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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Pastor's Mind during Holy Week

                I don’t know why I cannot sleep.  More and more lately, I have found myself awake at times when I ought to be sleeping, like now, 11:25PM.  Last night, from 2-4AM, it was fitful, odd dreams, waking every 20-30 minutes.  I have consumed a lot of coffee lately, but at other times in life, I have drunk just as much and without the sleep problems.  Am I (at 44) getting older and processing caffeine differently?  My 70-year-old father drinks coffee like water and it seems to have no effect on him.  I don’t get it.  I don’t know if it is the coffee.  I don’t know what it is.
          I know I am having real anticipation regarding Easter.  I have spent the last year reading a lot of the writing of N.T. Wright, and in the process, I have re-read many passages of scripture.  I think Wright is right (I had to!).  Christianity is not about ‘going to Heaven when we die.’  It is about declaring Jesus is Lord and living in the Kingdom of God as made possible by Jesus’ coming.  I don’t know if Wright would say it exactly that way.  I do think though that his writings clearly determine the pivotal event to be Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  For Wright, and he believes for the Apostle Paul, the resurrection has to be a bodily resuscitation, one fully dead then fully alive in a risen body that cannot die again.  And the resurrection of Jesus changes everything. 
          We live differently because the future (we followers of Jesus being resurrected) breaks into the now.  Jesus has been raised so we can live as raised people and we must, even though our resurrection is a future event.  I have been thinking a lot about this, trying to preach it, and I don’t understand it.
          I do know this, though.  All this pondering of resurrection, Jesus’, and because of his my own, leads me to long for it.  It also colors my mind in the days leading to Easter.  For me Easter is more of a New Year’s celebration than January 1.
          The dictionary reference website defines the word ‘new’ in many ways including the following: “unfamiliar or strange;” “occurring afresh;” “other than the former or old.”  If these descriptions were tacked onto the word life, they would describe resurrected life.  It is not like the old and it is quite strange.  I fully believe in resurrection, something I was not there to see and have not yet understood.  Increasingly, I understand my own life in terms of resurrection.  And Easter is a time for me to rethink about what it means to live resurrected even though my own future life is just that, in the future.
          It’s almost like experimenting, almost.  I recall being engaged.  My fiancé and I ate meals together.  We cuddled on the couch together.  There was hand holding and kissing.  We did not go beyond that until our wedding night, but beside being in love and thoroughly enjoying every second together, we were practicing our future lives together.  We were anticipating our lives together.  Being engaged was almost like being married, almost.
          Yet, it was nothing like being married.  After the wedding, when the evening ended, I did not return to my apartment.  We went to bed together.  After the wedding, I did not wonder what life with her would be like.  I discovered it.  And what a time of discovery it has been and continues to be.
          I imagine that step from anticipating life together to living it serves as small hint of anticipating life in the resurrection and then living into it.  Of course my metaphor may be woefully off.  I can’t know until I die and am then raised.  But I am so convinced that it will go that way and that I and all who follow Jesus will be resurrected, that as I know think toward Easter, I am full of excitement. 
          The excitement is not for all the worship services.  At our church, there are three worships times we do not normally have and I am eager for each.  I think they will be special and I am giving my own effort to be at my best for each.  Anticipating these extra times, times when the people of the church seek an extra special worship experience, probably is one reason I am struggling to sleep.  But it cannot be the only reason because this is my 17th holy week as a senior pastor.  It is always an adrenalin time for me, but one I have been through before.
          The anticipation is maybe a minor cause for my insomnia, but only a minor cause.  The excitement of resurrection, I think, is a bigger matter for me.  What will it be like?  I don’t know.  Yet, I think it is the biggest news we have and I want to tell it.  As a pastor, I preach weekly, so I have the opportunity to tell it.  How do you tell something you think is more important than anything else and yet you don’t understand it?  How do you do that?
          I don’t know. 

          It is 11:50PM.  My kids will be up for school in about 6 hours.  I am going to go and try to sleep.  Maybe God will give me Easter dreams.  

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