In a recent article in Christianity Today, Lisa Fields, an expert on biblical literacy, said: “When it relates to biblical literacy, I always think of Ezekiel, when God commands him to eat the whole scroll, and it will be sweet and then bitter. It just reminds me that in Scripture there will be some bitter portions and some sweet portions. There are some difficult things I have to wrestle with, but because I believe God has called me to this work, I have to take all of it” (“Black Bible Reading Endures,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, 17).
It is true that the Bible does not sugar-coat the fact that the wages of sin is death and that there will be suffering in this world. It does not hide the fact that people turned against God, that there was betrayal and hardship among God’s people that still happen today. We cannot change the fact that there is sin in the world and that there will bad days sometimes as we wait for the Last Day to come.
But the sweet news comes from St. Peter who tells us, “Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13). The sweetness is revealed in Revelation 21:3-5 in John’s vision of heaven:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
In the end in the bliss of heaven the bitterness will be no more and we will only taste the sweetness of salvation won for us in Jesus.
Let the first thing we do each day until that time always be to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). That sweetness of the goodness of the Lord supersedes all bitterness.
Theology professor Kevin J. Vanhoozer wrote, “Scripture is not a textbook but the Church’s holy script, and understanding it involves reading all the books in the Old and New Testament as parts of an overarching story. It’s more than narrative, it’s drama: story made flesh, in which readers today have speaking parts” (“Letter to an Aspiring Theologian,” First Things, August/September 2018, 29).
This quote is a good reminder to those in church work that implementing programs that call for parishioners to read the entire Bible over the course of a certain period of time is a valuable and worthwhile exercise even when slogging through the book of Numbers. We as Christians need to see the big picture and be reminded of it again and again. This is not some new story of salvation. It is the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
The other part of this quote that I like is that it reminds us that the Bible is not something to put on a shelf to collect dust somewhere. It is not just something to read in a college course and box up in the basement. It is not just a sweet story that you read to kids at bedtime from time to time. It is living and active and something that is a part of us and a part of our lives here and now.
The best part of the quote for me is that it declares to us that everyone has a part to play in the drama that began in the Bible. This divine play does not end with the last word of the book of Revelation. It continues with each one of us who have faith in Christ and believe in him. No believer is left out of this play. Everyone has a part. The story of what is yet to come on the Last Day when Jesus calls us home to be with him as his forgiven and loved brothers and sisters still needs to be told to audiences all over the world in many and various ways. Some have speaking roles. Some sing in the chorus. Some pull the curtain open to reveal a truth about our salvation to someone. We are on the world’s stage for a reason. And it not to signify nothing, to paraphrase Shakespeare. But what we have to share signifies everything. We only need to wait for the curtain call when Christ returns with endless applause.
The church that I attend has a sign language interpreter who communicates the words spoken and sung in worship to a group of hearing impaired parishioners. I must confess that I am very often drawn in to her signing and am moved by it.
Recently I noticed that the sign for “He is risen” is two fingers pointing downward, then floated down and placed upon the palm of the other hand. A very literal and visual interpretation of that event. I somehow sense in that sign the miracle of the resurrection and yet the humanity of Christ in the depiction of his body.
What other “signs” of the resurrection of Christ do we see in the world?
I think of flowers budding from seemingly barren ground. I think of butterflies emerging from very rough-looking cocoons. I think of wobbly baby birds that take wing and fly.
The miracle of the resurrection is still astounding and surprising to us. We should never take it for granted.
It is still something that we should marvel at and contemplate as something beyond our imagination.
It is something that is true and real and connected to us and our future.
For we know that when our Lord returns on the Last Day, our bodies, too, will be raised to new life. As it says in Romans 8:11: “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
What a comfort to know that Christ’s resurrection means our resurrection and his new life means new life for us, forever with him. Let that message be our source of strength today and every day until he comes!
At a conference I attended recently Pastor MItchell Gowen of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Aiea, Hawaii, talked about the experience on January 13, 2018, when for 38 minutes residents and tourists in Hawaii scrambled to react to a terrifying emergency alert on their phones that read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The alert turned out to be a false alarm, but there was no way of knowing that during that frightening period.
Those Gowen was with at his church at the time asked what they should do. Most decided to run to the basement. But Gowen decided he was going straight to the parking lot to “watch the show.” If this was indeed his last day, Gowen wanted to be there to see it.
I admire Gowen’s reaction born of faith. As Christians, our last day on earth is not something that we should be afraid of. Because it means we will be with our Savior in heaven. It means the end of tears and pain and sin and the beginning of a perfect eternal life won for us through the death and resurrection of Christ.
I think of this verse from Luke 21:27-28:
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
When the end comes for each of us, it should not be time for us to look down or look away, but a time, by God’s grace and strength, to look up and see what God has accomplished to bring us salvation. At a time or an hour we do not yet know, Christ will come and no matter when that might be, we as his faithful people need to be ready, as Gowen says, to “see the show.” And what a sight it will be!
On 99.1 Joy FM, the Christian radio station in my area, there is a segment every morning called “A Moment in the Word,” and the passage they focused on one morning was the story in Joshua 6 when the Lord commanded the Israelites to march around the walls of Jericho six days in a row, until the walls finally tumbled down after they marched seven times and blew the trumpet on the seventh day.
The radio hosts pondered what the people must have been thinking on the third day, the fifth day, the sixth day. “Why are we walking in circles? What is the point of this?”
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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
The company logo of Creative Communications is the butterfly. I see it so much that I take it for granted, but on this Easter Day, I look at it with fresh eyes and see the miracle it represents.
The butterfly is truly a “new creation” that comes out of a cocoon (a tomb of sorts) after a period of time. What once was a scrawny, wormy like creature that was only able to crawl on the ground is now a colorful, beautiful, glorious creation that can fly to great heights.
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For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice. Zechariah 4:10a
I ran across this verse recently and it spoke to me somehow. Maybe it is because I feel like I am immersed in day after day of “small things,” the mundane tasks that need to get done.
Engaging in the “small things” of life over and over again like doing laundry, paying bills, cooking meals, mowing the lawn, opening the garage, gassing up the car, running errands can wear me down sometimes.
So I find solace in the fact that the book of Zechariah acknowledges that there are those who have “despised the day of small things.” I am not alone!
Yet Zechariah assures us that we despisers of small things will rejoice. Why? Because the eyes of the Lord will “range through the whole earth“ (Zechariah 4:10b).
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