Sunday, April 20, 2014

Two Resurrection Hymns



            A few years ago I noticed there were not nearly as many Resurrection songs as Christmas carols in our hymnal, so when I came home from church, I wrote new lyrics to a familiar hymn melody. A few years later, I did the same thing with another tune.
            The first hymn is theological and lofty; the second hymn is interpersonal and friendly. The first feels old and elegant; the second feels like Gospel.
            I hope you enjoy either or both as you revel in the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Feel free to use them in your churches next year around this time. Please keep my name with them.

Resurrection Hymn
© 2004 Roberta Tucker Brosius
 (Tune:  All Creatures of Our God and King)

All children of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Christ Jesus broke forth from the grave;
Salvation to the world he gave.
O praise him, He is risen,
Alleluia, He is risen,
Alleluia!

His only son the Father sent,
To crush the serpent his intent.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
The Lamb of God for man was slain,
His blood to purge the sinner’s stain.
O praise him, He is risen,
Alleluia, He is risen,
Alleluia!

His sacrifice was once for all,
Redeeming man from Eden’s fall.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Within the temple veil was torn;
Redemption to the earth was borne.
O praise him, He is risen,
Alleluia, He is risen,
Alleluia!

All children of the Father sing;
Hail Christ, your resurrected king!
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Praise God who Son and Spirit gave
Praise Christ who triumphed o’er the grave
O praise him, He is risen,
Alleluia, He is risen,
Alleluia!

Hallelujah! Christ is Risen!    
© 2009 Roberta Tucker Brosius
 (tune: Revive Us Again)

When John’s hope was crushed
For he’d seen Jesus die,
Then Mary came running
With this joyful cry:
“Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
Hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
The Lord lives again!”

Two walked down the road,
Grieving that Christ was dead,
Until Jesus walked with them,
Gave thanks, and broke bread.
“How our hearts burned as he taught us,
Christ must suffer and then
Enter glory! Hallelujah!
The Lord lives again!”

“I will not believe
Without touching his hands,”
Said Thomas; then Jesus
Before him did stand.
“Hallelujah! I am risen!
Touch my scars, doubting friend.
Hallelujah! I am risen!
Your Lord lives again!”

He went back to fish,
Since he’d turned from his Lord.
But when Peter saw Jesus,
He swam for the shore.
“Simon Peter, do you love me?
Feed my sheep, my dear friend.”
“Hallelujah! I’m forgiven!
My Lord lives again!”

With Peter of old,
Mary, Thomas, and John,
We are praising our savior
This glad Easter dawn.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
Hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! We’re forgiven!
The Lord lives again!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Power of Weakness



Crash Course 10
…the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25 NIV
            In the Gospels Jesus exercised power over crippling diseases, demonic spirits, and natural laws. Even his words demonstrated strength and authority. The guards sent to arrest him fell to the ground when he spoke.
So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)
When Jesus said,
“I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
(John 19, NIV)

            But the next day—the day we commemorate as Good Friday—Jesus appeared powerless, so exhausted and beaten that he couldn’t drag his own cross to the execution site. His hands constrained by nails, his voice quelled by thirst, there would be no miracles that day.
            Except one. At his weakest, Jesus conquered his strongest foes, sin and death.
            Now he assures his followers that his grace and strength will outshine our weakness.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,

to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20 – 21, NIV)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jesus Wept




Crash Course 9
            Students in my Bible classes picture themselves as stand up comics when they ask if their next memory verse can be John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” I tell them the first time I heard that one I laughed so hard I pushed my stylus clear through my clay tablet.

            Thanks to the strange verse assignments in the Bible—I’ve heard the story that verses were created by a circuit-riding preacher who marked a new verse each time he bumped off the saddle—“Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the New Testament.

            All meager attempts at humor aside, the tears of the Lord are no laughing matter. His tears in John 11 were shed outside the tomb of Lazarus, a dear friend. On another occasion, Jesus wept during an exhilarating celebration. 

            “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” sang Lesley Gore in 1965.

            Jesus’ party was on what we call Palm Sunday or the Triumphal Entry, celebrated today in our churches. Due to a sleepless night, I didn’t make it to the party today, but truth be told, Palm Sunday bothers me more each year. It’s like going to a wedding reception when you know the couple is already having problems and the marriage isn’t going to last.

            Yet the story appears in all four Gospels:  Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12.

            Matthew mentions no weeping, but includes an angry confrontation at the Temple. Mark includes nothing negative in his account. John’s account is likewise positive. So it’s Luke the physician—not an eyewitness, but a thorough investigative journalist—who records Jesus’ sorrow during the festivity.

When the city [Jerusalem] came into view, he wept over it. “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you! But now it’s too late. In the days ahead your enemies are going to bring up their heavy artillery and surround you, pressing in from every side. They’ll smash you and your babies on the pavement. Not one stone will be left intact. All this because you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.” Luke 19:41 – 44, The Message
            In Crash Course 2, I wondered, “When did the man Jesus know he was the Messiah, the Son of God?” Today I ask, “What did Jesus know on Palm Sunday that his disciples, the large crowd of fans, the mostly antagonistic Sanhedrin, and the Roman procurator didn’t know?”

            What did they think they knew?

            The disciples and fans thought they knew Jesus was entering Jerusalem to claim the city and become King David’s heir on the throne, and Goodbye, Rome! After all, when Judas Maccabee rode into Jerusalem—also on a donkey—to waving palm branches, Israel became a free nation for over a hundred hears. James Nienhuis writes on his blog, 

When Judas Maccabeus led the Israeli victory over …(the syrian dynasty which followed Alexander the Great), the crowds celebrated his victory by waving palm branches, and to commemorate the victory, Judas “The Hammer” stamped an image of palm branches into their coins, thenceforth symbolizing victory for the Jews over their oppressors.  (www.dancingfromgenesis.wordpress.com/)
            But what did Jesus know? 

            He knew he was reporting to Jerusalem to die. 

            Mark records several conversations when Jesus bluntly told this to his disciples. (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33) And Luke records Christ’s words—a little dark humor, maybe?—as he traveled to Jerusalem, “In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” (13:33, NIV)

            I believe Jesus used Palm Sunday to provoke the antagonistic authorities to set in motion the events that would lead to his sacrificial death on the cross. 

            On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus had said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, NKJV) That was always the purpose of the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)

            Jesus had clearly stated his authority over his own coming death. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17 – 18, NKJV)

            Jesus went to his party, and knowing what lay ahead, he wept, not for himself, but for the city and people he loved.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beyond the Fab Four




Crash Course 8

            (No, not the Beatles. Not that Fab Four. I mean the Fabulous Four Gospels.)

            The Gospels are not the only place to read about Jesus. The New Testament epistles tell lot about him, too. Peter and John, both disciples and eyewitnesses, wrote five letters between them.

            In his first letter, Peter calls Christ a “lamb without blemish or defect…chosen before the creation of the world… " (1:19 – 20). Only a lamb used in Israel’s sacrificial system would warrant the phrase “without blemish or defect.” Peter understood the significance of Christ’s substitutionary death. Peter also speaks of the resurrection and coming return of Christ (1:3 and 1:7). 

            Peter reveals two intriguing facts about Christ that I haven’t found elsewhere in scripture. (Illuminate me if I’ve missed them.) He says the Spirit of Christ indwelt and guided the prophets who wrote about him in the Hebrew Scriptures (1:11). He also writes that after the Lord’s resurrection, he preached to spirits of the disobedient Noah-era people “in prison.” (3:19 – 20)

            That’s something coming from a fisherman.

            I always imagine Peter excitedly exclaiming, “I was there!” Fifty days after the crucifixion and resurrection, Peter told a Jerusalem crowd, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of this fact.” (Acts 2:32) Some years later when Peter wrote his second letter, he said, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain” (1:18). 

            I was there! I was there!

            John writes in the first few verses of his first epistle about Christ’s incarnation (taking on human flesh). “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard…(1:1 – 3)

            In less than 75 words, John manages to say in 7 different ways (highlighted by me) that he was an eyewitness, an earwitness, a handwitness of Christ. 

            Handwitness? Sure. Years ago in Fort Worth, Texas, I was beyond excited to shake hands with presidential candidate Jimmy Carter and his wife. I was an eyewitness, earwitness, and handwitness of the future president. 

            How much more memorable for John to have rubbed elbows with the Messiah in a fishing boat, to have passed him the bread at a meal, to have leaned against him as the disciples all reclined in Jewish fashion around the Passover table. To those who were beginning to deny the Incarnation, John could say, “Hold it right there. I touched him. He was really here.”
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,
full of grace and truth. John 1:14, NKJV