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South Fellowship Church

One By One

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
—John 20:17

Jesus appears in his glorified body to his disciples. Each moment lasts for just that, a moment, as Jesus reminds them HE is not the one to stay with them. In Mark‘s Gospel, he even says, “do not hold onto me.”

Consider this: Jesus remains as one single being as he returns to his disciples after the resurrection. He does not appear in multiple places at the same time. Jesus, in his glorified body, remains somewhat limited by time and space even though he can now show up in a room with closed doors (John 20:19).

In these next weeks at South, we will explore several occasions where Jesus shows up as still one single being before he instructs his disciples to wait on his Spirit and ascends to his Father in Heaven. Notice how Jesus comes from the Father to complete his unique task in the process of our redemption. Yet, even in his resurrection, he sees the necessity of handing off the task to someone else, for he alone had limitations in his unique bodily form.

Those of us who love Jesus and connect with his unique person of the Trinity can also be guilty of taking hold of Jesus and not wanting to let him go. We’d prefer to have God show up to us as friend, companion, and faithful guide. So, when God moves us into a different season in our spiritual journey – one where God feels absent, abstract, or mysterious, we long to return to what we once had.

Can you identity which person of the Trinity you connect more with? What might it look like to let go of that person of the Trinity to more fully embrace the fullness of who God is today. Perhaps you could honor the holiness or authority of the Father. You could take a walk with Jesus and talk with him as a friend or teacher. You could feel his tangible presence in your spirit or worship him in spirit and truth.

One By One2022-04-24T20:23:01-06:00

Right Place and Time

‘Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” ‘ John 20:1-2

It seems both the most natural and the most unnatural truth that Mary was the first person to see Jesus after he rose. It was strange because her testimony would have been weak as a woman. It also seems so fitting for this woman, whose life had been changed by Jesus, to be the first.

Even in her sorrow and hopelessness, Mary still loved her savior, and she couldn’t help but tend to his body. That love brings her to the right place at the right time to encounter the most world-changing news in history. Jesus had risen from the dead.

Have you ever wanted to hear from God? Have you ever longed to feel his presence? Could it be that deep love and reverence for Jesus help put us in the right place to encounter him? See, it’s not her status, reputation, wisdom, or good works that pave the way to being the first to See the risen lord. Instead, it’s her love that draws her like gravity to be near him even in her grief. Perhaps cultivating a deep love for Jesus is a recipe for encountering him.

How does one do that? I suggest you get to know him through the gospel accounts. Spend extra time in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Find a way to read from these accounts often, all while asking God to teach you Jesus’ personality. How did he think? What Was he like? Why did he do things the way he did? This exploration is one of the ways that God has caused me to grow in my love for Jesus. It is then Love that puts us in our Gardens of encounter.

Right Place and Time2022-04-24T20:43:02-06:00

HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S JESUS?

In the late 1970s a respected judge told me about his youthful, near-death experience (NDE) during surgery. He described a booming voice proclaiming “No, not yet!” as an iron door to the entrance of a fiery furnace slammed shut. It impressed me because his story contrasted with those recounted by a celebrated author who interviewed people who had only ecstatic, heavenly NDEs regardless of spiritual orientation.

Experiences like NDEs seem to most often happen in crisis situations. These encounters can make us aware of unseen spiritual realities, with potential to bring us closer to Jesus or draw us into a web of deceit.

The scripture passage we’ve been exploring this week, John 20:11-18, describes Mary Magdeline’s encounter with Jesus after His resurrection. Even though she conversed with two angels in His tomb who assured her Jesus was risen, Mary remained in a state of intense grief and shock. After all, she witnessed some details of the unfair trials and the excruciatingly cruel execution of her beloved Rabbi. She also observed His lifeless body being placed in that tomb. Her life was in a chaotic crisis.

So it’s understandable that Mary mistook the risen Jesus for a gardener. In the words of Isaiah, the last time she saw him

…many were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness— (Isaiah 52:14 NIV)

So what made her realize the “gardener” was her beloved Rabbi? When He called her by name, the lights went on.

I am the good shepherd and I know My own, and My own know Me. (John 10:14 NASB)

She shifted from being in a confused, emotional state to lucid recognition of the One she knew.

In order to see Jesus clearly, to understand it’s Him in any supernatural encounter, it’s necessary to either know Him intimately like Mary already did or to confirm the experience rings true to His character by comparing it to reliable eyewitness accounts of His life and words – namely New Testament scripture.

Here’s a warning from the apostle John:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (I John 4:1 NASB)

Don’t dismiss the notion that tangible, Holy Spirit originated experiences with the risen Jesus have happened and will happen. Welcome them like Mary, but test them as did the apostle John.

Have you been confused after a supernatural experience of your own or after hearing a testimony of someone who has recounted theirs? Search the scriptures for yourself or ask a discerning Christian friend to help you sort out if it‘s Jesus or a spirit masquerading as an angel of light.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S JESUS?2022-04-24T20:20:42-06:00

Called By Name

But Mary remained standing outside the tomb sobbing . As she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you sobbing?’ She told them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ On saying this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t recognize that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her,’ Woman, why are you crying so? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing that it was the gardener, she replied, ‘Sir, if you carried Him from here, tell me where you put Him and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ Turning around she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabonni!’ which means Teacher or Master.
(John 20;11-16) The Amplified Bible

Four Gospels: Four perspectives of Jesus’s resurrection, each with different details of who was there that first day of the week, how they responded, what they said, what they did, or didn’t, do and when.

I am grateful for the series on emotions that we had over the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It helps me have some understanding and compassion for the men and women disciples who two thousand plus years ago, experienced 3 years of following and learning from Jesus only to witness his arrest, to hide in fear from the religious leaders and the Roman brutality. I am in awe of the women who watched from a distance and of the courage of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus risking their reputation by caring for Jesus’s dead body.

I can imagine Mary Magdalene and her overwhelming grief at not knowing where Jesus’s body had been taken and her mistake in thinking Jesus was the gardener.

My mother, whose name was Mary Jane, died 6 months after I was sent to Denver to live with my father’s sister and her husband. The last words we exchanged were while she was in bed and I stood at the door of her bedroom. When she died, it was decided that I wouldn’t be taken back for her memorial. For a long time my heart would jump when I saw a face or heard a voice that resembled mom’s. So when I think of the joy Mary Magdalene felt, as Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ I know something of how it would feel if I heard him call my name when I never expected to hear his voice again.

I am grateful for the Bible. In it I can read at any time how intimately God knows each of us,(Psalm 139), How much he loves us,John 3;16-17), how we listen to his voice and know it and that he and the Father are one, (John 10;27-31).

This week, savor the above scriptures and others about the first day of the resurrection. Also, the scriptures that remind you of Jesus and his Father’s love and care for you.

Called By Name2022-04-26T20:21:15-06:00

Tunnel Vision

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” John 20:11-15a NIV

Let’s set the scene. Friday – Mary Magdalene witnessed first hand the crucifixion of her beloved teacher and Lord. She saw his broken, bloodied, definitely dead body placed in the tomb on Friday. If you have ever lost a loved one, then you know the grief that Mary was feeling. If perhaps you have not, let me give some insight. Intense grief for someone you loved affects every part of your being. Grief involves your mind, your emotions and your physical body. Many grieving people don’t remember to eat, have difficulty sleeping, or continually replay the trauma of the loved one’s death scene. Most likely, Mary has not slept much and was in an emotional state of shock. Yet she observed the Sabbath, she gathered spices and perfumes and brought them so that she could demonstrate her devotion to her Lord, by putting them on his body, as was the Jewish custom.

When grieving – tunnel vision is actually common. It is healthy to focus on just seeing and putting all of your available energy into doing the next task. For Mary, this is putting spices and perfumes on her Lord’s dead body.

But, when she gets to the tomb, the body is not there! In her grief, she cries, which is a normal, natural, even healthy response to grief. At this moment, all she can see and understand is “I have this task – I want to show my devotion to Jesus by putting spices and perfumes on his body, how can I do that if his body isn’t here?” Grief affects how your brain works; it can compromise your ability to process complicated thoughts. Mary Magdalene – in her tunnel of deep grief – can only see and understand that Jesus is not in the tomb – she is probably asking herself – how can I show my devotion to Jesus now?

How about you? Have you spent time this past week focusing on all that Jesus did for you as he died on the cross? Have you thought of how you might show your gratitude and devotion to him this week? At our Good Friday service, some beautiful pictures were displayed, some deeply moving hymns were sung, and we celebrated in many ways on Easter Sunday. Perhaps you could write a thank you letter, or a poem, sing a song or make a drawing to express your devotion and gratitude to Jesus for his sacrificial love for you.

Tunnel Vision2022-04-24T20:44:19-06:00

LOOKING FOR THE CATACLYSMIC?

Haven’t you sometimes wished, hoped, and prayed God would do something unmistakably earth-shaking to bring people to Himself…especially loved ones who seem so deaf to His voice? Let’s look here:

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land. At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:45-54 NET)

Let’s unpack this passage. Total darkness covered the whole land for three hours, there were two loud cries by Jesus who was in the last stages of crucifixion (crucifixion suffocated the entire body), an earthquake shook the entire region including the temple (earthquakes happen around Jerusalem about once in 125 years), rocks split apart and the thick temple curtain was torn in two…as the religious leaders watched, tombs opened, and, after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ followers who had died appeared fully alive and talking with friends who knew they had been dead. Even the Roman centurion and his soldiers were shaken to the core. Those are just a few mind blowing details that emerged around this scene…the hor d’oeuvres and main course of the world Christian movement.

So why wouldn’t everyone who witnessed these events simply fall on their knees to worship Jesus? Further insight comes from a future and even more imposing scene that Jesus showed to the Apostle John.

And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the eminent people, and the commanders and the wealthy and the strong, and every slave and free person hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the sight of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17)

These people will have hardened their hearts to God. Even though they will have front row seats, they won’t want anything to do with Him. Not even catastrophic convulsions will push them into His loving, protective arms. If you know Jesus, this is hard to fathom. But Jesus is honest with us – not everyone wants to cozy up to Him.

Let’s return to the three event focus of the Church’s yearly calendar; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This disarmingly simple depiction of humanity’s salvation is surrounded by a rich setting of cataclysmic events. Those who cannot be impressed by the sheer weight of amazing happenings God orchestrated around this central juncture of human history show a hardened heart.

Allow Jesus to keep your heart soft as you imagine yourself in Jerusalem experiencing the overwhelming events around His death, burial and resurrection – signs He’s provided to draw our attention to His sacrifice for us. Soak in those signs of His powerful love.

LOOKING FOR THE CATACLYSMIC?2022-04-17T20:32:17-06:00

Faith, Hope, Love, & Risk

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus by night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds . Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 19 38-42)

I have long wondered about these two men who cared for Jesus’ body and gave it a princely burial. Joseph and Nicodemus each had “back story”. It seems like they were trusted friends.

According to Matthew 20;57-60, Joseph was a rich man from Arimathea who used his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. According to Mark; 15;43, he was “a prominent member of the Council, was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, but went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.” Luke describes him as a,”good and upright man who had not consented to the Council’s decision and action. Luke;23;50b.

John 3;1-2 describes Nicodemus as a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, who came by night and engaged in a lengthy conversation with Jesus. He believed that Jesus was a teacher who came from God because of the signs he performed. In John 7;51, he speaks out in the Council, reminding them that their Law doesn’t condemn a man without first finding out directly from that man about what he is doing.

I’ve tried to imagine Joseph and Nicodemus overcoming their fear of the Jewish rulers out of their belief in and grieving love for Jesus. Even overcoming their natural repugnance at receiving, carrying and wrapping up Jesus’ beaten, bloody and crucified body. And then, after laying Jesus’ body in the tomb, rolling the stone in front of it, leaving to participate in the Passover Sabbath.

But now they have an insurmountable problem; Jewish Law says that a person who has anything to do with a dead human body becomes unclean and is prohibited from associating with other people. They would have to quarantine for 7 days, then go through a certain purifying process before they can be accepted again into their family and community. What these two disciples of Jesus have done will not remain secret, because now they can’t participate in the Passover meal with their families.

I wonder if Joseph and Nicodemus had any idea that they held in their arms the true,” Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”, and makes them truly clean?

We have the advantage of holding in our hands the scriptures that tell us what are, for those people, first time happenings. We can say, “It’s Friday, but Easter Sunday’s coming”, but they hadn’t experienced that when they walked away from the tomb and left Jesus’ body there. We don’t get to know the rest of Joseph’s and Nicodemus’s stories . We can imagine, but we don’t know.

I have a story, you have a story, we, as part of Jesus’ church, have a community story. We live in a resurrected Jesus, with an indwelling Holy Spirit and a Father in heaven. What am I, what are you, what are we willing to risk in loving and doing with our Lord. Read John 17 as a reminder of Jesus praying for us. Read 1 Corinthians 13 as a reminder of what faith, hope and love are.

Faith, Hope, Love, & Risk2022-04-17T20:30:22-06:00

First-hand Witness

“Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” -Mark 15:40-16:8

Notice how women are mentioned all over Mark’s account of the resurrection. Women have been caring for Jesus for years. And now, Mark notes how it was women who cared for his dead body and women who discovered the empty tomb.

Mark was getting most of his data from first-hand accounts and recording them to spread the news within the first century. If you were telling a story you wanted people to believe in this era, you would not have included women. Their testimony was suspect. However, Mark seems to go out of his way to fill up his second-hand account with first-hand female characters.

Why do you think this detail matters?

We live in a culture where women have more value than they once did. Yet, there are still ways women and others are treated as lesser. This story of resurrection re-humanizes women as Jesus honors them for their nurturing servitude and partnership in spreading the gospel.

Just as Mark emphasized the worthiness of women’s partnership in the gospel, we too, can uphold others as being worthy of resurrection life.

Who do we see as unworthy of receiving the good news of resurrection? Take a moment to confess this before God and ask him to open your heart to reawaken your compassion for this person or peoples.

First-hand Witness2022-04-17T20:29:02-06:00

The Other Side of the Story

This week we are doing this daily devotional a little differently. First, I am going to ask each of you to read a part of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection story in each of the gospels for yourself. The Easter sermon used the Mark passage but it is helpful to look at all of them. So, first read Matthew 27:50-28:8, Mark 15:40-16:8, Luke 23:49-24:11 and John 19:38-20:2.

As you read these accounts, what stands out to you? Did you see something in this reading you had not noticed before? Are there words or phrases that you notice were used in multiple accounts? Does one of the accounts have information that is not in any of the others? Do you have questions that are not answered? Do you have a feeling of wanting to read farther? If so, is it because where I asked you to stop reading, does it give you an unsatisfying, hopeless ending to the story? Think about how the women and the disciples were feeling, thinking and processing everything they had observed and experienced in the days we read about. Pray about what you have observed, and ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to know about these scripture passages.

The Other Side of the Story2022-04-17T20:27:08-06:00

Not The End

If you attended one of our easter services you may have learned that resurrection isn’t the end of the story, it’s the beginning. The pursuit of eternal life has been the subject of Hollywood productions as well as wealthy individuals. We are all drawn to the idea of living long productive lives. That longing may be embedded into God’s design for us. We were meant to be eternal creatures and resurrection is the promise of that.

This year, rather than celebrating Easter and moving on with regular life, we want to let Easter be an invitation to a deeper journey. We will be starting a new series called eastertide this coming sunday. In this series we will explore Jesus’ as he encounters people after his resurrection. We will see all the ways that he invites us to live in this new world where death is defeated.

Take a moment to pray. Ask God to stir in you a longing for the life that resurrection brings. Ask him to help you grow in that life more in this spring.

Not The End2022-04-17T20:25:28-06:00
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