Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: Gathering Storms

The thing about Good Friday:  A mere five days earlier Jesus and his disciples were the local "rock stars", with crowds rushing to see them and be part of the "scene".
The night before Good Friday Jesus and his disciples had a cozy relaxing traditional Passover meal...a loooonggg meal that included eight glasses of wine over the hours.
No wonder the disciples kept falling asleep in the garden instead of watching with as Jesus prayed.

The disciples just didn't see that a shocking storm of events was on their horizon.

From a long meal to a time in a garden to fleeing in terror, seeing the Cherished One beaten and bloody, manhandled by their own religious authorities.
The adrenaline flow, the shock, the did each of them manage during the next few days?
The crowds who shouted "Hosanna"...most of whom likewise were slumbering off the Passover meal, how did they manage the swift betrayal of by their leadership, on a Friday, when as Jews they were to be preparing for a Sabbath rest?

I treasure that Christ in the garden prayed that that the cup would pass from him...a Jewish cultural reference meaning that he had asked the Father of His Beloved for the right to marry His Daughter.
The Father had agreed...a cup was poured and the Father drank from it, signaling His agreement.
The potential Bridegroom likewise drank.
Then He passed the cup to the potential Bride.
The final step in sealing the matter was left up to her.
When the suitor passed the cup it was his greatest desire that she would take the cup and drank from it she would signal that she would agree to be his bride.

If she didn't let the cup be passed to her, if she didn't partake, then no marriage would occur.

No wonder Christ prayed until blood fell from His brow that the cup would pass from Him.
He was about to die so he could present  His Beloved the cup of His own blood.
Would she take the cup?
Or would she not let the cup be passed to her, ignoring it, and thereby nullifying His great sacrifice.

I do not believe for a minute that Jesus was asking God to let Him skip what was about to happen.
The nails, the sacrifice was from the beginning of the world.
He knew...He knew...and as the Best Lover, He was not concerned about what He was about to undergo for love, but was most concerned that His Beloved would unfathomably reject Him

The situation was not a sudden freak storm of events.  Had there been something like a Scriptural Weather Service back then, I suppose there would have been Sever Weather Warnings beeping from somewhere.

"Take cover...go to the lowest part of your house and pray until the all clear signal sounds." might have been the message.

Jesus did die...violent earthquakes shattered the land and tore the Temple curtain from the top down. 
(As a weaver who understands the weave of the temple curtain, this particular kind of fabric being torn at all is a miracle.)
Of course it was from the top down though...God's hand reaching down to make it so.

Jesus took a Sabbath rest I imagine, then got right to work descending into Hell and then ascending back up to Heaven.

Did the Bride take the cup that He hoped would pass from Him?
That question is one that still is awaiting an answer, an answer that comes one by one.
Each person that takes the Cup agrees to be His Bride.

The Wedding is still in the future the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
In the meantime, the ones who have taken the Cup and are betrothed are reminded to keep watch, to pray for all to agree to the Cup, to pray for the safety and well being of All Who Love Him.

They are exhorted to gird themselves for battle, to be wise, to observe and be prepared for the storms that come in this world.

On Wednesday I read .THIS
Wednesday evening our Bible Study of the Book of Ephesian finished, and St. Paul restated his initial plea in the book, that Christian would pray for the Brethren.
The two writing joined in my mind.
It was time to get serious about praying for the persecuted Brides.

Since Christ's resurrection, Christians have been persecuted for their faith.
For me, the persecution has been more like a slight than any thing that could cause real pain.
Yet I look and see storm clouds gathering, and hear in my spirit a Spiritual Weather Warning system alerting me to dangerous weather forming.
How, when, it would come...I don't know.
Yesterday I watched storm clouds rolling in across our valley.  I grabbed my camera to photograph the weather changing around me, and then drove up higher into Neff's Canyon so I could see across the whole valley, and down to the city too.
It was powerful.
Then it chilled, and the winds began to blow hard around me.

I scrambled about with my tripod and camera trying to taking in all the views.

A drop or two fell on me, and I knew it was time to race to the safety of my car before the rain could damage my camera or lightening could possibly strike me.
My weather radio station had warned of quarter size hail about to fall.  I wanted to get home before my car might be damaged.

Just before I began to pick my way down the hillside, my eye fell upon this lone Avalanche Lily.
How had I missed seeing it before?

I took just a moment to admire it, and photograph it with its glowing symbolism.

"The Lily of the Valley" is the name of the Bridegroom in the Song of Solomon.

Jesus is the Lily of the Valley. The lily of the valley mentioned in Song of Solomon is probably the white amaryllis. This flower is only three inches from the ground and has a drooping head. Henry Gariepy mentioned that this drooping head is emblematic of the humility of Christ as well as His mission. The lowly flowers of the field are ready to be trodden underfoot of man and crushed. Christ humbled Himself and died an ignominious death in the hands of sinners for your salvation and mine.

Like the rose of Sharon, the lilies of the valley were especially sweet-scented. Their fragrance permeate the air with delightful scent for all to enjoy. The beautiful fragrance of the character of Jesus reflected in us is to be diffused to the world.

The following hymn describes beautifully the humility and mission of Christ:

Valley Lilies

Valley lilies, meek and lowly,

Let me hear your message sweet,

Tell of Christ the pure and holy,

Bending as to touch His feet,

Snowy lilies of the valley,

Speak again your message rare;

Testify to me of Jesus,

Heaven's Lily, wondrous fair!

Valley lilies, golden hearted,

Love's sweet mission you fulfill,

For you tell in perfumed language,

How he wrought his Father's will.

Valley lilies, cups inverted,

Still the Master you proclaim:

Empty of all pomp and glory,

To redeem the world He came.

--Flora Kirkland

A song:
The Lily of the Valley

I have found a friend in Jesus, He's everything to me,

He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;

The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see

All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.

In sorrow He's my comfort, in trouble He's my stay,

He tells me every care on Him to roll;

He's the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,

He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.

He all my griefs has taken, and all my sorrows borne;

In temptation He's my strong and mighty tower;

I have all for Him forsaken, and all my idols torn

From my heart, and now He keeps me by His power.

Though all the world forsake me, and Satan tempt me sore,

Through Jesus I shall safely reach the goal;

He's the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,

He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.

He will never, never leave me, nor yet forsake me here,

While I live by faith and do His blessed will;

A wall of fire about me, I've nothing now to fear,

With His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.

Then sweeping up to glory to see His blessed face,

Where rivers of delight shall ever roll;

He's the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,

He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.

So what happened next?
The winds whistled about me, and I got home safely.  I quickly moved a few potted deck plants under cover and went inside where it seemed unnaturally dark for one in the afternoon.

Just a bit of rain fell, and a few soggy bits of hail.

All was well for me and mine.

On the five o'clock news we saw the destruction that the storm had brought to others in our area.  Century old trees were riped up, and some were broken mid trunk.  What powerful winds they must have been!  A car dealership had windows shattered, a few people had cuts from broken glass, and a few homes were damaged by falling trees, thankfully with no one inside them at the time.

Yes, the storm was destructive.  The warnings were true, and even if I only experienced the slightest effects and only saw the lightening and thunder, nevertheless others were experiencing much more.

Then...this morning....I opened the newspaper and saw THIS article.

It begins:

SLC church distributes free copies of Quran

By Kristen Moulton

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 21 2011 06:24PM

Updated 3 hours ago Updated Apr 22, 2011 09:48AM

Leaders of a Presbyterian congregation in Salt Lake City have an answer to the Florida pastor with a penchant for burning the Quran.

Wasatch Presbyterian Church is giving Islam’s holy book away for free.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to know how to push back against the lunatic fringe,” said Russell Fericks, a member of the session, or governing board, of the 350-member church on the city’s east side.

So when the new pastor, the Rev. Scott Dalgarno, asked the board last week to join him in opening their wallets, the reaction was swift.

The leaders put up $600 before the meeting was over and ordered dozens of copies of an Oxford Press edition of the Quran several days ago. The books will be available as early as Monday at King’s English Bookshop, each with a bookmark bearing these words: “This book was donated by the leaders of Wasatch Presbyterian Church, who are not afraid of truth wherever it can be found.”

The idea, Fericks said, “was simple. It was creative. It was courageous in the sense of saying, ‘We’re not afraid of the truth.’

“You don’t have to let the nincompoops of the world control all the message,” he said.

Perhaps the Spiritual storms are closer to home that I had imagined.
I live at the foot of the Wasatch mountains, and this church is just blocks from my home.

This Easter Sunday, I pray for the believers who will face terror for gathering to rejoice in their Risen Savior.

I pray they would be able to forgive the Wasatch Presbyterian Church for spending funds to distribute anything but the Message of the Gospel.

I never imagined the gathering storms of darkness had blinded a church so near me.


Lovella ♥ said...

Wow Jill. ..all of it..Wow.
The storm photos, the explanation of the cup and the moving words to the Lily Song.
I am just so sad that a church would spend funds on something it clearly does not believe in simply to be friends. We surely love all people but we don't need to go this route to demonstrate it.

Vicki said...

Excellent post, Jill...very well-written. I had goosebumps and vivid images of the events surrounding Jesus' death on the cross as I read your words. I appreciate your explanation of the significance of the cup. I'm in a continual state of being educated every time I visit your blog.

I'm thankful the storm didn't affect SLC any worse than it did; there have been so many horrible storms across the country in the past couple of weeks.

I'm still amazed at that church near you. As a friend of ours so often likes to say: "What were they thinking? Oh, I'm not sure they were thinking."

Not only do we need to pray for those who are acting in a misguided fashion, we surely need to be on our knees for the Persecuted Church. There are so many around the world who risk their lives for simply loving the One Who Gave His Life for us.

ellen b. said...

Love those storm photos so appropriate for the Good Friday scene so many years ago. That church is stretched way beyond resembling the Bride of Christ...Resembles whatever for whoever instead...

Vee said...

Gathering storms...

This is a wonderful post, Jill. I am going back to pick up your links. I had never heard about the cup passing in this context before. I found it fascinating.

Sad to see a church go so far off course.

Glad that you made it home without any damage to your vehicle.

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Love your storm pic' appropriate for Good Friday! The disciples were exhorted to pray then...and we must pray the storm clouds gather.

I can not make any sense of what that church in your neighbourhood is doing!

Sara said...

This is an amazing post, Jill. I was captured by every word. I appreciate the illustration of the cup and have never heard that view of it before.

Ocean Soul said...

Once again your photos are so beautiful! Thanks for sharing that story of your Wasatch Presbyterian Church. We are called to love our neighbors...why couldn't they BE love and do something tangible and representative of Christ for the muslims in their community? They should watch the testimony of Kamal Saleem (