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Beauty from Ashes… Life from Death

Another tornado… a monster storm… EF-4 in strength... three-quarters of a mile wide, traveling 59 miles, devastating everything in its path. Houses and buildings of Rolling Fork, Mississippi were flattened. The tornado that touched down for over an hour, drew debris 30,000 feet up in the air and then flung it back to earth with devastating force. A tractor trailer crushed a small church in the center of town, leaving only the church bell undamaged. The death toll from that storm continues to rise…

Another mass shooting in a school… this time in Nashville, Tennessee at a Christian Elementary school, stealing away the lives of three third graders and three adults. The newscaster read the names off a news prompter, adding them to the ever-growing list of children lost to gun violence. Each time, those left behind cry helplessly, “We have to do something.”

Another water crisis… this time in our own back yard, threatening our water supply. A chemical spill a few miles upstream from a key intake in the Delaware River sent many of us running to the store on Monday to buy bottled water for our families. Now, store shelves are empty while we wait for word about our water quality.

An explosion in a chocolate factory in Reading, PA… an earthquake in Turkey… flood waters devastating northern California… heavy snowfall isolating residents in the Sierra mountains… drug cartels abducting American tourists in Mexico… massive protests in France over the change in the state-supported retirement age and in Israel over the fate of their democracy…immigrants pressing against our southern border desperate for safehaven for their children…

The war in Ukraine continues to rage, yet the stories that once took center stage on the front page of the paper above the fold, now find space on the third page below the fold, replaced by a steady stream of new tragedies.

Too much… no more… Some of us refuse to watch the news anymore. We have cancelled our subscriptions to written news sources. The news is too sad, it depresses our hearts. But our choice to look away does not stop the unrelenting parade of chaos. God’s beautiful creation seems to be rapidly spinning out of control. Beauty to ashes… Life to death…

Israel two thousand years ago held a similar feel, as if, as my mother would say, the world was “going to hell in a handbasket.” The people of Israel lived under Roman occupation, impoverished by Roman taxes, stripped of freedom by a Roman sword. Their daily reality would make many of our news stories pale in comparison. On that Sunday, the people gathered to welcome a popular Rabbi coming into Jerusalem. The rumors told of his miraculous powers. They said Jesus raised a prominent businessman from death to life, so the crowds gathered to wave palm branches welcoming the Rabbi like a king. They hoped that this Rabbi was the Messiah come to save them from Rome’s heavy hand. Was it possible that he had come to Jerusalem to rally the people, perhaps to raise an army, to push Rome into the sea? But on Monday, Jesus ignored the Romans, instead challenging money changes in the Temple. He cursed a fig tree, but said nothing to the Romans. On Tuesday, he spoke harsh words to the Jewish leaders, but again said nothing to the Romans. On Wednesday, Jesus said nothing. On Thursday, he shared a private meal with his disciples. He was arrested that night, tried, and beaten. When a chained and bloody Jesus was brought before the crowd Friday morning, their hopes were crushed. The people cried out, “Crucify him.”

Beauty to ashes… life to death…

But the cross was not the end of the story, it was just the beginning. A cross could not crush him, a spear could not slay him, a stone tomb could not hold him. When all hope was lost, the Lord of Life conquered sin and death in a dramatic flip of reality. Easter is the celebration of God transforming brokenness and chaos into life!

From ashes to beauty… from death to life!

I saw a beautiful piece of embroidered art the other day, a simple rendition of the beauty of God’s creation- each stitch adding color and detail to the piece. How lovely! Yet, if you were to flip that piece over, you would find a chaos of strings with little discernable pattern. It takes skilled hands to create beauty out of chaos. That’s what God does on Easter. From ashes to beauty… from death to life!

I invite you to claim a front row seat to watch the Lord of Life work a miracle this Holy Week. Do not just skip from a Palm Parade to the Empty Tomb. Instead, walk the journey with Jesus this year. Join Him in the Temple as He tosses the tables. See the fig tree He curses. Sit at table with Him and receive a feast of life from His hands. Join the women at the foot of the cross and witness the full extent of His love. Wait in anticipation for the Son to rise and then join the triumphant celebration as ashes are transformed into beauty and death into life!

With you walking with the Savior,
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