Resurrection and Healing Sunday

During Holy Week almost 100 people in WCC participated in the Stations of the Cross. Slowly they walked through 13 stations reflecting upon the Jesus’ journey of self-giving love for the redemption and restoration of all things. In the cross we see victorious suffering as God demonstrates a different kind of power, one capable of saving the world.

On Easter we celebrated resurrection. Jesus wouldn’t stay dead! In the resurrection of King Jesus God proves that He has the power to defeat evil, sin and death, so neither evil, sin or death would continue to have power over us. In His resurrection Jesus proves that He really is God in the flesh. What He says about life can be trusted no matter how different or absurd it may seem. In Jesus God proves that He is the King we’ve always needed, a King who loves, forgives, and changes everyone who comes to him. In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ God showed us what the world should have looked like all along, and what the world will look like in the future. Now no fear, no hurt, no evil, no suffering, no sin, not even death will have the final word over those who trust in Jesus as the risen Lord and King.

Now we are invited to live as though the triumph of the Cross and vindication of the Resurrection are true. We long for God’s shalom–wholeness–in our lives and the lives of those around us as His Spirit bears witness to the presence of Christ within, among and between us as His people.

In the Cross and Resurrection we see that God wishes us to be redeemed and restored much more than we wish to be redeemed and restored. We may wonder if our sins can be forgiven. He wishes to forgive our sins more than we wish our sins to be forgiven. We may wonder if our hearts can find healing. He wishes to heal our hearts more than we wish our hearts to be healed. We may wonder if we will ever find peace and joy. He wishes to give us peace and become our joy more than we wish for peace and long for joy. He desires for us to know Him and the peace, the wholeness, the restoration offered to us through King Jesus as beloved children and citizens of his kingdom. This leads us to our upcoming Healing Sunday.

This Sunday we will call upon the “God Who Heals” and brings dead things to life to heal us in our minds, bodies, souls and hearts. Each year we’ve gathered for this we’ve witnessed God work in beautifully redemptive ways. In keeping with the spirit of James 5 :13-20 our elders/shepherds will be available to pray and anoint any who desire with oil joining you in calling upon the name of the Lord to bring healing, accompanied by the WCC staff. For those of us who do not feel compelled to come to receive prayer we will continue to sing the song Healer, a song that calls out to God to make his peace known to all of us. Let us pray that God in his faithful love shows himself strong among us. So, here is what all of us can do:

1. Please pray fervently.
2. Please consider joining us in fasting and praying for those in need of healing (from all hurts). If you are in need of healing, please fast and pray. We fast not to get God’s attention but to give him ours. Every time we feel the hunger pain (fasting from food) or want our special tea or coffee (fasting from drink) or go to log on to Facebook (fasting from technology) we remember that we are abstaining from these things and turn to pray instead.
3. If you are in need of healing come with the expectation that in the gathering of God’s people His Spirit is with us bearing witness to the risen Christ. When we think healing we thing peace from pains of all sorts–anxiety, depression, addiction, loneliness, disease, abandonment, fears, etc. If you want to be freed into a new way of being calling upon the name of the Lord to bring freedom and healing from the pains that entangle our lives.
4. Believe that the same God who raised Christ’s mortal body to life can raise you to life (Read all of Romans 8).
5. If you are not planning to come forward for prayer please come and bear witness to God’s work among us and join us as we pray for those within our family who need God’s peace in a particular way.

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Finally, I wanted to share how God worked in some of our family through the Stations of the Cross, each time pointing them to new life and resurrection; each time pointing us to wholeness. Here is what some of them had to say:

“I went early Friday and it just gave me a very calming affect (been struggling with some things for a while),  it also really focused me on what Jesus went through for us more than normal…”

“The Stations of the Cross provided me with a chance to slow down and spend some dedicated time focusing on the reality of the crucifixion of Jesus. I reflected deeply about the humanity of Jesus and the pain he endured, imagining the emotions his family and followers felt. At one point, I realized how I am no different than those in the mob that mocked and ridiculed… taking the time to walk through those events mentally helped draw an emotional connection that turned into humility regarding my position in life and then heartfelt gratitude for his grace.”

“When I found myself at the last station ready to take communion, the need to to forgive someone and a difficult situation was gently brought to my mind.  Taking a few minutes to pour out my hurts to our Lord, who understands all the pain I could ever experience, renewed my awareness of God’s deep love for me (and all in our community) and His desire for us to experience wholeness in Him.” 

Wholeness. Yes, it is what God desires for all of us, and there is a blood-stained cross and empty tomb that says it’s so! Let us believe him, trust him, and live as though it is true, for the good of all and to the praise of his glory.

See you Sunday.

~Fred

P.S. I will share more testimonies from the stations of the cross later this week.

The Good News of God’s Welcome

Born a child in a manger,
Son of Mary and Son of the great I Am,
Outcast as a stranger,
He extended God’s welcome to every child, woman and man.

Embracing liars and thieves,
Loving the poor and the rich.
Helping those struggling to believe,
Liberating the powerless and sick.

Comforting the lonely and the child,
Forgiving the murderer and religious elite,
Healing the immigrant and those left-out,
Welcoming any who would hear and see.

His message of good news would not be silenced,
Nor his deeds of love contained.
In fear and anger the authorities turned to violence,
To murder the One they could not explain.

God Incarnate and Love enfleshed,
He was condemned with thunderous applause,
Crowned with thorns upon his head,
Willingly killed on a Roman cross.

His lifeless body placed in a grave,
Marred by the violence of the rebellious Fall.
But raised to life by God’s Spirit He defeated sin and death,
As the promised King and Lord of all.

by Fred Liggin
Written in the late hours of Holy Saturday in
the year of our Lord 2016

Good Friday: The Cross Speaks What is True

As a sign of God’s power, the Cross of Christ is the marking of the turning of the old age–a world lost, broken and hopeless in rebellion under the reign of sin and death–into the new age–a world found, being redeemed and offered hope, liberated into a different kind of power that leads to a different kind of life under the reign of grace.

2656231-an-image-of-jesus-carrying-the-cross-with-a-rustic-look-using-layers-perfect-for-easterIn the Cross God speaks what is true for those who believe. The Cross becomes His voice as the living Word died upon it. In the Cross God offers this message of truth in both a promise and a summons. The promise is new life free from the reign of sin and death, and lived with God both now and forever. The summons is to live a life of cruciform power as expressed in self-giving love, and to do so with a child-like trust in God as a citizen of his never-failing, never-fickle, never-in-trouble kingdom of grace.

In the Cross God speaks what is true and this truth becomes our way to to life-giving resurrection.

No longer lost, we live in light.
No longer dead, we are alive.
No longer blind, we now can see.
No longer suffocating, we now can breathe.
No longer broken, we now are healed.
No longer numb, we now can feel.
No longer stained, we now are pure.
No longer weak, we can now endure.
No longer deceived, we know the truth.
No longer searching, His love is proof.
He is our way. He is our light.
He is always true. He is our life.
He never leaves. He is our peace.
He is our help and sweet relief.
He is our strength. He is sure.
He is more than enough.

He is the risen Lord.

Imagine a community where the message of the Cross is embraced and God’s reign is evident. Imagine a community that lives according to the promise and the summons of the Cross.

Love will lead the way guiding all relationships within humanity, neighbor to neighbor. Peace, shalom, will become the priority. Truth is not only received but grounds every life. God’s definition of justice–-making right in this world what has been made wrong by the reign of sin and death with all its hatred, fear, violence and power mongering–will become the catalyst by which orphans will be housed, the elderly valued, the widow supported, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, the unborn protected, and the stranger and foreigner received in gracious hospitality.

Imagine that community. It looks a lot like Jesus, doesn’t it?

May we live like this kind of life is possible because in the resurrection of Christ Jesus on Easter morn, God ushered in this kind of power. Now his Spirit is creating a community of cruciform power to join Him in His work of redeeming and restoring all of creation, and make his kingdom tangible to all.

Live like Friday happened.

And live like Sunday is coming.

Because it is.

Maundy Thursday: Divine Surrender

Today marks the day Jesus was arrested. Today marks the day of divine surrender–the day where God in the flesh willingly submitted to His fickle and comparatively weak created ones to rescue us. It is the day where God whispers to us:

“I’ll be broken so you can be whole.”

“I’ll be reviled so you can be redeemed.”

“I’ll be rejected so you can be reconciled.”

“I’ll take on death so you can take on true life.”

“I’ll accept the hatred so you can know God’s love.”

“I’ll be denied by all so you will be accepted by God.”

“I’ll suffer for you can know salvation.”

One of the most confounding truths of Holy Week is divine surrender. And Jesus’ divine surrender reminds us that the only kind of power capable of changing the world is the power of self-giving love. 

Holy Week: Peace, Power & Beginning Again

On Palm Sunday we remembered that on the same day Pontius Pilate, the governor of Rome, rides into Jerusalem on a war horse, Israel’s Messiah-King came riding in on a young donkey. We bore witness to the contradiction. With shouts of Hosanna mixed with patriotic overtones, Passover followed in the tradition of the past two centuries dating to back to the Maccabean revolt. We heard the cheers of the crowd crying out in anticipation of a political revolution with the expectation that Jesus would become the second-coming of Judas Maccabaeus who led war of Independence over the Seleucid empire, or David the Giant-Killer who led Israel to victory over one of their greatest enemies, or Joshua the Canaanite slayer who led Israel’s conquest to the promised land. The cheering crowd longed for liberation and freedom from the foreign occupation of the Roman empire and they believed Jesus would be their liberating Messiah-King.  Who can blame them for wanting freedom, from wanting revolution, from wanting peace?

0d3088aa8677b25a83a5a8425a887727But Jesus came riding in on a young donkey, not a war horse. He came riding in with tears in his eyes, not cheers in his heart. He was distressed that the vision of God’s kingdom had been co-opted by a nationalistic agenda that fostered an imagination formed by the belief that if peace and liberation was to come, a political revolution must happen, even if it means violence. Sadly, Jerusalem would come to know this kind of violence when just one generation later they would suffer destruction.

“If only you knew what would bring peace…” he cried.

It is as if Jesus is saying:

“If only you would have understood your prophets and poets when they said I would faithfully bring justice but not with battle-cries in the streets or by breaking bruised reeds. If only you would have understood your prophets and poets when they said I would come as a suffering servant who like a lamb before her shearers is silent, will not choose self-defense over self-giving love. If only you would have understood your prophets and poets who told you that I would come as the righteous and victorious King humble and riding on a donkey proclaiming a different kind of peace to the nations.

It is as if Jesus is saying:

“If only you would have understood me when I told you that the kingdom of heaven belongs the poor and the earth to the meek. If only you would have believed me when I said that the peacemakers will be called sons and daughters of God. If only you would have understood me when I proclaimed a different kind of power that ushers in a different kind of peace, one that comes from self-giving love.”

Like the Passover pilgrims on Palm Sunday, we’ve cried the same misguided cheers. Many of us still believe that the only thing that can change society is a political revolution or the demise of those who threaten its progress. We hear it on the news, the debate stages, and the radio. We talk about it at work and in our homes. We long for leaders who ride into town on war horses as we shout, “Liberate us! Protect us! Save us! Preserve our rights and secure our freedom!” In our longing for swift demonstrations of strength and power we miss the One who comes riding in on a donkey capable of demonstrating a different kind of power, the One called Prince of Peace, Alpha and Omega, King of kings, Lord of lords.

We forget that the cross is the sign of God’s power. As the apostle Paul would learn to say, “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” whose lives are formed by the rules of the old age that is passing away with all its fear, violence, misguided hopes and self-asserting love, “but to those of us who are being saved the cross is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Holy Week, with its mix of cheers and tears, invites us to turn toward the cross when thinking of power. We remember that on Thursday, Jesus will be betrayed by one of his own and arrested. The Messiah-King who came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey will stand trial with the governor who came riding in on his war horse. The crowd that shouted “Hosanna!” will be the mob that shouts “Crucify him!”

During Holy Week let’s remember that when the Church starts believing in a power different from the story of Jesus and God’s self-giving love, we no longer believe in the peace-securing, life-giving power (reign) of God. Let’s remember that when the Church exercises power apart from the story of Jesus and God’s self-giving love and attempts to manipulate, control,or shortcut the hard work of cultivating beloved community, it is not the power (reign) of God we are demonstrating.

During Holy Week let’s begin again and remember how a different kind of power changed the world—changed our lives. When thinking of power we will look to the cross. We will remember that God does not love with a bullying love. He is saving the world through King Jesus who established his reign (power) in the world through self-giving love. God reigns not by taking absolute control of everything, but by emptying himself and becoming vulnerable, making that the kind of power that saves. This is the kind of power that creates, redeems, restores, blesses and offers peace.

~ Fred

P.S. Don’t forget that The Stations of the Cross is available Monday-Friday from 6am-8pm at the Williamsburg Christian Church building in the worship center.

Week of 3/14/16 – Sabbath: A Time to See and Decide

 

healing-of-the-blind-man-cropped
Sunday we walked through all of chapter nine in John’s gospel. A man born blind was given sight by Jesus on the Sabbath. This incredible miracle turned into neighborhood gossip that quickly turned into an interrogation by the religious leaders (the jewish authorities). It became less about the transformative work of God and more about a Sabbath controversy—a miracle performed by a rogue itinerant preacher named Jesus on the wrong day of the week which caused the jewish authorities to brand him a heretic. This miracle was inexplainable, inconvenient, unconventional and to the jewish authorities, deniable. It is a story about seeing or not seeing or refusing to see.

This confrontation between the man who can now see and the jewish authorities reveals a conflict between the old assurances that has all the answers about how morality, religion, and nation works and keeps everything in it’s place and under control, and on the other hand the new possibilities that is performed by Jesus. It is a conflict that reaches beyond the pages of Scripture and into our lives today.

This story in John’s gospel is written to us. It comes to us with an invitation to decide, to decide between the way of old assurances and control or the way of new possibilities that extend beyond our imagination or control.

  • It asks are you on the side of managed truth that offers the kind of assurances we need to make us feel better, or have you joined in with the new possibilities that comes when Jesus is present as Lord?
  • It asks are you on the side of asking and talking, asking and talking until you finally hear what you want to hear, or have you joined in with the new possibilities that comes when Jesus is present as Lord.
  • It asks are you on the side of thinking that those in charge—the elite, the powerful, the successful—have all the answers that can preserve your way of life and give you peace and security, or have you joined in with the new possibilities that comes when Jesus is present as Lord?

Eventually Jesus steps back into John’s telling of the story (Vs. 35). He turns to the man who can see: “Do you believe in the Son of Man,” the one who is beyond explanation and outside of your control?

The man answers, “Who is this Son of Man?”

Jesus says, “You’ve seen him. It is the One speaking to you. It is me!” I am the One you can not fully explain. I am the One you can not control. I am the One who offers new possibilities. It is me. No one else. No other authority. No elected official. No ideology. No bigger bank account. No new habit. No one else. It is me!

The man replies, “I believe,” which in John’s vocabulary means, “I trust you.” I trust you even though I cannot explain you. I trust you even though I cannot control you. I trust you can do the impossible. I trust you because I once was blind but you made me see!

The text tells us that he falls down and worships Jesus. His life has changed and his priorities rearranged. What he once valued or held in high regard, he no longer holds higher than Jesus. What he once counted important comes second now to Jesus. What once meant so much to him now means less than Jesus. He has decided differently and has embraced the new possibilities that come when Jesus is Lord.

Jesus turns to the jewish authorities and says, “I came into this world for judgment”, which is to say, I came in the world to disrupt your old way of doing things based upon your old assurances—“so that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.” (Vs. 39)

Jesus came to sort out our old way of thinking about what it means to have a safe, secure, and happy life. Jesus came to disrupt our old assurances of what it means to be a people who have pledged allegiance to the King of the kingdom of God Almighty, and to the way of life for which it stands, one people, under God, indivisible, with true liberty and true justice for all.

What Jesus is saying is that he came into the world to redefine what it means to see.

Of course the jewish authorities’ only response is similar to what ours might be: “We aren’t blind…are we?” (Vs. 40) You can hear their certainty turn to doubt.

Jesus replies and ends the story by saying, “You say you see and your sin remains because the one thing you do not see is Me.” 
(Vs. 41)

Today this story is being re-written before our very eyes and each one of us are participants. There are those of us who have been given new life by Jesus and have been made to see, and we worship him. Then there are those of us who have become defenders of the old assurances with all its assumptions, and refuse him, though we still “worship” him. Like the jewish authorities, we have seen Jesus give sight to the blind. We have seen Jesus bring life from death, hope from despair. We have seen Jesus usher in new possibilities. And like the man who can see and the authorities who refused to see, we must make a decision. We must decide if we will see. According to John 9 it turns out that seeing is being open to the grace, mercy and justice of Jesus and all the new possibilities he offers to a world bent on control, telling it like it is, fear, power-mongering and violence.

Jesus is an invitation and a call to a new way of life, a life far different than this world or our country values. And we are always deciding. Every day.

We must decide whether or not we will side with the old assurances and its old way of doing things, or whether we will join in on the new possibilities Jesus brings. We must decide again and again if we will trust him or refuse him. You don’t have to decide everything else, only to trust him or to refuse him. That’s all.

I have come to believe that just like we see in this story, deciding best happens during Sabbath as sacred rest. Sacred rest gives us time. It’s when I take time to pause and breathe, where I cease striving, cease questioning, cease talking, cease assuming that I can decide to trust him. I can cast off the blindness of national politics and political discourse with all it’s bluster and fear, promises and frail assurances, and see clearly. I can cast off the blindness that comes from anxiety, or my need to take control, and see clearly. I can cast off the blindness that comes from living as though I know better how to fulfill the desires of my heart than God, and see clearly.

Choosing to practice sacred rest is in itself the outcome of deciding if we will trust Jesus. Will I trust him enough to say no to this or that? Will I trust him enough to say no to the fears I feel or say no to my need to control? Will I trust him enough to say yes to his settling presence and sovereign Lordship?

Like this story, deciding is all about seeing or not seeing or refusing to see Jesus and the new possibilities he brings. Take the time sacred rest offers and decide to see.

See you Sunday.

~ Fred

Week of 3/07/16 – Sabbath and Freedom from Coercion: A Short Reminder

“Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the Lord your God has commanded you. You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the foreigner who lives within your gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest like you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”     Deuteronomy 5:12-14 

We live in a system of coercion. Here’s what I mean.

If you are to pay your bills, you are forced to work more. If you are to keep up with the advances in technology you are “forced” to buy the latest gadget or be left behind. If you are to make more money you are forced to aim for success and climb the latter of your career, or get a second job and work more. If you are in management, you are tempted to lead by creating policies that “force” people to cooperate with your direction (or this is how you are managed at your work). If you are to fit in with others you are “forced” to wear what they wear. If you are to make the baseball team, you are forced to practice more and perform better.

These are the expectations our society upholds in various areas of our lives. In a social system like this everyone is coerced (forced, pushed or constrained) to produce more, work more, buy more, perform better. We live in such a system. We don’t know how to be or do life any way else, which is what in our system we have the rich and the poor, the “haves” and the “have-nots,” the significant and the insignificant, the successful and the unsuccessful. It is what it is.

But Sabbath understood as sacred rest and settled presence breaks this cycle caused coercion.  Practicing Sabbath as sacred rest reminds us:

  • You do not have to do more. You can rest and trust God.
  • You do not have to sell more. You can rest and trust God.
  • You do not have to control more. You can rest and trust God.
  • You do not have to have my son in three different sports. You can rest and trust God.
  • You do not have to be younger or more beautiful. You can rest and trust God.

Yahweh seems to have wanted the Israelites to know the same. Sabbath was one day where they could purposefully break the pattern of coercion that threatened to keep them from experiencing his shalom (peace). They should no longer seek to control outcomes or people because they were told by God that all are like you, equal—equal worth and equal value and deserving of equal rest.

The motivational part of this statement, of course, is different from the Exodus version. In Exodus they were reminded to observe Sabbath because the Creator rested on the seventh day. In the Deuteronomy version they are told to observe Sabbath based upon their experience with Pharaoh’s empire

“Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

4.1Remember Pharaoh? Remember his coercive system of forced labor where he controlled your lives? Remember your brick quotas? Remember that Yahweh delivered you? Therefore you can remember that even though Pharaoh thought he had a great deal of control and could manage outcomes, he could not. And if he couldn’t control others and manage outcomes then neither can you. In this invitation to anchor their practice of Sabbath in the memory of their freedom from slavery, they are reminded to not go back to that way of life of coercing, competing, constraining and forcing.

We must remember that the pattern of coercion and control has been broken in the person and work of Christ Jesus as Lord. You do not have to stay up at night wondering how to get ahead, how to outdo another, how to perform better, produce more, consume more.

You have been freed, liberated and emancipated from this way of thinking, doing and being in the world. Sabbath as sacred rest and settled presence becomes the practice that invites us to re-decide about coercion and the kinds of expectations we are living into. It also gives you a chance to re-decide about the expectations you are holding above others and our temptation to control or manage others. Like the Deuteronomy text tells us, everyone else is like you and just as you have been freed and liberated from systems of coercion, so too have they. Treat them as you would be treated and let them find rest. The free-time created by cultivating rhythms of sacred rest will give you the chance to do just that. I hope you will.

See you Sunday!

Your bro,

Fred