Apr 20 2014

The Promise of Resurrection

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” –Martin Luther

_DSC3338I love Easter.  To me there is no more glorious day of the year.  Even more, I love the message of Easter.   It is good news—incredibly good news—every single day of the year.  I am thankful for Easter’s message that death does not have the final word.  That is important to me.  I am also thankful for Easter’s message that as the risen Lord Christ is able to be with me at all times and in all places.  That, too, is important to me.  There is yet another message of Easter that I love and treasure.  That is God’s ability to bring good out of the worst of situations.  I am convinced that this is God’s specialty.   What an amazing God it is who can take what happened on Good Friday and turn it into the most wonderful thing that has ever occurred!  God took what certainly looked like a great defeat to the world and made it become a victory like no other.  And the good news is God continues to do the same kind of thing in the lives of people like you and mine.

_DSC3334 flippwsTime and time again I have seen God take bad situations in my life or that of others and use those bad situations to bring good from them.  I’ve seen God do that when people have lost loved ones, when their marriages failed, when they lost jobs, when they sought to end their lives, when injuries were sustained, and when all hope was lost.  Easter reminds us that there is nothing that God cannot use to bring about good, if only we let Him and give Him time to do so. Countless times it has been my faith in God’s ability to do this which has enabled me to hang on.  It has been the hope I have encouraged others to hold on to on many an occasion.

_DSC1403What this hope is, of course, is nothing less than “the promise of resurrection.”  God’s resurrection power was not available to only Jesus.  The Bible makes it clear that this power is the possession of all of God’s children. (Philippians 3:10)  We just need to be reminded of this from time to time.  So perhaps that’s what spring is all about.  As Martin Luther indicated, “in every leaf in springtime” we find a reminder of the promise of resurrection.  I thought about that this morning when I drove into the church parking lot.  Earlier this winter I had photographed a dogwood bud encased in ice right next to our parking lot.  This morning that bud was a beautiful flower.  It had not only survived the cold dark winter, it was thriving.  It was alive.

On this Easter Sunday I encourage you to rejoice in and give thanks for the glorious resurrection of Christ our Lord.  I also ask you to keep in mind that the good news of Jesus’ resurrection is not ancient history.  It is as fresh as the blossoms you see around you today.


(I took the top two images this morning and the bottom one from the same tree in February.)

Jun 19 2013

Easter in June

_CES4649There’s a small flower garden on the property of the church where I serve.  As I passed it in my car this morning I felt like it was Easter in June.  There for all to see were several beautiful Easter lilies in bloom.  When I noticed them I couldn’t help but recall Jesus’ charge to “consider the lilies.”  He spoke those words in Matthew 6:28 as he encouraged his listeners not to worry.  Jesus indicated that the lilies were provided for by God.  He intimated that if God takes care of them we can rest assured that He will take care of us as well.  That is a truth I need reminded of on a regular basis.

_CES4664The fact that it was Easter lilies I was looking at led my thoughts elsewhere.   Easter lilies are trumpet shaped and might be said to herald the good news that Christ is risen from the dead.  The resurrection of Jesus, of course, stands at the heart of the Christian faith.  It was this event that caused the church to begin to worship on Sundays rather than on the Sabbath.  Everything hinged on the resurrection of Christ.  The apostle Paul went so far as to say “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)  Even though it is now the end of June the flowers I saw this morning served as a reminder that the celebration of Easter is always appropriate.

Before the morning was over I found my mind somehow connecting Jesus’ call to consider the lilies with the message of Easter.  Certainly one of the greatest truths we find in the Easter story is that God is so mighty that not even death can stand in His way.  We may see death as the ultimate enemy but death itself has been defeated in Christ.  When you remember that God is that powerful it makes even more sense why we should not give in to the temptation to worry or become anxious.  The One who raised Christ from the grave is more than able to meet our every need.  Why should we worry when the God of Easter is there beside us each step of the way?  There is no need at all.  Some lilies told me so just this morning…


Mar 31 2013

Easter’s Uniqueness

zebra 554Over the years many have noted the appropriateness of Easter coming during the season of spring.  Easter is very much about renewal on our part but when it comes to finding parallels to what Jesus experienced in nature it is a pretty difficult thing to do.  For many years people have used the butterfly as a symbol for Easter.  Some think the caterpillar that enters a cocoon and comes out a butterfly is a reminder of the resurrection.  That, to me, seems more like a symbol for change or metamorphosis than resurrection.   The caterpillar does not die and then come back to life.  It is simply transformed.

resurrection fern 703When Rob and I were in the Everglades late last year we took a naturalist-led tour through a swamp and were told about a plant known as the resurrection fern.  It grows on trees and during dry spells it basically withers.  Once it rains, however, the plant revives and becomes a vibrant and verdant fern once again.  Once more, this is a matter of rejuvenation, not resurrection.  The plant did not die and then come back to life again.  Perhaps the closest we come to a parallel in nature is the one Jesus himself gave.  He once said, “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.” (John 12:24)  Even here, however, it is not a literal death that occurs.

I stress the differences here because I feel that it is important to understand how unique and special the Easter event is.  There are no true natural parallels.  Plants and animals do not die and then come back to life again.  Neither do humans; not, at least, after two or three days, and when they are medically revived it is only to  die permanently later.  We cannot minimize what happened when Jesus rose from the dead.  It was not a natural phenomenon.  Instead it was the grandest miracle of all.

_CES2288It has been said that Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of a new Creation.   After Easter everything changes; the old order of things passed away and the world began a brand new era.  I could not begin to explain it in words but I do believe that the resurrection of Christ has cosmic implications.  What happened on Good Friday and then Easter has changed the world forevermore.  It offers to humans and Creation alike hope.  On this day I celebrate that hope and encourage you to join with me in doing so.  Happy Easter!


(I took the Zebra butterly and caterpillar images at Cypress Garden in South Carolina and the resurrection fern image at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.)

Apr 8 2012

Reminders of Easter

Happy Easter!  I hope you have had a wonderful and blessed day.  This morning, while scanning entries posted on Facebook, I found where someone shared the following quotation by Martin Luther: The promise of the resurrection is not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.”  In Luther’s words we see once again how God’s “other book”—Creation—complements the Scriptures.  It is, of course, primarily in the New Testament that we find the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  And what a story it is!  After all these years I am still amazed by the whole account of Jesus Passion and the empty tomb.  I am also so very thankful for what this story means.  This morning I preached on Paul’s words in First Corinthians 15: 17, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”  It is my firm conviction that my faith is not futile and that my sins have, in fact, been forgiven.  Why?  Because Jesus lives!

The biblical message of resurrection is echoed in Creation.  For those with eyes to see it is everywhere.   Martin Luther was right; “every leaf in spring-time” proclaims resurrection.  Every flower that burst forth from the ground, likewise, shouts the good news of resurrection.  Even the light of dawn each morning reminds us of God’s resurrection power.

I am so very thankful for all of nature’s reminders because the implications of the resurrection are huge.  In the passage I noted above Paul says if Christ be not raised our faith is in vain, our sins are not forgiven, and he goes on to add, those “who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” or no longer exists. (v. 18)  So much hinges on Jesus’ resurrection that first Easter long ago!  It is the “good news” that our Savior lives that brings us comfort and joy.  It is this same good news that is the source of our peace and hope.  For that reason I am grateful that God has placed within His Creation many visible reminders of His resurrection power.  These reminders can and should enrich our lives throughout the year.


(I took the picture of the trees above at Breaks Interstate Park yesterday afternoon.  I took the bottom image of a tulip here at my house earlier today.)

May 2 2011

Resurrection Sunday and Nature

I am guessing that you probably never thought to put Christ’s resurrection together with nature. Frankly, I didn’t either. The resurrection is a core part of a Christian’s beliefs and represents a great gift from our Creator. Our sins are forgiven because Christ died for our sins.

We had a wonderful Easter service on Resurrection Sunday, but during the service a week prior, we sang a song that got me thinking. It was a contemporary praise song based on “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and a lyric said that “Were the whole world of nature mine, that were a present far too small: love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Now that hit me wrong. Yes, Christ dying for our sins was a wonderful thing. But to then say that God’s other big gift, the creation of heaven and earth, is less important is mixing up things that I don’t think should be mixed up. We would not exist, nor would there have been a need for Christ to come, if we had not been part of God’s creation. God’s gift of the world of nature is an amazing gift, and not small by any standard. Anyway, giving God back his own present is a little weird.

Think about what an amazing gift our world is. We cannot live without it. So much of what we know is beautiful comes from it. The gift of forgiveness is so very important, but so is the gift of life, indeed the gift of all life. There is no reason to minimize either gift by comparing them at all.

Many years ago I was at my parents’s church and the pastor there gave a memorable Easter sermon. He talked about how Christ resurrection was like the spring (I know this is a common theme, but this pastor did this very well) — after the tough times of winter (this was back in Minnesota and we knew tough winter!), spring came, just like after the tough times of the Crucifixion, the Resurrection happened. Spring is a time of renewal, and you can see the Resurrection as representing renewal, too. I think connecting God’s gifts of Christ and nature in this way is a good way of giving thanks for both.

The flowers are California poppies shot about a week ago in Central California — an always exuberant expression of spring.

— Rob

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!