A necklace of Easter thoughts: “He is not here.” (Matthew 28:6

A necklace of Easter thoughts:

“He is not here.” (Matthew 28:6)

 

Last Christmas, we visited Abhaya Bhavan, a home for the destitute and sick, run by the Missionaries of Charity. As we entered the Home, I glanced past the beautiful crib they had prepared. Tinsel covered the roof, and on the inside you could see colourful lights that blinked.I looked closer in  surprise, a couple of decorating material and colour hangings and gift wrappers lay there, rolled together, in the middle of the manger, but no Jesus! It was Christmas and Jesus was no longer there in the crib.

 

For years, everyone had tried to tie baby Jesus down in a decorated manger. But he had left the manger because he was not meant to stay there, forever as a helpless baby; instead he was meant to become someone who exerted great impact on the whole world, which was more inconvenient to our lives than a pretty baby.

Following his crucifixion, the High Priests and other leaders tried to tie Jesus down to the tomb. But the mighty God, who became man was too powerful for them. Who imagined that someone would defeat death? They tried to keep the Good News in the tomb. But the news was too Good to be contained.

 

Easter is a story of transformation. In fact it is a story of the greatest transformation which changed the stories of many.

 

When the earliest rays of the to-be-Easter day were reaching Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary were nearing the tomb of Jesus. They would anoint Jesus’ body, a procedure that was part of a decent burial. After all he was dead. He had said he would rise on the third day, but now that he was dead, however disappointing that was, he deserved a decent funeral. May be some day, his tomb might become a great memorial monument where people come to remember the life of that good man.

 

What they saw at the tomb added fear to their already disappointed hearts. It  made them doubly vulnerable. An earthquake and a supernatural encounter later, they were so afraid. This was too much to ask for when your teacher, who had good intentions, were dead and when they wanted to have good memories of him.

 

“He is not here”: Divine incapacitation giving new meaning to life.

Verse 2 picturizes the coming of the supernatural – heralded by an earthquake, followed by an angel who descends and sits on top of the stone which he rolls away from the mouth of the tomb. It stands for God’s power doing its thing in contrast to the feeble human efforts to keep him dead – as the High Priest and Inc. and the Marys tried. The soldiers who were meant to guard the tomb are said to have “For fear of him. . .  shook and became like dead men” (verse 4). They wore uniforms of the Imperial army of Rome. Perhaps, they had the medals. They fought valiantly. They were brave, able men. But the able men were incapacitated by the Divine (read God). That is because the Divine had different plans.

 

As a result of the Divine revelation the Marys were so afraid too but the angel had sweet words of assurance,

“Do not be afraid.”

 

Both are incapacitated but the women are then told some-things that hadn’t been in their minds that Sunday morning: Jesus had been raised and he would go to Galilee and they would meet him there.

 

Now that gave them a whole new perspective on life – that their Rabbi was still alive and that they would meet him! Life had more to it, if this meant that Friday was not the climax. The incapacitation due to a fear inducing revelation from God, now led to a new perspective on life itself.

 

Have you felt incapacitated? That your plans were not working the way you thought were best? That you made plans and nothing of it has borne fruit and you simply can’t go ahead? Has something paralyzed your ability and determination to go forward? Easter tells us of God’s straight encounter that stops short-sighted human plans. If you were seeking Jesus, like the Marys, then you will receive a new perspective on his plans, even if that means you need a bit of correction in what you sought! But if you were trying to keep him away from involving in your life, like the soldiers, you are alive, yet “like dead”(verse 4). When you have the fullness of life bursting open in front of you, will you remain still or receive it?

 

“He is not here”: Drawing attention to the imperatives

In the Bible, we see that God often spoke through prophets and angels. And when they spoke, we had better listen, or we would be missing out on the most important matters of life. So when they say “He is not here,” then what is?

 

The Angel’s first imperative statement, “do not be afraid,” is reminiscent of angel Gabriel’s assurance to Mary – she could bank on it for she was covered by God’s grace (Luke 1:30). So could the Marys, in our portion.

 

The second imperative is, “Come and see the place where he lay,” (Verse 6). In the Greek original of the New Testament, deute (“come!”) is the same word used by Jesus when he calls his disciples in Matthew 4.19 and Mark 1.17. So the angel was a calling, on behalf of God, to a renewed witness!

 

To witness what?  They are called to witness ton topon hopou ekeito (the place where he was laid). The root word of ekeito means to store, to be laid permanently, etc. They are invited to see the place where people thought he was laid permanently, so that they were done with his ‘I am the Messiah’ nuisance. It was an invitation that would change their life because what they saw and experienced (including the unexpected Divine encounter) filled them with fear and great joy (verse 8) that they couldn’t walk anymore; they were running to tell the news to the rest of the disciples, as commanded by the angel!

 

Notice the emotions: fear and great joy. Earlier, they were a disappointed duo who were hurt further by fear of the Divine encounter, but the imperative of Easter has now given them great joy, that they run. The joy is increased evermore when Jesus meets them and says ‘Greetings!’ the Greek of which is, “Rejoice!” Isn’t that the most wonderful first utterance from a risen Lord, who defeated evil and its consequence, death?

 

When God thwarts or stills your plans, do not be apprehensive or anxious about the future. Do not be afraid, comes the voice from God, for He has risen so that you may have a new purposeful and meaningful life which comes from realizing the significance of Jesus’ cross and resurrection for our lives and living in obedience to His words. In him, it is going to be a hopeful life so believe Him when he says “Rejoice!” They believed, and they immediately held his feet and worshipped him. What else would we do when the Divine Joy of Easter descends upon us?

 

“He is not here”: The Signal of a transformed and transformational beginning.

Following his joyful greeting, Jesus repeats the words of the angel. We could say the angel had spoken for him and now Jesus confirms his words by repeating them.

 

In verse 6, the angel said, “he is not here,” and after the imperative to go tell the disciples of the resurrection, indicated that Jesus was going to Galilee! (verse 7)

 

Of all places, Galilee?

That is where he grew up (Nazareth of Galilee); that is where he began his ministry; that is where he called his first disciples (Matt 4 :18-22). His disciples had fled right after his fellowship meal the previous night of his crucifixion. But he still had plans for them. He would go exactly where he had started his ministry, exactly where he had called them and “there they will see me”(verse 10). The Greek word for ‘see’ here, orao indicates not just regular seeing – orao means to perceive in an experiential way, to recognize… They would all meet at Galilee and they would experience him – the risen Jesus. This time they will recognize who he is and perceive the deep significance of all that he said in the past three and half years he had been with them. And he would send them again, in the name of the Triune God, with love and with authority, assuring them of his ever-abiding presence.

It was going to be a transformational seeing, leading to yet another beginning – the beginning of a renewed, refreshed, reinvigorated ministry. It became a transformed beginning which in turn, would be the beginning of transformation in the lives of many, sourced from the renewing personal experience of Easter.

 

And this time on “they would follow him whithersoever he might lead- even to a cross if need be, counting it now their highest privilege whereas it had been their most terrifying fear”(quote by Herbert Stevenson,  Road to the Cross).

 

The risen Lord goes to the very beginning. Where you began and where you failed.  He can transform you and give you a new start. Going by the narrative in the gospel, that seems to be the sole purpose for which he came – to transform people, give them a new beginning and make them transformational communities that continue his work of restoring the image of God in them. He is the beginning, he is the end.

 

Let us submit ourselves before the risen Lord,

experience him afresh,

Allowing him to still our plans.

Obeying his word.

Let us be set afire by his plans and purposes,

transforming us inside out, Only to transform lives, that are “like dead,” into

ones so confident

that they will not die, for

He has risen, abolishing the sting of evil and death,

and gifting us:

eternal life . . .

 

Happy Easter.

Mathews George, Easter 2013

2012, for me ended on The theme ‘vulnerability’. Following an elbow dislocation and later a surgery, I realised that I was not as strong as I thought to be. A great deal of help and understanding from friends gradually took me to recovery. The self-sufficient and capable George was now dependent and thankful to many people. I had to learn to take help. The Physiotherapy following The removal of plaster was very painful. I moaned, cried, huffed, puffed, struggled and felt irritated at times. I was weak. Not at All The picture I had of myself. The weak and moaning side of myself was never allowed expression But in the hostel single-room it reigned regal. I took it slow. Allowed time to heal and believed God wanted to teach me some things. And teach he did.

God enabled me to do much, with my right hand even though it was later observed that my little finger remained bent and powerless drawing a path all the way to the elbow which remained numb. Doctors found a slipping ulnar nerve on the left side of the elbow which is slowly recovering while there’s muscle deterioration on The hand. It looks scary as I see the right hand thinning down compared to The left.

I’ve been worried about that. Plus all The tasks and pending work before me. The ten semester exams I missed will greet me, come Jan 17. . .

The two worst thoughts a person can have affected me: I am unable to do What I have to do so I don’t trust myself to do it. A loss of trust in oneself. The second is, God will do only What he wants to when he wants to so there’s no point in praying, especially for a miraculous healing without The suggested surgery to fix my ulnar nerve under elbow.

These thoughts took The wind out of me. I began to get scared. Panicked. I felt hard to breathe. I began to feel hopeless. Dear ones called and encouraged me. But  . . .

Even the next morning I woke up in panic, out of breath. . . And I was supposed to be a seminary student in preparation for pastoral ministry . . .

THEN:

God warned me in class today. My mother  had read out from James yesterday [over the phone] following up from what she had read during the family prayer back home  and warned me for having lack of faith. She told me that I was the one who was supposed to stand up in situations like this and become an enabler.  I asked her whether she was encouraging me!

But during a paper presentation in class today based on Isaiah, God warned me through one of my classmates who read aloud Isaiah 7:

 

Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands (Isa 7:4 NRSV)

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. (Isa 7:9 NIV)

I read it in different versions.

It shook me.  I read the portion again and sat like a little boy who just received a second chance.

It’s funny. My mind’s calm now. I feel like I was just spanked on bum for not listening. And I feel alright.

I finished an assignment yesterday, and will finish one more once I finish this blog post.

The change is amazing. Just two verses. Direct speech. The context of the verses (Isaiah Chapter 7, Syro-Ephramite war -Read it!) makes things clearer.

Look to the Lord.

All of this can happen even to a person who has dedicated his life to tell others about God and his steadfast love, care and guidance which gives us hope.

open-heart
pic courtesy: http://mindfulnessangermanagement.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/open-heart.jpeg

 

And I needed a spanking.

 

God, I need more.

 

” You are so dumb.”

“So, did God call you?”

“Yeah.”

” How do you know?”

“I just know.  He called me after I told Him I was willing to help.”

“Did he call out your name?”

“No. I believe what I heard was intended for me.”

“How sure are you?”

“He walked me through some circumstances. I thought He could use a hand.And I was ready to help.”

“So you didn’t hear His voice?”

“Not like a human voice, no. But you could speak without words,you know; through music, through paintings, nature, gestures, silence, circumstances . . .”

“Heh, like playing a guitar without strings?

” No, like making music without a guitar.”

“I don’t know man, you could be just delusional, you know.”

“I could be. But this is my calling.”

“What if you are ‘calling’ yourself?”

” I can’t ever do that, you know. Everything that comes your way, has a purpose.So if I felt a call, I believe there  is a purpose behind it.”

“So you “feel” your call.”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure you did not “hear” it?”

” Very. . .You have more senses than one and if you keep the channels open and put it all together, you’ll feel it . . .”

” That’s rubbish. You lost it there. ‘Feeling’ it makes it emotional, and therefore one-sided. There are other aspects to life’s call!”

“That’s why you calm down and put all the pieces together. Think it over. And over.”

“You are so dumb.”

Broken v.1.0

B r  o ke    n .

Dedicated.


How I wish to stand up and praise you.

But guilt pulls down every inch of my soul

With those thick, sharp hooks

And the Devil stands in front  giving me his dark looks

Could I shout, could I Cry?

Would my wet eyes fall on the altar and make you turn

Your Gracious eyes?

Toward a  sinner, as degraded as I

A sweet sacrifice I wished to offer

Same old story

I’m just playing it over

But this time

I want to be liberated

Live life for you

If that’s what’s consecrated.

Yet the desolation just gives me a way.

Would two hands lifted up

Mean anything

to you?

Holy Father

You feel far away

Farther than I could come back home

What’s point in me shedding tears all the way

as I go farther away from you?

Would a swollen heart, red and heavy

Ever be made to feel like it should

Could I ever be fortunate to be the one

to be called back to your arms?

Here we go again, here we go again; Give it away now

Believe me, it is a difficult task to listen to God’s voice. I haven’t heard it and I am not even sure if one can actually hear, although there are people claiming that they have. Good for them; really.

Finding out God’s will in life is even more difficult.


Finally, I have just let Him do whatever. From where I thought I knew what the Lord had in store, in the form of an idea and a dream, I have come to make this short 5 month journey wherein I realised the God I knew is actually  the God I hadn’t known. There’s too much about God that no one really knows Him that well. Of course, this pearl of wisdom came from Jesus Himself when He said only He knew the father. But theology attempts to look at God in different ways, trying to put together the puzzle, with pieces which we believe He gave us. It’s interesting. You could spend a life time putting it together, and still not find him. Still the journey is worth it.

But a journey where we do just this and nothing else, is in itself not worth merit. That’s where your purpose in life comes in, I think. I just think, that’s all.

So it’s a surrender. Not yet complete. It never will be. But He still accepts.A surrender which says, you ride the boat, I’ll just sit here with you, because I have no clue where you are going.

Whether He wants me to ride it for a while, is something that I don’t know. Will I regret not being persistent? For giving up when I became tired mentally? Actually, it’s His problem. Really. That’s where it’s come to. I’ll just help solve His problem.

Here goes.

Take me with you. And I am damn scared, God.




Casting Crowns for me

I’m listening to Casting Crowns, one of my favourite bands, and it makes me want to cry.

They are unbelievably and unconventionally honest about life, in their lyrics, and that’s what people struggling like me need today. There must be so many people out there encouraged to face their struggles after listening to the.

Songs like Who am I, Every man, Altar and the Door, If we are the body, If people pray, Stain Glass Masquerade, etc. just talk to me. Their songs are such a blunt affair that they don’t sugar it up with ‘it’s OKs and it’s alright’s’.

Being a lover of music, this band for me is a breath of fresh air from music, Christian and otherwise, because they actually make an issue out of issues which are an issue! I’m tired of the same old lyrics, same patterns, same words. And Casting Crowns makes you think and look at yourself in a mirror. Does the world see Jesus through what’s seen in the mirror? The truth, in my case is no, and their songs make me face up to that fact.

Their vocal combination of Mike Hall with Melodee Devevo backing him up is just fantastic. It’s one of those combinations which some amazingly great singers have used effectively; a rusty powerful male voice backed by an equally powerful and spirit filled female voice. I’m a great fan of it, especially having heard my favourites blessing us that way: Lenny LeBlanc (With Rachel Wilson in ‘Lord you have my heart’ and all his albums, aspecially, Above All) and Matt Redman (the song FACE DOWN and other songs) and so on.