The Beauty of Easter

Originally appeared on this site in 2016.

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The whispers of that morning.

They echo throughout eternity.

Their voice launches from trees, from the ground.

Shouts of adoration, praise and glory.

The birds give harmony to the shouts of joyful discovery.

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I stand with no words. I bow with nothing but myself.

Desiring to only be an echo of that same refrain.

Risen.

Alive.

With us.

Born out of love, handed over to suffer.

All for me.

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The morning after the rejoicing and exultation.

I carry the shouts still within me.

The Resurrected King is resurrecting me.

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All photos taken by and property of Sara Stacy. Permission to be used elsewhere is not allowed.

The Wait of Saturday

img_7170Originally posted in 2016, this post below has been updated and edited.


I have a small sign on my desk from a friend that reads “Hope always.” It was given to me in a time where I couldn’t muster much hope. I was practically an empty shell and questioning much about what I had known for some time. It sits not only as a reminder but a marker of a time when I may not have been able to find hope, but someone else was giving me some of theirs in the waiting.

Today, Saturday, I think on this hope in the waiting.

I think of those who couldn’t muster hope after standing, watching the One Whom they called Christ die. The One Whom they believed to be just as He said He was, the coming Messiah. He was their hope, and hope was dead.

I thumb through the words of Matthew, of Mark, in Luke and John looking for hope. I find waiting. I find Joseph active in the wait, I see the women resting in the wait. I just see a whole lot of waiting.

When it seems like our rescue is dead and buried, when that promise will not be fulfilled we can lose our hope. We watch it slip away, confident expectation no longer pulling us. But in that waiting I believe we see hope. We see hope isn’t always this shining, beautiful thing but a mess. It’s hard. It’s difficult, and maybe even borrowed when we can’t seem to muster the hope we once knew and called our own.

Hope in the waiting can look like doing the thing we know we should or resting in a promise given by Him. The wait of Saturday can be a weighty thing in our lives. It can bear out grief, mourning, doubt and fear. Hope collides with each and every one of those to bring us through and unburden us from the weight of it all. Waiting through Saturdays of our lives guide us to the beauty of the coming morning. We no longer want the pain of Friday, a necessary grief. Yet our hearts aren’t quite prepared for Sunday.

So we wait. We wait in Saturday.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities. 

Psalm 130 (NKJV)

On Good Friday

This post originally published in 2016. As I have journeyed through Holy Week this year with intentionality I felt this post said more than I could write today…


It’s a grey morning. Oddly the birds that have been chirping the alarm of morning are silent today. There’s just an eerie silence cast over this morning.

My day beckons to get busy, with errands and the gym, lists and emails. Yet here I sit.

I sit in Good Friday, where many often question the goodness of this day. We rushedly point to Sunday, of the hope coming, the joy awaiting the sunrise of Resurrection reminded.

But I don’t want to rush through this because in order for there to be joy in Sunday, there must be mourning and grief on Friday. There must be the inner realization and confession of my heart. The cross, that which brought death and mockery onto Christ, was mine. It should have been.

My distance from God? That too was mine to address.

Yet He is there, in my place, in all of our places, because of love unfailing. Because of the unconditional pursuit He has for us. To bring us back, to bring us in, and to be the way for us to God. He bridged the distance as He anguished those six hours on this day so 2000+ years ago. He closed the gap, and gave up His life in my place.

Reading Matthew 27 is difficult. It is hard for me to see that which I caused on the landscape of eternity, Christ wondering why God had forsaken Him there. “It is because of me,” I want to tell Him. But He knows. Yet in this Friday mourning I sit, I know that He does not want me to put back on the guilt and shame of sin. He never asks me to carry that again, as He took it on there on that cross. He took on the taunts and mocking of those who would mock me, those He came to save as well.

I have talked about the redemptive nature of Good Friday before, but today, this Good Friday I sit in the story of it. The reality of what this day was, what it is for us. All of us. There is grief, mourning, the reality of sin and the cost which was paid for us. His death lingers over this day.

Before I try to push that truth aside and get lost in the busy of the “other” of a Friday, I want to sit in Good Friday. That it is good for me to recall and focus on what today is, what it means, Who He is, and Who I say He is. Today I rest in the gravity of Friday, the message of Who Christ is on the cross.

Maundy Thursday

When I was around eight or so, I dropped the communion plate full of grape juice on the brand new light green carpet at my church…in the second row. Who thought that was a good idea to pass that plate around the pews FULL OF CARPET AND PEW STAINING GRAPE JUICE?

Thursday of Holy Week marked the first Last Supper. It marked the time when Jesus revealed the new covenant of living forward to the disciples. That each time we break bread, we drink that we should remember Him, that we do this as a remembrance to the body broken, the blood spilled for us.

I was diving into some commentary on the first Last Supper and found an interesting point from The Christ-Centered Exposition that defines how the Passover was the perfect time for the Last Supper, the reminder that one exodus long ago would also bring forth another, a lasting exodus freeing us from sin and enslavement to it forever. The lamb sacrificed then would be the One given of Himself for us all, so that we would take and remember it each time we ate or drank-which is every single day.

I think about the pew stains on carpet there in the church, how there’s still a hint of it almost 30 years later. And I think about the sin stain of the world, cast across the people that God loved dearly but that broke His heart. I see the eternal blood there in the wine cup, the blood of the Perfect Lamb covering us all in order to make us white. The red of Him made us white in His eyes. It took away our need to sacrifice at Passover, and replaced it with the covenant of bread-breaking, cup-bearing daily. It ushered in freedom where we were once bound by the marks of slavery, of stains cast all around us and on us.

As we greet and walk through Maundy Thursday this week, I find the Last Supper what draws me in, to see my desperate need for cleansing in Him, to be reminded of His brokenness and blood-rending that is coming tomorrow. The arrogance of Peter there, even as Christ foretells of his desertion and my own walking away at times. The need for prayer in the deepest parts, in the times where I feel alone and deserted, there’s the draw to my knees and communing with God alone.

The sacrifice for my stains awaits tomorrow.

Leptas, Perfume, and a Bag of Silver

Can I just share with y’all that this digging into Holy Week has really been such a divine interruption in my normal writing and study? That it has brought some deeper understandings of Scripture and this week for me than I had before?

download (1)Between yesterday and today we see the objects of money, offering and sacrifice come up in some pretty profound ways in the life of Christ and His followers. From the prior day’s teachings, Christ is in the temple when a “poor widow” came and put in leptas that she had to live on-a couple of pennies in today’s terms. She gave out of her poverty, while others were coming in giving out of their riches, casting in large amounts. Christ was pointing here not to the amount but the heart behind it, the giving out of sacrifice and in devotion to God. It was about the offering in the heart, not the offering in the hand.

The following day, as they stay in Bethany, a woman came as they were reclining at the table, probably following a feast. Do you ever linger at the table with friends? Leaning back from full bellies, but wanting to lean in to fill your heart? I have a feeling that’s what was going on here, gathering at the table for long discussions and listening to the heart of Christ, although we don’t know what was talked of, we do see this woman come to them. She brings in a jar of expensive perfume…this is important because it’s not oil to anoint Him with. It is that pricey bottle of Chanel No. 5, fragrant and hard to come by, expensive to everyone, and used for burial preparations specifically. She poured out this entire gift on Christ, right there before everyone. It was uninhibited devotion to Him, it was her offering of all she had to Him. While others complained of the excess, Christ saw it as her recognition of Who He was, loving Him truly with all that she had.

I love how Christ schools those around the table on this act, as the fragrance fills the room, it coating Him from the head down. In the NIV translation He states, “She did what she could.” He acknowledged her faith and her understanding, receiving her full sacrifice that cost much because she knew, her sacrifice going beyond herself and what others thought of her. She only cared about what she could do for Christ, giving all that she had for Him in His very presence.

Whoa.

How often do I take for granted that He is with me? That I am right there in His Presence? That instead of sacrificing all that I have, all that I am, I choose the way of Judas.

Yep, the verses right after the perfume are of Judas Iscariot choosing to betray Christ to the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees seeking to kill Him, for the price of a slave…thirty pieces of silver. We don’t know his reasoning for it, but we see the contrast of the costly devotion in one moment and the small price of betrayal in the next. Judas choosing his own wants over the Presence of Christ. Bob Goff put it perfectly, “For a couple silver coins, Judas traded who he was, for what he thought he wanted.” The lure of power? Authority maybe? To be in the in crowd with the Pharisees? Maybe he worried what others thought of him, his association with Christ?

I don’t know the root of it, but the betrayal was costly…it would lead to Judas taking his own life not long after Christ’s crucifixion. But we look at these two people, we see their offerings and sacrifice not from a lens of monetary reasoning but from their heart reasons, the faith reasons.

It’s a hard question to face, even in the small decisions daily. Because the big questions have been built upon the smaller sacrifices, the steps further towards Him or away from Him. The choice to sacrifice more of self or more of Him. And so on this Wednesday of Holy Week I am left asking the same question myself.

Do we sacrifice ourselves for Him or do we sacrifice Him in order to get what we want?

 

Getting Taught

My first year of college I was a double major in history and math, with a secondary education emphasis. I wanted to teach. In my high school years I was heavily influenced by math teachers and an English teacher. I fell in love with history thanks to my dad and AP History class. Even at 18 I saw how impactful teachers could be on the life of a bratty teen like myself and felt I owed them more than just an A in class, but to turn and give back myself.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, the Great Teacher went in the temple to teach. Christ, during His time here on earth, often taught through the lens of parables, illustrating an idea through story in order to bring about revelation on the hearts of those who hear. He took the harder lessons to be learned and brought them to the people who most needed to hear them.

But here we sit looking at Mark 11-13, and the hard words of Christ teaching and the Pharisees interrupting, to try to trap Him or ensnare Him. They bring lofty legalistic views, with religion carried on their shoulders rather than trusting in Christ, the God-man Himself right before them, teaching and preaching, pointing to the time of redemption.

They doubt His authority, seeking to be their own authority. I have to say, we all are alike in that vein. We prefer to use ourselves more often to rule than allowing Christ to rule in and through us. As one writer states, “We are not really interested in surrendering that rule to anyone else.” We see further on that they fear others more than they fear God, when they make decisions based upon the crowd’s opinion instead of the words of Christ before them. They chose the safe route, the expedient one rather than what was true, right.

Sounds a bit like me some days, alot of days. Choosing for myself based upon the opinion of others often instead of what Christ commands of me. When I look at this text I cannot help but ask myself, “Does what others will think of me hinder me from moving more towards Jesus?” Do the lessons He teaches me alter me in a way that moves me more towards His likeness or more towards the crowd’s opinion?

In many ways I am just as they were, questioning whether this Teacher has authority and influence in my life, whether I would allow the opinions of others to bare weight over His command. So on this Tuesday as I sit and look at the Teacher and His teachings that day thousands of years ago, I have to seek to know how much of all this is a reason to mask my own fear of what faith might cost me socially, relationally, and culturally. Whether I will be taught or continue to think I am the teacher.

Fig Trees and Flipping Tables Jesus

I have to be honest with y’all….I have never truly understood the cursing of the fig tree by Christ on the Monday of Holy Week. I jump quickly to the story of Christ flipping the tables in the temple-the image I really cannot wait to see in heaven, justice-seeking Christ full of righteous anger. But who doesn’t love that?!

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But first that fig tree y’all…As Christ is heading back into Jerusalem from Bethany, where He’s staying with Mary, Martha and Lazarus He is hungry. Yep, we see Jesus get hungry in Scripture, which is His human side coming forth from what I tend to lean towards. He sees a fig tree off there in the distance that is in full leaf, meaning it is showing that it should be bearing fruit, whether small or large. (Fig trees in that part of the world do not fruit until June, this would have been March-April) The tree was giving all intents and purposes that it was something that it, in production, in fruit, was not.

Christ immediately curses the tree, that it may never bear fruit again.

A parable lived right out for the apostles to see and hear.

It was a testament to the state of Israel at that time, and very well the state of our lives too in the church. Israel was showing off one thing, claiming Yahweh as God but yet bore out none of the fruit of that life…instead going after their own gods, making legalism their true aim instead of holiness. They bore no fruit of a life lived in obedience. It is a show with no substance, deceiving what is presented.

“The great majority of persons who have any sort of religion at all bear leaves, but they produce no fruit.”

-Charles Spurgeon, Nothing But Leaves

We believe within our own churches we are one thing, when in fact we are bearing nothing of substance out. Jesus is very well talking to us right here, right now in our churches in America. Egyptian Christians are murdered as they attended Palm Sunday services on Sunday. Yet we sit idly by and allow our comforts to be our concern, whether the a/c is working overtime or not (the very thing I complained about this morning, I kid you not y’all) or whether so-and-so is friendly towards us, or that our service had better numbers than the other church. Instead of our hearts yearning for righteousness, for holiness and complete obedience in all things.

We’ve grown into our own hypocrisy that our Savior cursed this very day….that He pointed to and made clear that deception in bearing fruit was not worthy of life, of His blessing, but rather a curse, a death. We need Him to make us useful and fruitful, to bear it out…just as John 15 points us to, that we abide in Him and we bear much fruit. But we must be in Him, not doing of ourselves or in ourselves. It took being led into John 15 over the last couple of weeks for me to see the real point Christ is making here…if we aren’t in Him, we bear false witness of fruit, we attempt to be the vinedresser, branch and root all in one, only there is nothing of substance to us, to our churches.