Category Archives: Liturgical Year

Declaring Thomas

“Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” — John 20:27-28

Thomas gets a bad rap! Year after year, we go around calling him Doubting Thomas, like school children on the playground trying to get under his skin. I’m sure he didn’t expect that his one moment of grief would define him.

The truth is, Thomas only asked for what the other disciple’s received. After the Resurrection, Jesus came into the midst of ten of the disciples and he showed them his wounds, spoke peace over them and commissioned them to the work of the kingdom. When the ten disciples saw this, they were “glad.” I think to myself, surely that is an understatement, but that is what the text says — “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”

When Thomas returned from where he had been, the disciple’s excitedly told him all that they had seen. They told him of the wounds, they told him of the peace, they told him of the mission. Thomas’, with a heart full of emotion, only longed for those very proofs that Jesus offered to the ten. Thomas statement could be more accurately read, “When I see what you saw, I’ll believe like you believe!” or “I want to experience what you experienced!”

One week later, Thomas was given that chance! Behind locked doors, Jesus appeared to them. He walked straight over to Thomas and offered his wounds. Thomas didn’t ask Jesus for proof, he had asked the other disciples. But Jesus, knowing the heart, walked straight to the one who had been away and freely offered his wounds. Thomas’ response, however, was slightly different than that of the other disciples. Thomas answered him, “My Lord and My God!”

Thomas was the very first (that I can find) who asserted the Divinity of Jesus. Oh, sure, I know we all think it was Peter, but I’m not sure Peter had quite grasped that aspect of Jesus. Peter declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Those terms, however, which are found in Psalm 2:2 and 2:7, were simply Davidic or Messianic. The Jewish people did not associate the messiah with Divinity. Messiah simply meant “anointed one.” Son of the Living God comes from God’s statement to David in 2:7, and likely refers back to 2:6, which reads, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Peter recognized that Jesus was the Lord’s Anointed, but he was speaking in royal terms, he was looking for a King. It was Thomas who first recognized that Jesus was far more than Israel’s conquering king. Jesus was, Thomas recognized and declared, God himself in their midst!

I often wonder why Jesus chose to reveal himself to all but one. Was Thomas slow getting the Mary’s report to meet Jesus in Galilee? Was it on purpose that Jesus came when he was gone? Did Jesus want to test Thomas’ belief? Did he want to set Thomas up for the revelation of Jesus’ divinity? Did Jesus want to create a moment where he could bless all of those who believe and have not seen?

All we, who have not seen and yet believe, are blessed by the faith, revelation and declaration of Thomas.

Homework this week: Meditate on the declaration, “My Lord and my God!”

Broken Hallelujah

“After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” —Matthew 26:73-75

Perhaps you’ve noticed it. In our times of worship over the last five weeks, a familiar word has been missing. Hallelujah is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase meaning “Praise Yahweh.” But more than just praise, it carries the connotation of being foolishly clamorous. Throughout the ages, the church has steered away from its use during the Lenten fast.

But why? Surely God is worthy of our boisterous praise year round! God is certainly worthy! But those joyful praises can make it difficult to remember that we are not worthy, and Christ died for us anyway.

The season of Lent and the Lenten fast serve to remind us of our own brokenness. Those things that we gave up, make us realize our need for God. As we hunger for those things from which we are fasting, we turn our gaze and attentions to God, and pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Like Peter, we have denied our Lord. We have looked to own benefit, and our own interests and have kept our distance from God. The season of Lent and the Lenten fast serve as an effective tool for self examination. We do not sing “Hallelujahs” because we do not want our Joy to carry us away from discerning our sin, and bringing us to repentance. During this brief time of repentance and reflection we postpone our joy so that when Easter comes we may celebrate it more completely.

Homework this week:
Pray Psalm 139, listen for what God would reveal to you.
Identify and agree with God on any hidden sins brought to your attention.
Repent of your sin, and turn to God.
Prepare for the overwhelming joy of Easter.

Lift Your Voice

“Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.” —Psalm 149:1

This past Saturday evening we had the great privilege to host one of the best touring choirs in the United States. This 55 voice choir has traveled the world over the last 70 years, singing before presidents and heads of state. They have sung seven times at the White House for the previous two presidents. Even with all of these accomplishments, they sang for us, as if we were their most prestigious concert.

They serve as inspiration and example for us. Only half of the choir is made up of music majors. The other half comes from every walk of life and area of study you can imagine. But they come together with common purpose, lifting their voices in song to bring honor to their God.

We too serve this great and marvelous God. Each week we come together corporately to worship. We lift our voices in song, because we of all people have something worth singing about. We have the greatest story that can be told, and it is a story that often words alone do not do it justice.

We are approaching the season where we retell this story. As always, we will tell part of it with song. Holy Week carries such emotion that often our souls need assistance processing it all. The language of music helps make sense of these emotions and fulfills the deeper longing of the season.

And while our choir will likely never sing for presidents or heads of state, each week we do sing for the King of all kings. This Lenten season, I encourage you to join us for Choir, (Yes, you. The one reading this article. The one who doesn’t believe that you can sing well enough.) Join us for the season of Lent as we
explore the depth of the story.

Homework this week:
Pray about joining the choir just for the season of Lent. Let’s fill the choir loft for Good Friday and Easter. Together, let’s declare the story of our salvation, of the Cross and Resurrection.

Let Us Break Bread Together

“Suppose a brother or sister is without … daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” —James 2:15-16

A traditional part of the Lenten devotion is almsgiving. By caring for those who have no other means, we participate in the providence of God. Almsgiving makes the statement to God that we know he provides for our needs. We give, even out of our want, to provide for others, knowing that God will provide also for our needs. This almsgiving is a gift beyond the tithe that provides for the needs of others.

Homework this week: Consider making a gift to “Pastors Alms,” a fund that helps cover the immediate needs of people in our community.

Consider bringing an extra dish to the Pot-luck this Saturday as we feed almost 60 college students who will have no other source for dinner.

Lay It Down, Pick It Up.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”—Matthew 16:24

Self-denial isn’t something we like to think about. Everything in our culture is directed toward the fulfillment of every desire. The very thought that we would purposefully suppress those desires is akin to failure in our minds. But Christ offers us a different picture.

Deny yourself. Not only on a small scale of personal desires, but deny yourself unto death (take up your cross). We ask, “What possible good could come of me laying down my life, or what good could possibly come from denying my desires?” Jesus expounds on the call, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

From the earliest days of the church, in the days leading up to our Lord’s passion and death, it has been the practice of Christians to lay something down, and pick something up. What gets laid down is between you and God. In fact, God may already be telling you what it should be. Traditionally the fast has included some type of food, but may also include fasting from leisure activities and hobbies. The purpose of this fast is to listen for the voice of God. How is God calling you to grow as a disciple this Lenten season?

The Lenten fast consists of the 40 days (Sundays excluded) between Ash Wednesday [Mar 9] and Easter Sunday [April 24]. Each time you hunger for what you gave up, listen for the voice of God. Let Him stir in you a hunger for righteousness in its place. I encourage you to meditate on Hebrews 12 throughout your fast.

But the fast is only half of the equation! Lay something down (fast), Pick something up (devotion).

During the season of Lent we are calling the Church into increased devotion. Start by meditating on the life of Christ. Read two chapters of a Gospel per day. This will have you reading the entirety of the four gospels by Easter. Join or start a small group during Lent. There are cards throughout the hallways of the church that can guide you in that group. Next, take up your cross, literally. Wear a cross necklace to remind you, and to proclaim to others the death and resurrection of Christ. Lastly, share that cross. Don’t worry, we have plenty, you can get a new one once you’ve given it away.