Beloved Church Family,
We are so appreciative, again, for the countless offers of help and your unceasing prayers on our behalf. We thank God constantly for you. Believe me your prayer matters!
It has been difficult to write sometimes because we are still in the early stages of absorbing exactly what we are dealing with and what recovery is going to look like. We know that time and effort, and the healing grace of God will help recover what has been injured in surgery.
In the meantime we are fully in the rehab process at Brooks. Pam is doing well and making progress according to our team. We are both weary as would be expected… and sometimes discouraged. “But we do not lose heart.” Our timeline to return home is Friday week.
We miss being with you, our church family, very much and eagerly look forward to our return. Hopefully I will be back in the pulpit Mother’s Day.
Our therapy team has asked us to limit contact with visits for a while longer as we continue to assess Pam’s condition. Some symptoms will subside when swelling does and some medications are discontinued. Others we will have to wait and see. We have been assured by her physician that most of the effects caused by surgery will be resolved within three months.
We also are awaiting outcome of final pathology from Mayo and that certainly is a matter of prayer.
Many, MANY have asked “what can we do?” and certainly prayer is the first response. But in a week or so we will return home and need our family… YOU… to stand with us in the next steps forward.
You are an amazing and caring church body. We could not imagine going into this trial without you! Thank you for loving us, praying for us and standing with us as we continue to seek honor and glory for our Savior even in this.
He is a good, good Father.
Pastor Tim and Pam
The cross has now been dismantled. The winding cloths that wrapped our Lord’s crucified and battered body now lie empty in a vacated tomb. Only angels are left… and wonder!
Women came to the cemetery to finish the proper process of Jewish burial. Instead of a bloodied corpse, they met an angel who asked a really important question, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” “He is not here, He has risen as He said!”
And with those angelic words, the SIMPLE. GOSPEL was articulated for the first time. Death lost its prey. The grave gave up its most precious prize. Life overcame death. Sin is defeated once for all.
HE IS RISEN! Hallelujah! And no great news has ever been spoken before…
“For I delivered unto you that which was of most importance that Jesus Christ died according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day.”
HE IS RISEN AS HE SAID!
For some reason that escaped me in seminary lectures, the church never named the Saturday before Easter. I have thought of several names we might use: “Sad”urday. “Dark” Saturday. “Pause” Day. It was a day of sorrow. Of grief. Of loss. It was a day in which the Gospel story seems to have pushed “pause.” Perhaps “Hopeless Saturday” would fit.
Those names would certainly have fit the demeanor of the disciples who met Jesus on the Emmaus Road on the first Easter Sunday. When asked by the resurrected Lord what they were discussing along the way, they shared their disappointment and loss at the crucifixion of Jesus and said, “We had hoped He (Jesus… the One they were talking to!!) was going to be the one who redeemed Israel.” Hope was lost for these disciples.
But in reality… hope had dawned. They just didn’t know it yet! So Jesus took them patiently and taught them the Scriptures and suddenly their eyes were opened: They recognized Him and just as suddenly, their hope was resurrected.
“Saturday disciples,” one writer called them. And maybe as you read this, that’s you. Your hope may be crushed. Your life may be sad. Your dreams may be diminished. Perhaps it feels as though God has pushed “pause” on your future.
If that is you, it would be my prayer that you do two things:
First, TAKE GOD’S WORD AND TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. Your hope will revive as God’s truth replenishes you. When Jesus wanted these men to find hope, He didn’t talk to them about how they felt. He told them the truth!
Second, OPEN YOUR EYES TO THE SAVIOR. He is present! He has promised, “I will never leave you… I will never forsake you.” He walks with you today in as personal and as powerful a way as He did with those early, hopeless “Saturday” disciples. Sometimes sorrow blinds us to that reality.
In the “not yet” valley between crucifixion and resurrection? The pain has come, but the resolution has not yet been revealed? I pray that God will open your eyes that you may see, as the disciples on the Emmaus Road, the Christ who is now with you!
Friday dawned. Jesus had been arrested, arraigned by a midnight, kangaroo court. Tried by the religious hierarchy and found guilty of blasphemy. The disciples had fled. Only Peter remained… denying. It was Friday, but Sunday was coming.
The religious lied… the government conspired… the governor buried justice. The soldiers drank. The crowd grew restless. It was Friday, but Sunday was coming.
The crowd grew larger. Angry words flew from the mob. Blows landed on our Savior. The mockers cried, “Crucify.” The Lamb was silent. It was Friday… but Sunday was coming.
Pilate struggled… politics ruled. Jesus was released to the soldiers to do as they pleased. Our Lord was beaten… stripes crisscrossed His sinless body… the blood flowed… the crown was forced on His brow…”Behold your king!” It was Friday.
A cross was prepared… cruel spikes were driven in hands and feet… He was lifted up and hung to die… a mother wept… the demons danced… “He who knew no sin was made sin for us….” It was Friday.
The sky grew dark… the Savior thirst… life was fleeing… questions flew into a dark and silent Heaven…”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” It was Friday.
The evening approached… His lifeless body removed… his pierced side bleeding… no mercy found. It was Friday.
A burial was arranged in a borrowed tomb… the stone silently guarded the entrance into death’s darkness. It was Friday…
…but Sunday was coming.
Easter is coming this weekend. Not the bunny. The Sunday. The people. You know… the resurrection!
I don’t know why the church acts surprised every year… company is coming. New people are arriving. Daily. A bunch of them will be here that day.
We know growth is happening. Already in a 48-hour window over 475 kids were registered for VBS. That’s more than twice the number last year after the first WEEK!! (Spoiler alert: we need teachers and helpers – sign up on line to work VBS fruitcove.com/vbs)
But we’re pretty sure, barring a nuclear attack by North Korea, that they’ll show up. So how will we receive them?
- Like McDonalds. “Take your order? You’re really an inconvenience to us and we don’t care if you’re here or not. We still get paid the same.” (Been to that one? I have)
- Like Chik-fil-a. “So glad you’re here! How can we serve you? My pleasure!” And you know every time I’ve gone to Chik-fil-a I’ve wanted to come back.
People will leave our services having one kind of experience or the other. I hope they feel our pleasure that they came… not like they’ve been pushed through the drive-by.
And that they’ll want to come back.
FOR MEDITATION: “He who would be greatest among you should be servant of all.” Matt 23:11
FOR REFLECTION: What steps can you take to improve your serve?
Though Holy Week began with shouts of “Hosanna” and celebration with waving palms, joyful faces, and hopeful hearts, it landed five days later in darkness, questions and the quietness of a graveyard. Crucifixion had crushed the last hopes of believers and brought assurance to the enemies of Christ that the problems He had created were ended.
The joyful shouts ended in tears of grief; the hopeful faces were now tear-streaked and numbed by grief. And questions hung in the air like thick smoke. “Why?” “Why Jesus?” “What will we do? Where will we turn? How will we go on?” “If He was the Son of God and righteous, how could this have happened to Him?”
We don’t like questions. We don’t like them on tests, we don’t like the unknown. We are uncomfortable when movies or books end without resolution. And yet “Good Friday” as it was known could have been symbolized by a giant question mark.
The unknown is always uncomfortable. Whether we are facing a test at school or an undiagnosed illness, not knowing is not a good place. Questions are part of human existence and yet we could wish that little curved squiggle with a period underneath never existed. We want to know.
Sometimes, we don’t. It is remarkable that, of the Seven Statements spoken by Jesus at the cross that one was a question. “Eloi, eloi, lama sabacthani.” “My God, my God why have you forsaken Me?”
Jesus asked the question because… in that moment… HE DIDN’T KNOW. It was a real question, asked in real distress. And He made it OK for us to ask the same question. Sometimes we wonder why. Why me? Why this? Why this darkness… this pain… this circumstance?
And for two days the question hung in the air like a dark curtain pulled over creation. Silence met the question, and the questioner. Hopelessness seemed to triumph. The wicked were rejoicing… the righteous seemed to have lost.
Then the answer came…..
And Sunday morning dawned.
FOR MEDITATION: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…. Romans 8:28
FOR REFLECTION: Maybe you are waiting today in your Good Friday moment of unanswered questions. But take heart. God forsook Jesus at the cross so He would never have to forsake you. Hope in that. Sunday is coming!
“The early church did not invent the empty tomb or the resurrection sightings of Jesus,” said historian N.T. Wright. “Nobody was expecting this kind of thing, no conversion experience or experience of being forgiven, no matter how guilty they felt, no matter how many hours they pored over the Scriptures would have created it. To suggest otherwise is to stop doing history and enter into fantasy.”
We do not have a faith that was created by man. We do not have a fanciful story of a dead man rising stolen from another ancient religion. There are, in fact, other religions in antiquity who believed their leader had died and risen again… but all of them… ALL OF THEM… came into existence after Christianity had begun.
The skeptic of the Christian faith has a problem… actually two. First, where would this idea ever have come from in the world of the first Christians, since the idea of a risen corpse would have been repugnant to the Romans of the day? They believed the body was a prison to escape. To build a religion around a man who was dead and returned to live in his corpse would have been foolishness to the Roman mind.
Added to this, the Jews of the first century did believe in resurrection, but not of a single person and not until the world had been returned to perfect justice and order. None of that had happened. For them, a resurrection of a single person was ridiculous… a “scandal” as Paul suggested. The world hadn’t changed.
So where did the idea of a resurrection come from? The second problem for the skeptic is where did the church come from? If not from the reality of a physical resurrection, then… what? How did a movement that has survived over two millennia begin?
The burden of proof is on the skeptic to explain these two problems. Unless… they are not problems.
They are truth.
FOR MEDITATION: “He is not here, He is risen as He said….” Matt 28:6
FOR REFLECTION: The centerpiece of all we believe as Christians is an empty tomb. Be ready, in this season of focus on Easter, to “give an answer for the hope that is in you.”
Jesus was a man; fully human just like you and me. He experienced our trials and travails, and like our lives His was marked by “many dangers, toils and snares.” He was “at all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.” And as we, He “learned obedience through the things that He suffered.”
Even when God was silent Jesus prayed and “offered His prayers through loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death….” And so must we sometimes pray.
Prayer sometimes is offered from the sweet times of fellowship as depicted by the hymnist who wrote, “I come to the garden to pray, while the dew is still on the roses.” But often prayer is not offered from a dew-laden garden with the fragrance of roses surrounding us, but from the crucible of suffering and questions.
Jesus modeled both for us. He met often and early in the morning with His Father in the dark corners of Gethsemane and the secret places among the rocky Galilean hillsides. But His prayers were also spoken and cried from the cross amidst the worst of suffering and the deepest of questions.
Prayer is not a peacetime weapon, but one fashioned for the battlefield of life. Casual praying frankly will not do when the enemy is firing on you. We must learn, like Jesus, to “offer our prayers to Him who is able to save us from death.”
Only then will we truly understand how important it is to “pray without ceasing.”
For Meditation: During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Hebrews 5:7
For Reflection: Sometimes our prayers are offered, not just in the silence… but in spite of it.