Unlocking Easter: The Best Deal Follows the Ordeal! — The Original 12 Step Plan

‘Ever had an, “O, well,” day? ‘Felt like you and what you do… don’t really matter? A throw-away day in a throw-away week. ‘Ever wonder if yours is a throw-away discipleship in a throw-away life? “‘T’ain’t so!” ‘Can’t be. Not for Easter people. Have you ever wondered at the promises of God, and how delayed they seem? For you? For us? For all of us? ‘Tain’t so. Not for Easter people. No, resurrection not only raises Jesus, but it also raises us and all our days to sacred significance. Whatever our ordeals, from boredom to battle with the forces of Evil-itself, the best deal follows the ordeal. And the Best-of-the-best is walking in the Way with Jesus. Following Jesus. Becoming more and more like Jesus. Ever more at home, in the company of Jesus, in the company of God. How can we do it? How can we walk with him?

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about a kind of 12 Step Plan to unlock the power and presence of Easter faith in our everyday lives. ‘To learn to walk with him. Based on the story of Easter evening with Jesus and his own behind locked doors we learned these simple steps to walk with Jesus. Step 1. Unlock your heart. 2. Take what he gives: the Spirit, new life! Breathe Jesus! 3. Attach to the body of believers. Get hooked up to stay hooked on… Jesus! 4. Be s’mitten (submittin’). Submit your will to Christ’s. Last week, we went with the disciples, tired of their wait for the Spirit and ready to just go back to the life they knew before Jesus, before the resurrection. Together we remembered. Step 5. Beware your routine. Going back rarely gets us ahead in our witness to Christ through the Spirit. 6. Cast where he tells you. He can see where we cannot. 7. Eat what’s on the menu. Take all he offers. Be a member-in-good-standing of Christ Arisen’s Clean Plate Club. 8. Embrace his call. Do what he tells you to do. You’ll need to listen repeatedly! Now we learn from a new story, and a marvelous view of Christ, the Lamb of God. Step 9. Remember daily: Day-to-day relates to the last day. Live like it! 10. When the shepherd speaks he gives instructions. Follow them! 11. Hearing his Beatitude (blessing) begins/proceeds from adopting his attitude. 12. Strive for the “Fred Factor”, truest test of the Faith factor.

Dear friends, remember daily: Day-to-day relates to the Last day. Live like it! Yesterday, this was a house of tears. We bid “Adieu” (literally, “To God, I give you to God”) to a six year, six week old. Who here was not comforted by the vision of John? “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7) He was the same who wrote, “‘Death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Rev. 21) O, what a joy! But this isn’t the whole story. Before the best deal, the ordeal. John says trouble precedes triumph, tribulation before jubilation. “I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.” By vision’s end even the great and the mighty cry out to the mountains, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?”

There are as many interpretations of the Book of Revelation as there are interpreters. I can’t parse all that today. But this I have the time and call to say. However the cosmic truth of God unfolds, the personal facts are clear. Trial troubles us all. (Amen? Amen!) Hard times have their way with us. Anybody over 6 yrs., 6 wks. knows it’s so. (Connor) We too want to find a rock and crawl under. But in the very fury of it all, there stands this promise, even beyond the judgment. “No tears, no death, no thirst, only the walk with the Shepherd.” Our every day has meaning because it will stand for the accounting of the last. No throw-aways! But there will be mercy there, too. Jesus the Lamb, who takes away our sins, The One who shattered the rock and signaled death’s defeat. None of our day-to-days is divorced from this last day. So, in Jesus’ name. Live like it!

When the shepherd speaks he gives instructions. Follow them! Fascinating. From Heaven’s vantage, Christ is the Lamb who comes to take away all sin. But as we see him, as he calls himself, Jesus comes to us the shepherd, The Good Shepherd. The doubters corner him at Temple, “Are you the Christ?” He answers, “I told you, and you don’t believe…. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, they follow me…. No one shall snatch them out of my hand….or the Father’s. I and the Father are one.” The invitation is to hear and to recognize him. The instruction is: follow. The consequence is: we are not to walk where Jesus doesn’t go. And we cannot avoid where Jesus wants to take us. Question: Are you going anywhere in your life where Jesus doesn’t? ‘Wouldn’t. (Pause!) If so, some advice: DON’T GO THERE! (E.g.) Do you hear him calling, feel him guiding and lifting where you wouldn’t go? (Pause!) Question: What on earth are you waiting for? (E.g.)

Hearing his Beatitude (blessing) begins/proceeds from adopting his attitude. Blessing begets an attitude. Jesus expresses his attitude so clearly it is hard for us to miss. It also takes a lot to adopt, to follow. Just a few weeks ago, lots of us were here on Holy Thursday. (More than we’ve ever had before.) We saw and heard that Christ’s is the attitude of service. Radical service. Not just wash-your-feet service, like Jesus did; not just shine-somebody’s-shoes service, like we did. Jesus offers the most amazing service of all, the service of the cross. He actually says from the cross, “Forgive them.” Forgive us. To fail in this is sin, yours and mine. And more frequently and deeply committed than many lesser sins. Bad words. Too-curious glances at those who look good to us, when we’re committed to another. Fudging on our just-filed taxes. Shading the truth for our own benefit. Climbing over somebody else to get ahead. Sins all, to be repented and rejected. But the attitude sin, that’s the one that really sticks in the crawl of God in Christ. He blesses with the attitude of service/sacrifice. And he instructs us to share the blessing. Maybe we’re not quite there for that foot thing. And no one attains to the cross. So Jesus gives another standard, so clear in his day, nobody could miss the point. He says, “If any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Know this. Roman law required conquered people like Jesus’ people to be burden-bearers for Roman soldiers for a distance of 1 mile. Many of the great roads actually used mile markers. Imagine some peasant on the way to market forced by this occupying soldier to turn and go the other way. A mile! Lugging a helmet, a heavy breast plate, leathers. A Shield. The very weapons that made the Roman enemy your enemy! Well get this. Jesus says, do two miles! Not for your kids, spouse, boss, parents, classmates, friends. BUT FOR YOUR MOST HATED ENEMIES! Now I ask you, whose “stuff” do you need to be carrying? (Pause.) Pray on that. Think on that. Do something about that this week! Not just one step or one mile, but two! You want his beatitude, his blessing? This is the attitude he blesses.

Here’s another way of saying this I learned from Jim Henry, of Orlando. Strive for the “Fred Factor”. It’s the true test of the Faith factor. It’s a place where we can start. There’s actually a book out called, The Fred Factor. It’s kind of the Second Milers Club. Now Fred was just a regular postman. But in winter, he’d always walk the mail through the snow to the elderly, so they could stay in. Even the cranky ones. Especially those who’d complain if he mixed up a letter now and then. Fred was the guy who volunteered to take the Christmas packages from Kiwanis every year to the poor folks with the big dog. He’d joke. “I might as well, that dog’s had enough bites of me. I’m sure you’d just be a welcome change of menu!” Fred usually limped into church on Christmas Eve. Fred was the guy who took the hornet spray to the outhouse at the ballfield every year when they opened up for the season. You can guess why. Fred just had a second mile attitude. Don’t you know some Freds in your life? And some Fredericas! You could name some right here! We are challenged to the same attitude and the same lives. Why? ‘Cause the verse is right that says, “Faith without works is dead.” (Jms. 2: 17) This is walkin’ the walk while talkin’ the talk. It’s being a blessing, because we have received a blessing. The best, the blessing of God in Christ Jesus. Let me put it just one more way. My mom’s been off and on ailin’ for awhile. Every announced trip to the doctor brings a little directive from her doufus son (I’m her only one). I say to her, “Do good, Ma!” And every time she gets a good report she’s pleased to say, “I done good, Ken.” And when she doesn’t, we agree, “That’s Ok, God’ll make it gooder yet!” Well, come some comin’ day, every one of us will hear the Lord to say, “Did you do good, Your names?” If we’ve mastered the Fred Factor, because we truly held the Factor of Faith on our hearts in Jesus Christ, we’ll be able to answer, “Yes, Lord.” And he will keep his promise and reward us with the Crown of Life! Amen? Amen!

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