Tuesday, April 26, 2011

God's Sacrifice (Easter weekend thoughts)

I hardly know where to begin. Each day during Holy Week, as Good Friday drew nearer, the more I thought about everything. I attended no services until Friday, but the Easter story was very much on my mind. Thursday night (Maundy Thursday) I came home from work and tried to pray before bed. I dissolved into tears thinking of all the sins I have done counted against Jesus. The God that created the universe, dying for me. I am guilty, and He has paid.

Friday morning I got up and went to the traditional three hour service at the Episcopal church. It was different this year. It was the entirety of J.S. Bach’s "St. John Passion" – in German – built around a liturgy in English. I could read the English translation of the German songs much faster than the choir sang them, and this gave me a LOT of time to simply ponder and pray. At one point they brought a cross forward and we were invited to pray at it, then later we took communion.

At the end of the service I did something I haven’t done in a long time, since I lost my ring a year or more ago. My sister gave me a garnet ring – my birthstone – as a present. I’ve been wearing it on my right ring finger as just plain old jewelry. There, in my pew, I felt impressed to take it off and slip it on my left ring finger, like a wedding band. My heart is bound to God, for this life and forever. Good Friday gave me a sense of deep gratitude for what God has done for me.

As some of you may remember, my church has been going through a DVD series called "The Mission of the Church Matters." After my Dad died, while I was in Seattle, I missed watching the second DVD. Last week I borrowed it from my pastor, and on Good Friday night, since TV felt so banal on so holy a day, Brad and I watched it. It was Matt Chandler preaching.

At one point he spoke of Galatians 2:20 ("I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" [NASB]). He explained the verse and some of the ways that might express itself in the Christian life. It hit me how many vain pursuits I spend time and money on, things that aren’t bad in and of themselves, but take time and (especially) money from things of lasting value.

I decided I need to cut back on online games and not spend anymore money on them. For Café World, this will mean no more catering orders and slower progress on the goals. It will mean I make less visits to Starbucks and Jamba Juice. It will mean considering the best uses for the money God gives me. Yeah, a simple sermon by some guy I never heard of before can effect me that much.

Saturday at church was good and fairly normal. After church and the next DVD in the series, Brad and I went for a walk in Wildcat Canyon. It was misting, but I was desperate for exercise. The rain got harder as time went on. We went as far as we could before the path got too muddy with puddles of water to continue on.

The thing that struck me the most was that the beginning of Wildcat Canyon is an old road, paved and broad. But 1/4 mile up the trail the heavy winter rains this year have taken their toll. A mudslide has covered almost the entire road. There is a very narrow path through the mudslide to the other side, and it was very muddy.

The county has blazed a path on the other side of the road from the mudslide. It will very likely be permanent since I can’t imagine what the cost would be to remove the dirt from the road. Photos here. We got wet, but for once I didn’t mind walking in the rain. I just gloried in God’s beautiful creation, even the rain.

Easter Sunday morning we went to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (the same place I went on Good Friday). We did NOT sing "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!" Blasphemy! It’s not Easter without that song! In the whole service we sang only one song that I knew the tune to, At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing, which was used as the closing hymn.

After church there was a potluck luncheon, nicely done, and including champagne and cake. Brad and I sat and chatted with en elderly gentleman. It was the last straw for med as far as going to that church anymore. He spoke about how "open" the Episcopal church was in accepting gays and lesbians and ordaining women. I knew I had to find another church, and plan to look into Anglican churches, since they tend to be more conservative. I know I cannot go back to St. Paul’s anymore.

But overall I was happy all day Sunday. The sadness of Good Friday dissolved into the Sunday morning light of Mary finding the tomb empty. He is risen! Our God and Savior didn’t stay dead. He overcame death! And because of that I can have life, now and eternally.

Now Holy Week is past, and I thought the emotional roller coaster of the last week might fade and disappear. But Monday at work I was browsing through John Piper’s Facebook page when I came upon a link: The Father’s Cup: A Crucifixion Narrative.

It’s a 25 minutes retelling of the Easter story. I dissolved into tears. I wept when the narrator listed all the sins placed on Jesus, and he mentioned my own. I was barely holding the tears back until he got to "divination and demon worship." That did it. I know the things I worshiped were demons, and it hit me all over again that those were counted to Jesus as if *He* had done them - my Lord! He drank the cup of the Father’s wrath for me! I am overwhelmed all over again.

I have often wondered if sometimes my tears when I pray are influenced by having a glass of wine before bed. But when I listened to this I was at work. I hadn't had anything to drink except unsweetened green tea, and I still cried.

And now I am at that time of year when I recall what God did in my life. In one week I will celebrate my 15th spiritual birthday. I can’t even begin to comprehend that or why God chose me – someone who didn’t want Him, someone who hated Him, someone who was happy worshipping things she thought was divine, but weren’t. How do I comprehend God choosing me and dying for me? And yet the Bible says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NASB). Thank You, God, for dying for me and holding onto me these 15 years.

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