Monday, April 15, 2013

Resurrection - Aron Smith

Dear Reader, Aron let me know that he wrote this piece with Bob Carlisle's song "We Fall Down" in mind.  If you'd like to hear that song, you can watch the official video HERE. -Chris

If you’ve read my recent piece on hospitality, you are aware of my tendency to make a bee line for the dictionary before I start in on a topic.  This time is no exception.

The word resurrection is derived from two Latin words, the prefix re- and the verb surgere, to rise again.  As such, it is identical in origin to the word resurgence.  Both words carry the implication of bringing something/someone back to life after he/she/it was thought to be dead, either literally or figuratively.

To go a step further with the etymology, the word resurrection contains the Latin root rect-, meaning “right.”  Something that had fallen down (dead) is being righted, or restored to the upright position, not unlike the tray tables on a commercial jetliner when it’s time to descend for a landing.

The idea of restoring to life that which was thought to be lost forever is, of course, a highly romantic notion.  We get all wistful and misty-eyed over things lost, be they youth, money, ideals, faith or that one argyle sock that went into the dryer but never came out, lost forever among the lint balls.

We view all these things as being gone for good, irretrievably lost, perdido in Spanish or fafaln in the Yiddish that I grew up with.  The Yiddish word literally means “fallen”; in both the Yiddish and the Spanish, there is the implication of “damned,” or “lost to a place from which there is no return.”  So this is not just any fall, but the Fall, as in Adam and Eve.

The idea of resurrection seems to cancel out all that.  It is a word infused with hope to its very core; the concept implies that nothing is so lost that, under the right circumstances, it cannot be brought back to life.  The Bible teaches us that the right circumstance for rescue of lost causes is an extreme measure of faith.
Most of us associate “resurrection” with the events immediately following the death of Jesus.  However, the concept is first established in the Old Testament.

Arguably the best known incidents of resurrection are Jesus’ raising of Lazarus in John Chapter 11 and the prophet Elijah’s revival of the son of the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:17-24.  Interestingly, the Hebrew names of Elijah and Lazarus are very similar, the former being Eliyahu (“my God is Jehovah”) and the latter being Eliezer (“God is my help”).  Elijah himself had no need of resurrection, as he was transported to heaven alive in a whirlwind by a chariot of fire.  2 Kings 2:11  His protégé, Elisha, performs a resurrection upon the son of a Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4:31-37.

The “never say die” ethic inherent in the concept of resurrection implies that there is always hope, that nothing is impossible.  Occurring in the spring of the year, Easter and Passover are festivals celebrating renewal at a season marked by the “rebirth” of plants upon the warming of the frozen earth as well as the appearance of a new generation of animals.  The egg, which figures prominently in the customs of both holidays, is the very symbol of fertility and regeneration.

However, resurrection implies not only a physical renewal, but a spiritual one as well.  This time of year can be viewed as an opportunity for second chances born of self-examination.  If we take a good, hard look in the mirror and do not see the person we had hoped for, there is no time like the present to make changes.  If we have veered off the path, now is the time to make corrections and return to the right road.

This is a good time not only to count our blessings, but also to make a renewed effort to bestow them on others.  Let us not forget those who are more unfortunate than us, as inconvenient as it may seem to give of our time and financial resources.  If we have become jaded by the vicissitudes of life, now is the time to resurrect our ideals.

Just as our prophets did in the Bible, we too can perform resurrections by providing the gift of hope to the hopeless.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Twins, Summer and Resurrection - James Harrison

Summer is coming! It's true, it's only April, but it's (mostly) warm and sunny and there's no looking back! Before adulthood, summer was easily the best time of the year. No school; what more could you ask for? Besides chores, my sunny seasons were spent riding bikes, playing basketball, and hanging out with friends. But after I finished school and entered Youth With A Mission, moving to Alberta, Canada, the summers merely meant that the sun would still be in the sky after work was over, as opposed to seeing stars come out at 5 pm. But besides work, the June, July, and August months meant occasionally visiting good ol' California to see my family.

Now, I have a twin sister. Before you ask, we are indeed identical twins, both in facial appearance and height. Yes, throughout our lives, most people can't tell who was James and who was Julie. It led to all kinds of problems. Julie would dress like me and get into all kinds of trouble, and the next thing I knew, I was being punished! It was tragic. But as adults, we've reconciled our conflicts and get along just fine. Mostly. 

Joking aside, one thing about my twin is this: she is summer. She embodies it, from her bubbly personality that cannot be eclipsed to her shining face filled with excitement. If you're around her, you know what she's feeling. If she's happy and laughing, you will be too! The sun is a ball of light and energy, never ceasing. And my sister is just as hard to shadow if she has set her mind to something. Once when we were seven, Julie got a hold of some flower seeds and started digging a hole. When I found her she was reading the bag of seeds and asked me what 6" meant. Intelligently, I told her, "It means six feet." (Whoops) She said, "How big is that?" "Julie, you'll have to dig for as tall as Jacob!" Sitting in the dirt with her wild, brown, curly hair, she thought for a moment then said, "Okay," and went back to work with the shovel.

She is persistent, loving, and full of life. Like the sun. Like summertime, that time of year I'm accustomed to seeing her. So when I think of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I think of a special time of the year, lasting the entire year! Seasons disappear and it's summer all year around. The atmosphere is energetic and life is the air we breathe. Our Creator is persistent to plant seeds that don't stop growing, and he will never withhold his Spirit that waters us each day, until the sun stops shining.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hosanna - Beth Morgan

Last week I was trying to think of what songs to lead for Palm Sunday at church and naturally started thinking through all of the “Hosanna” repertoire.  I started to reflect on the 80’s number, “Hosanna Hosanna Hosanna in the highest…Lord we lift up Your name with hearts full of praise.  Be exalted, oh Lord our God. Hosanna in the highest” and I was reminded of the first time I remember hearing it and the realized it’s an interesting and befitting story.

The first time I heard this song was the German version, “Hosanna in der Höhe“.  I remember thinking how cool it was that in German, “Hosanna” was the same and that the rest of the line sounded funny, but cool.  I was 8.  My big brother had just returned from a trip to East Germany.  He, with a group of teenagers plus a couple of group leaders, managed to get into East Germany and I remember him telling me that they brought a keyboard to a secret group of Christians that were meeting.

The other day when I was remembering this, I started to imagine a windowless room full of East Germans singing with hearts full of praise and hopeful that the King would come and rescue them from a dark, difficult and oppressive time.  I started to think about Jesus riding his donkey into Jerusalem before crowds of Jews so weary and longing for the promised King to rescue them from the oppression of the Romans.  The parallels were obvious and my heart did a little leap with the realization that in my lifetime, many believer’s prayers were answered and that I possess a piece of that infamous dividing wall that was brought down.

My thoughts turned to “far-off” lands today where I imagine there to be secret churches praying with hearts full of praise and with expectant hope of the intervention of the just and good King.  Oh that we would join with them more in prayer and solidarity, rejoicing that the King has come and praying that His kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.  Hosanna.