Thursday, April 13, 2006

Abridged Version

I just showed a video to my grade four class called The Easter Story. It was a cartoon version, abridged and modified for a young audience. I almost showed them a clip from the Jesus video which is much more realistic, but decided to leave that for next year. They’ll be a whole year older then, more able to understand and handle the truth.

But I wonder. Did I do the right thing? Is it ever a good thing to abridge the gospel, to paint it in colours that aren’t quite so stark, so difficult? The story is a difficult one. Torture is never pretty and we know that Jesus suffered under the Roman torturers. Betrayal is never easy to take and we know Jesus was betrayed even by those closest to Him. But most difficult of all is the struggle to grasp what it all means. Did this man, Jesus, really take on all the sin of the world in those final moments? Was it really a victory for all of us? Maybe we should tone it all down just a notch. He was a good man, after all. We can all agree on that. Isn’t that enough?

God’s word says no. God’s word says he was the Son of God, meant to suffer torture and death for us. God’s word says He did indeed die for the sins of mankind and then rose again to be the first among the resurrected. These are truths that cannot, that must not, be abridged. It is God’s truth after all. No mere mortal will ever destroy it, though they continue to try. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that when he said – “The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

It was the word of God that Jesus succeeded in fulfilling. It was the word that laid out in fine detail the beginnings of mankind, his fall and his subsequent history of struggle and pain. It was the word that detailed, too, the profound plan of redemption and proclaimed the good news of God’s victory.

It is the word that we can proclaim now, this Easter season. Say it to one another, say it to strangers. Shout it from the rooftops – He is risen. He is risen indeed!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Getting Ready

Getting Ready
By Marcia Lee Laycock

It seems the word anticipation is an appropriate one for this time of year. The snow is melting rapidly and the bushes are showing that faint red tint that tells us life is pouring back into them after the long sleep of winter.

That word is also appropriate for my life right now. In a few weeks I’ll be packing to go to a women’s retreat. It’s a yearly event, one I plan for and look forward to well ahead of the date. Another few weeks after that, I’ll be packing again, this time in preparation for a trip east to meet my daughter when she returns from Bangladesh. You can imagine the growing anticipation for that trip! Let’s just say I’m already counting the days.

We are also anticipating another event at this time of year. Some of us have already been preparing for it. I attended a party a short time ago where a huge chocolate cake sat in the middle of the table as we ate supper and laughed with the ‘birthday boy.’ Then the baker of the cake, the hostess of the party, distributed evenly sliced pieces all round. But she did not cut a piece for herself. She had given up sweets as an observance of Lent and I admired her restraint as she sat and watched the rest of us indulge. She, needless to say, is anticipating the day when her fast will be broken.

We do different things to prepare for special occasions. We pack for trips, we count the days, we even abstain from things we delight in. It is all meant to make that special time more significant and more meaningful. It is all done to prepare our hearts and minds for what is to come.

As Jesus walked resolutely toward the cross, we are told in the scriptures that He prepared Himself and those around Him. He began to talk about what was to happen. He gave the disciples clear instructions about the last meal they were to have together. He took time to be by Himself to pray and, as the hour drew near, He gathered His friends around Him and asked them to pray for Him. They were terribly inadequate in that task, but even as Jesus shook beneath the weight of what was to come, He prayed for them and moved resolutely forward. It was all steeped in anticipation. Jesus knew the torture He would endure, yet “…for the joy set before him, endured the cross …”

As we draw close to Good Friday, perhaps we should be getting ready. Perhaps we should talk about what is going to happen, even have a special meal with friends and gather them around us to pray. Perhaps we should pack the suitcases of our hearts with the things we will need to truly appreciate what happened on that day long ago. Perhaps we need to be filled once again with anticipation.

Then, when the day arrives, we will be able, with Jesus to say, “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28).

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