Monday, April 25, 2011

The Day After Easter

I wonder what the day after Easter—i.e. the day after Jesus’ resurrection—was like for Jesus’ first group of followers. I know what the day after Easter is like for most of us. We go back to work or school. After a day of celebration, we force ourselves to get back into the normal routine of life—albeit a little tired and a still a little full from all the food we’ve eaten. We ask each other, “How was your Easter?” and then go on to talk about the weather or the latest news items. We enjoyed the church services, but now it’s time to get back into the real world of schedules, stocks, and sports. Like the day after any holiday, the day after Easter can even seem to be a bit of a letdown.

But I wonder, is that the way it was for Jesus’ first followers the day after they experienced the risen Christ? Did they just get back to the normal routines of their lives? Was it a day of letdown? I don’t think so.

I tend think that when they woke up that Monday morning they had to first of all ask themselves, had yesterday really happened? And, when they realized that it had, hope was birthed anew within each of their hearts. As they sought each other out they didn’t ask, “How was your yesterday?” Rather, they spoke about today, and tomorrow, and the days that would follow. Most of all, they spoke about Jesus, reminding each other that truly he was alive! They knew that the resurrection of Jesus was not just something to remember, but an event that would impact their lives far into the future, even into eternity!

The fact that the One whom they had seen crucified was now alive turned their world around. Thus, they couldn’t help but spread the news. And, not only did they celebrate once a year but they lived lives of celebration, knowing that because Jesus lived, they too would live.

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11-NIV)

“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” (1 Corinthians 6:14-
NIV)

May your day after Easter, and every day that follows, be filled with the life of our risen Savior!

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Monday, April 18, 2011

The God of the Passover

Tonight, Monday, April 18, 2011, is the first night of Passover. Thus, Jewish families all around the world are sitting together this evening sharing in the Passover Seder. As they do, they will eat various foods that help them not only remember but actually relive the Exodus experience of their forefathers who were miraculously set free from Egyptian bondage. For example, as they taste the parsley dipped in salt water, they will taste the tears of those who labored under Pharaoh. As they eat the sweet apple and nut mixture called charoset, they will taste the sweetness of their God-given freedom. My family and I will be sharing in the Seder later this week (we are waiting for our son, Jonathan to get home from college).

One of the major components of the Passover Seder are the four cups of wine that are received as a memorial to the four promises God gave to his people through Moses. These promises are denoted by the four “I wills” of Exodus 6:6-7 which says, “I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.” (Exodus 6:6-7-NIV) (Note: The last sentence has two “I will’s,” but they are counted as one.)

What wonderful promises God gave to his people! More than that, how wonderful to think that God fulfilled every promise he made. It’s no wonder the Jewish people want to both commemorate and celebrate what God has done. Through the events of the Exodus, God showed himself to be faithful to his people. Yes, the God of the Passover is a faithful God .

No matter what may be happening in your life, remember that God is the same today as he has always been. He is still the God of the Passover—a God who is always true to his word. As he was faithful to his people in the days of the Exodus, so he will be faithful to you today!

“The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.” (Psalm 145:13-NIV)

Have a great day! And, happy Passover to my Jewish friends!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Monday, April 11, 2011

Missing Grandma

Last Tuesday, April 5, 2011 my 94 year old grandmother (and last grandparent) passed away. On Thursday we held the funeral service and buried her. On Saturday we cleaned out her apartment. Now all that’s left are the few mementos we have in our homes and the host of memories that we hold in our hearts.

My grandmother was only 42 years old when I, the oldest of her five grandchildren, was born. As a young grandmother, she was able to run around New York City with her five grandchildren. We went to Radio City Music Hall, Chinatown, Central Park, The Museum of Natural History, etc. We ate at all kinds of restaurants: Chinese, Cuban, Mexican, Greek – even the Hilton Hotel in Midtown. Just about every other weekend she would come to our house and babysit us. We would play games, have “tea parties,” and eat cookies and rolls from the Jewish bakery.

Being that she was Jewish, it was from her we learned not only about Jewish foods – corned beef, pastrami, rugelach, challah bread, knishes, matzo ball soup, etc. (I’m getting hungry!) – but as well how to keep a house kosher and something of the Jewish holidays. We would watch as she (or earlier on, my great-grandmother) would light the Shabbos (Sabbath) candles. Although we didn’t have a formal Passover Seder (there was no man in the house to lead it), Passover was always very significant to us.

Last Thursday, my brother and I conducted the funeral service, honoring as many of the Jewish traditions as we could – no flowers, no embalming or open casket. Some shared memories. A liturgical Jewish piece was played by my daughter and niece. Finally, we went to the cemetery and buried her in the traditional plain pine box, each placing a shovel-full of dirt on the casket. With that, it was over. Life and death had come to an end.

People say my grandmother lived a good, full life. It is true that 94 years is a pretty full life. But of course, “full” is relative. Ultimately, whether we live 50, 70, or 90 years (or more or less), our lives are so brief. It feels like it was just yesterday that we were on the subways running around Manhattan together or standing in line at the bakery. It feels like it was only a short while ago that we were sitting in a restaurant discussing the quality of the coffee or sharing a dessert. It’s no wonder the Bible tells us to make the best use of our time that we can. Ultimately, life goes by very, very quickly.

Psalm 39:4-5 – “…let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.” (NIV)

I’ll miss my grandmother. Not so much the grandmother of the past year, who was very quickly declining in both body and mind. I’ll miss the grandmother who ran around NYC with us, played and laughed, was almost always all dressed up, and who, most of all, loved her family; the grandmother whom we loved very, very much.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you. Have a good day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, April 1, 2011

An April Fool's Day Joke!

It’s felt like the winter that would never end. Aside from a few warm days that teased us with a bit of spring-like weather, we’ve had a pretty cold and nasty March. I know March is supposed to come in like a lion. But it is also supposed to go out like a lamb. That’s hardly been the case. This morning as I was walking our dog, Mabel, once again it started to snow. I thought to myself, Is this an April Fool’s Day joke? After all, here we are on April 1st , a couple of weeks into spring, wondering whether or not we’re going to be shoveling out one more time.

We all know, however, not only does the weather play all kinds of tricks on us, acting quite unpredictable at times, but so does life itself. We set our plans in motion. We have our expectations and timeframes. We look for the patterns and seasons of life to take a particular course. But, then things don’t turn out the way we expected. We are left wondering, is this for real? We feel taken! We feel as if someone has played an April Fool’s Day joke on us.

Although life may play some pretty cruel “jokes” on us, each of us needs to be reminded, God will never do so. He’s not one to make us think one thing when the truth is something completely different. He’ll never lead us to trust him for something and then pull the rug out from under us. You’ll never hear him say, “April Fool’s” after you’ve believed him. Rather, God is always good and kind. He’s always true and faithful to his word, fulfilling everything he has ever promised his children.

Jesus said, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 – NIV) No trickery here! No jokes played on God's children!

Be encouraged today to know that in the midst of the disappointment, pain, sorrow, and cruel “jokes” that life can sometimes bring our way, we have a Father in heaven who loves us. He has promised to always be with us, to hear us as we pray, and to meet our needs. He will always be faithful to his word. And, that’s no April Fool’s Day joke!

Have a great day.

-Pastor Tim Harris