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.

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.