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Easter 2018 Allsorts No. 9

Local Easter Art Exhibition--- It’s a time for something special

Most local communities have a resident artist, an Art Club or the school have students in an art class. As a way of attracting community interest over the Easter period your church could host an Easter Art Exhibition featuring the general work of local artists. Most are glad of the opportunity to display their wares and it is a way of inviting people into the environment of the church or church hall. Make contact as early as possible so there is time for preparation and planning.

At the end of the Exhibited art work arrange to display a framed picture or an object representing an aspect of the Easter story. (eg The upper Room, Jesus trial, Cross or Resurrection) Arrange to place free, take-away leaflets under the Easter picture. Advertise the public exhibition and he sure to consider security of loaned art work.

A simple but effective way of pointing to the real Easter story.

Public Scripture Reading

This could be a joint project undertaken by two local churches working together.

Explore the possibility of a public reading of the entire Easter narrative. Read from an easily understood version of the Bible. Negotiate the place and time with local authorities (eg Local Council, Park, Shopping Centre management, police etc) Choose a good noise free place exposed to public. Arrange a reading roster and invite your church members to visit the site on the day to provide a core crowd of listeners. (See February issue, ‘Eternity’ paper about artist)

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross. for children 3-6 years.

This hardback Bible story book takes children on a journey from the Garden of Eden to God’s perfect new creation. It is a gospel presentation that focuses on the significance of the temple curtain. God said, “because of your sin you can’t come in”, but the moment the curtain tore in two, everything changed…$14.99

Colouring Book…$5.99 Paperback

32 pages of colouring, puzzles and activities for children. Use alongside the book above to discover the story of the whole Bible.

Easter UNCUT. What really happened and why it really matters!!!!

Chances are that when you think about Easter, it is a bit of a strange mixture of cute bunnies, eggs and the brutal show trial execution. We tend to focus on the fluffy and cut out the gripping, but his little 70-page booklet doesn’t. It tells the story of the most enthralling weeks in history. A short chapter every day of Easter Week leads the reader through John’s strange, most disturbing account. Ideal as a daily devotional. Author Carl Laferton. $5.99

These items above available from the Good Book Co, thegoodbook.com.au/heart or Reformers Bookshop, 02 9564 3555. 140 Albany Rd Stanmore N.S.W. 2048

Searching the Scriptures

Centuries before Christ was born, the details of his life were written in ancient prophecy. The Jews knew that a promised Messiah was coming. Throughout their Old Testament Scriptures there are over 300 prophecies concerning the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Twenty-nine prophecies alone were made about Jesus death, burial and resurrection. Statisticians tell us there would be 350 million to one chance that all would be fulfilled, but they were.

Here are just some. See if you can match them up.

Old Testament Prophecies                       New Testament Fulfilment

------------------------------  Entry to Jerusalem ----------------------------                                   

------------------------------ Betrayal by a follower---------------------------

------------------------------ Rejected by his people --------------------------

------------------------------ Silent before accusers---------------------------

------------------------------ Scourged and spat on---------------------------

------------------------------ Gall and Vinegar---------------------------------

------------------------------ Death by crucifixion------------------------------

 ----------------------------- Words, “My God, my God” -------------------------

  ----------------------------  Cast lots for garments-----------------------------

-----------------------------  No bone broken---------------------------------

------------------------------ From death/resurrection--------------------------

------------------------------ Bore the sin of many------------------------------

Old Testament: Psalm 22:1, Isaiah 53:12, Zechariah 9:9, Isaiah 50:6 Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 53;7, Psalm 41:9, Isaiah 53:1-3, Psalm 34:19-20, Psalm 69:21, Psalm 22:16-17, Psalm 22:18.

New Testament: Luke 23:33, John 19:23-24, Mark 15:4-5, John 12:37-38, Matthew 26:67, Acts 2:23-24, Acts 10:43, Mark 15:34, Matthew 27:34-48, John19:31-33, Matthew 26:14-16, John 12:13-14.

Easter Reflections on the Cross.

Introductory note: This article does not gather up everything that can be said about the significance and mystery of Jesus death, but it contains the central message of the cross. It reflects on insights passed on by Rev Geoffrey Bingham, principle of Adelaide Bible Institute during the late 1960s who shared an appreciation of the writings of the Puritans. An understanding of the Cross of Christ is central to Christian teaching, preaching and experience; thus, this article represents an important anthropology and view of the atonement undergirding my years of public ministry.

On one occasion Jesus explained the human condition this way, “The eye is the lamp of the body, so if your eye is healthy your whole body will be full of light.” We know that the human eye receives light and it informs the mind so that we visually see the world as it really is. The eye is the lamp that informs the mind and guides the body so that a person can enjoy life. Jesus continued, ---“but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.” (Matt. 6.22, Luke, 11.34) Perhaps another way of illustrating the same point may go something like this, “If your mind informs you that you can speed down a one-way street but it fails to inform you that you must travel in the right direction, how dangerous is that information.”  It is like being deceived, speeding down a highway thinking you are on the right side of the road when you are really on the wrong side.

Other parts of the New Testament suggest that the way Jesus described the eye as informing the mind can also be a way of describing the light of the human conscience. If the light of our conscience is distorted by subconscious guilt, shame, or fear, then our mind and way of thinking, including our judgements will distort the truth and reality. We will live with double vision and in the darkness of certain biases and prejudices. Think about the human dysfunction, pain and tragedy of living a life time in a way that appears to be rightly informed in the light, when all the time it is actually darkness, an illusion and wrong. Jesus provides a devastating assessment of the human predicament.

The Human Predicament

St Augustine lived recklessly during his youth but after his conversion to Christianity he said this, “Thou hast made us for thyself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” The Bible claims that we were created in the image of God as moral/spiritual beings with a sense of destiny, so in some way we live with awareness that there is more to life than we experience now. The writer of Ecclesiastes says God has planted ‘eternity in our hearts’ and minds, a notion of infinity. There is a divinely implanted sense of purpose and destiny working through the ages which only God can satisfy. (Eccles, 3:11, 8:16, Amplified version. Rom, 3:11) We have a sense of what is just and right but we can never quite get it together. Most imprisoned criminals claim themselves to be innocent. Their conscience and values may be seriously impaired and distorted but ontologically they continue to retain their moral identity and capacity.

Biblically speaking it is not just what a person does or doesn’t do that defiles them. Jesus made it clear that it is what comes out of the heart, (the inner life) that is the real problem. In other words, the human condition is totally affected. By nature, we are self-focused and we are not the people we were created to be or that we ought to be. This effects our thinking, shapes our personalities, our priorities, how we see ourselves, other people and the world. This isIsThis a blow to the human ego and hard to come to terms with so we prefer to choose to live in denial, while subconsciously, in a sad way we are slaves to ourselves. We crave love, acceptance and fill our lives with all sorts of aspirations, passions and excesses in an attempt to live with ourselves and to find true happiness. In a creational sense all people are structured and intended to live life by enjoying God and real worship, but this innate orientation is distorted, and we resort to a false idolatry substitute, to being driven by money or extremes found in religious systems, eating, drugs, sport etc. This becomes an attempt to satisfy a vacuum, a sense of purpose and what is ultimately the subconscious restlessness of the human conscience.

Isaiah paints a graphic and devastating picture of human lostness, “The wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still---its waters toss up mire and mud. There is no peace says my God for the wicked”.  (Isaiah,57: 20)

God’s answer--The Cross as Atonement

Roman law required a sound charge against a person before it was used to judge a person. The religious authorities had found it difficult to find false witnesses to testify against Jesus. “What accusation do you bring against this man?” Pilate asked. The best they could do was to respond, “If this man were not a criminal we would not have handed him over to you.” At that moment in the flow of history, human darkness, evil, betrayal, false witness, and religious corruption reached its climax. As Jesus stood before Pilate the powers of evil and darkness confronted the person who embodied truth. Under extreme pressure Jesus responded by saying that his kingdom was not of this world. He said, “For this I was born—and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” But in that moment, no one was really listening to his voice. Instead of Pilate judging Jesus, with his pronouncement, the very poise and presence of Jesus passed judgement on the Roman bureaucracy, the religious hierarchy, the howling crowd and the dark shadows of a lost humanity through the ages.

In that moment the words of the Old Testament prophet were fulfilled, “By perversion of justice he was taken away. All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned to our own way.” (Isaiah, 53:6)

The writer of Hebrews points out that all the symbolic ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament could not eradicate human moral violation and guilt. When we stand before the Holy God who transcends us, the answer needs to come from outside of our own damaged resources. Some would argue that these concepts of our personal limitations have changed, and that today secular psychiatrists and therapists can help with mental health dysfunction and our concerns. However, the profound sin-condition is far more serious than that. Rather than just a psychological symptom to be treated, it is in essence, a deeper spiritual condition that is at odds with the universal created moral order. It is against the transcendent, Holy-Creator who gives all life and order. This means we cannot deal with it ourselves. In fact, it is too big to explain or reason away, neither can we excuse it, deny it, minimise it, forget it or make up for it. The human problem-condition is too big for that. The hymn writer understood this acute predicament of the human condition when he wrote his words of surrender, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling”

Because we are hard-wired as moral beings our conscience demands justice, --- it insists that justice must be done, someone must pay and bear the consequences of our condition. In fact, the writer of Hebrews says, this is so serious that our lives are compromised, we are robbed, short-changed, by a life-long bondage to a fear of death. This inbuilt awareness of our moral accountability is more conscious in some people than in others, but it is part of the created order. Someone has said it is not so much a fear of dying and death as what comes after death (a sense of accountability) that is our problem. Today we would probably understand this in terms of a subconscious stress syndrome, a suppressed condition, that as already explained tends to manifest itself in a wide variety of ways.

The Self-giving of God

Isaiah the prophet anticipates the great redemptive love of God reaching out to us in our human predicament when he announces that the Lord has laid on Him (the Servant) who is to come, the iniquity of us all. Paul in 2 Corinthians, 5:21 says, “For our sake he (Jesus Christ) was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God” It is in the solitary death of Jesus Christ that the conscience recognises that our failure before God, the actual fact of our guilt has been taken seriously. It has been taken and dealt with forever. It is only here that the human conscience is set free and finds peace and rest.

God in his great redemptive love has reached out so that the writer of Hebrews says,

“It is Christ who offered himself without blemish to God, who purifies our conscience, who once and for all takes into himself our sin and its darkness. In a profound mystery God in Christ takes the full rap. The power of sin, (our guilt) the brokenness and darkness that spoils and distorts our lives and personalities is turned back upon God Himself in the person of Jesus, until it is exhausted, fully dealt with and totally destroyed. In doing that, “He purifies our conscience from dead works to worship the living God” (Hebrews 9:14, 1Timothy, 4:2) Our hearts and minds are set free from the need to constantly justify, excuse or prove ourselves (dead works). When Jesus cried from the cross “It is Finished” it was more than the cry of an exhausted man. In that cry we know that God in Christ had finished what he had come to do. He had finished and dealt with the power of sin, with guilt that exploits the conscience and in turn our constant attempts to suppress guilt, shame, fear, to overcome inferiority and anxiousness.

With Paul then we are able to stand and with all boldness affirm. “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.(Romans,8:1) With new meaning our lives are set free and we are able to sing repeatably, with John Newton, “Amazing grace, Amazing grace.”

Rev Ted (E.A.) Curnow    4th March 2018