Resurrection Day!

John 20:1-18 (New Testament for Everyone)

On the first day of the week, very early, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark.

She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. So she ran off, and went to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved.

‘They’ve taken the master out of the tomb!’ she said. ‘We don’t know where they’ve put him!’

So Peter and the other disciple set off and went to the tomb. Both of them ran together. The other disciple ran faster than Peter, and got to the tomb first. He stooped down and saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter came up, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the napkin that had been around his head, not lying with the other cloths, but folded up in a place by itself.

Then the other disciple, who had arrived first at the tomb, went into the tomb as well. He saw, and he believed. They did not yet know, you see, that the Bible had said he must rise again from the dead.

Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood outside the tomb, crying. As she wept, she stooped down to look into the tomb. There she saw two angels, clothed in white, one at the head and one at the feet of where Jesus’ body had been lying.

‘Woman,’ they said to her, ‘why are you crying?’

‘They’ve taken away my master,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they’ve put him!’

As she said this she turned round, and saw Jesus standing there. She didn’t know it was Jesus.

‘Woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘why are you crying? Who are you looking for?’

She guessed he must be the gardener.

‘Sir,’ she said, ‘if you’ve carried him off somewhere, tell me where you’ve put him, and I will take him away.’

‘Mary!’ said Jesus.

She turned and spoke in Aramaic.

‘Rabbouni!’ she said (which means ‘Teacher’).

‘Don’t cling to me,’ said Jesus. ‘I haven’t yet gone up to the father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I’m going up to my father and your father – to my God and your God.” ’

Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples, ‘I’ve seen the master!’ and that he had said these things to her.

Love, Peace, Compassion

 Isaiah 54:9-10 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

God keeps his promises.  The rainbow is still seen in the sky as a guarantee of God’s promise to not destroy life on earth by flooding the entire world.  In the days of Isaiah, that same promise was being realized.  Even though God corrected Israel and Judah, he did not wipe them off the face of the planet. 

We have times that we feel God would be justified in destroying us.  We have wronged ourselves and others, and we are confident that we have overthrown any good God has for us.  God will chastise us, for he loves us.  God the Holy Spirit makes sure we know that we have gone against the will of God.  Since we are still here on earth, we realize that we have not done the unpardonable sin.  It is by correcting us that we find God still loves us!

This world may change.  In fact, how we have lived on this planet has changed.  We do not have the same practices of living that we did hundreds of years ago.  The only constant amidst the changes of life is God.  God has steadfast love for us, no matter the style of the day.  God keeps his covenant of peace with us, even when the others of this world (political party, nations, rivals, etc.), have turned against us.  God has compassion for us through the times we feel abandoned, depressed and ready to give up.

Lord God, we sometimes feel that our situations are too much for even you!  Forgive us for confusing your ability with our ability.  Being reassured of your love, peace and compassion gets us through the changes we see in the world around us.  Because we trust you through Jesus Christ, we can live through even these days.  May our family and friends find that they too can trust you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Recognizing the Resurrection

By Chuck Griffin

Once again, I so need Easter. I remember saying something along those lines last year and rejoicing in Easter’s arrival, and I’m doubling down this year.

It’s easy to let the world distract us from our core beliefs. Fear often is the driver behind the distractions. Fear for our health, fear for our financial futures, fear that our lives, or even our churches, won’t be exactly the way we’ve spent years imagining them. So we spend our time working, saving and planning, hoping to manipulate circumstances as best we can. What little time we have to spare we devote to “recreation,” except we seldom spend that time actually re-creating our frantic selves.

The resurrection is the cure. The resurrected Jesus was able to say “fear not” repeatedly for a reason.

Blessedly, April arrives tomorrow, and Easter Sunday is April 17, starting a season of celebration built around the resurrection. Here’s a basic challenge for us all: Let’s once again recognize the resurrection as a very real and powerful event, one that changes everything else.

Try this each morning until we reach April 17. When you first arise, say out loud, “Easter is coming, and I have hope.”

Not all in church have fully absorbed the reality of the resurrection. In a prior appointment, I once had a woman enter my office to tell me she and her husband were resigning their memberships. Naturally, I asked why.

“It’s because of the way you preach about the resurrection,” she said. I pressed further, and she went on to say that they saw the resurrection as a sort of fable (my word, not hers), one designed to help people understand they have hope. “You talk about it as if it really happened!”

All I could say was, “Well, yeah! Christ’s resurrection is the foundation for what we believe. If Jesus Christ didn’t defeat death and come out of the tomb remade, our faith is meaningless.” Paul said as much in 1 Corinthians 15:14.

They didn’t stay in that local church, but a sound definition of the resurrection remained, and people who joined after the couple’s departure said they appreciated clear words about this key event impacting our lives.

This year, let’s recommit ourselves to a solid understanding of the transformative power of a very real resurrection. Now, I’m not saying we should rush early into Easter. First, we need to experience the remainder of Lent, Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, so we appreciate the sacrifice that makes Christ’s resurrection, and our own, possible.

Let’s be sure, however, that we all play a part in making Easter 2022 very real and very glorious, celebrating like a people full of hope and eternal life.

Lord, lead us through the dark and somber days remaining in Lent, and show us the great light of Easter.

An Honest Searching

Psalm 39
For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David.
I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
    and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
    when the ungodly are around me.”
But as I stood there in silence—
    not even speaking of good things—
    the turmoil within me grew worse.
The more I thought about it,
    the hotter I got,
    igniting a fire of words:
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.”        Interlude

We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you.
Rescue me from my rebellion.
    Do not let fools mock me.
I am silent before you; I won’t say a word,
    for my punishment is from you.
But please stop striking me!
    I am exhausted by the blows from your hand.
When you discipline us for our sins,
    you consume like a moth what is precious to us.
    Each of us is but a breath.        Interlude

Hear my prayer, O Lord!
    Listen to my cries for help!
    Don’t ignore my tears.
For I am your guest—
    a traveler passing through,
    as my ancestors were before me.
Leave me alone so I can smile again
    before I am gone and exist no more.

By Chuck Griffin

This season of Lent is, again, a time for spiritual searching. Today’s psalm is a powerful example of how that search can whip one to and fro, triggering a range of emotions including stoicism, anger, despair and humility.

If you just skimmed over the psalm, please, slow down, or wait until you have time to slow down, and read it carefully. When you reach the words translated as “Interlude,” take time to breathe and to ponder what has been said thus far.

We also could say that the psalmist moves from an effort at self-control to something more valuable—willing surrender to God, to God’s majesty and undeniable power.

And remember, God does not ignore our tears. In fact, he refuses to ignore us, even if we plead with him to do so. Christ came not to ignore us, but to rescue us. There is no reason to fear that we will be gone, that we will exist no more.

Lord, this is a somber time in the Christian year, but we also feel ourselves being pulled toward hope. In our humility and despair, help us to anticipate the freedom to come. Amen.

From Lament to Joy

Book of Lamentations

By Chuck Griffin

No doubt, we’ve been experiencing tough times. It’s not much consolation, but we do need to remember that times have been tougher.

In the Book of Lamentations, the Promised Land is depicted as smoking ruins, and we are told that starving mothers ate their children. Never forget that the Bible can be a grisly book.

As Lamentations notes, at least the destruction of sinful Sodom and Gomorrah was quick. Jerusalem’s punishment for disobeying God was slow and agonizing, creating scenes that even the seedier side of Hollywood might hesitate to depict.

Jewish tradition holds that this series of poems was written by the prophet Jeremiah, who warned the people of Judah that God’s punishment was coming and then watched invasion, destruction and exile unfold through his long life.

I cannot fully capture for you the somber beauty of these poems in a short article. If the imagery were not crafted with elegant conciseness, most readers would quickly turn away from the dark subject matter.

In these poems, the author twists in pain as he struggles to reconcile God’s obvious anger with God’s faithful love.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” says the writer in chapter 3. He later says of God, “Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.”

Yes, when God removes his protective hand from a disobedient people, terrible things happen. Existence without God is hellish. In fact, the best way to define hell is as a place separated from God.

But in the midst of all this horror, the author senses one important fact about God. His love for humanity, even for each individual human, remains, and somehow, somewhere, there must be an ultimate solution to the pain sin causes.

Once again, we find the Old Testament pointing toward the New Testament, that record of the ultimate solution found in Jesus Christ. We are reminded in the midst of suffering that God finally chose to suffer with us, in the process using the cross to solve the dilemma of human disobedience. Through simple belief, our sin is erased, and we receive the promise that the horrible effects of sin will be wiped from the world one day.

At the close of Lamentations, the author prays that his people be restored to God, “unless you have utterly rejected us, and are angry with us beyond measure.”

In Christ, we find that God loves us beyond measure. With Christ in our lives, we can walk through tough times with confidence and even joy, knowing God is eternally faithful.

Lord, whatever our circumstances, restore our joy. Amen.

God in Art: Last Words

Sunday’s sermon at Holston View United Methodist Church will be “Last Words,” based on 2 Samuel 23:1-7. We also will be acknowledging Thanksgiving, and yes, the two concepts will tie together.

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, is remembered in part for his last words, “The best of all is, God is with us.” He actually said the phrase twice before dying. The second time, we are told, he raised his hand and waved it in triumph. Below is a book engraving of his passing, artist unknown. (If you can help me find a proper attribution, please pass it along.)

Lord, may we always sense that you are with us. Amen.

A Vessel of Grace

This Sunday’s sermon will be a reflection on deep brokenness and the power of God’s grace, based on both 2 Samuel 11:1-15 and John 6:1-14. If you want to watch the sermon but cannot attend Holston View United Methodist Church, it will be available online.

Today’s text: Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV)


By Chuck Griffin

Today’s Bible passage is one of those accounts of Jesus feeding the multitudes. These feedings communicate a very important message about God: His grace is abundant beyond human comprehension.

Sometimes that grace is so abundant that it pours through others in surprising ways. Let me tell you about an old friend of mine named Bob Loy, a fellow I really look forward to seeing again one day.

Bob had every reason to feel crushed by the world. He had lived for decades with about 30 percent lung capacity after an accident that nearly killed him. By the time I knew him, he was elderly. His wife became very ill; while staying with her at the hospital, Bob slipped and fell, breaking his leg near the hip.

While Bob was laid up, his wife died. He couldn’t go to the funeral. His sister also died about the same time. Again, he couldn’t go to the funeral. This was a man who had every reason to surrender to despair.

But not Bob. Through a haze of pain, he kept studying the people in what had become a very tiny world for him, a hospital room. He was certain every day somebody near him needed God’s grace, and he was going to be God’s vessel for that grace. I know for a fact that he brought at least one nurse to a belief in Jesus Christ while flat on his back in that hospital bed.

He also showed me a lot of grace. I was a new pastor, and he constantly was encouraging me, even as pneumonia took over those weak lungs and he had to keep pulling at his oxygen mask to speak.

There was a secret that explained his attitude, a secret he had shared with me not long after we became friends. When he was injured in that accident decades earlier, he saw a vision of an entryway to heaven.

His had been the classic case of dying on the table and being brought back. He said his experience was indescribably beautiful, a vision of a stream, a vast plain, and the most glorious mountain he had ever seen. He knew that God was there, and if he crossed the stream, he could not go back. He also knew he had a choice. A young man at the time, he chose to return to his family, he told me.

But he did not forget the vision. He had seen what eternal victory in Christ looks like, if only briefly, and from then on that vision shaped his life, even as he had intermittent struggles.

Again, I knew Bob only late in his life; when it came time to preside at his funeral, I heard story after story of the lives he changed through the decades as he shared his joyous version of Christ’s redeeming power.

I don’t think we are required to have a near-death experience to understand what Bob understood. We have embraced the truth of a Savior who shows us repeatedly that when it comes to the things that matter—love, hope, joy—there is eternal abundance. We simply need to learn to dwell in that abundance, and offer it to everyone around us.

Lord, fill us with your love so we may pour it out on a hurting world. We declare today that we have no fear of running out of the grace you offer us. Amen.

At the Funeral

Psalm 130
A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

By John Grimm

When attending a United Methodist Church member’s funeral, we most likely have heard this psalm read during the “Entrance” of the Service of Death and Resurrection.  This service is found in the United Methodist Hymnal, 870, and the Book of Worship.  After acknowledging our grief, this psalm is read.  It is both a confession of sin and an expression of hope.

As we are all created equal by God, hearing this psalm read at numerous funerals is appropriate.  To humbly ask the Lord for something can be hard.  It is at funerals of our loved ones and friends that we seem to be begging for hope for our life without the departed.  As this psalm moves toward hope, it sets the tone for the rest of the service as Old and New Testament Lessons, Psalm 23, and a Gospel reading are read during a funeral.  It is these lessons that draw out what hope in Jesus Christ looks like.

We know our sins.  Our iniquities are ever before us.  Our transgressions weigh us down.  By going to God in prayer, we confess our wrongs.  This psalm reminds us of the Lord who redeems and forgives.  That is where hope comes, knowing that the Lord redeems and forgives us, and our departed loved ones.

Almighty God, thank you that when we cry out to you, you hear our confessions.  It is by your steadfast love that we have hope.  We thank you for forgiving and redeeming us.  Our hope in you is what carries us through times of grief.  Thank you that Jesus is our hope.  It is in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Confident Hope

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

—Romans 12:12 (NLT)


By Chuck Griffin

If we are able to understand what our confident hope is, this becomes a simple verse to live by.

Paul wrote these words in a chapter of Romans where he also talked about making our bodies a living and holy sacrifice. Paul regularly spoke of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the central message of Christianity, and it is clear he wants us completely “sold out” on the idea, committed to its meaning in good times and bad.

The cross, of course, means freedom for us. Think of your sins for a moment; briefly experience them as the crushing weight they should be. (I feel a slight shudder when I do this.) Now remember, that weight has been lifted by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross! Sin should lead to death, but both have been defeated by Christ.

Thus, the resurrection, the Easter event. It is our proof the cross is effective, and a promise of what is in store for us.

The cross also is the source of our confidence. We certainly will experience negative and even frightening moments in this life, but the fear they are somehow terminal, a full-stop end, is unjustified. We will pass through—life goes on, even after our bodily deaths.

This great truth of Christianity should shape every moment of our lives. Even in sorrow, joy lingers nearby because the truth of our salvation is constant.

Romans 12:12 is a simple Bible verse worth memorizing.

Lord, keep the cross before us in all circumstances. Amen.

He Is Risen!

By Chuck Griffin

Depending on which gospel you read, the resurrection story is told in slightly different ways. The core facts are the same, however: Jesus was definitely dead, crucified on a cross.

Then he was and is clearly alive, fully recognizable and yet transformed in a way that should still astound us.

We often rely on the gospel of John during Holy Week and Easter, if for no other reason than the precise detail provided there regarding both the crucifixion and the resurrection. Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been healed by Jesus and became his follower, finds the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

She goes for help, returning with Peter and a disciple described as “the one whom Jesus loved.” The men see the carefully discarded burial linens and leave the tomb. Mary stays and sees the risen Jesus, mistaking him at first for a gardener before speaking with him. When she runs back to the disciples, she announces, “I have seen the Lord.”

Just as angels indicated at Jesus’ birth that the world was changing because God had come to live among humanity, Mary was saying that nothing will ever be the same now that Jesus has defeated death.

The Greek verb we translate as “announce” was used very specifically in Jesus’ day, indicating that previously unknown news was being delivered. Mary Magdalene was the first to deliver the Good News about Jesus Christ and his world-transforming resurrection.

And indeed, nothing is the same. Before Jesus, death was a frightening uncertainty, at best a descent into a shadowy existence. After Jesus, death is meaningless for those who follow Christ.

We don’t seek death—we certainly don’t relish what might accompany the dying process—but faithful Christians intuitively know they have nothing to fear. How can we fear what Christ has crushed? How can we be anxious about facing Father God when we know the resurrected Son will stand by us and say, “I have made this one holy!”

And more than just the afterlife is changed. This life now is changed.

In making us holy through the cleansing action of the cross, God can dwell in us. He gives us his Spirit to sustain us until all creation is set right in the general resurrection, the complete remaking of heaven and earth. (If you don’t know that part of the story, take hope—it is where history is headed.)

The joy of eternity with God begins now, not in our passing. Easter is a reminder that the resurrection happened in this world, impacting living people, including us today.

The resurrection is a story worth hearing again and again. Nothing can match it; certainly nothing can embellish the story that makes eternity possible. I pray you have the opportunity to celebrate this great story in some way today.

Lord, thank you for salvation and eternal life! May the hope of Easter fill our hearts each day. Amen.