Apr 24 2011

Volcanoes and Easter

When I went to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago my dream was to see hot lava flowing into the ocean.  I have seen some incredible images of this and was hoping to capture a few of my own.  Unfortunately, the Kilauea volcano was not active enough for lava to be flowing into the ocean, nor was it close enough to walk to.  I decided to do the next best thing; I took a doors off helicopter flight over the volcano.  From the helicopter I was able look down into the mouth of the crater and see red hot molten lava flowing.  It was an incredibly moving sight.

Hawaii pretty much owes its existence to volcanoes.  Amazingly enough, the islands continue to be shaped by volcanic activity.  Also, south of the Big Island, deep beneath the water, a new island (Lo’ihi) is in the process of being formed.  All of this is the result of a great force at work deep beneath the earth’s surface.  It would be hard to imagine a greater force than that found there.

There is, however, a much greater power and it is the power that Christians all around the world celebrate today.  This is Easter Sunday—that holiest of days when we recall that though Jesus was crucified on Good Friday he rose from the grave that first Easter morning.    Death, which many would have seen as being the greatest force in the world, was defeated that day.  Furthermore, the power of sin was conquered as Christ rose from the tomb.  It truly was the greatest display of power the world has ever seen or experienced.

Today that same power is made available to us through the Risen Christ.  It is something you and I can know firsthand.  In Philippians 3:10-11 the apostle Paul wrote of his desire to experience this power.  He said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.”   The power of Christ’s resurrection is available to all believers today.  It is, however, a power that must be tapped. 

In Hawaii you can visit places where the steam from beneath the earth is harnessed to make power.  As Christians we must harness the resurrection power of God too.  We do so by humbly asking for it and by dying to self so that Christ can live in and through us.  We must get to the point where we can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

I doubt that any of us have begun to realize the full potential of Christ’s resurrection power in our lives but it is there for us nonetheless.  On this Easter Sunday I give thanks for that power and for the difference it has made, and is making, in my life.  Happy Easter!


Apr 22 2011

Earth Day and Good Friday

Today two days that are very important to me happen to fall on the same day—Good Friday and Earth Day.  I’m sure most people will not draw a connection between the two but there most certainly is one.  In fact, for Christians there are many things that connect Good Friday and Earth Day.  For starters, the one whose death on the Cross we remember today is also the one the Bible tells us was responsible for creating the earth.  The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth…” (Colossians 1:15-16)

The Bible also connects Jesus and the earth when we are told “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  The basis for God’s incredible gift of Jesus was His love for the world.  This includes not just humans but all of His Creation.  It is clear from Jesus’ own teachings that he, too, love this planet we call home.

In our pride we tend to think of the salvation made possible on Good Friday as being intended only for humans.  The Bible says something very different.  What Jesus did on the Cross that first Good Friday affects all of Creation.  Paul says in the Book of Romans that Creation shares our same hope.  He writes: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (8:18-21)

People read the Book of Revelation and get all excited about the “streets of gold” in heaven.  They sometimes fail to see that we are promised in these same pages “a new heaven and a new earth.”  (Revelation 21:1)  The earth will also be glorified and renewed.  The One who died on the cross on Good Friday makes “all things new.”

Considering the fact that Jesus’ death on the Cross would benefit all of Creation is it any wonder that on that first Good Friday “darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining?” (Luke 23:44-45)  Even the earth was humbled by what Jesus did for us on the Cross. 

I’m glad that this year Earth Day and Good Friday fall on the same day.  It gives us a chance to pause and remember some very important truths—truths we might not reflect on or connect otherwise.  I give thanks for my wonderful Savior and for the truth that his redemptive act on the Cross was for all the world and that this includes me too.


(I took the top image several years ago at Hensley Settlement in the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  The bottom image was taken last week of the Hana Coast from the Hana Highway in Hawaii.)

Apr 4 2010

Easter Reflections

butterfly on milkweed

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”  Matthew 28:6

Today is Easter Sunday, undoubtedly the most important day in the Christian year.  On this day Christians worldwide celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  This past Friday was Good Friday.  On that day we paused to remember Jesus’ death on the cross.   The cross, of course, has pretty much become the universal symbol of Christianity.  It would seem to me that the empty tomb would be a better symbol but I guess it presents a bigger challenge graphically.

There is, however, a symbol of the resurrection taken from nature that is popular with some.  It is the butterfly.  For many years people have marveled at how the lowly caterpillar creates a cocoon and then emerges as a beautiful butterfly.  In this metamorphosis one can easily find parallels to Jesus’ Passion.  The cocoon appears to be a tomb for the caterpillar; it would seem that the caterpillar no longer exists.  But then the cocoon splits and out comes the butterfly full of life.

I realize that this is not a perfect parallel but I still like the symbolism.  Even if the caterpillar doesn’t really die there is nonetheless a wonderful transformation that takes place.  Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection there is also a wonderful transformation available for those who place their faith in Christ.  That transformation is just as dramatic as the one where the caterpillar turns into a butterfly!

For me Easter is good news.  Because of Jesus’ resurrection we know that sin and death do not have the final word.  Because of the empty tomb we know that there is a power greater than these; that power is God’s love.  It is this love I think about whenever I see a beautiful butterfly.  It is this love I give thanks for today and every other day.  Happy Easter!


(The butterfly image above was taken at Shenandoah National Park.)

Mar 24 2010

Unless A Seed Dies…

seed podNext week I’ll be preaching at one of our community Holy Week services here in Pikeville.  The text I was assigned is John 12:20-36.  In this passage Jesus speaks of his impending death and draws an analogy from nature to do so.  He says in verse 24, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

For many reasons, this is an interesting verse to me.  On the one hand the seed imagery reminds me that all the new growth I’ll see around me this spring came at a cost.  In a sense seeds had to “die” in order for there to be new life.  The cold and darkness of winter were necessary to bring about the bounty of spring. 

On the other hand, the seed comparison reveals to me something of the mystery of Jesus’ death.  Over the centuries there have been many attempts to explain the meaning of the crucifixion–theologians refer to these as theories of the atonement.  Obviously this is not the place to discuss these but I do find it fascinating that in the Fourth Gospel Jesus uses the analogy of the life/death/life cycle of the seed to explain his mission.

In a little over a week Christians will observe Good Friday and pause to remember the death of our Savior.  Perhaps on that day we ought to look around and take note of the new growth spring has brought us and remember Jesus’ words—“unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  John boldly declares that Jesus willingly gave up his life (died on the cross) so that there might be an abundant harvest.  That harvest includes all those who follow Jesus. 

I’m glad that Good Friday and Easter always come in the spring.  There’s a powerful connection there.  There truly is!


(The seed pod above was photographed at Grayson Lake State Park in northern Kentucky.)