| QUOTE OF THE WEEK|
"I find this so unsavory ... they‘re going out and killing people around the world to spread democracy, and what are we spreading? A form of government based on how much money you can raise from rich people."
- Chris Matthews, host of Hardball with Chris Matthews, on the record-breaking campaign fundraising figures for the 2008 presidential election. (Source: MSNBC.com)
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I am on spring break with my family this week. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, I wanted to share with you the concluding chapter to my book, The Call to Conversion. It's a reflection on the cross and resurrection, "The Victory." It is posted in three parts: Below is the first of the three. I wish all of you a happy and holy Easter.
But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him" (Matthew 28:57).
Jesus is alive. That was the rumor that spread through Jerusalem that first Easter morning. Women came to the tomb early in the morning, the first witnesses to the resurrection. Their testimony as women was not even admissible in court under Jewish law; the word of a woman had no public credibility in that patriarchal culture. But God chose to reveal the miracle of Jesus' resurrection first to women. They were told to report the astonishing news of the empty tomb to the men. At first, the men did not believe it.
Jesus' first appearance was also to a woman, Mary Magdalene. She was in the garden near the tomb, stricken with grief. The one who had accepted and forgiven her, the one whom she loved so deeply, was gone. She saw a figure she thought was the gardener and said to him, "They have taken my Lord. Do you know where they have laid him?" Then a familiar voice called her name, "Mary." She looked up and recognized him. "Master!" she cried. Her Lord had come back, and the heart of the woman who had been cleansed by his love leapt for joy. Mary went straight to the disciples with a simple testimony, "I have seen the Lord." Their excitement must have been enormous.
The disciples were in hiding behind locked doors from fear of the authorities, says the Bible. They had seen what had happened to their leader and were afraid they would be next. So they huddled in secret.
The ones at the tomb who appeared as "young men in shining garments" told the women to go tell the disciples and Peter. Peter had always been the leader among the disciples, but he had betrayed his Lord three times with oaths and curses. Peter denied his Master from fear. The strong fisherman wept bitterly and became utterly dejected after the death of the Lord. Jesus especially wanted Peter to know of his resurrection. He wanted to make sure Peter was told, not as a rebuke, but so Peter would know that he was alive and that he still loved him. When the women told them the news, Peter and John ran to the tomb. John, younger and faster than Peter, arrived first and waited at the entrance, peering into the darkness. Peter, always the impulsive disciple, didn't stop at the entrance; he went right inside. He had to see. He had to know. They saw the empty tomb, and they believed.
Then there were the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They didn't recognize Jesus until he broke the bread. They also rushed to tell the disciples. Imagine the situation. The air was electric with rumors and reports of witnesses who said they had seen him. Most of the disciples had not yet seen him and were full of wonder. Could it be? It was too good to be true. A world that had ended for them three days earlier now seemed to be opening again.
Then Jesus came and stood among them. "Peace be with you," he said, as he looked into their eyes. Think what they must have felt at that moment. He showed them his hands and his feet. "It is I myself. Touch me and see." They could hardly believe what they were seeing. He even took a fish and ate it, just to show them he was real. He recalled to them the scriptures and his own foretelling of his death and resurrection. It was really he, and he was really alive.
Thomas wasn't there. When the others told him, he didn't believe it. Perhaps wounded with pain and disillusionment, perhaps filled with bitterness and cynicism, Thomas would not let his hopes be rekindled. He said, "Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, unless I put my fingers in the place the marks were, and my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Later, Jesus came to his disciples again. This time, Thomas was present. "Thomas," he said, "put your finger here and see my hands. Put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas must have witnessed the marks of Jesus' suffering with tears in his eyes. "My Lord and my God," he humbly exclaimed. For Thomas, and for them all, unbelief was turned to belief when they saw their Lord and the marks of his suffering. They were converted by the resurrection.
The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. He had touched their lives as no one else ever had. He was the one who loved them, and the one whom they had grown to love. Jesus was alive again and among his disciples as before, but now in a new way. The first words spoken to Jesus' followers at his empty tomb were, "Do not be afraid. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay." And the scriptures say, "When they saw the Lord they were filled with great joy."
Jesus of Nazareth was delivered up by the chief priests and killed by the Romans under Pontius Pilate. He was dead and, three days later, was alive again. A man who died had been raised from the dead. History has been able to offer no other believable answer to the fact of his empty tomb.
The guards who had been posted at the tomb ran to tell the chief priests what had occurred. Their very lives were at stake for failing to prevent the tomb from being opened. To break the Roman seal that had been placed at the entrance to the tomb was against the emperor's law and punishable by death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was, then, an act of civil disobedience. The chief priests agreed to protect the guards if they would go along with a story they made up, saying that the disciples had stolen the body.
But the story failed. Something had happened and the disciples had lost their fear. A dejected and defeated band was filled with faith and confidence. They had seen the Lord, and they had been converted.
When the disciples saw Jesus, they came out of hiding. Until then, they had been cowering behind closed doors, controlled by fear. They had feared the Jewish authorities and the Romans who stood behind them. They had feared the power of the soldiers, the courts, the temples. And they had been afraid of their own faithlessness and inadequacy.
Until they saw Jesus, the disciples viewed the world the way others did. The central reality of their lives had been the power of the system and their own powerlessness. But when they saw him, they unlocked the doors, came out, and began turning the world upside down. The disciples were converted; they knew another reality then, one that was truer, greater, stronger, and a more compelling authority than the realities that had paralyzed them with fear. Jesus had risen, and Jesus was Lord.
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| THIS WEEK IN GOD'S POLITICS|
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Jim Wallis : The Victory (Part 3)
What about you and me today? Do we still doubt that this kind of love makes much sense in our complex technological world? Does the way of suffering servanthood seem out of place in our world of huge and powerful institutions? That doubt was the experience of the disciples between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. They, too, felt overwhelmed by the powers and forces that ruled the day. But they were converted. The disciples became the people of the resurrection. They began to live lives filled with the fruits of conversion. They began living in the power of the resurrection. We, too, can know the power of Christ's resurrection.
Diana Butler Bass: Believing the Resurrection
... One year, as Easter approached, I overheard an exchange between this octogenarian liberal lion and a fellow parishioner. "Bishop Corrigan," the person asked, "do you believe in the resurrection?" Frankly, I could not wait to hear the answer – like most of his generation, there was no way that Bishop Corrigan believed in a literal resurrection. He looked at the questioner and said firmly, without pause, "Yes. I believe in the resurrection. I've seen it too many times not to."
Jim Wallis: The Victory (Part 2)
Today, Jesus stands among us, with the marks of his suffering plainly visible. He knows us, he knows our fears. We are afraid of economic hardship and diminishing resources; of the enmity between black, white, red, brown, and yellow peoples; of the volatile gulf between rich and poor; of the hurt between men and women; of violence stalking on every side; of the drift toward endless war; and of the ways that restoring broken fellowship might disrupt our lives and our security. We fear for ourselves and for our children. Like the disciples, we are afraid of the power of the systems of the world with their armies, their courts, their prisons, their threats.
Rose Marie Berger: Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" Speech 40 Years Later
On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the most important speeches in American history at Riverside Church in New York City. In it he decisively and prophetically extended his public ministry beyond narrowly defined civil rights by calling for an end to the U.S. war in Vietnam. "'A time comes when silence is betrayal,'" preached King. "That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam." The Riverside speech (variously called "Beyond Vietnam" or "Breaking the Silence") names the sickness eating the American soul as "the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism." It was a watershed moment in American history. A year later – to the day – Dr. King was assassinated.
Soong-Chan Rah: Who Gets to Define America?
... As an evangelical Christian, I look toward scripture for my guidance. In my study, I have yet to find a single passage that supports the right to bear arms. (I'm not arguing against the right to bear arms, I'm just saying I can't find a biblical reference regarding the right to bear arms). I have, however, found numerous references (50+ and still counting) calling believers to care for the alien among them. Why is it then that I am more likely to find members of the NRA in a typical American evangelical church than those who advocate for an immigration policy that shows compassion for the immigrant among us? How much of our view on immigration is driven by a political and social agenda rather than a biblical one?