Friday, April 12, 2019

Tragedy to triumph

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
   and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah 53:12)

Tragedy to triumph

We stand on the brink of Holy Week when unholy things will occur. They occur every week, but this is the week when we consider the great tragedy of the human heart and history.

The gift of God’s own presence is refused and killed, hung on a cross. This is the rejection of the Love the human heart most needs, but most fears.

Fears? Yes, because receiving the Love who is our Source not only gives joy but moves us beyond ourselves in acts of great care. Knowing the Love Who Is carries us beyond our comfort zone. It asks us transform the world by caring for those who are difficult for us, forgiving what we don’t want to forgive and loving this world even when it is most unlovely.  

It coaxes us to release our delusional grasp on our futures and trust that Love, after all, is enough to hold and give us what we need in the great unknown that stretches before us.

This week, we watch Jesus pour himself out to death, receiving the brutality of those who do not want the world or themselves to be transformed by Love. He bears their abuse, refusing to pay back evil for evil, even praying for those who do not understand that they are trying to kill the very Love they most need.

But they cannot, of course. For the week that witnesses the great folly of the human race ends in startled wonder, as we see once more that Love, indeed, is stronger than every death that has ever been. 

Seeing this, our hearts will fill with life once more.

Pr. David L. Miller

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Gentle Rider

Then they brought [the colt] to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! (Luke 19:35-38)

Gentle rider

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he mounted the colt and rode it into the Kidron Valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He was fulfilling God’s promise of the Messiah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

He looked gentle, but his act was a threat to the Romans who occupied the city and to the authorities who ran the temple.

For the gentle rider on his colt was claiming to be the Messiah, which means “Anointed One,” who judges and shepherds the nations, brings light to those in darkness and mercy to the poor and oppressed.

The Messiah would command peace to the nations and break the instruments of battle into pieces.

Of course, this king will be rejected. We know how he was arrested, condemned and brutally executed. But we also know that the life that was in him could not be killed but rose again. The peace he proclaimed, the mercy he poured out, the care and justice he embodied has ruled the hearts of those who name him Lord and changed the entire course of history.

All the armies that have marched and navies that have sailed don’t begin to match the power of this Jesus, who still commands and makes peace flow from the hearts of those who know him.

And he will, until the day his peace covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

In your hands

But I trust in you, O Lord;
   I say, ‘You are my God.’ 
My times are in your hand;

 deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. 
Let your face shine upon your servant;

   save me in your steadfast love.
 (Psalm 31:14-16)

In your hands

To know salvation is to know a great and enveloping love surrounding, holding and filling you. It is to such everlasting love that the heart cries out and confidently declares, “My times are in your hand.”

Every hour of every day, past, present and future … “in your hands.”

I wrote a sermon using this phrase years ago when studying for pastoral ministry. Our professor assigned the task of writing a funeral sermon. I chose this text and wrote a funeral sermon … for my father, who was still alive at that time.

But he was failing. His health failed for years as post-polio syndrome wore him down to a crumpled, frail shadow of a man, whom I still love greatly as my tears attest. A small photo of the two of us is on my desk, right in front of me as I write.

I thought of my father’s days as I wrote that sermon years ago, a few lines of which I used when Dad finally passed. His days were bright until 29 when polio struck him down in a single day. All the days that followed, until we laid him to rest on a hillside outside our little town, were marked with more struggle than most ever endure.

At the end, when all strength had failed and the loneliness of dying weighed heavily on his heart, I marked his head with the sign of the cross and assured him that he rested in the arms of an everlasting mercy … who held every moment of every day he’d ever lived.

I wanted for him what I want for myself and every soul I have ever counseled, consoled or comforted: Know this, precious heart, everything you are, everything you lost along the way, everything you suffered and every joy that sparkled in your eyes—all of it—rests in the hands of an everlasting love. Now and forever.

Pr. David L. Miller