Monday, April 25, 2011


Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Christian and Hebrew Bibles, begins with these words:

"These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel" in the fortieth year since the exodus from Egypt, and as Israel encamped in Arabah (in the desert country of Moab east of the Jordan river).

Since the setting is Israel is on the verge of entering into the Promised Land, and since the setting is Moses' 120th year, this serves as the Last Will and Testament of Moses bequething to Israel the understanding God has given him.

This book of Deuteronomy reminds the Israelites what they have been through and who they are. And, they are to remind each other and teach these holy things to the next generation. Who they are is based on God's history with them. God has brought them out of slavery in Egypt and guided them through the wilderness.

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." Deut. 4:9

As Moses approaches his day of death, he tries to give to his people all the understanding he has of God. This is the only thing he can think of that will really give them the strength and purpose they need to make it on this earth.

Thinking About This Easter, the Disciples and Nothing Will Ever Be the Same

'Nothing will ever be the same' is what I kept thinking as I prepared to preach this Easter. That's what I imagined that the first followers of Jesus must have thought within themselves as they watched him taken away to be crucified, and as they grieved his death those first two days.

And, truly nothing was ever the same. But, in a way very different than they had thought. 'Nothing will ever be the same' when first said by them surely had a deep tragic character, and then on that third day after Jesus was killed, reports started circulating that he had risen from the dead.

It all began with the report of the empty tomb. The first report was made by the two Marys who had been followers of Jesus. They were the first to experience the news that Jesus was not dead, but had been raised from the dead.

The sad saying 'nothing will ever be the same' was transformed to a joyous world-shaking celebration among the early believers.

After the crucifixion, they were starting over in a world bereft of hope and light. After the resurrection, they were starting over in a new world, a world that had at its center new life. New life in the midst of an old world, a new world within an old world.

Christmas is traditional, seems to evoke strong memories. Easter is beyond progressive - it is a sense of radical newness. Christmas brings reorientation; Easter brings a blessed disorientation.

As I sit here on the day after Easter, I realize that something has happened to me this Lenten season and Easter. It was an up and down season. But, somehow Easter has broken down the old ways of thinking, and opened up something new. Right now, I feel a little disoriented in a good sort of way. For some reason it seems I have the chance to look at things in a new way, seek new understanding, and escape from old patterns into new more promising ways of living in God's Spirit.

What I am feeling is something that has been growing within me for some time. I am feeling the loss of self-importance even as I struggle with the last gasp efforts of it. More and more those ways of being and thinking and feeling that are centered in self seem just plain worn-out.

Through our growing up, it is natural to reflect a lot about one's identity and to experience a sense of self in an intense way. I think that is a normal and important process. But, as we move into middle age, we start forgetting ourselves more and more, and not taking ourselves too seriously. Our visions of grandeur fade into more realistic views of what we are good at and what we are not. Our hopes in life become more tied to seeing others - especially the young - make it through; we start to realize we have had a pretty good run already.

It is disorienting in a way to begin feeling a sense of self start becoming less and less important. But, it is reorienting in another way that seems to relieve some burdens and open to a more holy, less self-important way of living.

The key experiences recently that have shown me this development are times when the old, self-important way exerts itself and causes some disruption, anger, etc., I really abhor those experiences now, whereas it used to be a regular part of life for me. And, somehow Easter this year really brought that to me in a new way. It wasn't an easy Lenten Season. Becoming dissatisfied with ways of being and thinking that have carried you for so long is not easy. It leaves a vaccuum of meaning until you begin to learn to walk in new ways. But, a certain amount of emptiness is good when that emptiness feels like faith and trust in God.