Easter 2017

It has been over five years and I am again brought back to N.T. Wright’s thoughts on Easter each time we gather to celebrate.

Despite a thousand Easter hymns and a million Easter sermons, the resurrection narratives in the gospels never, ever say anything like, “Jesus is raised, therefore there is a life after death,” let alone, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall go to heaven when we die.” Nor even, in a more authentic first-century Christian way, do they say, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall be raised from the dead after the sleep of death.” No. Insofar as the event is interpreted, Easter has a very this-worldly, present-age meaning: Jesus is raised, so he is the Messiah, and therefore he is the world’s true Lord; Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun—and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven!

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

How do we make His kingdom on earth as in heaven? By loving others. By caring for those in need. By campaigning for justice. By keeping your integrity. By taking care of the environment. By building hospitals and digging wells. By preaching, painting, singing, and sewing.

What we do with our lives in the now matters greatly because with them we are literally making earth more like heaven, or less like it.

Perspective

I’ve seen this picture around the internets a few times, mostly reposts on /r/atheism, but after a friend sent it to me for a laugh, it struck me a little differently.god and universe

Haha, it’s funny because we are so small and God(if he exists) is so big, why is he bothering to tell us not to masturbate?  It is such a stupidly small thing to care about in the grand scheme of things.  Ipso facto, the idea of God is ridiculous because he must not really care about the important things in life.  Hahaha.  I get it.

But if you think about it another way, the straw man example created to poke fun can be used to show how deeply God cares about humanity.  Whatever you believe about masturbation isn’t the point here, replace that instruction with “don’t lie”.  It’s the same thing for the purpose of the image.  While God is so so so so so so so SO much bigger than us, our galaxy, and the observable universe, He takes time to instruct us tiny things how we can better our lives.  Tiny things that seem insignificant to us but can impact the way we live and interact with others.  He does this in addition to handling all the other “big time God stuff”.  He cares about our issues, big and small.

And it is strange to me that my friend is incapable of seeing this side of it.  Anyone who looks at this image and doesn’t really know the impact of what a loving God can have in their minute life really can’t see anything else.  Both perspectives start with the same precept, a God infinitely larger and complex than we are tells us how to conduct small parts of our lives.  Some people stop there and call it meaningless and stupid, while others look to see if there actually is some meaning behind it.

What ‘A Child Called It’ Taught Me About Stories

I read a book called A Child Called It during Highschool.  It’s a first hand account written from someone who was beaten and starved as a child by his abusive mother and played torturous games with him, or at least that’s what the author says.  I didn’t really think twice about the story’s exact validity because the point of the story was about how terrifying and real child abuse is.  A few months ago I read an article about how the story is under suspicion of being exaggerated, profiting off of the abuse story, or completely false.  I don’t know if the guy made it all up, apparently one of his brothers says he did while another one says it was all real.  That is one of the scary realities of this situation, a lot of child abuse goes on and we don’t know about it.  His own brothers can’t even agree if it happened.

But the point is that whether this particular story is true or false, the message of the story is still valid…child abuse happens; it is real; it is terrifying.  So what does that have to do with Story?  Two things I’ve been pondering in my head for a bit were brought out while I was thinking about this.

  1. Just because a story isn’t real doesn’t mean the point of the story is worthless
  2. I think we need to look into a story before touting it as 100% factual reality

Many times I see stories get thrown around to simply illustrate an idea.  If the point of a story isn’t that it actually happened but that it makes you think, it being a reality or not shouldn’t phase you.  Maybe you have heard some of those famous cheesy chain mail letters about the student who countered his professor’s proof that God doesn’t exist or that God is evil(and sometimes the kid conveniently turns out to be Albert Einstein).  Or parts of the Old Testament seem to be more metaphor or Hebrew allegory than factual history(or so I’ve been told be people more versed in this area).  In either of these cases I have encountered a lot of hostile reactions in two opposite directions: 1) they assert that since the story is “just made up” then it is not worthwhile or, 2) they try to prove that isn’t made up, is factual history, and therefore worthwhile.  I think both of these approaches are incorrect in the sense that they both hinge its worth on whether the story is real or not.  The addition to the end of the student-challenging-his-professor story about the kid being Einstein is actually an addition to prove its worth.  Since the kid is Einstein, a very smart man that actually existed, the story must be real and therefore worthwhile.  But this addition hinges the story’s worth on the fact that it is a reality, problematic!

Worthwhile stories do not have to be true.  Take Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings as famous examples, they are made up but there is so much truth we can learn from them about our world, desires, doing what is right, and love.

Easter 2013

In the beginning of this year, God taught me a very important lesson that I couldn’t have grasped by myself.  About six months prior I remember swearing to myself that this particular experience could not make any sense, I would never understand and it was stupid.  Yet here I am now, thankful for my newly learned lesson.  Its hard not to see the mystical side of life when something used to hurt can now be used to heal.  I’m not talking about a wound healing itself over time, but a wound provoking healing beyond what was initially damaged.  Whether it is the cross itself or a more personal experience, things that used to be signs of suffering, sadness, and loneliness can be used to help bring goodness, life, and hope.

Sometimes it is the little things that make it so evident to me that Heaven is actively crashing into, interacting with, and forever changing our world.  But we aren’t just supposed to sit here and watch it happen either, we are called to grasp ahold of Heaven’s tendrils and help pull it in.

…left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entrophy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

Easter blog posts

Two More of My Favorite Christmas Songs

Since I had two posts about Christmas music, I felt I needed to close it out with a third and final one.  I have two songs this time!  This first song finishes the loose narrative my last two posts kinda-sorta-connected together on: 1) Israel(and us) craves for Emmanuel to come, 2) Emmanuel did come, and 3) because of this, everything has changed.

In Like A Lion(Always Winter) is also by Relient K and is about Narnia’s ill weather.  I think that it was supposed to be on the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie soundtrack.  If it wasn’t then I really think it should have been…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksDBJIpqV1k&w=420&h=315]

Personally, I love winter.  I love the colder weather.  I enjoy the rain(for the most part) or snow when visiting the mountains.  I enjoy Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  I really enjoy bundling up and reading a book by the fire or window during the rain.  But, like most things, usually near the end of it am ready for winter to end and spring to show through.  Narnia(prior to Lucy Pevensie stumbling through the wardrobe) has been suffering a one hundred year long winter but never Christmas.  Some of the animals living in Narnia did not know what spring or a Christmas was.  It was a foreign concept to them.  Something wasn’t right.  Note that winter is not bad or evil.  Winter is just one part of the cycle that comes then goes and is just as important as summer, but something had abused winter’s purpose.

And then Aslan returns and sets the world right.  The green grass returns, the leaves begin to grow, Narnia is returning to as it should be.  As it was intended to be.

That is what Jesus’ mission was, to facilitate the restoration of His creation.  Throughout His life we were shown what this meant.  What truly living as God’s creation looks like.  Christmas is such an important event because of what happened afterwards.  If nothing happened after Christmas, if nothing changed, or if Aslan returned but the witch and her winter continued, there is no reason to celebrate.  With Jesus’ death we were allowed passage back to connect with God, this was the answer to Israel’s cries of O Come O Come Emmanuel.

 

I’m sorry if you’re tired of Relient K(not sorry), but they wrote a really good Christmas album.  This last song is entitled Merry Christmas, Here’s To Many More.  I’m not going to write too much about this one, I think the lyrics and pretty straight forward.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE0s2cGVF10&w=420&h=315]

This last year hasn’t been the easiest for me.  A lot of changes, some ups, more downs, even more plateaus, and a whole lot of lets-just-get-through-this-Kevin.  When I sing I made it through the year and I did not even collapse, gotta say ‘Thank God for that’, I really mean it.  So here I am at Christmas, I made it!  Every year I think we all look back and think if we handled that we can handle anything, but it really sticks with you after a rough one.  I know I could not have gotten through this year without God shining through such great friends or family in my life(if you’re reading this then you probably fall under one of these).  He has provided me safe thoughts when I was alone, brilliant friends to hangout with, and a family to take care of me.  And He has promised me that He won’t leave.

So, from me to you, Merry Christmas and here’s to many more.

My Favorite Not-so-classic Christmas Song

I’m not 100% sure on the difference between Classic and NonClassic Christmas songs, but I know that O Come O Come Emmanuel is a Classic and I Celebrate The Day is not.  Nevertheless, it is one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Not much to stay about this song upfront, it is by Relient K and it is essentially a stream of thoughts concerning the first Christmas.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsPFNY4Z5t0&w=420&h=315]

The song isn’t very deep, but I think it gets two things across;

  1. Many of the things that happened that first Christmas are a giant mystery.  I also wonder sometimes when Jesus knew of the gravity of what his birth meant.  Was it something He found out as He grew up?  Was something intrinsically within Him?  Or did He have a fully developed mine capable of understanding it all the moment His eyes opened?  I don’t know, these are things that seem like they can’t make any sense when something is fully God and man.  But what really matters is that Jesus was born.  And that is big news.  So big it changed this world forever.
  2. This is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  We celebrate the day that Jesus was born because it was the start of something.  It was the start of what Israel was begging for back in Assyria.

Emmanuel had come.  He had finally come!  And with Him here, since He had come as it was promised, we know what comes next.  Jesus’ birth was the beginning of our salvation.  Easter is where it all goes down, but Christmas is where it all started.  So I celebrate that day.

My Favorite Classic Christmas Song

It is that time of year again, Christmas music time!  I’m quite particular about listening to Christmas music throughout the year.  Every now and then I’ll listen to a Christmas song if it comes up on iTunes, but the closer it gets to December the more likely I am to skip it because it isn’t time yet.  As we all know, the correct time it is acceptable for Christmas music to start playing is anytime after Thanksgiving, and I always hold out until then.  I usually listen throughout December, past Christmas, and on till about the 7th of January.  There isn’t really another season with its own theme music(the recent attempt at a thanksgiving song doesn’t count), and all of the songs just make this time of year that little bit more special.

My favorite classic Christmas song is one by the name of O Come O Come Emmanuel.  A brief history: the song is translated from an older Ecclesiastical Latin text called Veni, veni, Emmanuel, written sometime between the 8th and 12th century, which was based upon the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.

14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel(meaning God with us).

At this time, the nation of Israel was currently held captive by Assyria(I think) wondering how they could have come to this.  God’s chosen people had been beaten and overtaken.  This is not how it was supposed to be.  How will Israel escape its current setting and how can it possible get better?  It really is a depressing time, which I think sets the mood for the song.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Docmt1_MZVo?rel=0]

Its fairly short, the lyrics follow a very simple and similar structure, its a bit repetitive at times, but it is a song full of longing.

Israel knows of the existence of what they yearn for, but He is nowhere to be found.  They, and we, are in an agony that currently nothing on earth can satisfy.  Every verse is literally the begging for something greater to come and end their suffering; free us from being enslaved, lead us to the age to come, come back to us Lord.  The song never arrives to the time when Emmanuel does come.  Israel doesn’t get saved before the music ends.  Instead the verses all end with the hope that God will be with us someday and we are to rejoice in that.

Perhaps that is why I like it, because at its core it isn’t necessarily a Christmas song.  It is a song about us in the present day, still struggling in the same places as Israel way back in the Old Testament.

Today we are awaiting the very same Jesus to come and redeem us.

How Should We Deal With Loud and Hurtful People?

Has Christianity effectively been ruined for others by Christians not following many of Christ’s teachings them(our)selves but brutally attacking others for doing the same?  I understand that there are many Christians who don’t do this, and that’s great.  But I think the problem is that the Christians that do purposely seek attention while doing it(in their mind they think it is a good thing…I guess).  Should we be seeking attention and disown these actions in response?

I feel like our actions/speech should be much harsher for Christians doing that rather than for someone breaking Christ’s example.

Blue Like Jazz; A Review

I’ll post my thoughts on being a small part of the process it took for Blue Like Jazz to become a movie later.  For now here is just a little of what I thought about the movie.

Blue Like Jazz finds a way to talk about spirituality in a relevant way to our culture.  This is big.  It isn’t preachy, cheesy, and it doesn’t judge.  It is witty, intellectual, and offers, what I think is, a sincere look at faith and what it looks like.  It follows a college freshmen’s existential struggle through life as he explores what Christianity is, what it means to others, and what it means to him.  While some movies try to explain life’s hardships, Jazz stands out because it offers the idea that maybe life is messy because life is messy and we can’t simply pray or follow 4 easy steps to make the conflict of life go away.  With a great deal of influence from his new found friends, consisting of a lesbian, civil disobeyer, and the college pope, Don begins to piece together what life is all about and where his faith belongs(if at all).  Something as miraculous as life and the human experience deserves to be struggled with and tried first hand.  There is no easy right or terribly wrong answer and Jazz doesn’t try to give you one since that is something you need to find for yourself.  Very few movies are brave enough to bring up spiritual struggles like this in a well balanced discussion that believers and nonbelievers can both enjoy.

The difference between Blue Like Jazz and other Christian-genre films is Jazz never turns you away for not believing or acting a certain way, but instead apologizes if you were ever turned away in the first place and offers to take you out for a drink.

It isn’t the best film of the decade, or even the year.  But it gets across what so many other movies have failed to in an entertaining and worthwhile way–Christianity can be(and is!) relevant in our culture.

Go see it!  If you don’t like it at all I will pay you back.

Kevin Wilkinson : Associate Producer

Easter 2012

For this year’s Easter post I’ll leave you with a quotation from a recent book I read.

The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

My previous Easter posts if you’re interested.