Ashes to Fire – Holy Week Reflections

Holy week is upon us…but have you noticed?

It may be Holy Week, but baskets need to be filled, eggs need to be stuffed, meals need to be prepped, tables and chairs need to be dragged out of the basement.

And I’m finding myself right smack-dab in the middle of it all. Seriously! I think it was Monday night, and I stopped by the store on the way home to pick up some groceries, and when I got to the eggs, I was surprised that there were only 3 dozen white, large, Grade A eggs left in the entire store, and I needed 2 dozen of them! I was shocked! Why didn’t they restock?! This is a travesty! And so I put them in my cart as fast as possible and went to the next aisle, so that I wasn’t “that guy.” It wasn’t until I was home that my wife reminded me that white, large, Grade A eggs are perfect for coloring and dying…

Holy Week is upon us…but have you noticed?

This week is so much more than coming to church an extra day (or two…or three), celebrating the fact that your time of fasting is soon over (bring on those unhealthy habits and foods once more!), or making sure your best clothes are clean and pressed.

No, it’s about much more.

In a couple days we’ll gather together and reflect upon Christ’s sacrifice. His blood shed for our freedom.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed
Isaiah 53:5

And then two days later, we’ll gather to celebrate the empty tomb, the defeat of sin and death, the resurrected Christ.

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!
Luke 24:5-6

And I guess what I’m trying to say to both you and me, is that in the busyness of this season, let us not forget the significance of it. Let us not get lost in the tiny details over clothing options, in making sure our homes are spotless for our guests, or ensuring that all the traditional food groups are represented for Easter dinner.

And I guess my prayer is that as we gather with friends and family this week and weekend, we would not forget the importance of this week, of Christ’s death and resurrection. May we be reminded that Jesus didn’t just go to Calvary to save us for a future date, but he died and rose again that we might experience resurrection living now…today! NT Wright writes that: Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. May this be the description of our lives…colonizing earth with the life of heaven. May we not only know Jesus, but also be Jesus every moment of every day.

This Holy Week, may we notice, and may we remember.

May we remember that Christ died for each and every one of us.
May we remember that we have good news to share…hope to give…life to offer.
May we remember that more than eggs to find, hams to cook, or church services to attend, that we’ve been made new by the blood of Christ shed for us and his victory over sin and death.

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen…

Have you noticed?

following His leading,
~ Pastor Joe


Ashes to Fire – Midweek Reflections

If you’ve ever been in a position of preaching, teaching Sunday School, or leading a small group within the church, you find that you inevitably come across passages when it feels like God is speaking directly to you, and those you’ll be leading/preaching to will be the recipients of that exchange between you and God. For me, this appears to be one of those weeks.

If you call Fenton Church of the Nazarene your home church, and you’ve been following along in our Ashes to Fire devotional, you might have noticed that this coming Sunday, we’ll be in John 11, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and Jesus’ proclamation that HE is the resurrection and the life.

It’s certainly an interesting time to be diving into this passage as we’re still a few weeks out from Easter…Resurrection Sunday (we’ll get into that a bit on Sunday). But, it’s also an interesting time to dive into this passage because of events that have happened in the peripheral spheres of my life.

Some of you know, but before I came to FCN, I was a solo pastor at a small town in Northern Michigan. We loved our church, and we loved our town. It was one of those communities where everyone seems to know everyone, and the people unite to support their own. And this past week, hardship and tragedy hit that community. And even though it wasn’t our home for long, and even though we’re displaced now, my heart is still heavy.

This past week, a family within that community had to say goodbye to their 7 year old son, whose body could no longer fight the cancer that was ravaging it. He fought it bravely, valiantly, courageously, and he inspired many (myself included) who didn’t have a direct relationship with him. And even though we moved midway through his fight, and even though our church had no direct contact with his family, we still feel the impact. One moment that stands out to me is how my cross-country kids decided that they wanted to dedicate their season to this boy, and for the last half of the season, we gave a moment of silence and prayer before each race, and then we ran hard, knowing he was fighting even harder. And to watch from Facebook updates the bravery and courage of this young man, and to see how he united so many people, has been incredible to watch.

And so, as I’m sitting down to prepare for this Sunday, one question above all others plagues my mind: how?

  • If I were preaching this passage this coming week in our old community, how would I preach it?
  • If I knew that a young couple would be attending this Sunday, and they’ve just come out of mourning a miscarriage as they try to start a family, and they’ve had to say goodbye to their son or daughter at the same time they’re saying hello, how would I preach this?
  • If I knew someone would be sitting in our church Sunday morning, and they’ve recently lost a beloved friend or family member, how would I preach this?

And so, as I continue to prepare for Sunday, I want to encourage you to prepare as well.

  • What does it mean that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
  • What does it mean for our lives now?
  • What does it mean for our lives later?

Side note: it’s not just the pastors who should be preparing their hearts for Sunday mornings! 🙂

And if you’re free this Sunday, and maybe you’ve been going through a rough spot, or maybe you’re mourning the recent death of a loved one, I hope that you’d consider joining us. And I hope that this week might be an encouragement to you, as we look not only to burning away another blind spot within us, but as we also look forward to the cross, and to Resurrection Sunday.

following His leading,
~ Pastor Joe