is not only about repentance, but also about making changes in our lives. She states:

Lent is a call to weep for what we could have been and are not. Lent is the grace to grieve for what we should have done and did not. Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not. Lent is not about penance. Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now.

Lent is a summons to live anew.

The first challenge of Lent is to open ourselves to life. When we “rend our hearts” we break them open to things we are refusing for some warped reason to even consider. We have refused for years, perhaps, to even think about renewing old commitments that we’ve allowed to go to dust — spending time with the children, visiting our parents, exercising, taking time to read good books. We’ve closed our minds, maybe, to the thought of reconciling with old friends whom we have hurt. We’ve refused to put the effort into reviving old spiritual practices like visits to church, meditation in the morning, the memorization of the psalms, that we allowed to die in our youth but failed to substitute for as we aged. We’ve failed to repent old abrasions, quick words, harsh judgements made in haste and expiated never. We have closed the doors of our hearts, as time went by, to so many of the things we need to live full and holy lives.

Lent is the time to let life in again, to rebuild the worlds we’ve allowed to go sterile, to “fast and weep and mourn” for the goods we’ve foregone. If our own lives are not to die from lack of nourishment, we must sacrifice the pride or the sloth or the listlessness that blocks us from beginning again.
(…full article)

Ash Wednesday and Lent: about repentance

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. It’s a time of the year that’s observed by some in the Christian world.  But for most Christians today, Lent has been forgotten and goes unobserved. What is Lent?   This time of year is actually a good practice because it’s traditionally a time meant for Christians to reflect upon what we’ve done wrong toward God and others, upon our personal failings, unforgiveness, personal vices, and other ways we’ve fallen short in our lives. May we prepare to move toward repentance so that we can truly and more deeply experience repentance and forgiveness through Christ.

During Lent, may we experience a spiritual revival through genuinely repentant hearts, as expressed through the words of the prophet Joel:

12 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow; 13 tear your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive. 14 Who knows whether he will have a change of heart and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? 15 Blow the horn in Zion; demand a fast; request a special assembly. 16 Gather the people; prepare a holy meeting; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the groom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the LORD’s ministers, weep. Let them say, “Have mercy, LORD, on your people, and don’t make your inheritance a disgrace, an example of failure among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'” 18 Then the LORD became passionate about this land, and had pity on his people. (Joel 2:12-18, Common English Bible)

Happy belated Easter!

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Hallelujah!

Easter has just come and gone. Thank God that Easter is not as commercialized as Christmas.  It’s no wonder I try to avoid the malls at Christmastime. Easter is still the last remaining Christian holiday that has not been overtaken by crass commercialism. Perhaps business marketing strategies have not yet thought up some ingenius ways to make a ton of money out of Easter? (btw, I have nothing against business. God bless our businesses).

Life: Now that Easter has just passed, I wish things in my life could just slow down a little;however, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down much. I haven’t done much serious blogging in a long time but I hate making excuses. If it’s not work, then it’s my class work in seminary that’s taking up much of my time away from blogging and keeping up with what’s going on in the biblical/theological world in the blogosphere.

Pentecost: Festival of Harvest (Weeks)

Mexican Pentecost icon
Mexican Pentecost icon

This coming Sunday, May 23rd, marks a very special day in the church calendar: Pentecost Sunday.  The term “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word pentekostos, meaning fiftieth. Fifty days after Passover, Jewish people celebrated Shavuot (also called Festival of  Weeks or Harvest/Reaping (Hebrew: חג השבועות, Ḥag ha-Shavuot) as found in Lev. 23:15–21; Exo. 23:16. Jewish Pentecost became one of the great pilgrimage feasts for the post-exilic Jews.  Diaspora Jews made pilgrimages back to Jerusalem.

For Christians, this celebration of Pentecost has been a long tradition.  It is one of the most important celebrations after Christmas and Easter.  Since about the 2nd century, Christians have since celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost.  This was witnessed or testified by the charisms/charismata being endowed up0n followers of Christ during the Festival of Weeks in Jerusalem.  This day marks the birth of the universal church of Christ on earth and many churches will be celebrating Pentecost Sunday.

Pentecostal and charismatic Christians regard the word “Pentecost” with greater relevance for today because they claim that the gifts (“charismata”) of the Holy Spirit are still being practiced today, and to a greater extent in Asia, Africa, and South America.

Testimonies and claims concerning the charismata (gifts of the Holy Spirit, e.g., Acts 2; 1 Cor. 12) being exercised in the church seem to be less frequent in the northern hemisphere (i.e., North America, Europe) and more frequent in the southern hemisphere.  Why?