Easter is Here!

They had seen him die.  They had watched in horror as his tortured body gasped and gurgled it’s last breath. They saw his skin change color, his jaw go slack and his eyes set.  Still, lifeless, they knew that the person they had followed and loved was a stranger to them now. No sparkle in the eye, no grin or laughter, no knowing look.  Just a shell; a grizzly mannequin hanging like an effigy of all their hopes and dreams.

When all hope is gone, when dreams and loves have run through your fingers like sand, when you slump to the wall and whisper “it’s broken, it will never be right again”, God has one final word for you.

RESURRECTION!

Look in wonder at wide open horizons of hope that resurrection reveals. God reveals that he’s the God of NEW BEGINNINGS, and no matter what we say is plausible or rational or scientifically viable, God winks and reminds us those are not the adjectives that describe a deeper magic.  Resurrection reminds us that God is God and the possibilities are endless as life passes through his hands.

No one expected this. During those three days not one disciple suggested that maybe Jesus would be back. Why would they? This is unheard of, unthinkable, impossible. Yet there he was. He had passed through the grave and come out the other side in a whole new condition of existence.  Sometimes our hopes and dreams have to have the mark of the cross on them. Sometimes we have weep and bury them, only to discover they were really the seeds of a whole new answer and purpose we hadn’t anticipated. Flowers that are different from the picture on the package, but are far more wonderful than we could have conceived of.

This is the wonder of Easter.

I hope you can come out and celebrate with us at some point this weekend…or for everything we’re doing!  Here’s what we have going on:

FRIDAY @6:30 pm, APRIL 22nd: We’re having a special GOOD FRIDAY BURNING HOUSE service.  We’re going to have elements of the Seder (the Passover meal) for you to sample, and we’re going to talk about the correlation between the Seder and Jesus’ instructions to us concerning the communion.  There’ll be music and praying for each other and hanging out and laughing and maybe crying…all the stuff connected with human beings reaching for the Divine.

EASTER SUNDAY @6 AM: The Dawn Patrol Sunrise Service!  GET UP! GET STOKED! HE’S ALIVE!! Easter morning we are going to meet on the beach for a time of worship, reflection and prayer as we begin the day where we remember that Jesus rose from the dead and changed everything forever.  If that’s not a reason to get up early, I can’t imagine what is. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket. We’ll be meeting at the corner of Oriole and Gulf drive on Panama City Beach (off of Thomas Dr).  Here’s a map

EASTER SUNDAY, 9-11 AM: Come celebrate Easter as we read and explore John 20:10-20, 24-31.  It’s the story of a guy named Tom…someone I consider a soulmate.  We’re going to look at his journey from honest doubt to real faith.  Have you ever struggled with doubts and questions concerning the claims the Bible makes?  We don’t need to be afraid of doubt, and especially don’t feel shame.  Tom is our guide through those times we ALL have.  What do you see in this story?  What does it inspire in you?

Ok…well….long update, but worth it! Hope to see you at some point this weekend!

Where Do You Go When Life Seems Hopeless?

This Sunday we’ll be returning to our exploration of the Gospel of Luke, and we’ll be reading Luke 8:40-56.

There is so much jam packed into this story…a critical life and death drama which sandwiches a pitiful tale of wreckage and restoration.  Beyond the spiritual significance of our text, there is no denying that it’s just good story-telling.

This is one of those passages that we will never be able to do justice to in the short time we have to explore it on Sunday mornings…there are so many ways to approach the lessons inherent to it.  We could explore the characters of the drama, consider their faith and the example it leaves us.  We could consider how Jesus is revealed as One with authority over sickness and death, just as he has authority over nature and spiritual evil.

I’ve decided to look at something that may not get talked about as much…and that is, how this story reveals to us that Jesus is a solid basis for finding hope when life seems hopeless.  As you read the text, what reasons can you find for placing your hope in Christ when circumstances seem beyond the reach of hope?  I know that’s not much to go on…but mull it over, and see what comes to mind.

Remember, we still have two services now…9 and 11am.  Hope to see you there!

A New Hope

Hope everyone is having a great Christmas so far!  I know we are…it’s awesome having the kids come home to visit.

We’ll be looking at Luke 2:21-40 this Sunday.

Joseph and Mary follow through with what the Law of Moses required of them concerning a first-born son.  How important do you think it was for them to obey those commands, given the nature of the Son they had?  Do we learn anything from their obedience?

We also get introduced to two other characters in this section…two people who had been waiting a long time for their hope to be realized.  There are lessons for us concerning hope in the lives of these two people…what do you see in their examples that can instruct you about having hope in the face of delay or sorrow or pain?

We’ll unpack it as best as we can this Sunday.  See you then!

Backstory; Birth of John the Baptist

Have you ever had a major disappointment in life?  Have you ever asked God to intervene, only to feel like heaven was shut up and silent?  In the next section we will read, we’ll be introduced to a couple who went through that very thing.  We’ll be looking at Luke 1:5-25 this Sunday.  By the way, you can listen to this passage read HERE.

How did you feel when your prayer didn’t seem to be answered?  Did you feel like you did something wrong.  In our passage, we have an old couple who are described as people who are committed, observant followers of God…yet who suffered what was often considered a sign of God’s curse on their lives.  They were childless.  Not only that, they were advanced in years, meaning, they were past the age of doing anything about being childless.  You wonder how they felt, yet it appears it didn’t cause them to give up their trust in God.

What’s really interesting is that these people are the starting point for Luke’s account.  He frames it in the time of Herod the Great…but then shifts the focus from that impressive, historical leader to these two backwoods people who are the equivalent of an old country pastor and his wife.  People who should be considered insignificant, who can’t even get a prayer answered by God.  It’s with these folks that Luke starts the story of Jesus.  God is just cool like that.

When the angel appears to Zechariah, how does he respond?  Does it change the outcome of what the angel says?  What DOES it change?  Do you relate to Zechariah at all?  What does this passage say to you?

“Peace”

Joe Nori
Joe Nori

 Joe Nori, 11/7/59 – 7/27/08

“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 
 “Where, O death, is your victory?
      Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  –1 Cor 15:50-57

Just in case you didn’t know, Joe made his trip home last Sunday.  We’ll be having a memorial service for him at the Eastgate building this Friday @ 7 pm, and everyone is invited.  We’ll also be streaming the service on the internet for Joe’s family to join in (so please pray that the technological stuff doesn’t let us down).

Dale reminded me that Joe’s parting word was always “peace”.  We don’t grieve as the world does because we have the Hope that Joe now knows a peace we can only dream of.

“See you later Joe.”

“Peace.”

*The above photo of Joe was taken from Dustin’s blog, Livesalty.com.  Thanks Dustin.