The Most Astonishing Easter Miracle

The current issue of Christianity Today has a most unusual front cover. It declares, “The Most Astonishing Easter Miracle: and it’s not the empty tomb.” Obviously I had to read the article.

The article noted that during the 40 days after the resurrection Jesus only made ten appearances. Those appearances changed history and demonstrated that Jesus was truly alive again, but during that time He was absent much more than He was physically present. The author also noted that Jesus doesn’t seem to put too much stock in His resurrection body, telling Mary not to hold on to Him, and telling Thomas that those who would believe in Him without seeing Him would be even more blessed than he. The author then goes on to write:

“The bodily resurrection is not first and foremost intended to dazzle. It’s not a spiritual spectacular designed to knock our spiritual socks off. It clearly doesn’t do that, as the Gospel writers note. When Jesus appears to the 11 to give the Great Commission, for example, Matthew notes that while some worshiped him, some still doubted. And Luke notes that Jesus had to give ‘many convincing proofs that he was alive.’ His resurrection appearances were not a slam dunk for faith.”

After noting the crucial importance of the resurrection, he continues: “Still, why does Jesus seemingly downplay or relativize his bodily resurrection? Because he knew that what was coming was more miraculous and astonishing still. He was not satisfied to be a mere object of wonder and worship, someone we observe and marvel at from afar. Someone we could merely touch, see, and hear as someone separate from us. He did not want to establish a religion that memorialized this miracle, set it in lifeless stone.

“No, the great miracle that the gospel proclaims is not merely that Christ lived bodily after the Crucifixion but that he lives dynamically in us today. The Resurrection is one with the Ascension and Pentecost— we cannot grasp the meaning of the Resurrection in isolation, because these two other events display an even greater miracle: Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).”

God Bless, Rick

It all started with the ark

It all started with the ark. The carpet needed to be replaced, and Jeff Thompson agreed to play Noah. Once he got the ark apart he panicked a bit, as Noah must have done when faced with a task he had never experienced before. There are a lot of intimidating angles in the ark, but Jeff persevered and got it done. Thanks, Jeff, for getting the ark kid worthy again.

As the ark was being readied, work was beginning in the nursery bathroom as well. Cory Moore was the first to volunteer, so he got the job. (Thanks go to Reed Morris and Will Bartels for also volunteering.) Cory took out the old cabinet and sink, patched the hole that had been covered by grillwork behind the toilet, scraped up the old tile, (a job that would have tested the patience of Job), and put on a fresh coat of paint. Next will come new tile on the floor, and a new vanity with drawers and a molded countertop; which may be delayed a bit since I just got an email from the salesman indicating that he couldn’t remember which side to put the sink on!

Since we didn’t want any rooms in the nursery complex left behind, paint was purchased for all of them. Jack Stucki has volunteered to give up several sabbath days to paint the walls, and Julie is going to touch up the mural behind the ark.

Then, just as grass appeared over all the earth after the flood, new carpet should be seen springing up in the hallways, classrooms, and fellowship hall. Yes, your faithful stewardship is going to make it possible for the carpeting to finally be replaced, and for new cove base to be installed. We are now in the process of getting bids for carpet tiles and tear out and install, but not to worry, you’ll still be given a chance to get on board. Help will be needed to take up the baseboards, which may not be made of gopher wood but certainly look as if they have been gnawed on by gophers, and to move everything as the carpet flows from room to room.

Be watching for signs that the day is drawing near, and be ready to respond when the call goes out that it’s time.

God Bless, Rick

An impossible mission

“I’d like to ask you to tell about your 40+ year ministry at Chatham in five minutes.” I know it sounds like a “Mission Impossible”, but that’s the charge I’ve been given for the Minister’s Conference this Thursday at the Oil Belt Christian Service Camp in Flora.

Mark and I attended the conference last year, and not only was the conference informative and inspiring, it gave me a chance to renew several ministerial acquaintances. Shortly after the conference I received a note from the host of the conference, a classmate of mine from the sixties at Lincoln. Ron was still ministering at the church he had begun serving while in school, and wondered if I’d be interested in serving on a panel with himself and another classmate of ours who also was in a 40+ year ministry at the same church. He said he had received numerous requests for a session at the conference on how ministers stay put in a ministry for the long haul. I quickly agreed, and plans were made for us to each sum up the focus of our ministries, and what we feel made possible such long ministries, in five minutes. Then we’ll open up for questions. I’m really looking forward to it, even though I’m not sure what I’m going to say or what questions will be asked.

It’s no secret that the focus of my ministry in Chatham has been on preaching through the Bible, and on teaching. You would think that would be the universal focus of preachers, but that’s not the case. Young preachers are more often cast into the role of a leader who is expected to lead a congregation to become bigger and more influential. Desiring to grow is obviously not a bad thing, but it can easily degenerate into expectations that measure the success of a ministry by quantifiable results. If a preacher doesn’t produce, he’s expected to leave so someone else can do what he apparently can’t do. Even if the pressure doesn’t come from the congregation, the preacher has been programed to view himself as a failure, at least in that church. The answer is to move on to some place else where he might find success, or to simply get out of the ministry.

Hopefully I can encourage some young ministers to focus on the Word, and see the value in simply being a preacher of the Word who is willing to leave the results of his ministry in the hands of the Lord.

God Bless, Rick