Sunday, February 9, 2014

Without Death There is No Resurrection

A few years ago I was asked to give a word of blessing to a congregation that was going through a tough time. This is a congregation with whom I served in my early years of ministry. They saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. God used them in tremendous ways to bless me. Here I was 6 years later asked to bless them. I took out some names and places. This is what I said.

Good morning church. Give me a second to connect with each of you visually
as a personal hello. I think about you guys all of the time...I even pray for you some. I
cannot express in words how refreshing it is to be back with you today.

Once in the fourth grade I had to iron some clothes so I went into my mom's closet to
get the iron out. I knew it was on the top shelf. When I opened the door of the closet I
looked up to see if I could see the iron. As I looked up the iron clobbered me in the face.
Sometimes reading scripture is kind of like that. You get what you need but it hurts.

_______ asked me to bless you guys. What a humbling thing it is to try and bless a group of
people who have loved and served my family relentlessly. I will do my best to describe
how significant my time at west hills was and how significant you are to me and my
family. But my disclaimer is, I cannot put into words the impact you had on us for the
good. But I will try.

Do you guys remember what the bible says about blessings?

Blessed are the poor in spirit => they shall see God
Blessed are those who mourn => they will be comforted
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness => they will be filled
Matthew 5:10-12

Are you sure you want to be blessed? It appears as though to be blessed is to hurt. To
be blessed is to feel pain.

Once I was going through a bumpy patch in ministry and was hurting. My spiritual
director told me, "There are two types of pain. Pain caused by neglect, abuse, or oppression. That pain is evil. There is also pain caused because the ego is dying. You need to lean into that pain".

I know this has been a painful year for this church family. I find that Jesus is drawn to
those who are hurting and to those who are suffering. He hurts with you. He weeps with

Jesus told his followers to take up their cross and follow him. To take up one's cross is
to die. Death causes pain. But, the gospel proclaims that death has lost her sting...death
has not won.

You see, after death comes resurrection. But resurrection only comes after death.

It was 6 years ago that Tammie and I packed up a Uhaul and moved out to a foreign
land called _________. I arrived wounded and burned out from a rough first 3 years at my
previous church. I arrived dead. And through my relationships with you guys and my
time at seminary I was resurrected.

At ___________ I found love. I found cups of coffee, boat rides on homemade vessels,
buckets of berries, jars of jam, home made folk CD's, bowls of German dumplings, hikes
where the conversations left my head more exhausted than my shaky legs. I found
life. The holy spirit used you to bring about resurrection. I would not still be in pastoral
ministry without experiencing your ministry.

We all need a resurrection. But first, we must surrender our dreams, we must let go
of the good ole days, we must die to ourselves, and bury our bodies within the cave.
Without death, there is no resurrection. On the third day, the stone will roll away, Christ
will call us to come forth from the grave and to take off our grave clothes.

So I imagine many feel like Yesterday was good Friday. You experienced a traumatic
event that made you question everything about who you are and where you are
going. The man you thought was going to deliver you was killed. You are hurting and
confused. To you I say, be of good cheer. Tomorrow the stone will roll away. Tomorrow
is the resurrection.