Mom Time – Hope During Quarantine

Women's Resources Christ Church Bham

She doesn’t have words for this
But does she need them
When the whole world trembles with the same fear
Grieves the same loss of the illusion of control
Grabs at the same threads of hope
Watches the same sun move across the same sky
Waiting for the resurrection
-Michelle Windsor

 

Hey Mommas,

I am writing this the day before Easter Sunday. How strange that my feelings of sadness about our current world mixed with doubt, fear, anxiety must have also mirrored that of Jesus’ followers.  And yet, I know there is hope tomorrow.  There is joy and song and new life.  There is a hallelujah that is bubbling up from my throat that I almost can’t contain.

I read the above poem on Instagram this week and it just hit home for me.

I don’t have words for what we are all going through.  Do I even need them?

We are all trembling together.  We are all staying home keeping our babies safe, happy, and entertained.

We are grieving the control and routine we used to have.  The leisurely walks through Target are a thing of the past.  The carpool lines, play dates, library trips and playground visits are nonexistent.

We are grabbing at threads of hope or toilet paper.  Maybe it’s the hour when our husband (whose job is essential) walks through the door or clocks out at his home office, maybe when the mail arrives with our stimulus check, or even the baby’s nap.  Yet none of those things offer the everlasting hope and always leave us wanting more.

Watching the same sun move across the same sky, Waiting for the resurrection.  Waiting for the quarantine to be lifted? No, something better is offered.  The weight of sin has been lifted.  He has risen (Mark 16:6).  We know that our Redeemer lives (Job 19:25). Even in our hard, long days of isolation, we are not alone. We are not dead in our sin; we are alive with Christ (Col 2:13).

Mommas, I don’t know if we will get to meet this summer for Mom Time. Nothing is guaranteed. Was it ever?  What I do know is that you are not alone. And in these heavy days, cling closer to the cross. Lean into his words in scripture. Abide in him.  I know I have good days and bad days as this time marches on but the more I rely on him, the more precious this time with my family is becoming. Remind me of that again at bath time!

With Love,

Emily Perry
CC Women’s Ministry Team

What is Holy Week?

By Michael Bowman

If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.”
― A.W. Tozer
Holy Week is, simply put, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

This is the last week of Lent, where we remember the last week of Jesus’ life on Earth.

 

Palm Sunday

We begin with Palm Sunday, where we remember the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19). Most Palm Sunday services begin with what is called “the Procession of the Palms,” where the congregation is given and holds palm branches as they make their way into the church to begin the service.

You may have heard Palm Sunday referred to as Passion Sunday. That is because we are on the very cusp of Christ’s “passion week,” where God takes the brokenness of his people onto his own self, in Jesus, and, by doing so, makes all things new.

The significance of Palm Sunday is the transformation that takes place before us. Everything is about to change. At the begging of the week, we cry out, “Hosanna!” Yet, soon, these cries will turn from, “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!”

And this transition, from celebration and excitement to the bloodthirsty cries for crucifixion and death, is the tone of Holy Week.

Jurgen Moltmann reminds us, “At the centre of Christian faith is the history of Christ. At the centre of the history of Christ is his passion and his death on the cross” (The Way of Jesus Christ, 151).

This is an ominous beginning, but we can take heart because we know what’s coming. There will be a resurrection. Yet, we must remember, there is no resurrection without first having death.

 

Maundy Thursday

As we make our way through the week, we find ourselves at Maundy Thursday. This is the night that we reenact the last meal that Jesus shared with those who were closest to him, his closest friends…his 12 disciples.

Most Maundy Thursday services will recall Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. In this very act, and in participating in such an act ourselves, we are able to realize that our own spiritual maturity begins when we love without expecting anything in return.

In fact, we might find ourselves praying, as St. Francis did, that God would “grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.” As we retell and remember the story of Jesus’ last night with his disciples, we are able to “make real once again God’s love for us and to illustrate how we are to love” (A Pilgrim People, 16).

Each year on Maundy Thursday, we remember that we are all called to be a community of love and embody the story we tell the world. In breaking bread together, we are reminded of the ultimate Sacrifice.

 

Good Friday

And then, we wake up the next day to Good Friday. A day in which we remember all of the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion.

The story of Good Friday brings us to the reality of suffering in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Yet, it also reveals to us that, even in our suffering, we are not alone.

Remember when Isaiah foretold Jesus’ coming, the prophet said that he would be called Immanuel, God with us. God is with us. He put on flesh to be with us. He gave us his Spirit to be not only with us but live inside of us. That means that even in death, suffering, pain, mourning, or hurting, God is still with us. So Good Friday may be a day of sorrow, but it is not a day of hopelessness.

On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death, but we are reminded of what this death allows us to see: his sacrificial love for us. In the death of Jesus, God was able to free the world from the stronghold of evil.

John H. Westerhoff III shares with us, Good Friday “is the story of the death of Jesus from God’s perspective; it is the victory of God not in spite of death but by and through death. The cross has become the tree of life.”

 

Holy Saturday

The next day, Holy Saturday is a time of solitude and sabbath. It is a chance for us to meditate on the time that Jesus was dead and buried. This Saturday is one of anticipation because we know the end of the story.

We know that death is not the end. We know that, soon, Jesus is walking out of that tomb. Yet, we wait with anticipation and longing. We await the coming of the third day, where our true hope is found.

 

Easter Sunday

Morning breaks the next day as the story continues.

Three words ring in our ears, playing over and over again in our minds, bringing warmth to our cold and weary hearts: Christ is risen!

On this day, everything that we believe about God is at stake. Our very faith hinges on it. If Christ did not rise, then we are still lost and bound for death. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! The story of Easter is the story of how God acted on behalf of his creation. On Easter, God made everything new and redeemed all things.

Because of Easter, you and I are new people living in a new world.

We fell away from what we were intended to be, as beloved daughters and sons created to bear the image God. Yet, on Easter, our image was restored. We have been mended back together, and our broken relationship with God has been made right again. This does not mean that evil no longer exists, for it does. However, its power is no longer final. We are living in the already but not yet, where all is now new, and yet God is continuing to restore all things. And this is what we come together to celebrate on Easter Sunday: the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
[author] [author_info]Michael is the grateful husband to Sara. They are the lucky parents of their son, Grady.
Michael has earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from UT-Chattanooga, and a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Church Planting from Asbury Theological Seminary.
Michael enjoys spending time with Sara, running, good coffee, reading, and playing with their son. Being from Memphis, he is an avid Memphis Grizzlies fan.[/author_info] [/author]

The Journey of Epiphany

The Journey of Epiphany

And what it means for us

By Michael Bowman

 

 

Celebrating the Original Journey

 

In the Church, the season celebrated after Christmas is called Epiphany. At Christmas, our major focus is on God coming to his people. During Epiphany, the focus shifts to our going to God.

In our last Advent post, we paid some attention to a group of people Matthew calls “wise men from the East.” These men were some of the only people to recognize that Jesus Christ had been born. And of the few people who actually took notice of Jesus’ birth, these “wise men” journeyed far to witness it.

Not only that, but when they showed up in Jerusalem, they went straight to the King and asked where this newly born “King of the Jews” was so that they could pay him homage (See Matthew 2.)

But again, we do not know much about these men. We know that these group of individuals realized the child being born in Bethlehem from Micah’s prophecy would be a ruler, a shepherd, to God’s people, Israel (See Micah 5.) Other than that, we know they were from the East and were totally bent on finding this baby king to show him the respect he deserved.

Being from the East, these people had to make some kind of journey in order to even see this child. And Epiphany is all about celebrating that journey.

At Epiphany, we are invited to celebrate the journey of all God’s people who are seeking after God and his Kingdom. We are all looking for hope, peace, love, justice, holiness and wholeness.

The wise men were, too. They were naive enough to believe what a prophet had spoken hundreds of years before, and decided to risk a journey to a distant land with only a star for a guide. Come on, these people were dreamers at the very least.

But they went anyway. They had an idea of what might be waiting for them at the end of their journey, but they had no clue what to expect. They packed up gifts custom fit for a king, having no clue what the King would be like. And what they found when they reached the end of their quest brought them to their knees.

 

“The feast of Epiphany invites us to listen to the voice of God and step forth on a spiritual pilgrimage; to enter a new secular year forgetting all that lies behind and ignoring all that seems reasonable today; to trust in the possibility of God’s dream and go forth carrying with us the gold of love, the incense of longing, and the myrrh of suffering. Epiphany invites us to dream the impossible dream and strive with the last ounce of our courage to reach the unreachable star.”

(John H. Westerhoff III, A Pilgrim People)

 

I could not say it any better than that.

 

Be Still and Know

 

During Epiphany, we continue seeking out, turning over rocks, and looking around every corner for God’s Kingdom. We pay attention for God’s activity in us and around us. And in doing so, we are to manifest the present reality of God’s Kingdom to others around us.

We should follow in stride how Andrew ran and grabbed his friend Simon Peter after meeting Jesus, saying to him, “We have found the Messiah! Come and see!” (John 1:40-42). Or even Philip who finds Nathanael and shares the same message, “We have found the guy that Moses and all of the prophets were talking about! Come and See!” (John 1:43-46).

As we experience the good news of Jesus, we are to share it with others. We are to teach in the way Jesus taught, not for the transfer of information, but for life transformation. That may mean talking less and listening more.

Jesus was all about show and tell. His main message was the Kingdom, but not only did he talk about it, he revealed what it was like. He was inclusive. He ate with, talked with, and spent time with the outcasts and marginalized. He went to parties and made them better. He spent time with the lowest in society and those who were well-off in the culture of his day.

We are to continue in this way. May I remind you that Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-20). And in being so, we are to be an epiphany for others. For example, when we love our neighbors as we are commanded to do, we are to love in such a way that brings about God’s reign and rule, his justice and peace, his freedom and equality, unity and wholeness, for all that we encounter.

This Epiphany season, stop and be still long enough to hear God’s voice, in whatever way he may be speaking to you. Then, dare to follow through on what he says.

Listen to him. Remember Jesus’s transfiguration when God speaks from the cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).

Believe him. Accept his invitation for a free and light life (Matthew 11:28-30) and go to him.

 

Don’t Miss Christmas

Don’t Miss Christmas

By Michael Bowman

 

After All

 

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the
brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known
the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him
perfectly in heaven; wherewith you and the Holy Spirit he
lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
 
 
Here we are at the culmination of the chaotic and craziness that is our consumeristic holiday season as we know it. We have come to the day that we have been anticipating and singing about. The day that we have been frantically buying gifts and wrapping them so that they can be torn into this morning and possibly even forgotten about this afternoon. It is Christmas.
 
In the midst of the cultural craziness, we chose throughout Advent to slow down and to pay attention to all that was happening around us and within us. We stopped “doing” and we began “waiting.” We were, of course, eagerly anticipating Christ’s coming, remembering he has already come and that he is coming again. And after all our waiting, Christ has come.
 

So, pause. Do not miss it.

 

 

The Birth, According to…

 

In our Bibles, we are fortunate to have four different Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. That is, four different narratives telling us about Jesus and the life he lived– all that he did and said. It is interesting, however, that only two of them actually give us an account of Jesus’ birth: Matthew and Luke. And even in these two gospel accounts, the birth narrative focuses more on those who actually took notice of the birth rather than the birth itself. 
 
This is significant. The authors want us to take notice of who it was that actually recognized that the Christ had come. Because it may not be exactly who we might have guessed. So who was it? Who were the ones who actually took notice that the Savior of the World had been born?
 
According to Luke, the only people who noticed were some shepherds sitting out in a field watching sheep do sheep things when an angel of the Lord showed up out of nowhere and began talking to them. Even if it was good news, this had to at least startle the shepherds. But then, as the angel told them about this baby that has been born, an entire angelic army appeared suddenly, shouting out, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14 NRSV)
So the shepherds looked at one another (probably picking their jaws up off the ground) and said together, “We got to go to Bethlehem and see what this is all about.” (My translation of Luke 2:15-16.)
 
In Matthew’s account, we jump from an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph to some “wise men from the East” showing up in Jerusalem asking King Herod where this newborn “king of the Jews” is so that they may “pay him homage.” It needs to be noted that the word used in the Greek here for “homage” is translated throughout the New Testament as meaning to kneel or prostrate oneself in reverence or respect.
 

But who were these “wise men?”

 

 

We Three… Dudes?

 

 

These “wise men” or “magi” as most scholars agree are better referred to as astrologers. They were not kings, and there is no evidence that there were only three of them (don’t believe the Christmas carol.)

These men studied the stars, and in their studies, they had been led to believe that a great new leader had been born in Judea. Being “from the East,” these men were likely Gentiles. Fast forward in the story and we find these “wise men,” following a star (how’s that for a GPS?), arrived to see the newborn king, though he was no longer a newborn but a toddler close to the age of two. And as soon as they step into his presence, the men knelt down and worshipped Jesus, offering him gifts fit for a king. 
 
Now, why is it important we understand that in our two Gospel accounts that include a birth narrative, the only people who took notice of Jesus’ birth were some shepherds who were working a late shift and some Gentile star-gazers? 
 
Because seemingly everyone else missed it. 
 
Where were the priests? Where were the good, highly religious and ritually-pure folks? Where were those who never missed a prayer service? Where were those with “perfect attendance” in Sunday school? Honestly, where were the God-fearers? Where were those who knew their Scriptures, who memorized and followed their Torah? Do you mean to tell me that the ‘religious elite’ missed the birth of Jesus?
 

It can’t be more clear: they all missed it.

 

 

The Free Gift of Christmas

 

 

So, here is my plea for you (and me) this Christmas: let’s not miss it.
 
We know how chaotic this time of the year can be. We know how easy it can be to get swept up in the consumeristic cultural Christmas of our day. It is easy to even believe that Christmas is about gifts, receiving or giving, time with family or friends, or Santa Claus. It is easy to use the nostalgia that Christmas offers to escape the harsh and difficult realities in our daily lives. And all of this muddies the waters of what Christmas truly offers us. 
 
Christmas is a season of possibilities
 
In the middle of our distortions, God comes to us. At Christmas, we retell and remember the story of God coming unexpectedly as a baby born to a poor and lowly family…to a virgin and unwed mother…born homeless and born to die…so that the world might be made whole again. He came quietly, almost unnoticeably as we have seen, showing up in the middle of the everyday jumble and mess of life. His birth was easy to miss, even then.
 
May we not be those who miss it. The Creator of the universe, as Eugene Peterson translates the disciple John’s words, “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” And with him came new possibilities for the dark world the moment he was born.
 
Christmas reveals that God comes for all people – those who are eagerly looking for him and even those who are not – offering new possibilities…offering new life. Light is now shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not and will not overcome it.
 
Jesus is here. Come now and adore Him.

 

 

Michael Bowman is the Student Minister at Christ Church UMC.  He is the grateful husband of Sara and dad to Grady. Michael earned his B.A. in Religious Studies from UT-Chattanooga, where he met Sara. He also holds a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Church Planting from Asbury Theological Seminary. Michael enjoys spending time with Sara, running, good coffee, reading, playing basketball, and playing with their two dogs, Gus and Lily. As a good Memphis native, Michael is an avid Memphis Grizzlies fan.

Follow him on Twitter: @bichaelmowman