Parable in a Pasque Flower

Pasque flowers appear after the bitterness of winter, often before winter has fully wasted itself out in storms and cold and darkness. They are a sign, a beacon of hope. Asleep in the ground for the months of winter’s cold, at the appropriate time they fight their way to life, seemingly delicate and vulnerable. But what strength is seen in the first of spring’s flowers! Tiny things that should be crushed under what remains of winter, they prevail. Against all odds, they spring up here and there, bathing hillsides in the glory of springtime. They are the first glimmer of hope that winter won’t last forever, and that spring will truly come. There is life in the dead ground. There is warmth, and light, and growth.
IMG_8239eFirst there is one, then a couple, then dozens, then they’re everywhere. Spring has come. Winter is defeated.

How appropriate that they bloom at Easter time, hence the name “pasque,” having to do with the time of Passover, the time of deliverance. The “paschal lamb” was the sacrificial lamb of Passover, ultimately fulfilled in Christ, our once-for-all-time Paschal Lamb.

At Easter, we celebrate hope, the hope and certainty that our Salvation, our deliverance, is secure, through the paschal sacrifice of our Lamb of God, to redeem His people from their sins. The hope began with one man, amidst a storm of controversy and opposition, against which a mere man never could have prevailed. But the God-Man could. His ministry turned into a couple, then a dozen, then hundreds, confounding the religious elite of the day who did everything they could to crush His ministry. It seemed as if they’d succeeded, that gruesome day when they nailed Christ to the cross of crucifixion, a horrific instrument of torture. Christ, the God of the Universe, was slaughtered, brutally, willingly, voluntarily, in order to satisfy the Plan of eternity to save, to give hope, to change hearts, to reconcile sinners to God.

“There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain.”
IMG_8386eFor two dark days, His broken body was dead, buried, but on the morning of the third day, Christ defeated death. Against all human odds or laws of science, Christ broke the chains of death and returned in a glorified human body. Death was defeated.

“Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!”

What began with one man has blossomed into millions, millions of tiny beacons of hope that light the darkness of this world, that give us hope that the darkness won’t last forever, that the winter of our souls can become springtime, that death can give way to life, that goodness can come from decay. No other religion or person or movement has ever rocked world history like Christianity, and no other worldview can boast the lives radically changed for the better, hatreds healed, hearts transformed. In spite of all opposition, Christianity has flourished for over two millennia. And where it is hardest pressed, there it blossoms the most gloriously. Each life changed by Christ is a testament to the truth of the Gospel, the hope that we have to be reconciled to our Heavenly Father, to have our sins forgiven, to have our hearts radically changed. We aren’t doomed to ourselves and our sins forever. There is hope.
IMG_8255eRemember that, when you see these first flowers of spring. They are a mini parable of how God works and has worked to bring about Salvation, to defeat death, to bring life and hope and peace and reconciliation.


Out of Deep Darkness

God had promised a Savior. And for centuries, the Jewish people waited for this Messiah, a mighty king who would storm this earth and defeat their enemies and right all wrongs. Prophets, with words from God, gave glimpses, signs, of what this Savior would look like, what He would do, where He would come from. The Jews waited for this Savior, for a man of stature, of importance, of status and fame. They wanted a king. And they waited. And waited. And waited. But the dimming years trickled by, and the glorious prophesies ceased. For those who waited and hoped, the time must have seemed so long, the years must have seemed so dark, and hope must have seemed so faint.  But the Promise remained.

And finally, into this broken, darkened world, God began to speak once more. Into the darkness, His light burst forth. In the glorious, heavenly brilliance of angels and stars, God relayed this message: “Do not fear.” 

“Do not be afraid, Mary. Do not be afraid, Joseph. Do not be afraid, humble Shepherds.  Magi, draw near. I bring you good news of great joy.” 

The story began to unfold. And as the story unfolded, it was not the story that was expected. This isn’t the story that the Jewish people would have written. This isn’t the story that I would have written. This isn’t how a king is supposed to come. But God is not bound by human prejudice or expectation. To a young woman, a carpenter, and shepherds, angels appeared, ushering them into the glories of God’s plan to rescue this lost and hurting world, and He began to reveal the Savior, His glory.

We live in a land of deep darkness. The hearts of all of us are black with sin. We need hope. And there is hope, in the Light of the World, the Son of God, God Incarnate.

Christmas approaches during the darkest, coldest time of the year. The days are shortest, the nights are longest, and into this deepest darkness comes the celebration of Christ’s coming, a meditation on the glory of Christ and the beauty of God’s redemptive plan that is still being worked out upon this world. He is the one who opens blind eyes and softens hard hearts and whispers truth into deaf ears. He is our Hope, our Light, and our Salvation. And He was poised to descend upon this dark world in a way the world hasn’t been able to forget.

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)

The Living Vine

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” ~John 15:4-5IMG_5956eOver the last few weeks, I watched the plum and apple trees for blossoms. We have had some heavy frosts, and I was concerned the buds may have gotten frozen off or even that parts of the tree could have been killed by the winter’s cold. But today, I saw a white mist clinging around the plum tree – bountiful pale flower clusters. The tree is alive. The flowers are the precursors to harvest. They evidence life and health.

“Abide in me,” Christ said. “I am the vine; you are the branches.” He encouraged and admonished his disciples to rest in him, to bear fruit. Healthy fruit comes from a thriving branch. A thriving branch only comes from a living Vine. Bear much fruit. He told this to his disciples, men who had sacrificed everything for him to follow him and participate in his ministry.  And then he was executed like a common criminal.

Resurrection Sunday comes and goes every year, and we hear the same message every year: He is risen!  “He is risen indeed!” we respond. We can go through the motions of celebrating Resurrection Sunday as if the Resurrection were old hat. Perhaps we even feel a little sheepish, maybe a little too counter-cultural with all of the empty tomb and back-from-the-dead talk. Not to mention, Easter has been so commercialized, all the plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies and pastel colored paper shreds. We lose our wonder in the colorful array of secular trappings, the childish nature of the eggs and bunnies and cute chocolates. Maybe we wearily approach the bustle and expectations surrounding Easter, and question the significance of setting aside a day like this. Maybe in the whirlwind of “celebration,” we forget Who and Why.

Because Christ is alive, and perhaps that more than any other truth in Scripture is what must be dear and real to us. Christ is alive, and he is sitting at the right hand of the Throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Through his life, death, and resurrection he has given us the right to become Children of God (John 1:11-13), to be reconciled to our Heavenly Father (Romans 5:10). It isn’t through his life and death, but through his life, death, AND resurrection. Because if Christ hadn’t risen, then he is no better of a sacrifice than the Passover lambs or the sin offerings, then he is no better of a king than King David or King Josiah, then he is no better of a prophet than Moses, no better of a father than Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, no better of a priest than Aaron. They each in their own way foreshadowed the coming of and our need for a Savior – the Lamb, the Sacrifice, the Prophet, the Priest, the King, the Father of Many Nations. But they had no power over death. They each died. But Christ did not. And that is of utmost importance.

For the Christian, everything hinges on the Resurrection, everything we say we believe, everything we say we hope for. If the Resurrection did not happen, then we have hoped entirely in vain, and all Christ’s commandments about abiding in him are null. In fact, if Christ didn’t rise again on the third day, then the entire Bible is a pack of lies. That is how important the Resurrection is. It isn’t just an interesting anecdote. It is Biblical record that is absolutely vital to faith. Because our hope hinges on Christ’s power over death. If he, the “resurrection and the life,” has no power over his own life, how can he promise life to us? (John 11:25-26 and John 10:17-18)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied,” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.  The Bible has no merit if the Resurrection didn’t happen, because the entire Bible depends upon the Resurrection for its completeness. Without the Resurrection, then everything from Genesis onward is pointless and fraudulent. Without the Resurrection, there is no hope, there is no life. Without the Resurrection, then our Vine, the Vine from which we are supposed to draw sustenance, is dead.  If he is the Vine and he is dead, we are unable to bear the fruit we were commanded by him to cultivate. If he is the Vine, and if he is dead, then our faith is a dead faith, sealed in the tomb along with the man who claimed to be God Himself.

But that is not what we believe. That is not the end of our faith.  Because Christ’s story didn’t end at the  tomb. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,” Paul continued in Corinthians. Because the next morning, the tomb was empty. Gloriously empty.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.  Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,  and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;  for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.

 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. ~John 20: 1-18

So, abide in me. Christ is alive, and only because of the Resurrection are we able to truly abide in him. We are not part of a dead Vine. We are part of a Living Vine, a Vine which is bearing bountiful, beautiful fruit and has been bearing fruit for thousands of years. The ax of false doctrine and the winds of persecution and the fire of the culture have no power against our Vine. It is in perpetual flower, perpetual fruit-bearing. We have something to be excited about on this wonderful day! We have a faith that springs from and abides in Christ, and he is alive today. Reflect on that truth and revel in that hope.




He is Risen!

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.  And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”  So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Matthew 28: 1-10IMG_5893eChrist went ahead of his disciples to Galilee, and has now gone ahead of us to Heaven – And we will see him there.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Blessed Paradox

Every good story has a transformation. And I love a good story. I think everyone loves a good story. The concept of a story is woven into our hearts as human beings. We naturally respond to and love tales of suspense and danger and good guys and bad guys, where the good guy wins, but just by a hair. We love high stakes, the threat of the story world falling apart if the good guy loses. We love the emotional roller coaster of thinking that the good guy is down, only to find out he is up again and the bad guy is retreating desperately. We love the stories of a knight in shining armor rescuing the beautiful and courageous maiden, or the gun-slinging cowboy thundering down on a ranch, to scatter the outlaws and marry the lone woman who had been defending her family’s ranch. We love the stories of bad-man-turned-good, coward-turned-brave, rags-to-riches, bondage-to-freedom, danger-to-safety, loneliness-to-love. Whether circumstantial transformation, or personal transformation, we love a transformation.

The genuine, regenerate Christian life is a life of transformation, a story of rescue (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Without transformation, we are still dead in our trespasses. Without transformation, we are still wretched beyond belief. If look at myself honestly, I recognize that I am full of pride and arrogance, lust and fear and envy, I am discontent and angry, spiteful and dishonest and disingenuous – and then I look at Christ. That is my rescuer! That is whom I am commanded to be like. That is whom I am commanded to worship. That is my Savior. How far short I fall! Le Croix et Les Perles

There is an unfortunate and deadly pattern in even those who consider themselves to be Christians, to try to deny their own indwelling sin, and to deny the need for transformation in their life. (1 John 1:8-9) The Bible clearly states that everyone is born with an innate knowledge of God (Romans 1:20). This means that everyone has a knowledge that this world is not how it should be, that there is something desperately wrong with the world and ourselves. If I am truly honest with myself, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am full of evil. I don’t deserve to be rescued! Without even trying to be wicked, I am wicked, and if I’m not wicked, it is simply by the grace of God! (Romans 7:21-25)

We live in a Christian culture where “good Christians don’t have problems,” where we don’t admit to our struggles, our sins, our own native evil. What a cruel message to perpetrate. What a burden of guilt, to not be able to admit what each of us suffers acutely from, to paste on a facade of perfection while withering away inside from shame! What a burden of sorrow and pain, to not be able to come to Christ, fall on our knees, and pour out our wickedness and repentance before Him, and let Him take our burdens and make us free! There is no sin too wicked, no secret too dark, no guilt too wretched, to be covered by the forgiving work of Christ. Just come. (Matthew 11:28)

What if Christian, the Pilgrim, had refused to admit he carried a heavy burden on his back, refused to drop it at the Cross, and tried to carry his burden all the way to the Celestial City? He would have died on the road, or drowned under its weight in the River of Life. And this is exactly what people do, who try to deny that they are struggling with their own evil, or who try to deny that there is such a thing as right or wrong, or that they have any indwelling sin in their life. They are refusing to let Christ take and destroy their burdens. They are denying the need for Christ. They are denying the need for a hero’s rescue, for a transformation of circumstance and person.

It does no good to claim Christ as Savior and deny the need of saving grace. It does no good to hope for Heaven if you don’t truly believe there is a Hell. It does no good to live a life labeled “Christian” if your version of “Christian” is no different from the culture. There must be a transformation.

What is springtime without first the deadened winter? What is dawn without the darkness of night? What is a rainbow without the fierceness of a storm? What is joy if we haven’t also experienced grief? What is salvation if we weren’t first dead in our sins? What is Paul the Apostle if he wasn’t first Saul of Tarsus? And what is the Resurrection of Christ the LORD if He didn’t first die a sinner’s death?

The glory of God is most beautifully manifested in His glorious rescue of wretched sinners. The salvation story is the rescue of all rescues, the ultimate knight-in-shining armor, the ultimate romance, the ultimate adventure, the ultimate rags-to-riches tale, the ultimate transformation of circumstance! The Hero comes, confronts the Villain, willingly pays the Ransom price to rescue the Prodigal, adopting as His children even those who had spit on Him, hated Him, abandoned Him, and crucified Him.

And thus we have the blessed paradox – A God who is all that is good, righteous, holy, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, a God who is just, and jealous, and justified in sending all of humanity to Hell for our corporal and individual wickedness…that same God stooped in love and mercy to become a Man, sinless and pure, to live a perfect life and die a perfect death, to pay the final price for sin: a gruesome, bloody death. (Ephesians 2:4-7) He died to save those who spit on Him, who reviled Him, who persecuted Him, who nailed Him to the tree. And each of us, by our sin, has participated in putting the nails through His hands and the crown of thorns upon His head. And yet He offers life. (Acts 22:6-8, 1 Corinthians 15)
It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t a story I would have written. I would have tweaked a few things. I would have made the object of rescue deserve it a little bit. I would have made the Hero a little bit volcanic, grabbing those who spat on Him by the shirtfront and giving them a righteous shake. But it is God’s story, and blessed be His name for choosing so glorious a rescue to be the story of all history! He makes it possible for us to live a life that is pleasing to Him – I have no power on my own to live a “good life.” I have no power toward any good, without the strength of Christ in me. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong….so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:27, 29.

Soli Deo gloria!

Laura Elizabeth