Posts Tagged ‘ essays – mine ’

why I’m not missional

Link to: “Why I’m Not Missional” published by Next-Wave.

peace, dwight



o happy day

o happy day – christmas 2001

by dwight friesen

 

As the holiday season rolls in, I find myself longing to set Christmas apart

as special and unique.  Christmas is so much more than a thanksgiving celebration or a mere remembrance, more than gifts and trees and lights.  Christmas marks the axis of human history, forever separating our calendar, testaments old become new, law gives way to grace, and hope replaces despair: Christmas marks the birth of God in human form, the incarnation. 

 

The God who created matter took shape within it, as an artist might become a brush stroke on a painting or a playwright a character within her own play.  God wrote a story, only using real characters and the pages of real history.  The Word became flesh.

 

To aid us in celebrating Christ’s coming Lynette and I have been drawing on some of the traditions of the Church during the season of Advent.  Especially Advent wreathes and calendars, and a medieval prayer book dating back to the 13th century.  As you may know, the overarching theme of Advent is anticipation for the arrival of Christ. 

 

Anticipation is particularly significant this year in the wake of September’s events, and the changes wrought about since the 11th.  The glory in the theme of anticipation of Christ’s arrival is not limited to the angelical celebration of his birth in
Bethlehem ; the glory is also in the sure hope of his soon return.  For me the Christmas season is being transformed into a time of forward looking, to the great day when peace will reign on the earth, and evil will be dealt with, and I will be home for the first time.  When I can crawl up into my Father’s lap, finding comfort and joy, and knowing love without fear.  I will find lasting rest.  Oh happy day!

 

Our wondrous joy this year has been the eagerly anticipated addition of a baby to our family.  Pascal Brandon was born on June 15th, and we brought him home just three days later.  Lord willing, in early January Pascal will become legally free, which means we will be able to begin adoption procedures.  We may not be as old as Abraham and Sarah, but after eleven years of marriage even we were wondering . . . .

 

Shortly after Pascal arrived on the scene I transitioned out of the “dot com” position I’d been at for the last three years in order to spend time with my son, to devote more energy to serving our church community, and to work on some writing projects.  I have had the gift of time to listen and learn over the past few months and I am excited about the direction that God is leading both our church and me personally.

 

Lynette continues to teach third grade in a public school that’s just a short walk from our home.  She is blessed to have a small class this year, only 20 kids, and she is enjoying the freedom that comes with seven years of teaching experience.  God has been gracious in letting our schedules be flexible enough so that we both have time to be with our new little person.  Pascal is starting to turn his flailing swimming motions into crawling motions, and his favorite things are trees in the wind, bright lights, and the arrival of junk mail that he can slobber on.  There have been times when the paperwork and administration of foster care and adoption have almost been overwhelming, but our persistence has been rewarded.  You should see my wife… she is such a great mom, she just lights up a room when she holds our little guy – I love her.

 

We are appreciating our house more with each passing day.  Gone is our commute, and the home’s location is perfect for ministry purposes.  Our remodel is nearly complete.  We’re hoping to rent out a studio apartment that we’ve created in the basement now that my brother is no longer living with us.  With lots of help from family, I’ve been plumbing, insulating, wiring, putting in cabinets, landscaping… you get the idea.  If you were to look in our window on any given day you would see us rolling on the floor with Pascal, playing pool on the table Lynette grew up with, talking with Quest people, and working on and straightening up our well-loved and well-used home.  We have lots of room for you to come and visit, and we’d love to show you around and introduce to some more of God’s favorite people whom we have the pleasure of doing life with.

 

We all know that it’s impossible to sum up a year in a page.  From Lynette, Pascal & I, we truly wish for you a sense of anticipation as you celebrate the coming and return of Jesus Christ.  We pray that your life will be marked more by a sense of wonder and awe than by endurance; more by trust than by safety; more by dependence on God than by self-confidence; and more by reckless love than by guarded affections.  May you take a step of faith in keeping with the greatness of our God, and find Him faithful–because He is.



discipleship process

a PDF titled, “Discipleship Process.”



the dance

the dance

by dwight friesen

 

Growth as a child of God; how is it measured? 

 

One of the metaphors left in the wake of the modern church is the metaphor

of the steady, uphill climb.  It’s the idea that though the way is rocky and often challenging, a “successful Christian life” is marked by movement up the hill.  Mapped on a bar graph we would see many ups and downs, but as a whole there would be definite movement upward.  Sound familiar?

 

The central problem with this metaphor is that it is our progress that seems praise worthy.  The higher our climb, the better we feel about ourselves and our time with God becomes a type of “spiritual self-actualization.” 

 

We measure our spiritual progress by counting the steps we’ve taken toward and away from God, and take for granted that, in the big picture, we’re always getting closer to Him.  Yes, we worship God but if we were honest with ourselves we’d have to admit our own development is right up there. 

 

In this metaphor God becomes the destination, while the journey is left largely in our individualistic hands.

 

Allow me to propose another metaphor, (I would greatly appreciate feedback as to its soundness).  Rather than a steady uphill climb to our destination (God), I propose we think of our journey with God as a dance.

 

In this dance God is the central character, for He is the one standing on the dance floor with his hand of invitation stretched out, waiting for our response.  He is not a “one day” destination but our ever-present partner; dipping, leading, spinning, and wooing.  The safest place for the dancer to be is in the arms of God.  Struggles, difficulties, pain, joy, delight – these are just some of the many tunes God leads us to dance through.  And as long as we abide in his embrace it really doesn’t matter what the tempo is because we dance together.  We are the Beloved’s and He is ours.

 

And so the question remains.  How does a follower of Christ measure growth?  My answer: we can’t.  If that’s our question than we’re asking the w
rong one.  I don’t measure growth in my relationship with my wife.  If my relationship with my wife endures the stuff of life, we depend on each other, and we make it though life together then we’ve been successful.  It is not that we don’t sometimes take a step back and celebrate God’s work in our life, but our focus is praise to God and not a scorecard of our points.   So it is with God.  Living life in dependence on Him, and doing so until He takes us home.

 

The dance of dependence.  Jesus called it abiding with Him.  Christ made it clear that the fruit is out of the hands of His followers.  Our only responsibility is to abide – to keep dancing – to stay close; He’ll do the rest, He’ll lead, He’ll make us grow, He’ll produce the fruit.  Just don’t walk away, cut yourself off, or go looking for a different partner.  Our desire to see the fruit is a reflection of our desire to exalt ourselves.  Don’t you dare take the credit for the growth of fruit in your life, that is God’s doing and He doesn’t share His glory with anyone.



the big church shift

the big church shift

by dwight friesen

 

From the birth of the church to today, the continuity and spread of the

gospel has been dependant on the church passing leadership to the emerging generation.  A cosmic relay race with eternal consequences and life altering ramifications.

 

We can see at least three generations of North American Churches right now.

 

Traditional Church

What we have come to call the traditional church is what most Americans still picture when they hear the “C-Word.” 

 

You put on your Sunday best and went to church primarily to hear the sermon.  In this era, the church was a preaching point, worship was perfunctory, simply leading up to the real substance of the gathering (the Sermon).  In fact very little new music was being written for these churches, relying almost entirely on the great hymns of old.  The general motto was come and listen.  Given its cultural context likely its most effective ministry was it children’s ministry, as they were the ones who popularized the idea of Sunday School.  Come and Listen, they said, be taught and Christ will be formed in you.

 

Contemporary Church  

Along came the sixties (and as sick as I am of hearing those years, it was a time of change).  Khakis became the unofficial wardrobe in the church, augmented by the ever popular denim shirt. 

 

One of the primary draws to the contemporary church was worship.  We saw an explosion of new music being written – movements like Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, Maranatha ,and the entire CCM movement found its origin here.  Choruses became the dominant worship element.

 

The motto became “Come and Watch” especially with the unparalleled growth and “success” of the Boomer Seeker churches like Willow Creek and Saddleback and their offspring.  The autonomous observers was encouraged and celebrated.  Come and Watch, kick the spiritual tires. 

 

What’s Next?

What will the next church look like?  Good question.  The problem is we don’t know. 

 

We do know that the church is becoming increasingly real – the idea of dressing up to go to church is repellant, its “as you are.”  The primary draw seems to be shifting to community they don’t come for message, nor the worship – they come to be together.  Worship is more encompassing, incorporating more artistic mediums than ever before. And messages become dialogues.  With the longing being that we gather to experience.  Experience God, community, truth, beauty, and worship.

 

So far there appear to be three primary attempts at addressing this shift.

 

1 – Church within Church

This is where a contemporary church pumps resources into a sub-ministry.  In part because they recognize that as effective as their boomer ministry was they have been ineffective in connecting with the younger set. 

 

A Church within Church is more than a college group and it is not limited to just singles or young marrieds, and those who attend its services may not even attend the “main” services of that church.  It actually begins to function as a church.

 

Clearly this has some benefits.  Resources.  The Contemporary Church may well be the wealthiest church in North American history.  However, leadership challenges seem to arise quickly as the value system of mother church and the younger sub-ministry often collide, and those holding the resources usually “win.”

 

2 – Revised Contemporary

This a stand alone church plant (new church) and has younger leadership, it is free leadership collision often connected with the church within church.  The Revised Contemporary church takes the basic approach of the contemporary church and pushes it to be even more alternative.  Maybe they add a distortion peddle to the guitar, use computer generated graphics and video.  The pastor wears ripped jeans and a ball cap, uses lots of pop-culture references and is more irreverent in style (not message but style), etc.

 

The challenge with this attempt is that it adopts many of the basic ministry presumptions of the Contemporary Church without evaluating them.  It assumes that to be a church it must grow to be large.  The cultural mosaic of North America is rapidly changing.  The contemporary church made the assumption that most people had a church background, and have marketed themselves accordingly, however to reach people today that cannot be assumed. 

 

3 – Missional-Relational

Churches with this focus are springing up all over the nation.  These churches are asking a lot of questions that make leaders in their respective denominations, seminaries and older churches scratch their heads, hoping “these young people will grow out of it.”  They’re questioning the way the Contemporary Church has adopted the corporate world’s measurements of success.  They’re asking the questions about what it is that makes a community of people a church.  They wonder why the church has failed to apply missionary strategies on American soil, and are implementing various relational strategies to connect with culture.

 

God’s one plan for reaching this world is His community of followers – His Church.  We are positioning ourselves to make our maximum impact for God.  We will ask the questions and we will hold without waver only to what the Bible defines as the church – everything else is up for grabs.  This is our Quest.



in the transition

in the transition

by dwight friesen

North American culture has changed.  It has been said that culture is reinventing itself at a faster pace than ever before, and we’ve all felt it.  Styles change.  Language is mutating at a record pace.  The values pendulum seems to swing at an unprecedented rate.
 

Quest will address those changes.  Here are some of the transitions we will make in order to gain a culturally relevant voice.  

Inspiration to Identification

The church has often been a place to go to get your pep talk for the next week/month/year (depending on your regularity).  A place to hear an expert explain the three steps to happiness or the five ingredients of a good marriage.  In recent years the church has added peppier music to make the whole experience a happy positive one.   

At Quest our goal will not be primarily to inspire (though that will happen at times). Our goal will be to identify, to show the struggle of living in the real world, to be honest about our personal and communal failures and successes, and own up to the struggle of following Christ in a world that for the most part doesn’t value that pursuit.  

Classroom Atmosphere to Living Room Atmosphere

Quest will make the shift from being a church where one person (usually a man) has the answers and lectures while the church sit in their rows taking notes or filing in blanks in the sermon outline to a living room atmosphere.  The atmosphere will be warm and could be characterized as a conversation over a coffee table – dialogue – speaking and listening.  

Dogma (Delivery) to Dialogue (Stories)

Often churches have defined themselves primarily by theological doctrines; dispensing the dogma in tightly, well orchestrated services. The presentation of the facts was everything.  We believe that proof of truth has got to be lived in order for it to be believable, I.e., “I don’t care if you tell me Christ can forgive me, if I see you living out of guilt.”  We must present the truth of Christ without apology, give it to people straight, but give people someone they can relate to – a story.  By the way, to be “seeker sensitive” is not to pussyfoot around the gospel, it is to be culturally-relevant.  

Dualistic Christianity to Holistic Christianity

In Quest we will pursue a holistic faith, a relationship with God that effects and affects every aspect of life.  Whole person impact.  An all or nothing kind of faith.  If a person can only be “Christian” at church then that has hypocrisy written all over it.  We must be holistic followers of Jesus.  How does a lover of Christ work at Microsoft, go to the bar after work, argue with the spouse, discipline the kids, watch TV.  All or nothing.  No more of saying one thing and doing another.  

Traditional Discipleship to Mentoring

When I was younger I was given the basics of the faith by sitting in church sponsored classes, filling in the blanks of a booklet to earn a certificate.  When I got the certificate it became official – I was mature. Without question there is a need for teaching and the imparting of information, but mentoring by doing life together will be our mark.  Let’s see each other in multiple life situations and learn together how to incarnate our beliefs.  

Confrontational Apologetics to Incarnational Apologetics

The church used to use reason and evidence that “demanded a verdict” to defend the faith, which was good when our culture valued reason.  Times have changed.  “If it works for you that’s great,” “Its all good,” “Every road leads to God.”  Arguing will not be our chief evidence for faith, it must be our lives.  (Of course that presupposes that our lives authentically illustrate God’s grace/holiness).  

Individual Presentation Evangelism to Group Evangelism

In the past the church has focused exclusively on one on one faith sharing interactions.  And I have been spoon fed dozens of canned presentations of the gospel that can be used.  We must consider a team approach, and must communicate like Christ did: always connecting His communication of Truth to the person in personally meaningful ways.   

Think of the show “Friends.” Imagine just one of them making the decision to follow Christ.  It’s almost unimaginable.  Why?  Because people are deeply connected to their primary communities.  Quest must consider ways that we can draw affinity groups – like Friends – to consider Christ together.  Ultimately there is still a personal decision, but we must recognize the process.  

Passive Participation to Active (Purposeful) Participation

We must not be a “come and sit” – spectator church, we can not forget that the church is people, and people are not static.   

Quest must be a hands on kind of church.  “Don’t talk to me about the plight of the poor lets serve the poor, don’t talk to me about missions lets do missions.  

Simplistic Spirituality to Authentic Spirituality

Pat answers like “just have faith,” don’t cut it.  In the past the church has over systematized life, and God.  We have a systematic theology of pretty much everything, and the church has felt the need to solve every problem.  The reality is that God is too big to fit in our created systems.  Quest must allow for the mystery of God to be both real and transcendent.  The truth is that no one has ALL of life figured out.  In fact some tension is good.  What we do know is that God is, and that He knows and cares – everything else is gravy.  

Church Mindset to Kingdom Mindset

Quest is about building the
kingdom of God .  We will be looking for common ground with all followers of Christ to build a loving community, to draw people to Christ.  We will not focus energy on that which separates, and will pour energy into building up denominations.  We will look for partners in the vineyard (to use one of Jesus’ metaphors).  

Corporate Approach to Collaborative Approach

In the past the church has been a very top down, bureaucracy with committees for just about everything.  With national offices giving directives to district offices who then give directives to churches.  We can not define ourselves by such activity.  Quest must always have a grass roots, organic feel.  Marked by the unmistakable sense that we are accomplishing this mission together.  We actually need each other.  

These shifts represent some of what it means for Quest to be the missional church God has called us to be.  There is a lot of overlap in these transition points.  Generally characterized by living ones beliefs in a cultural context and being honest with about ones struggles. 



questions asked

questions asked

by dwight friesen

 

Recently I helped facilitate an “Emerging Leaders” conference sponsored by a modernist-mission denomination.  All of the presenters/facilitators were asked the following questions, my responses are listed:

 

Ministry Title?

pastor / mystic / friend / artist / missionary / husband / postmodern church-planter / father / web-developer / customer service manager / bi-vocational servant / titles mean little to me

 

Description / So what do you do?

I live as fully Dwight as possible.  I live with Christ, everything is about and from this relationship.  I spend time with the people in our church community, especially those who are caring for others.  And I hang out with my other friends.  Sometimes I pastor or teach, sometimes I lead or listen, sometimes I do administrative tasks, sometimes I think.  I always try to love – which means I fail a lot.  Love is everything.

 

Why do you do what you do?  Why this and not something else?

I do what I do because I am who I am.  This is me.  As best as I understand God, this is what He wants me to be, so I do what flows from who I am.  Whatever a “Call” maybe, I sense this is mine.  I pastor because God made me to pastor.  In every job I have ever held I pastored; when I was at a .com I pastored my staff, when I was in marketing research I pastored.  Ministry is not a title, task, or a position, in fact I can’t be paid for who I am.  I love Christ and His Kingdom.

 

What gifts or abilities are helpful to do this ministry?

Love for God, love for people, love for your culture.  Relational tenacity.  Passion for community.  Willingness to be a fool, and to fail.  In the church community I serve creativity is important, a love for coffee helps, being artistic has merit, enjoying dialogue is essential, a willingness to be taught is also key.  Just showing up helps a great deal.  Willingness to lay aside the way you have seen things done, the way Scripture has been opened, the way worship has been led, the way congregations gather, the way theology has been explained, the why mission is understood, etc.  And then lean back into the past as God invites you into the present.

 

What gives you the greatest joy in your job?

Seeing someone fall in love with Christ through his church, especially when a person’s prior experience of the church has been very negative.  I love to see a person marvel at the grace of God in a church community.

 

What are the difficult things / issues you face in this role?

Knowing that a person is unconnected and is making choices which isolate them from community.  Being misunderstood by many churches, and fellow Christ-followers.

 

What training or educational experiences would be most helpful (or required)?

Depends on who is asking, there is no set answer, its more important to listen to how God has created you and go from there.  What is

essential is that a person love Christ and his/her community.  Look to Christ alone as the core of one’s being and theology, holding all else loosely.  In the church community which I serve a person would likely need to be highly educated, as the majority of people have advanced degrees.  Knowing how to ask good questions is important as we deconstruct everything.  Understanding group process, and able to facilitate discussions.  Know how to make technology work for you, but don’t be impressed by it.

 

What suggestions would you offer someone thinking about this kind of ministry?

Embrace pain and failure as gifts from God.  Ruthlessly sacrifice your vision of what “your ministry” might look like, (the clearer your vision is the less likely it is from God).  Learn to listen.  Listen to God and his dream for his followers, listen to your specific culture and listen to yourself.  Focus on relationships rather than performances.  Live it now, don’t launch it, don’t do a big kick off, just live your calling in community.  Find other avant-churches for support as mainstream evangelicalism may not yet understand what we’re doing, or why you’re doing it.  Celebrate with all God’s people whenever His will is done on earth.  Really get to know Jesus; find people from different traditions who can expand your understanding and experience of Christ, an older spiritual director or mentor will serve you well.  Your relationship with Jesus is everything, don’t sacrifice that friendship.

 

What should I be doing now if I’m interested in preparing for this ministry expression?

Practice the missional dance of being in the world but not of the world.  And recognize that you will make mistakes on both sides of that dance.  Learn to ask for forgiveness, and as best as you are able forgive yourself.  Wrestle with what it means to be a stranger in a strange place, this is not your home, and the church is not your home, your home awaits you.  This ministry is all about living incarnationally.  You are the embodiment of Christ, in this time and this place.  Foster meaningful community around Christ, all you need is one other person.  Learn to tell stories, especially yours.  Because if you are a Christ-follower your story is God’s story.  Your story is the gospel.  The gospel is you. I hope this is a given but you must have meaningful friendships with pagans, seekers, pre-Christians, (whatever you want to call your friends who do not live under the relational reign of Christ).  Love them and know them, until you need them and then love them some more.

 

Where should I go for more information?  What books should I be reading?

Surf the web, read fiction, and go to the movies.  Again it depends on who you are, having at least a basic understanding of philosophy and the history of ideas is helpful.  Read sociology, anthropology & missiology.  And read mystics and spiritual guides, they will be your friends for the journey and have walked the path to the cross.  Obviously the read the Bible but whenever possible, read it in community and read it as a love story – God, crazy in love with a fickle bride; God, always pursuing, always wooing, always hoping, always loving.   Read theology so as to see how God walked with those who came before you, helping them to live the gospel in their time.  But recognize that theology always answers yesterdays’ questions, the goal is not to sign off on past orthodox theology the goal is to live orthodoxly in the present. 

 

If I may be of further assistance to you here is my name/address, e-mail address:

 

          connect@dwightfriesen.com



pastor as mystic

pastor as mystic

by dwight friesen

Within recent weeks I have gained greater clarity regarding who I am.  Here’s my story.
 

I grew up in a stable family with strong moral values.   Add to that the conservative evangelical church of my youth and I was tooled with clear definitions of right and wrong.  This can be a very good thing.  However, I now see how I had bought into the subtle distortion that said I was a “good follower of Christ when I separated myself from culture by avoiding a certain list of activities while engaging in another list.  The subtlety I bought into was that those activities defined me as a Christian.  (Don’t get me wrong.  Theologically I understood that I could not “do” anything to get in God’s good books, but that I needed to acknowledge my need to have Christ’s spilled blood pay for my sin).  I felt I was a strong Christian if I didn’t listen to “secular” music, drink alcohol, smoke, or go to parties or dances thrown by people who held different world views than myself.  

During my Chicago years the shades were lifted from my eyes and I encountered the grace of God.  I began to see God’s grace was a reality I could live in, that I was safest and most secure when I focused the attentions of my heart on my Father’s love.  Until that time I usually thought of grace in reference to the forgiveness I first received when I accepted Jesus as my God.  As a result of my fresh encounter with my Loving Father, I began to see other people through His eyes – as people of great worth, deeply loved and needing an opportunity to be introduced to Him without the cultural baggage often associated with Church.  So over the last few years I’ve had an increased liberty in my heart to engage culture, participate in the arts, party, go to the bar with my co-workers and so on.  

About six months ago I began to experience a crisis of sorts: How do I know that I am a follower of Christ?  Since I was no longer defining my relationship based on the activities which I did or did not engage in, I wasn’t sure how to describe my relationship with God.  So I reviewed the Bible passages which spoke specifically about following Christ, and assurance of who I am in Christ.  But the truth of the proposition was not translating in a relief from the tension I was feeling.  Through sharing my struggle and an extended break, God said to me, “
Dwight you are my child and nothing will change that.  You are mine and I am yours.”  In the words of Paul spoken through a friend, God’s Spirit was testifying with my spirit that I was His deeply loved Child.  

This experience has left me with a profound desire to know and experience more of God.  It has created a strong conviction that I must regularly separate myself from culture.  However, not as I did early on in my faith experience, but to physically withdraw from culture and take extended times of solitude to meet God without the distractions which often beg for my attention.  It has made me want to focus on the process of encountering God for myself and those around me.  

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I’m experiencing a renewed sense of what my role is as the pastor of Quest.  I am starting to see that I need to be more of a Christian Mystic than the CEO of Quest.  I an more the keeper of the vision of God than a general barking orders.   

Pastor as mystic.  

Exploring and reveling in the mystery of God.  To know Him and His grand narrative so deeply that I come to rest in my place in His redemptive story, and can guide others to finding their place in His metanarrative or big story.  

This has been a life giving, eye opening experience for me.



irreversible

irreversible

by dwight friesen

 

1975 was a big year for me.  “Saturday Night Live” premiered.  I started the first grade.  Jaws came out, and I learned a new word.  1975 was the year that my dad’s dad, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer.  It was lung cancer even though he was never a smoker.  I remember the last time I visited him in the hospital.  He looked so skinny and weak, and his eyes which had always been so quick to laugh and provide comfort were dark and sunken deep into his face.   I looked at him with fear.  His nails were long and yellow, and his hair was messy.  If my parents weren’t with me I wouldn’t have believed this was my grandfather.  He looked, after all, sick; not at all like that invincible man who gave me my first Bible or who always had Lucky Pink Elephant popcorn for my sister and I.  In the car on the way home from the hospital my parents taught us the word Irreversible. 

Just a few weeks later we learned how powerful that word is.  We buried Grandpa Friesen on a crisp winter morning. 

Since that funeral the weight of that word has visited me numerous times. 

Like the time I saw my sisters’ hand in the door of my dad’s work truck and I thought it would be funny to slam that truck door. 

Or when I was playing in a fort I had built with a few friends out of oil soaked, discarded railway ties and we lit a fire in our boy-made fireplace.  To this day we live scares marking that moment. 

Or the time I saw a gopher run into a pipe and I trapped it; cruelly pounding it with a pole, laughing as it cried and it started to bleed and then went silent. That act of cruelty, my own cruelty, shocked me beyond measure, and I long lived under its shadow of shame and guilt. I yearned for some way to erase it, to reverse it.

There followed a whole succession of scenes I likewise wished to reverse: fights with bullies, foolish comments in class, unexpected pop quizzes, the inevitable first automobile accident, and all the other minor jolts of growing up, each one underscoring the dreadful word irreversible.

In thinking again about my grandfather’s death, the funeral seemed surreal.  It was my first funeral, though by no means my last.  I remember two of my younger cousins running around and playing and even I though only six years old I didn’t feel like playing.  After the graveside service, we went downstairs in the church and ate cheese and bread and pickles, sitting awkwardly, not sure what to say.  With this palpable sense of grief and sadness, the weight of death bearing down upon us. 

What would it be like to walk outside to the church parking lot and there, to our utter astonishment, find grandpa. Grandpa! With his bounding walk, his crooked grin, and clear grey eyes.

That image gave me a hint of what Jesus’ disciples felt on the first Easter. They, too, had grieved. But on Sunday they caught a glimpse of something else, a startling clue to the riddle of the universe. Easter hits a new note, a note of hope and faith that what God did once in a graveyard in
Jerusalem , he can and will repeat on a grand scale, for the world. For grandpa Friesen. For us. Against all odds, the irreversible can be reversed.

The German theologian Jürgen Moltmann expresses in a single sentence the great span from Good Friday to Easter. It is, in fact, a summary of human history, past, present, and future: “God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him.”

Life from death.  Hope from despair.  Resurrection from crucifixion.  Holiness from sin.  Christ in you and me.  Our God takes the “ir” out of irreversible.