Colossians 3:5-11 – Eastertide



Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).  On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (NRSV)

Today’s New Testament reading impresses on us the necessity of choosing life.  On the Christian Calendar, Easter is not merely one day – it is an entire season.  It’s a time to focus on living into a new reality through intentionally putting to death old unhealthy practices and adopting new healthy life-giving habits.  It is the season we call “Eastertide.”

It could very well be that you have never heard of the word “Eastertide.”  Eastertide is a significant season in the Church Year which spans fifty days until Pentecost.  That’s a hefty seven weeks of bringing the new life we enjoy to the forefront.  Eastertide’s spotlight is to recognize and celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, thus, exult in our own new life in him.

Now, you might be saying to yourself: “Why do we need to have some liturgical season about Christ’s resurrection?  Shouldn’t we be living like we recognize this every day?”  Yes, of course we should.  Yet, consider this:  If we only sing songs of resurrection on Easter Sunday; only occasionally direct our attention of Christ’s resurrection outside of Easter Sunday; then, perhaps it is sage to bring a highlighted focus to the resurrection in a special season.  Just as we would likely not think of taking only one vacation day in the year for renewal, so it is necessary to take more than one day to enjoy Easter.  If nothing else, Eastertide gives believers an opportunity to let Christ’s resurrection percolate in our hearts so that we become people in real life who exhibit an alive-spirit.  And, God knows, we could use much more of that in our congregations and our world!

If life, eternal life, and the necessity of being alive are all needs for us, then it only makes sense that we would want to take advantage of what Eastertide has to offer: A deliberate look at Christ’s resurrection, exploring its implications and impact for us.  Simply assuming we all know about resurrection will not do, any more than my wife simply assuming I love her without looking her straight in the eye and telling her so.

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Without Eastertide, there’s a sin-as-usual kind of approach to life with a sort of shoulder shrug that says, “Meh, what’s a guy to do?”  Instead, we have the hope of vibrant everlasting life because Christ has risen from death.  We have the hope of individual renewal, corporate revitalization, and worldwide revival because there is a risen Savior.

Therefore, this is the perfect time of year to engage in some renewal practices or even make a few simple changes that show signs of life.  Here are just a few ideas for lifting Christ’s resurrection into the next few months:

Pray for revival of spirituality.  Christ brings life, so praying for revival is a deliberate way of connecting with God.

Squarely address practices of the “earthly nature” which are death-dealing.  Gossip, back-biting, slander, and an entire host of sins of the tongue kill and murder people.  Simply sluffing-off someone’s acerbic speech as “that’s just the way they are” will not do, unless you want to exist in a pro-death culture.

Promote life-giving practices.  If sins of the tongue bring death, using our speech for encouragement, love, mercy, forgiveness, and building up one another promotes growth, health, and life.

Proclaim resurrection.  I believe the church is meant to be the hope of the world because Christ is the risen Lord.  This is the time for Christians to profess the resurrected Christ and how the spiritual life makes a difference in life.

Start that new ministry you always believed would make a difference.  It is the season to take a risk.  After all, if you have eternal life can you really fail?  Host a new virtual small group.  Take initiative to up your knowledge of technology.  Use your time at home to read some significant books and start an on-line book club.  Those are my ideas. I’m willing to bet you have some idea(s) rolling around inside you about blessing the world.  Now, during Eastertide, is the time to turn that idea into reality.

Focus on your daily habits of spiritual health and life.  If you would not think of skipping meals for days at a time, then consider the erosion to your soul and/or your church when folks don’t read their Bibles on a regular basis or pray with any kind of consistency.  This is also a wonderful season to explore new spiritual practices you haven’t tried or considered before.  Stick to a plan.  It will not only bring growth to your own life, but will impact those around you.

Just keeping the word “Eastertide” in front of us for the next few months can be a simple yet powerful way of reminding us that God, in Christ, has ushered-in new life.  Let the reality of Christ’s resurrection take root in your heart to such an extent that life itself informs all your thinking, speaking, feeling, and acting.

In the joy and hope of Eastertide, we pray:

That You, our risen Savior, may fill us in this season with the joy of Your life-giving resurrection.

That You, Compassionate Savior, will enable isolated and persecuted churches to find fresh strength in the good news of Easter.

That You, Loving God, may grant us humility to be subject to one another in Christian love.

That You, Lord God our Provider, may give necessities for those who lack food, work, or shelter.

That by Your mighty power, Almighty God, war and famine may cease through all the world.

That You, Great God of Mystery, may reveal the light of Christ’s presence to the sick, the weak, and the dying, to comfort and strengthen them.

That, Steadfast God, according to Your promises, You will raise at the Last Day all who have died in the faith of the resurrection.

That You, Consuming God, may send the fire of Your blessed Holy Spirit upon people of every nation and ethnicity, so that we may together bear faithful witness to Christ’s resurrection.

Heavenly Father, You have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your dear Son: Grant that, as the death of Jesus has called us to life, so may His continual presence raise us to eternal joy.  Amen.

Click Christ is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed by Keith and Kristyn Getty to keep the Easter songs coming.

How to Stay on Track Following Jesus Throughout the Year

paths are made by walking

Its normal to have a head of steam at the beginning of the year.  You have things you want to accomplish – goals you desire to see met.  On that list of things in your head, in your heart, and maybe even written down somewhere on your desk is the longing to know God better, to experience Jesus in a fresh way, to have better discipline with prayer or Bible reading.  Maybe you don’t know where or how to start.  Perhaps you have traveled the Christian road for a long time and its become stale and dull, and you think you’ve exhausted all attempts at following Jesus with enthusiasm.

There is a way, a road, a path for you to travel.  It’s a very well-worn journey that Christians for two millennia have been walking.  If you will walk with them down this road, your desires can spring to life and gain traction and direction.  It’s a path of truly walking with Jesus, to experience his birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification.

This journey with Jesus is not hard in the sense of simply following him.  Yet, it does require getting into a rhythm, just like you do when you walk.  Just as you have a certain gait, picture yourself walking with Jesus down a road.  Maybe it’s a slow saunter with him.  Maybe it’s going on a run.  Perhaps it’s a solitary tromp through the woods, or around the mall with others present.  Whatever it is, in this next year, imagine yourself recalling, retelling, and remembering the life of Jesus with him alongside you.

The Christian Calendar or Christian Year is a delightful and enlightening walk with Jesus throughout the entire year.  The Christian Year is a yearlong calendar that marks time according to the life of Jesus.  It is to live and walk in a rhythm with Christ at the center of your work and worship.  Observing the days and the seasons of the Year will bring you closer to Jesus with a greater awareness of his presence through the Holy Spirit.  It’s what I want, and it is, I believe, what you want, too.

The Christian Calendar is arranged in such a way as to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ over the course of a year.  Just one of the ways that help you to remember differing seasons is through color:  purple signifies a time for preparation and penitence; white represents celebration, joy, and victory; green lets us know it is time to focus on spiritual growth and mission; and, red helps us recall the Passion of Christ and the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Check-out how the Christian Year is organized and arranged according to seasons to aid you in your walk with Jesus:

Advent – The Christian Year begins not on January 1, but four Sundays before Christmas Day and up to Christmas Eve.  The purpose of Advent is to anticipate the incarnation of Christ and prepare us to celebrate the coming of Jesus.  We are also reminded that Jesus will again return….

Christmas – Yes, Christmas is more than just a day on the church calendar and encompasses the twelve days from December 25 to January 5 (you may recognize the 12 Days of Christmas).  Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ.

Epiphany – Epiphany follows Christmas from January 6 to the day before Ash Wednesday.  The term Epiphany means “manifestation.”  This is a celebration of God’s self-revealing, his manifestation to the entire world, not just the Jews, but the Gentiles, as well.  Epiphany emphasizes Christ’s earthly ministry of teaching, healing, and preaching.

Lent – There are forty days in the season of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday.  Lent is a time to recall Christ’s temptation, conflict, suffering, and death.  It is a season to contemplate being disciples in light of Christ’s Passion, engage in repentance, and put deliberate focus on spiritual disciplines.

Easter – As with Christmas, Easter is not just one Sunday; it is a season of fifty days up to the day of Pentecost.  Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus; helps us recognize our new life in Christ; and, includes celebrating the Ascension of our Lord.

Pentecost – This season runs from Eastertide to the Sunday before Advent.  Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church, acknowledges our spiritual power, and calls us to rejoice in receiving God’s power.

Ordinary Time – Ordinary time refers to the ongoing work of the church to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the typical, expected, ordinary work of ministry that Christ’s followers are to do.

It’s easy to get distracted and get off track from our desires and goals.  But with observance of the Christian Year, we stay on track with Jesus.  The focus is on him, and not on our own schedules.  To center the year in Christ brings spiritual health, a close walk with Jesus, and a satisfaction to our hungry souls.

May your journey be fulfilling and fruitful.  Amen.

Jesus Is Speaking to You Now Through Time

cross clock

There is a time for everything.  Everything in your life has its own time and its own season.  There is a time you were born, and a time when you will die.  There are times for crying, and times for laughing – for weeping, even wailing, and a time for some sick dance moves.  There is a time to be active, and a time to be still.  There is a time to receive, and a time to give.  Your life is lived with the inevitable, inescapable, sometimes insufferable, but always interesting march forward of times and seasons (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

It is cold this morning.  I arose and took the dog outside for his early jaunt.  Its winter.  -10 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of -20 degrees welcomed me like a stiff slap in the face.  But I know it won’t always be this way.  Not every morning will receive me with a bite.

Imagine if it were always winter… or summer… or spring… or fall.  Yes, we all have our favorite seasons, and we might wish that the blooming green of Spring or the Indian summer of Fall might last forever.  But you know that life is lived in a rhythm.  All good things on this earth will not last forever; and, all the ill things will eventually pass away.  My grandson will not always be 8 years old with that smile which swallows his face, and that curious way of a boy discovering the world through wonderfully childish eyes.  But neither will he live in perpetuity with the scourge of epileptic seizures, because these, too, will eventually see their end, even if it isn’t until Christ returns.

If you will allow yourself to flow with the rhythm of time, and ebb with the coming and going of the seasons –  then healing, health, and wholeness is there to weather you through the experiences of pain and sorrow, and move you to peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

For the believer in Jesus Christ, an observance of the Christian Calendar or the Church Year is helpful, beneficial, even necessary.  Maybe I have lost you at this point.  Perhaps I’m moving too “liturgically” for you.  Out of all the things I could say to be helpful, you bring up an observance of the Christian Year?  Really?

Consider this truth: Jesus Christ is Lord over all – including time.  But the nasty little secret you hold is that your time is your own, kept and held onto like an addict.  You use it like an alcoholic, consuming more and more of it and insisting in your denial that you can control your use of it anytime you want.  If you’re looking for miracles, those typically come in the mundane of life – the kind of banal living that comes from a slow patient observance of the Year.

Not openly acknowledging Jesus as the Lord of time gives you the rationalization that you can use and abuse your days on earth.  Never mind that you hide minutes from others, and have hours that you cannot account for.  Your time is marked more with the wild swings from careless procrastination to sudden impetuous acts without thinking.  It is high “time” that you come back to allowing the Lord of the seasons to rule your time.

Life is a journey through time.  It is marked by events and seasons.  The Christian Year is nothing more and nothing less than a journey with the life of Jesus Christ.  If our lives are to center in him, our time is not our own.  Allowing ourselves to move in the rhythm of God’s time sets a counter-cultural and subversive tone to the marking of time with the world.  It is a declaration and witness that Jesus is Lord of all, including time.

In a future post I will list and briefly define each season, but for now it is good for us to consider what the state of our lives is concerning time.  Notice that we tend to refer to it as “our” time or “my” time.  But it is all God’s time, not mine.

You might be stuck in a difficult season of life.  Fear not.  Jesus is Lord over that season, and his time will overwhelm your situation.  You might be in an enjoyable season.  Be aware that Jesus is also Lord of that season, and he wants his life to dwell in you through his own good time.

Seasons come, and seasons go.  Everything has its time.  But the end of the matter, as the Teacher says in the book of Ecclesiastes:

“Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about.  God will judge everything we do, even what is done in secret, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, CEV).

There is often a great discrepancy between the way you spend your time and the way you think you spend your time. A time audit helps you look at exactly how your time is being used so you can better understand where your time is going.  If you have never done a time audit, look at your calendar and choose an upcoming two-week period to do so.

Again, for now, don’t think too much about this (unless you want to get right to it, go for it).  It is enough to think the thought that Jesus is Lord over your time and have a conversation with him about it.

What does this really mean for my life?

What is the Holy Spirit trying to say to me through seasons and time?

What kind of season are you in right now?

How might Jesus as the Lord of time impact that season?

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

            According to the secular calendar it is Black Friday.  The worship of consumerism is in full swing at the cathedral mall with accompanying liturgies of parking, finding great deals, and standing in long lines waiting to confess to larger credit card debt.  Yep, I know that sounds cynical.  There is nothing wrong with a crazy good bargain and thinking of gifting others, but, at the same time, we need to acknowledge that the whole shopping experience mirrors religious movements much more than we might want to admit.
             The Christian Year, with its annual rhythm centered round the life of Christ, offers an alternative way of keeping time and living life.  Today is the last Friday in the Church Calendar.  Sunday is a new year, beginning with Advent, and we again journey with Jesus throughout the seasons.  Today’s New Testament lesson contains several staccato-like exhortations from the Apostle Paul at the end of his letter.  Just as Paul wanted to get some quick instruction before the end, so we need to hear these biblical imperatives at the end of the Christian Year, as well as keeping them in mind in order to avoid the orgy of shopping within this next month.
             The compact list of commands is almost overwhelming:  admonish the idle; encourage the fainthearted; help the weak; be patient with everyone; do not repay evil for evil; seek to do good to everyone; rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances; do not quench the Spirit; don’t despise prophecies (exhortation of other believers); test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  
             Rather than having our eyes glaze over wondering how we can hold all these imperatives together in our lives, let’s focus on one.  It is better to begin with one command and be diligent with it than it is to walk away and do none of them at all.  One suggestion is to list all these exhortations and ask the Spirit to show you which one to work on in this holiday season.  Keep in mind that one command in each decision you make and every conversation you have with others in the next several weeks.  See if it becomes a habit for you.  Observe how it changes your life and those around you, especially at the mall….
             Patient God, your steadfast love sticks with me day in and day out.  Help me to weave your commands so thoroughly into the fabric of my life that it transforms the way I interact with others.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.