Posted in From Worry To Glory, Resurrection

The Resurrection In Retrospect

Guest post by Dr. Lester Edwin J. Ruiz

“Not powerful enough to prevent crucifixion; but influential enough to take the crucified off the cross”

Resurrection in Retrospect

“When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph brought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid. Mark 15: 42-47, NRSV.”

I have always been drawn to the gospel narratives of the “empty tomb.” As a metaphor for the resurrection, the “empty tomb” proclaims the triumph of life over death; it asserts the promise of the fundamentally new that may also be fundamentally better. It holds forth the promise that our ordinary, perhaps, unhappy lives are not the last word for our journeys on this earth.

The “empty tomb” signifies hope. It is no surprise, then, that for most of its history, Christianity, especially in those times when it has struggled for recognition proclaims Easter as the fundamental ground—the foundation—for all of Christian life and faith. Hope, it is said, is necessary for life.

This fundamental ground, even the necessity of hope for life, is an experience of power. For what can be more powerful than the experience of life overcoming death? It is part of the human experience to be attracted to life, and to fear, if not detest, death—especially premature, untimely death.

It is also not uncommon to understand life as “the good, the true, and the beautiful” as defined by the dominant cultures of privilege in which we often move and have our being. Without this experience of being filled with power, the reality of resurrection remains a promise to be fulfilled.

So, it is very easy, in this fragile life of ours, for the resurrection to be interpreted along two different, if sometimes incommensurable, trajectories.

On the one hand, for those of us who have experienced being powerful—perhaps because of the way our societies have valued particular statuses based on race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability—the resurrection is readily experienced as legitimacy of our experience.

On the other hand, for those of us who have yet to experience being powerful—perhaps because of the way our societies have devalued our particular statuses based on race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability—the resurrection remains a promise.

Both trajectories are experiences of power—and therefore of life: a promise can inspire; legitimacy can move one to action. But, a promise can also be broken; just as legitimacy can be withdrawn. As forms of betrayal, they can result in death.

Indeed, the distance between power-as-legitimacy and power-as-promise is miniscule. Which is why, the metaphor of the resurrection has been used both by the powerful and the powerless in their quest for meaning and significance.

Resurrection, in this sense, can be a temptation that will distract from God’s eternal call to us to throw ourselves into the heart of transformation.

When we insist on placing ourselves at the very mouth of the empty tomb where the resurrection looms so large—instead of preparing ourselves to receive the Resurrected One in our midst—we just might lead ourselves to believe that we are the bearers of resurrection, instead of mere witnesses to it.

We might actually think that we have the power to prevent suffering in our world and to usher in God’s reign, God’s commonwealth.

The narrative around Joseph of Arimathea helps uncover the contours of this temptation.

Mark takes us to Golgotha, the “place of the skull.” But not satisfied with focusing on the crucified Jesus, he reminds us who among the followers of Jesus were lingering in that almost God-forsaken place: “Looking on from a distance,” Mark writes, “were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These women used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.”

Later in the narrative we are told that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus “saw where the body [of Jesus] was laid.” I suspect, that not only did they see what Joseph of Arimathea did, but that they also saw this “from a distance” since, Joseph was not a disciple, but a member of the Council.

But, what did Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council that was instrumental in putting Jesus to death, do that earned him a special place in the gospel narrative of Mark?

We are told that Joseph of Arimathea, a “respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”

And after determining that Jesus was actually dead, Pilate “granted the body to Joseph” who “brought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock” and secured it by “rolling a stone against the door of the tomb.”

There is no sign that Joseph was a “believer” in the resurrection. So his actions may be understood appropriately as arising only out of a respect, not only for the tradition of “the Day of Preparation,” but also for the life of Jesus, a Jewish rabbi—now ended.

There is no sign either that Joseph was a man with the kind of power that could have stopped the Council and Rome from going down the pathway of crucifying Jesus. He certainly had no power to fight the angry, disillusioned crowds that shouted “Crucify him!”

However, Joseph of Arimathea, as Kay Northcutt points out, had some influence, in having the lifeless body of Jesus taken down from the cross, given the briefest of care—but care nonetheless—and laid in an empty, some say unused tomb, before the Sabbath commenced, in order that it could be properly cared for, once the Sabbath was over.

Joseph of Arimathea was not powerful enough to prevent the crucifixion of Jesus; but he had the influence to take Jesus’ body off the cross.

My friends, there is a lesson here for many of us who are not unlike Joseph of Arimathea.

For not many of us have the power to stop a crucifixion; or to prevent suffering—especially unjust suffering. All of us do not have the power to give life, much less give it back to those from whom it was taken by others, if not by us.

But, my friends, some of us, if not all of us, have some influence in taking lifeless bodies off of crosses—especially unjust crosses; or, if God’s grace allows, to keep them from mounting undeserved crosses, or take them down before death arrives.

Today, after seeing a little more suffering and a little less success in overcoming that suffering, I am less certain of the promise of the “empty tomb.”

And while I know in my heart of hearts that hope remains the soul of that empty tomb, I am inspired more by the witness from a distance of the women in the life of Jesus; and, inspired by the testimony of Joseph of Arimathea, who did not find himself at the mouth of the empty tomb, who did not claim the promises of the resurrection, but who, without hesitation, boldly asked the powerful of his day, to respect, care for, protect the memory of human life. And, who, while not having the power to prevent the crucifixion, had the influence to take the crucified from the cross.

Perhaps, this “influence” is God’s gift of power for those of us who, like the women in Jesus’ life, and Joseph of Arimathea, heed the call to be witnesses for God today–and not the bearers of God’s life in the world.

About Dr. Lester Edwin J. Ruiz

filipino theologian

Lester was a faculty member of New York Theological Seminary in New York City beginning in 1997, where he was professor of theology and culture.

He became vice president for academic affairs and academic dean in 2006. As associate professor of political science at International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan, he taught courses in peace and world order studies, international relations, and politics and culture.

A graduate in pastoral care and counseling from Ottawa University (Kansas), he holds the Master of Divinity with an emphasis on religion and society and the PhD in social ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is ordained in the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.

Ruiz is co-editor of four published works, including Re-Framing the International: Law, Culture, Politics, with Richard Falk and R.B.J. Walker. He has contributed many chapters to books and has been widely published in journals and other periodicals.

Active in social media, like Facebook, Lester shares his ideas and reflections on a variety of topics. We have taken the opportunity and permission to share his thoughts. Thank you Lester.

– From Worry To Glory


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Posted in Each New Day, From Worry To Glory, Lessons Learned from Sickness

One Fine Day

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 26: One Fine Day

Castlepoint Lighthouse at Wairarapa NZ
One fine day with God at Castlepoint Lighthouse, Wairarapa NZ. Photo by Jade Mark Jarbadan

How do you define a fine day? Perhaps to many of us, a fine day is a day that is devoid of any problems, burdens or cares.

Everything you encountered provides you joy, blessings, entertainment, and gives you a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. That’s why people who encountered such kind of day blurts with excitement, “You have made my day!”

One of the most common greetings I heard from people who came to visit me was, “How’s your day?”

I’m grateful that they are so concerned about my situation and that they would like to know whether I still find joy, meaning, hope and peace in that particular day.

My ready answer to that is of course, “I have a fine day! Or, “My day is fine!” This is because I do not look at the negative circumstances surrounding me on a particular day in order to make my judgment, but I focus on God’s goodness and grace which enables me to appreciate the new day that God gave me.

The fact that I still woke up to a new day is already a great reason for me to say that my day is fine!

Proverbs 11: 27 says, “He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it.”

In other words, we will be able to define our day as a fine day by looking at all the positive things that God gave us and learn to celebrate that day by affirming God’s goodness and faithfulness.

But if we focus our attention to all the negative, hard, evil aspects of the day then that’s how we will also perceive our day – negative, hard and evil.

Ever since I discovered this verse, I learned to focus on searching the good things that God prepared for me on that particular day.

For what you seek, you will find! Have a fine day everyone!

Posted on FB: 18 March 2015 – 8:41 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.

Posted in From Worry To Glory, Lessons Learned from Sickness, Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 24: Trust and Obey

trust and obey
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

This is the title of one of the most popular and timeless hymns sang by Christians the world over.

How many people were brought to the saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because of this hymn?

How many lives were changed for the better because of the enlightening and inspiring message of the song?

We really can’t tell. But I’m sure many people were able to gain favorable results in their lives by adhering to the challenges the song poses.

During my long hospital confinement, I was greatly helped by the encouragement I received from this hymn. When I faced uncertainties and lingering doubts, I just told myself, “Just trust and obey”.

Instead of spending time in worrying, instead of asking too many questions, instead of formulating my own theories and explanations, I just told myself, “Just trust and obey”.

Just trust that God knows what’s best for us. Just trust that he is sovereign, his power knows no bounds, and he will work miraculously through people that he touched.

That he can work through the doctors, surgeons, nurses, laboratory personnel, etc. That his power can be manifested through medications and treatments administered to our physical body.

But more importantly, I trust that God listened to the sincere prayers of the faithful who continue to humbly ask for his intercession and compassion.

As a result, I discovered that when I fully trust God in all these things, I can obey everything that the doctors prescribed for my own good.

I obeyed the dietary requirements, I obeyed the prescribed rest and exercise schedule. I obeyed the sanitary procedures like wearing masks even though it’s inconvenient at times.

Indeed, to trust and obey are two very powerful virtues that can strengthen our relationship with the Lord, and can also help us in facing our practical problems.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Posted on FB: 16 March 2015 – 2:41 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.

PHOTO CREDIT: Karl Hipolito. Used with permission. Thank you.

Posted in From Worry To Glory, Praise Be

Joining Praise Be Timaru 2015 of TVNZ

Praise Be 2015 Timaru edition 1 I have the opportunity to join in the Praise Be TV show filming on 16 March as bass guitarist.

Praise Be” is a Sunday show of TVNZ that started in 1986 and ranks among New Zealand’s longest running television shows.

Filmed at the Sacred Heart Basilica, the Timaru 2015 episode has, among others, a contemporary praise and worship band accompanying the choir.

The music director, Rosie Staite really wanted some lively praise music played by an electric band. She requested Brent Duncan to form his band.

Brent is one of the praise and worship leaders at Wilson Street Baptist Church. He invited me to play the bass. He played the keyboards. The other band members are Tony Zweis (drums), Lauren Foster (sax) and Katie Vincent (flute).

This was the second time they recorded at Timaru, the first was ten years ago at the same venue. Some of the choir members were part of Praise Be Timaru 2005 edition.

Playing the bass was quite challenging because 4 of the six songs weren’t familiar to me and I can’t read sheet music. I only play by ear.

The four practice sessions and listening to the music through the internet helped me learn the songs.

I believe that my musical talent is God-given and I find happiness in sharing it whenever there’s opportunity.

Such great joy joining the Praise Be Timaru episode and be part of history. To God be the glory!

Praise Be TVNZ
Coming from different churches in Timaru, the choir members numbered around 100.
Posted in Christmas, From Worry To Glory, New Year

How To Celebrate Christmas Daily in New Year 2015 and Beyond

Christmas angels on Stafford St. Timaru herald the start of Christmas celebration for more than 3 decades now.
Christmas angels on Stafford St. Timaru had heralded the city’s Christmas season for more than 3 decades now.

“Merry Christmas”

The most uttered phrase or greeting each Christmas season, spoken for infinite number of times by peoples of the world.

As the zenith of the Christmas season comes 25th December, so does our greeting one another intensifies. We just love to celebrate Christmas,aren’t we?

Well, if we really love celebrating Christmas and we want to honour Jesus the Christ of Christmas, then we should face the challenge of celebrating Christmas daily.

How to celebrate Christmas everyday? Let the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:1-11 guide us.

Humility

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Yes, everyday, let us keep the humble spirit, acknowledging that all that we are, all that we have are because of God’s overflowing and never-ceasing mercies and grace.

Servant-hood

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)

Are you ready to break your seasonal celebration of Christmas by shifting from symbolical giving to total sacrificial giving as what Jesus has done?

It’s easy to give gifts on Christmas but it’s very challenging to really go out of your comfort zone, “pour out” yourself and be involved in uplifting the quality of life of your fellowmen throughout the year.

Take your Christian service to the next level by being involve actively in the service of humanity and for the glory of God.

Lifelong Commitment

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

Celebrating Christmas daily requires lifelong commitment. It doesn’t stop on 25th December and will resume again next year’s Christmas season.

Jesus Christ’s example is “becoming obedient to death”

I hope Christmas isn’t just the highlight of our holiday season. May after celebrating our excitement about Christmas won’t falter nor die down.

May our greeting one another “Merry Christmas”, giving gifts to our children, loved ones and friends, lead to our recognising and achieving the bigger challenge of celebrating Christmas daily, as long as we live and until He comes.

As God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, may all people at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 paraphrase mine)

 

Posted in From Worry To Glory

Facing Today’s Tragedies by Rev. Malvar Castillon

In celebrating the memories of Rev. Malvar Castillon, here’s a sermon/speech that he wrote.

The contents reveal that this piece was written in the 80s but no reference to venue and occasion.

He was either pastor Astorga Baptist Church (Dumarao, Capiz) or Ajuy Baptist Church (Ajuy, Iloilo) then.

Do you think we’re still facing “today’s tragedies” as what Rev. Castillon mentioned in his message 34 years ago?

Please read the sermon (really a short one) to find out.

Rev. Castillon speech- Facing Today's Tragedies

Rev. Castillon speech- Facing Today's Tragedies

Rev. Castillon speech- Facing Today's Tragedies

Rev. Castillon speech- Facing Today's Tragedies

Posted in From Worry To Glory

Our Visitors from 132 Countries – Four Years of From Worry To Glory

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As of writing, From Worry To Glory’s visitors have come from 132 countries.

The top 10 countries are as follows:

  1. PH – Philippines
  2. US – United States
  3. CA – Canada
  4. NZ – New Zealand
  5. SA – Saudi Arabia
  6. GB – United Kingdom
  7. AU – Australia
  8. RU – Russia
  9. SG – Singapore
  10. AE – United Arab Emirates

Highest Number of Visitors

On 26 October 2011, From Worry To Glory received 453 visits, 263 of them were new visitors.

Newest Country

The newest flag to be added is Marshall Island (MH)

See what else our blog has achieved in four years.

CLICK the links below:

Four Years of From Worry To Glory
Top 10 Posts – Four Years of From Worry To Glory