Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: dietrich bonhoeffer

Empty Eggs

eggs_5635cnpDeath is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

When I was a kid us cousins would hunt Easter Eggs at our grandparents’ on Easter day. It was what made Easter Easter. As we got older the hunting got more challenging and our parents got more creative. But the end game was always the same.

Candy!

A few weeks ago Kara, my children’s ministry colleague, and I were sorting Easter eggs for the Easter Egg Hunt at the church. As a number of people came through, they assumed that we were in the process of filling the eggs with candy.

We, however, were not.

The eggs were going to be hidden empty. It was a practical reason. Empty eggs would be traded for a scoop or two of candy. We get the eggs back, and there is some candy-control. All the children would get the same amount of candy no matter how many eggs they found.

When tasked with doing an Easter theme for the preschool chapel, my senior pastor and I used an empty Easter egg. In fact, we got a lot of traffic out of that empty Easter egg. We used it in a lot of places. When I used it for the children’s moment on Easter Sunday, I asked the children why did they think the egg was empty. One little four-year-old girl leaned in towards me, and loudly, but proudly, declared with great enthusiasm, “Because Jesus lives!”

It was a proud pastor moment.

These chapel/children’s moments with the empty Easter Egg inspired this craft in one of the Peakland Preschool classrooms:

photo by M. Ledford

photo by M. Ledford

The empty Easter egg reminds us of the empty tomb.

While we don’t wear the empty tomb around our necks or on our lapels like we do the cross, the empty tomb says with all the mightiest of God that victory has been won. Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us quite humbly, “It is not we who are victorious, but Jesus.”

This is why we sing old hymns like “Victory in Jesus,” because we acknowledge that Jesus has conquered death and lives! This past Sunday during my sermon, I asked the congregation to pay close attention and every time I would say, “He is Risen!” they would respond, “He is Risen Indeed!” It is an ancient practice of the church to acknowledge that the sting of death has no power over us. The sting of death – the wages of sin – are no longer capable of holding us captive. Jesus’ victory has rendered them powerless.

Bonhoeffer puts it this way:

They are powerless; they still rage, like a mean dog on a chain, but they can do nothing against us, for Jesus holds them fast. He remains the victor.

And yet, we find ourselves living as if nothing has happened.

We live as if grace is a license to sin. We take Jesus’ victory over death for granted. Instead of acknowledging the power of the empty tomb, we submit to fear and death.

Maybe because it is easier.

Maybe because the world’s voices are louder than the stillness of the empty tomb.

Maybe because . . . . . you know we could do this all day.

We could think of a billion reasons why we fail to acknowledge the power of the empty tomb.

But when we come to this table

communion

we accept the power of the empty tomb; we accept the victory over sin and death. And it is for you and me, whoever we are and whatever we have done. That’s how much God loves us. And so every time we come to this Table and break the bread and drink the wine, we remember the victory that has already been won, and all we have to say is. . . .

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Mary Had a Baby Boy

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

My cousin is in the hospital awaiting the arrival of her first baby. As I’ve been talking with her and praying for her, I’ve also been thinking about what it must have been like that first Christmas. And the more I think about it, I think about how incredible the incarnation is. God became a human being.

God became a baby.

God became just like us. And in that moment, God was poor and helpless. The God of Creation became a crying baby boy. And the prophet Isaiah calls this baby, “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). Before anything else, Jesus was Mighty.

Before changing water into wine. Before teaching the masses. Before walking on water. Before raising Lazarus. Before the Cross. Before it all, the baby was Mighty. This baby is the Mighty One who saves. This baby is the Mighty One who will change the world.

The German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a sermon preached to a church in Havana, Cuba, said, “But now it is true that in three days, Christmas will come once again. The great transformation will once again happen. God would have it so. Out of the waiting, hoping, longing world, a world will come in which the promise is given. All crying will be stilled. No tears shall flow. No lonely sorrow shall afflict us anymore, or threaten.”

“Genuine Christian Community”

From the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  What do you think? Leave your comments/thoughts/ideas on this page under “Leave a Reply”.

There is probably no Christian to whom God has not given the uplifting experience of genuine Christian community at least once in his or her life. But in this world such experiences remain nothing but a gracious extra beyond the daily bread of Christian community life. We have no claim to such experiences, and we do not live with other Christians for the sake of gaining such experiences. It is not the experience of Christian community, but firm and certain faith within Christian community that holds us together. We are bound by faith, not by experience.

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