SPOILERS

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It may be the darkest scripture in the whole Bible:  “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” My goal last Sunday was to preach it as is — without spoilers about what comes next.

But I couldn’t do it.

I wanted to let this part of the story stand on its own.  I didn’t want to soften the words, or cheapen Jesus’ suffering.  But I couldn’t let this darkest of moments remain pitch black.  I couldn’t just leave him hanging there.

There, at the end of my sermon, I had to throw in a little bit of Easter.  Without even a “spoiler alert” I revealed the big surprise:  Hope, Triumph, Resurrection.

I’m not alone in this. In my reading about this tough verse, not a single writer was willing to just sit with Jesus’ pain.  Nobody could resist spilling the beans about the happy ending that was to come.

Another example — My choir sings a cantata on Palm Sunday every year.  No matter how deep into Holy Week the music takes us, the last song — a long standing tradition — is “The King is Coming!” It’s a great song, but I have mixed feelings about it, because of all the spoilers!  Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have yet to come, and already we’re promising Easter.

I wonder if a new Christian would find themselves annoyed to have the big Easter Surprise revealed just at this agonizing climax?  I know I’d have been mad if someone spoiled the ending of the 6th Sense, or the Usual Suspects, Or The Empire Strikes Back.

Should we treat the story of the cross (and beyond) as a sacred mystery, only to be unveiled on Easter morning?  If we did, how would we handle passages such as this?

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”  Matthew 20:17-19

Umm….SPOILER ALERT, Jesus!

Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer about how this story ends.  In fact, Jesus’ whole life is a spoiler alert.  If we pay careful attention to how Jesus lives, we’ll have all the clues we need to find out how he dies.  And lives again.

I’ve decided it’s not necessary to just sink into “Why have you forsaken me,” and stay there.  The whole point is that Jesus DIDN’T stay there.

He had more to reveal than Keyser Soze, Bruce Willis, and Darth Vader combined.

Have a good week,

Mitch

20 of the Best Movie And TV Spoilers

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Top 10 Reasons You’d Never Make It As An Angel. (And one good reason to try)

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An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.   –Luke 2:9-10

TOP 10 Reasons Why You’d Never Make It As An Angel.

Ready?

No. 10  No halos, and no harps.

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That’s right.  If your incentive for being an angel is to acquire some celestial fashion accessories, you can stop right there.  The Bible makes no mention or halos, and of the 49 references to harps, none of them are played by angels.  It’s not a thing!

No. 9  Wings are…kinda weird.

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Wings are rarely mentioned in connection to angels, but Seraphim and Cherubim are described as mystical creatures with LOTS of wings.  Not exactly the lounging on a cloud image we’re used to.

No. 8  Sorry, ladies…

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The angels we read about in the Bible all appear to be men.  Of course, a couple thousand years could have changed the requirements.  The men are often portrayed wearing simple clothing, unlike Mr. Studly, above.

No. 7  You probably won’t get famous.

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Unless your name is Michael, Gabriel, or Lucifer, you’ll likely go anonymous.  Those are the only Angels named in the Bible.

6.  One word:  Drones.

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I’m just saying…the friendly skies are a bit less friendly these days!

5.  The Heavenly Host may not be what you think it is.

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The phrase “Heavenly Host” refers to an army!  The angels were God’s special troops, out on patrol.  So think twice, before you enlist!

4.  You have to work nights.

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So did the shepherds, come to think of it.

3.  THE ANGELS DIDN’T SING.

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That’s right.  No singing. But what about all our Christmas songs?  Have we been lied to? Well, in the Bible the scripture goes like this:

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,   “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  –Luke 2:13-14

Catch that?  Saying, not singing?  That one really bothers me.  When you get the whole Heavenly Host together for an announcement like this, I think there should be singing!.  (Sorry, I’m not giving up “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.)

2.  Let’s face it:  You’re no angel.

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We tend to ascribe a certain level of holiness to the Angels, don’t we?  Well, would we be good enough to be one?  I don’t know.  I’ve done a few devilish things in my life.

And the number one answer why you’d never make it as an angel.  (Drumroll…)

No. 1.  Their primary job is telling the Good News to absolute strangers.

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Most of us tend to be weak in that area.  We have trouble talking about it with our friends and family!  Until we can learn to share our faith more fully, we’ll probably fall a little short in the Angel department.

BUT…

Here’s one angelic thing we CAN do this season.  We can keep four special words on our lips.  And they are…

do not be afraid

Those 4 words, “Do not be afraid”, show up again and again in the scriptures, and in the Christmas story, it’s the angels who deliver that message.

Do Not Be Afraid.  How powerful are those words to hear?  We live in a world that is paralyzed with fear this year.  It threatens to block our experience of Emmanuel, God With Us.

Let me ask you this:  If you can hear those four words and believe them, then could you take on the role of a Christmas Angel, and pass them on to someone else?

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If we can make that our task these next days, I think there may be hope for us yet.  Not to become perfect Angels, but to become true agents of Christmas.  Messengers of Good News.

That’s it! May the season bless you richly for who you are,

and who you aspire to be.

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Have a great week,

Mitch

 

 

Can you pass the key chain test?

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Okay.

This one goes to my car.
This one goes to the back door.
This one goes to the outside door at the church.
This one goes to my office.
think this one goes to my old mailbox.
And…these other two?

No clue.

Go on, try for yourself:

Pull out your keychain and see if you can identify what every key goes to.

I did this with four other people the other night.  3 of us failed.  (The other two weren’t carrying their keys with them.)

What about you?  Do you know what every key is for?

It’s so strange to think about it.

If, like me, you failed the key chain test, then you are one of millions and millions of people who carry around a tiny jagged strip of metal nearly everywhere you go, but have no idea what for!

Isn’t that bizarre?

At one time we must have thought it was important enough to put on our key ring, right?

Or someone else told us it was important.

And we carry it because we wouldn’t want to find ourselves suddenly without it, even though we’re not necessarily sure what it’s for.

Hmm.  Kind of reminds me of Jesus and Peter.  Remember in Matthew 16:19, when Jesus gives a key to Peter?

Peter has just correctly identified Jesus as the “Messiah, the Son of God, who is coming into the world”.  Jesus likes that answer, and calls Simon Peter, the Rock upon which the church would be built.

And then Jesus says, “I will give you the key to the Kingdom of heaven…”

Wow!  That’s an important key all right.

I wonder…if you and I believe that Jesus is the Messiah like Peter did, will we be given a key to the Kingdom too?

I wonder if maybe…

it’s already happened.

Maybe THAT’S what that extra key on your key chain is for!

Maybe we have already been given the key to the Kingdom, full access to the glory of God’s love and power!

What if millions and millions of us are walking around with that key in our possession, but we’ve forgotten what it’s for.

We remember it was important.  Someone gave it to us, so we’ve held on to it…

But along the way, we’ve forgotten what it opens.

Let’s change that.  Let’s dedicate ourselves to using all the keys we’ve been given!

Yes.

Today I’m going to participate in the Kingdom with all I have and all I am.

Today I’m going to celebrate that Christ gives me access to God’s Amazing Love.

Today I’m going to hold my key chain high  and make some Joyful Noise.

CAN I GET A JINGLE????

 

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

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You and Eunice.

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I’m looking at both of you.

YOU, and Eunice.

YOU is the person God created you to be.

Eunice (You-ness) is who you actually are.

YOU is the ideal.  Your Skills, potential, discipleship, idiosyncrasies, you name it, all in perfect working order.

But most people that meet you meet Eunice.   That’s the day-to-day version of yourself, far from ideal.  Your you-ness.

Eunice is the not-quite-up-to-your-potential part.   The doing-the-best-you-can part.

Most days Eunice is a solid 83% of what YOU were created to be.

On a rare day, when thriving and fulfilled, Eunice may come across as  a whopping 93% of YOU!

And occasionally, Eunice bottoms out at a terrible 41% that you wish you could forget about.

Make sense?

YOU is the goal.   Eunice, your You-ness, is the reality.

Now…

Remember in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus talks about Salt and Light?  (Matthew 5:13-16)

Jesus is encouraging you to strive for the YOU you were created to be.

Not settle for some lesser version of Eunice.

Salt is made to be salty!  Light is made to shine brightly!  Anything less than that isn’t living up to what these things were created to be.

YOU were made to be salty and bright, so to speak.

YOU have the ability to add flavor to Life — to help others taste the goodness of the Kingdom.

And  YOU were created as a bright and shining reflection of the God who made YOU.

So when people see YOU, they catch a glimpse of Almighty God.

But, when you settle for a life of run-of-the-mill Eunice, chances are you’ll have a run-of-the-mill-faith lacking flavor and sparkle.

You will never completely leave your Eunice behind, as you strive for YOU, but Jesus wants us to be salty and bright and that requires the deliberate work of discipleship.

To bridge the gap between how you were created and how you tend to live will require hard work and faithfulness.

But I guarantee,

If you can make something of Eunice,

You’ll be Gladys.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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image from www.christianfocus.com