Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons

Christ’s Ascension: Eternal Hope in a Chaotic World

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:6-11, New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

He ascended into heaven,
       and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead (The Apostle’s Creed).

As I am writing this post for the Feast of the Ascension, tragedy fills the news. For the last three months, many of us have been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We weep over the continual suffering of the Ukrainian people. Our economy has suffered: skyrocketing gas prices, food shortages (particularly infant formula), a nosediving stock market, etc. Now, reports and images of a new flurry of mass shootings flood the media, including one on May 24 at an elementary school in Texas. Nineteen fourth-graders and two teachers are dead. I have a grandson who is graduating elementary school this week; his little sister, my only granddaughter, is entering the fourth grade in the fall. This massacre hits close to home.

Where is our hope? Politicians offer false hope: some think we can eradicate mass killings with increased gun control; others say schools need better security. You can read my thoughts about the political and social aspects of mass shootings and gun control here and here.

The Feast of the Ascension reminds us that Christians serve a risen Lord. Jesus has conquered death, is now seated in glory at the right hand of His (and our) heavenly Father, and will come again in power and glory. He will judge the living and dead. His kingdom will have no end.

This is our hope. No matter how chaotic our world becomes, God is still in control. This world is not fair, but God is just. In the end, His justice will prevail.

In the meantime, we mourn for those who suffer. We cry out for change. Christians must be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We do not use the weapons of this world or fight the forces of this world; our enemies are the spiritual enemies of God. Our weapons are those that Jesus has given to His church (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11-13). He has given us a mission to change the world one soul at a time: Preach His gospel; make disciples of all nations; bring good news to the afflicted; bind up the brokenhearted; proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of His vengeance; comfort all who mourn; etc.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn…” (Isaiah 61:1-2, New American Standard Bible).

Reach out to somebody today with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

“Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

What does Jesus’ exalted status, having ascended to heaven, mean to you? Does His promise that He will come again comfort and encourage you? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, divine sovereignty | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter: From Mourning to Joy and Hope

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
“{F}or the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
“After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

The Bible tells us that several women, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of our Lord, went to Jesus’ tomb on the Sunday following His resurrection. They were grieving. Shock and sadness filled their hearts as they went to complete the preparation of His body that began two days earlier.

Shock gave way to confusion as they found the tomb empty and two angels saying that Jesus had risen from the dead. For Mary Magdalene, confusion gave way to joy when she came face-to-face with her beloved rabbi, whom she had watched die just a few days earlier (Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18).

Easter celebrates the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on the third day following His crucifixion. In His death, He triumphed over our sins. Because of His atonement on the cross, we can freely receive forgiveness and everlasting life. By His resurrection, He triumphed over death. Death does not have dominion over Him. It also does not rule over us. Death is not the end of our existence.

Christ’s resurrection offers hope for all Christians. Because He lives, we also will live. His resurrection is the assurance that we will also rise again. We shall live forever!

Jesus’ resurrection also offers us comfort when we mourn those who have died in the faith. Those we love who placed their trust in Him will also live forever. Perhaps you have lost a loved one in the past year. He or she will live forever. If he or she knew the Lord, you will meet them again in heaven.

Let Easter be our special annual reminder to comfort one another with the assurance of resurrection and everlasting life.

“Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and the assurance of eternal life for believers, I would like to share the song “Grave Robber” by Christian rock band Petra, released in 1983. I hope it blesses you as it has touched my soul on many occasions.

What do Easter and Christ’s resurrection mean to you? How can you find comfort and strength in the assurance of resurrection? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Sermon on the Mount | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Palm Sunday and Expectations

“The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:6-9).

Scene from a Passion Play in Trafalgar Square, London, UK, on Good Friday in 2010, re-enacting the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Stephen Craven – geograph.org.uk/p/1782823

Today begins Holy Week. Between now and next Sunday, churches of most denominations will commemorate Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem, last Passover meal with His disciples, betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. Some churches will have extra worship services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to emphasize each part of the biblical account of Jesus’ final days. Other churches will squeeze the entire passion narrative into the Palm Sunday service, hoping to accommodate church members who will not be able or willing to attend Holy Thursday and Good Friday services.

The entire passion narrative—the biblical account of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection—matters. It is all part of the Gospel message and, thus, is part of every Christian’s salvation testimony. We should not ignore Palm Sunday or the Last Supper to get to the crucifixion.

The sudden change of events between Palm Sunday and Good Friday is a lesson for all Christians. People can be fickle, easily tossed by the winds of popular opinion, current events, or personal circumstances. Our very faith can be shaken when we build it on a weak foundation, and we see this in the Gospels. Although some people think the biblical account describes an unrealistic change of circumstances in Jesus’ life, recent current events remind us that one’s public image can change in the twinkling of an eye.

Recently, actor/rapper Will Smith’s public image took a drastic turn. For decades, he has been a popular entertainer. He came across as a likable person. However, within a few seconds, his popularity disappeared. During the Oscar Awards show, comedian Chris Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife’s appearance. The “Fresh Prince” became enraged, ran onstage, slapped Rock, and angrily shouted and cursed at him. Since then, people who admired him lost all respect for him. I doubt Will Smith changed; it is more likely that the public saw a side of him that he had cleverly hidden from audiences. Nevertheless, within days he went from superstar to pop-culture pariah.

On Palm Sunday, the Jewish people who were in Jerusalem preparing for the Passover feast welcomed Jesus, celebrating Him as the Messiah with shouts of “Hosanna!” “Save us, Lord!” They recognized Jesus as Savior and hailed Him as their King. But five days later, they screamed “Crucify Him!” Many of the same people were in both crowds. People welcomed Him as a hero and savior on Sunday but demanded His execution on Friday morning.

Jesus had not changed. People’s perspectives did, though. Many Jewish people at the time expected a political Messiah. They thought Jesus would march into Jerusalem, cast out the oppressive Roman overlords, and establish a new Israelite empire far more glorious than the kingdoms of His ancestors, David and Solomon. Instead, Jesus chased the money-changers out of the Temple, reminded the religious leaders that the Temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations (even Romans!?!), and did absolutely nothing about the political situation.

Palm Sunday Church Palms Cross. Photo courtesy of MaxPixel.net under a CCO Creative Commons license.

Jesus did not fulfill their expectations. So, they decided that He must not be the Messiah they expected.

Do we make the same mistake? Do we accept Jesus on His terms, or do we set our own terms and demand that He meets them? He is the Savior, but is He the Savior that we expect and want?

Which Jesus do we worship? Do we come to a Jesus who is supposed to make us feel good about ourselves and help us to accept ourselves just as we are with no need to change? Do we honor a Jesus who winks at our own sins but is ready to pour His wrath out upon those horrible people who sin differently than we do? Do we worship a Jesus who is going to make us rich? Maybe we have an image of Jesus who will give us whiter teeth and fresh breath, making us irresistible to the opposite sex. Perhaps we want a Jesus who will adopt our socio-political agenda, get with our program, and help us establish our ideals for social change. Maybe we want Jesus to help us with the addictions that we are really ashamed about while accepting the sins that we really enjoy. Perhaps we expect Jesus to make us feel good about who we are, soothing our consciences but not expecting us to surrender our worst character defects.

Many people worship a distorted image of Jesus. It is usually a projection of our own ideals, values, and desires. We want Him to get with our program, but that will not work. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is Lord. That means we need to yield to His will, not the other way around. A distorted Jesus, based on our own wishes, will eventually disappoint us.

The true Jesus did not come to grant us three wishes. Instead, He came to do the will of His Father (John 6:38). He came to bring light to the world (John 12:46). He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He came to give His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45) and give us eternal, abundant life (John 10:10). The list goes on. He will not fail to do the things He promised in His Word. However, if we bend His Word to suit our desires, we will be disappointed. You might twist God’s Word, but you will never twist His arm.

Who is Jesus to you? Why do you worship Him? Will you continue to trust Him even when the world does not yield to your expectations and wishes?

What do you expect Jesus to do in your life? How does it line up with Scripture? Have you ever been disappointed by Him? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Current events | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting on the Armor of God: St. Patrick’s Breastplate (Revisited)

This article was originally published on October 2, 2018. It is fitting for St. Patrick’s Day.

Shortly after posting the recent article about the breastplate of righteousness, I began thinking about one of my favorite prayers: St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

immaculate_conception_catholic_church_28port_clinton2c_ohio29_-_stained_glass2c_st-_patrick
Stained glass image of St. Patrick. By Nheyob [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

This is an ancient prayer for divine protection. Although some scholars think it is more recent, tradition claims that St. Patrick wrote this prayer in the fourth or fifth century. As he was preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, he knew he needed God’s protection. According to one legend, the soldiers of a hostile king sought to ambush St. Patrick and his companions while they traveled through a forest. The men of God were transformed into deer while they prayed the Breastplate, thereby passing the soldiers unnoticed. Yes, it is a far-fetched tale, and St. Patrick himself never mentions this event in his writings. Still, it is a great story.

Some people pray this prayer in the morning to claim Christ’s presence and God’s protection for the coming day. I know other people who may have no rote traditional prayer, but while they pray in the morning, they claim each part of the whole armor of God onto themselves during the day. However you go about it, do not start a day without seeking God’s presence and protection to follow you.

Here is a brief excerpt from St. Patrick’s Breastplate. You can read it in its entirety at https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/st-patricks-breastplate-poem:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

Copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” traditionally attributed to St. Patrick, is in the public domain.

Categories: Christian Life, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Holidays, Spiritual disciplines | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being God’s Instruments of Peace

“Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen” (a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, from The Book of Common Prayer).

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi. Photo courtesy of Pxfuel.com.

As Lent approaches, millions of Christians, especially in traditional churches, are pondering what they can give up during Lent. Many give up a favorite food or hobby for 40 days. Such fasts are voluntary. Christians do this to remember our Lord’s fast in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11) and His sufferings for us, as well as to reflect on our sins and remember why we need a Savior.

Meanwhile, many Ukrainian citizens face the risk of non-voluntary suffering. The Russian army has invaded their country. Civilians have taken up arms to defend their homeland. Thousands have fled the country. Millions will face a lack of food and other resources, destruction of their homes, communities, and infrastructure, and even death. Suffering is not a choice for them; they cannot just take it easy if things get uncomfortable.

Those who will receive ashes on Ash Wednesday will hear the pastor say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Lent reminds us of our mortality. Millions are facing it every day: not only in Ukraine but also in Congo (where some of my denomination’s churches have been attacked in recent weeks) and in countless nations where the government leaders are more concerned about their power than about the needs and rights of their citizens.

Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

As we fast, we will remember our sins. We will recall that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible). We will remember that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). People in Ukraine are experiencing the full weight of sin now. They are suffering one of the most flagrant expressions of human sinfulness as one nation’s leaders seek to inflict death and despair upon the people of another country.

Many churches will encourage the faithful to take on a positive spiritual discipline to complement the Lenten fast. In addition to giving up cookies or coffee for 40 days, one might pray more or read more chapters in the Bible every day.

Image by Prierlechapelet from Pixabay

Perhaps we can go beyond that. Millions are crying out for peace in 2022. We want the war in Ukraine to end. We pray for peace throughout the world. We cry out for justice. We want to see a better world around us. Many Christians are praying for a spiritual revival in our churches and communities as more people turn to Jesus for salvation, healing, and hope.

We can take St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer above as our guide. “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.” We need to pray for peace: Few of us can make any direct impact on the situation in Kyiv at this time, but we worship a God who rules all of creation. We can bring the peace of God to our homes, families, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. We can take a stand against hatred only by bringing God’s love (1 Corinthians 13) to those we meet. We can share God’s mercy and pardon with those we meet.

Over the next 40 days—and beyond—let us be the answer to our prayers. God is sending us, His children, to bring His love, forgiveness, peace, and hope to this world. That will draw us closer to Him and bring more of His blessings into our lives than any fast we may choose to make.

How can you bring God’s mercy and peace to those around you? Do you have a plan to share God’s peace in the weeks to come? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Current events | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: