Tag Archives: Christianity

History is Made and the World Changes Forever

Easter. Bunnies and chocolate, egg hunts and beautiful dresses.
Easter. A time of renewal as spring is fully here.
Easter. Family feasting.

Easter includes all of these cultural expressions, some rooted in ancient spring rituals that antedate Christianity. The word itself originates with fertility deities celebrating new life. Other practices are the creations of brilliant marketeers.

For billions throughout history and around the world, however, Easter is about the most important event in human history: the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. His crucifixion on Good Friday is a mere martyrdom without this divine affirmation of triumph over death. In First Corinthians, chapter 15, the Apostle Paul, himself a former persecutor of the church, declares that without the resurrection of Jesus, the entirety of the Christian faith is in vain and founded on a lie. Without the resurrection, there is no hope in our future or present as we confront evil and suffering – we might as well, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (a famous Epicurean saying rooted in the denial of life after death).

Amidst all the chocolate and flowers, billions of Christians will declare, “He is Risen!” and respond with, “He is Risen, indeed!” this confession is at the core of the faith and ultimately, this belief is what splits history into BCE and CE or BC and AD…before Christ and “in the year of our Lord” (or “before the common era and the common era).

The resurrection declares that Jesus’ death is full of meaning: the forgiveness and sins and bearing of sicknesses, sorrows and undeserved suffering. Justice and love meet perfectly as the Incarnate One bears the penalty and shame for all human sin. But death does not win! The resurrection is also the preview of our human future as we see our destiny when the world is fully restored. Such hope, empowered by the Holy Spirit, inspires our acts of love and justice today. 

Please enjoy Easter in all its expressions…and remember that the essence of Easter is hope in Christ and an invitation to new life that is not mere pagan celebration, but spiritual transformation.

A Baptism of Tears

Stan Burgess’ delightful source book, Peoples of the Spirit, chronicles gifts and expressions of the Holy Spirit throughout church history. One of the most interesting experiences is what the Eastern Orthodox leaders called, “The Baptism of Tears.”

When the Spirit falls, tears flow.

God hears the laments of his people and records the tears on his scroll (or stores them in his bottle – Psalm 56:8). Tears of repentance cleanse the soul. Tears of rejoicing lift our spirits. Tears of righteous anger propel advocacy for justice. Tears of compassion empower sacrifice for those that cannot return the favor.

North American Christianity needs a baptism of tears.

Instead of polarized invective that tears up apart, we need the tears of divine empathy to unite our hearts. The God of the Bible weeps and laughs, grieves deeply and dances with joy (Jeremiah 8-9; Zeph. 3; Luke 10, 19).

Imagine our conversations with God and each other if we experience a baptism of tears:

We will weep deeply as we confront the racism of Charleston and shed joyful tears as forgiveness triumphs over retaliation.

We will weep hearing the cries of creation as humans despoil the earth and we will cry aloud with delight as gospel hope inspires ecological healing.

We weep in intercession for our neighbors lost without Christ and shed tears of joy as converts are baptized and prodigals discover Abba Almighty waiting for them.

We will weep when a sister or bother suffers and find our eyes moist when healing flows.

This baptism of tears purges hubris and hypocrisy from our hearts. Tears will inspire love for enemies as we realize their need of grace.

There is a time and place for civil, dispassionate debate, inside the church and in the public square. The issues tearing the church and civil society apart, especially the labeling and libeling, the intolerance and entrenched anger, will not be overcome merely with debating points. Evidence and rational thought are needed in our hyperbolic sound bite-driven world. But tears are needed even more.

Tears in our eyes help us hear with our ears what the Spirit is saying as we listen deeply to each other.

Today I am shedding tears for our violence toward the vulnerable, from the unborn to the aged, the oppressed and trafficked to the hidden abuse in homes.

Today I am crying with joy over the thousands finding Christ each hour, and many believers awakening to this moment of kingdom opportunity.

Tears are not a sign of moral compromise or inner weakness. They are not evidence of sentimentalism. Tears are signs of compassion, empathy and wholeness.

Healing laughter often ends with flowing tears. Deep conviction that leads to repentance is accompanied by cries for mercy, with tears running down the face.

We do not need to make this happen artificially or start a new movement for tears in our services. Authentic works of the Holy Spirit that honor Christ and transform individuals and institutions do not need our manipulative assistance.

If we pray the ancient prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit” and really desire the fullness of the resurrection life of Christ, tears will flow.

Come, Holy Spirit, and baptize us with tears.