Saturday, March 30, 2013

One Easter morning.

The year is 1992. A small prison chapel near Denver packed with prisoners, sitting quietly holding thick, heavily worn Bibles, waiting for the speaker.  It is a special occasion and they are looking forward to it.

In a few minutes, Chuck Colson enters to address these men.  There is no where else he would rather be on an Easter morning.  He loves the prisoners and they sense that about him.

A former White House powerbroker and Special Counsel to President Nixon, often referred to as the "hatchet man," Colson had a reputation as unscrupulous and abusive of the power of the office. The prestige and power became his ruin; eventually serving time in a federal penitentiary for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

It might be said that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

In the chapel early that morning, Colson tells his attentive audience, "Never forget Jesus proclaimed . . .   good news to the poor and . . . freedom for the prisoners . . . "
Colson understood what it meant to live behind bars and he had their rapt attention.
I , too, was spellbound when, years later, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Colson at a Presidential Prayer Breakfast. Giving me his undivided attention, I saw before me a humble but passionate man.  Nothing of the personality the press hounded following his conversion; certain that it would not last, ready to catch him with their cameras as he fell.  Here was a man, with a quiet confidence, a humility that flowed from a quiet strength and a passion for his work.  Work not returning him to the pinnacle of power but to the lowest of prisons.  A man changed by the power of God.  Changed to serve and to speak the truth in love.

The press was sure he was continuing to grab attention and fame; it was a gimmick.  But his becoming a follower of Christ following Watergate was very real.  A man held prisoner to his own greed for power and ambition and fame became a free man while serving time behind bars.

I, too, know what it's like to be a prisoner.  A prisoner of my own making; my own self-tyranny and pride and want.  Refusing to bend the knee; a prisoner of my own heart.  But Jesus sets us free from that prison and it is the most liberating experience known to mankind. Freedom to walk in grace and truth. I am freed too.

And that's why there is no other place he would have chosen to be than at a prison chapel on Easter morning.  Sharing the good news about freedom.  About Easter.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

The holiest of days.  Good Friday.  It's hard to breathe.  Words do not come easy.  It was the third hour when they nailed Jesus to the cross.

From the sixth to the ninth hour an inexplicable darkness covered the land.  Jesus then cried out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

What to do with awful loss . . . ripping apart . . . feeling forsaken?
Is there not amazement, in experiencing great loss; life going on?  That everyone is not stopped in their tracks?  Gazing and somehow knowing life is forever altered.  Does it not show on the face, in the eyes?  The rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms; emotions swirl and eddy.

On that Friday the sun stopped shining.  God turned His back.  Jesus was forsaken.  He hung there on the cross.

It was evident in their faces; his loved ones, hovering nearby, bent low with grief.  Weeping. Mary, his mother. Her sister.  John, his best friend, and others.  Sorrow beyond words.  Confusion and hurt.  Death and darkness.  Life had been forever altered.

They didn't know that was the plan.  From the beginning.

But today, we know.  It was always the plan.

Restoration, redemption, reconciliation, to bring back, repair.

Around the ninth hour Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit saying, "It is finished".

The words hung there too.  For the religious leaders, the Roman guard, the enemy of this world, Jesus' loved ones and us today.

It is finished.  The most astonishing gift the world has ever seen.  That He would die in our place.  Life is forever altered.

Does it not stop us in our tracks?  Show on our face?  Are we amazed?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's Thursday

Maundy Thursday.  Holy Week. Black Friday.  What's in a name?  The connotation can be positive or negative but the naming of something gives substance and meaning.  We associate good or bad; there is understanding.

What is significant about Thursday?  Historically, this day on the calendar commemorates the Last Supper, the night Jesus shared the Passover meal in the upper room with his disciples on the night before He was to be crucified.

It is a solemn day; a day of reflection.  Events are unfolding and they are sobering.

During the Passover meal that evening, Jesus took the bread and gave thanks and broke it to symbolize His body which was to be broken.  In the same way, He took the wine and gave thanks offering it to the disciples to remember Him.  He gave thanks . . . knowing what was before Him that very night.

Judas would betray Him.  His disciples would fall asleep.  Peter would deny Him.  He would be arrested.

The events of the cosmos since the beginning of time were coming together this very night to begin to bring the world back into relationship with God. 

Jesus knew and gave thanks in the upper room.

And in the knowing, He will walk into the hours ahead - what will become, for Him, humiliating and excruciating, painful and horrific.  He knows he will hang from a cross until the veil of the temple is torn in half by invisible forces and the earth rumbles in response to His pain and agony and death.  Everything will screech to a halt as the universe shutters.  He knows.

He is about to do what I am incapable of doing.  It is shocking and jaw-dropping.  The cross will change everything.

Good news is coming but we are not there yet. 

Today is Thursday.

Jesus bowed His head and gave thanks.  He broke the bread and passed the wine so we would remember . . .