Apr 24, 2006

Top Ten

The Top Ten Reasons You Should Attend Alpha:

  1. You want to have a closer relationship with Jesus,
  1. You know someone who needs a closer relationship to Jesus,
  1. You sometimes have doubts or uncertainties about your faith,
  1. Bethel is part of the body of Christ, and healthy bodies grow,
  1. You can’t always answer your friends’ questions about Christianity,
  1. You know someone who is a non-Christian,
  1. You know someone who doesn’t have a church home,
  1. You are sometimes hesitant to talk to friends, relatives, co-workers, and strangers about what Jesus has done in your life,
  1. You want to see the church grow because there is room on your pew,
  1. You do not fear the promise of the Father, God’s Holy Spirit.

The Top Ten Reasons You Should Not Attend Alpha:

  1. Don’t want to have a closer relationship with Jesus,
  1. Don’t know anyone who needs a closer relationship to Jesus,
  1. Don’t ever have any doubts or uncertainties about your faith,
  1. Believe that everyone who ought to attend Bethel already does,
  1. Know all the answers to your friends’ questions about Christianity,
  1. Don’t know ANYONE who is a non-Christian,
  1. Don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a church home,
  1. Have absolutely no hesitation in talking to friends, relatives, co-workers, and strangers about what Jesus has done in your life,
  1. Don’t want to see the church grow because strangers might sit in your pew seat,
  1. Think that the Holy Ghost is something spooky.

Apr 21, 2006

Will you come to the bower?

Will you come to the bower I have shaded for you?
Your bed shall be of roses, be spangled with dew.
Will you, will you, will you come to the bower?
Will you, will you, will you come to the bower?

There under the bower on soft roses you'll lie,
With a blush on your cheek, but a smile in your eye.
Will you, will you, will you smile my beloved?
Will you, will you, will you smile my beloved?

But the roses we press shall not rival your lips,
nor the dew be so sweet as the kisses we'll sip.
Will you, will you, will you kiss me my beloved?
Will you, will you, will you kiss me my beloved?

Apr 17, 2006

The first day of the rest of our lives.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20
(The Message)

Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there's no resurrection, there's no living Christ. And face it--if there's no resurrection for Christ, everything we've told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you've staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ--sheer fabrications, if there's no resurrection.

If corpses can't be raised, then Christ wasn't, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ wasn't raised, then all you're doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It's even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they're already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.

Apr 16, 2006

The tomb is empty. Stay out of it.

John 20:1-18

The Empty Tomb
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!"

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but 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.

"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Apr 15, 2006

Holy Saturday, Part II: He descended into hell.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.


Holy Saturday

Matthew 27:57-66

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead”, and the last deception would be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Apr 14, 2006

Good Friday

John 13:36-38

Simon Peter asked, "Master, just where are you going?"

Jesus answered, "You can't now follow me where I'm going. You will follow later."

"Master," said Peter, "why can't I follow now? I'll lay down my life for you!"

"Really? You'll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you'll deny me three times."

Apr 13, 2006

Maundy Thursday

Mark 14:12-25

The Lord's Supper
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, 'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me."

They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?"

"It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."

Apr 12, 2006

Holy Wednesday; the Beginning of Passover

Exodus 12:1-13
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD's Passover.

"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

Apr 11, 2006

Playlist for Good Friday

Richard Wagner
Parsifal: Prelude and Good Friday Spell
Berlin Philharmonic/Daniel Barenboim

Gregorian Chant for Good Friday
Gregorian Choir of Paris/Francois Polgar

J.S. Bach
Johannes Passion
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman

Music for Holy Week
Schola Antiqua/Blackley-Jones

Arvo Part
Hilliard Ensemble

Were You There?
Tar Box Ramblers/Michael Tarbox

Dietrich Buxtehude
Membra Jesu Nostri
Monteverde Choir, English baroque Soloists, Fretwork/John Elliot Gardner

Gavin Bryars
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Hampton String Quartet w/orchestra, anonymous vagrant, Tom Waits
Michael Riesman
Point/Philips Classics

Heinrich Schutz
O Bone Jesu, fili Mariae
Monteverde Choir, English baroque Soloists, Fretwork/John Elliot Gardner

Stabat Mater
Palestrina, Part, Browne
Fretwork, Taverner Consort & Choir/Andrew Parrott
Virgin Classics

Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Nederlandse Bachvereniging/Gustav Leonhardt
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi

Heinrich Schutz
Die sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz
Ensemble Clement Janequin/Dominique Visse
Harmonia Mundi

J.S. Bach
Saint Matthew Passion
Gabrielli Players/Paul McCreesh

A Love Supreme
John Coltrane

Holy Tuesday

1 Corinthians 1:18-32

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Apr 10, 2006

Holy Monday

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Apr 7, 2006

Why people leave (stay away from) the "churches"

"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.

-- John 20:14

People go to church early on Sunday mornings, but they find it to be either spiritually or physically empty. "We've come to see Jesus, please sir" they say, just like the Greeks before them. Just as that moment marked the beginning of the climax of Jesus' Earthly ministry and the beginning of his passion, so that moment marks the turning point in our church lives.

"They've taken my Lord away, and I don't know where they've put him!" It is at this point that we turn away from the empty tomb (or sanctuary) to face Jesus the Christ. What happens next – recognition or blindness – makes all the difference. It was for this we came to the tomb.

But how then will we know him?