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Friday, April 14—It is Finished

Today is Good Friday, but it’s very difficult to remember this day as being good when we annually take the time to remind ourselves of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. Fortunately, we understand that this day is named not to represent Christ’s death but the beginning of the three-day transformation that led to His resurrection, which surely is the most “good” event in the history of mankind.
 
Let’s start today’s study by considering how cataclysmic Christ’s death on the cross was—how it was evidenced not only by the onsite witnesses who watched Him accept the burden of mankind’s sins from the beginning to the end of time, but also as described in the passage below, Christ’s passing affected all aspects of God’s creation.
 
“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with Him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27: 51-54, Revised Standard Version)
 
If Christ had walked with us just as a teacher, His death would have been tragic and such dramatic reactions to it would have been completely reasonable. We would probably not be commemorating Good Friday today, though. Instead, we would be honoring the life and death of the only sin-free man to ever live—a man who taught us so much about God’s expectations for our lives. So we probably would call today Black Friday as a sign of our loss.
 
Of course, that’s not what happened. Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t the end; it was a beginning—a beginning to an entirely new approach to having a relationship with God. The good news is that because Christ died, He now provides the connection we need with God, Christ’s death pays the debt for our sins over and over again. His death was the ultimate atonement, and it is effective across all generations.
 
Justin Holcomb describes the importance of Good Friday quite well. “The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness.”
 
So what should we think and feel today? Sadness and grief are reasonable responses to Christ’s death. After all, the sins of mankind caused God to make a choice. Either we would each be faced with the impossible requirement to atone for our own sins, or God would have to offer us an alternative path to redemption. God chose to be merciful and to send His son to pay our price. Nevertheless, we should feel responsible that Christ’s death became necessary because we fell so short of God’s expectations for us.
 
At the same time, however, we should start to look ahead to Easter now. We recognize that this heartrending event actually opens a door to new life for all of us who are willing to step through it.
 
“We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” (Romans 6: 4-5, Revised Standard Version)
 
Reference: “What’s So Good about Good Friday?,” Justin Holcomb, http://www.christianity.com/god/jesus-christ/what-s-so-good-about-good-friday.html
 

Prayer Suggestion

Consider this prayer that summarizes the reality of Good Friday and express your thoughts and thanks to God in your follow-up prayer.
 
“Merciful God, you gave your Son to suffer the shame of the cross. Save us from hardness of heart, that, seeing Him who died for us, we may repent, confess our sin, and receive your overflowing love, in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
     Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 282.


Easter Sunday Events at FPC

EASTER SUNDAY BREAKFAST & SERVICE

Sunday, April 16th  Breakfast at 9:00am & Service at 10:30am

Please join us in Fellowship Hall for a free Easter breakfast followed by our Easter service in the Sanctuary at 10:30am.Celebrate the Resurrection at FPC Tacoma’s festive Easter Sunday celebration featuring our Chancel Choir, praise team, Lindsey Bell Choir, chamber orchestra, and pipe organ. Plus, Pastor Eric will be preaching a special Easter message.  

 

 



Good Friday Requiem & Communion Service

GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM & COMMUNION SERVICE

Friday, April 14th 7:00pm Sanctuary

This year’s Good Friday service will be a reflective evening of worship as we experience the premiere of Jesús Gomez’s Requiem. This powerful and beautiful work has been written for our Chancel Singers, Chancel Choir,  Chamber Orchestra, and Organ. Jesús, who has been our worship intern for two years, has graduated from PLU in choral conducting and is now teaching choral music at Glacier View Jr. High.

In the context of the this ancient liturgical form, we will receive communion together. Pastor Eric will share devotional thoughts and familiar passion hymns will also be sung. Prepare for a thrilling Easter celebration by experiencing the rich musical heritage of a Requiem written for Good Friday.

 



Good Friday Open House For Prayer

GOOD FRIDAY OPEN HOUSE FOR PRAYER

Friday, April 14th 12:00pm-3:00pm Sanctuary

Come for meditation and prayer in our cathedral-like sanctuary. Drop in for a few minutes or a few hours. This has been a powerful time for connecting with God one-on-one, which draws people from throughout our neighborhood.

 



FPC Town Hall Meeting

TOWN HALL MEETING 

Sunday, April 23rd at 9:15am in Fellowship Hall

Over the past two years, we have made a commitment to being a church that cares about the people outside of our walls. While that is a great goal, we feel that we could be more effective in striving towards this goal if we were more specific about which people we feel especially called to reach as a church.

Come to the Town Hall meeting to find out more. Coffee, juice, and treats will be provided.

 

 



Thursday, April 13—Transitioning From the Old to the New Testament Perspectives

Let’s take a moment to compare the words used for atonement in the Old and New Testaments. The original Hebrew word was kaphar, which means “to cover.” In the New Testament, however, the word changes to hilasterion, which means “propitiation.” Originally, the blood of sacrificial animals was used to cover peoples’ sins and restore their relationships with God. So these animals served as interim substitutes for human sinners, but ultimately a sin-free human had to take the punishment that we so rightly deserved, Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12 describes what will come in the prophecy that often is called “The Suffering Servant.” Verses 4 to 6 in chapter 53 summarize this passage very well.
 
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Revised Standard Version)
 
Now that we are in the midst of Holy Week and Maundy Thursday is here, we are particularly reminded of the connection between the Old and New Testaments and the theological foundations of atonement, In Exodus 12, God provided very detailed instructions to the Israelites regarding preparation for, carrying out of, and ongoing observance of the Passover Supper. Once again, a sacrificial animal—a lamb “without blemish, a male a year old”—would be served for dinner, and its blood would be put on the two doorposts and the lintel as a sign. At midnight the Lord smote the first born of both men and animals of every household that had not been marked appropriately.
 
“And when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for He passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when He slew the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” (Exodus 12:25-27 Revised Standard Version)
 
The parallels between that first Passover Supper and the one Jesus ate with His disciples are not a matter of happenstance but of divine design. They were God’s plan from the beginning of creation, and they were fulfilled according to His plan.
 
As John 1:1-5 reminds us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (New Revised Standard Version)
 
Reference: An essay by Dr. Eugene Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, found on The Exchange: A Blog by Ed Stetzer, http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/january/closer-look-jesus-and-atonement-in-old-testament.html
 

Prayer Suggestion

Prayerfully recite the words of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 that were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ on the night of His betrayal as He shared the Passover Supper with His disciples. These words still are used today as we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion in remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Then take a few minutes to pray silently, praising God for sending His son to take away the sins of the world.
 
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (Revised Standard Version)


Wednesday, April 12—God Deals With Sin and Reconciliation in the Old Testament

The need for atonement is made clear in the earliest chapters of scripture. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree, they damaged their relationship with Him, bringing sin into the world. He had warned them that sinning would cause the relationship they had with Him to die, but they chose sin over remaining close to God. They immediately knew the error of their ways, but God did not just turn His back and walk away from them.
 
“And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die…’ And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden… And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3: 2-3, 8, and 21, Revised Standard Version)
 
As we know so well, the first sin led almost immediately to a second one and so on. Sin became a dominant force in human life. Even in this first case, however, God offered man a form of atonement that involved the sacrifice of an innocent being for our sins—the death of animals that had not eaten from the tree provided the garments Adam and Eve were given to wear.
 
These early verses from the Bible establish the foundation for all of mankind’s existence and the way God has reached out to save us over and over again. It’s interesting to note that few Christians actually even realize the connection between the way God handled Adam and Eve’s transgressions and His ultimate plan for our atonement—the life, death, and resurrection of His son.
 
The pattern is easy to spot, however, when we truly begin to grasp that God loves us so much that He does not ask us to personally atone for our sins but provides a substitute to carry our burdens. It’s easy to forget that the animals and vegetation, as well as every other aspect of the world around us, were God’s creations and were important to Him. So even this initial example of how God reaches out to us validates that His love for us. Furthermore, we can see that His desire to maintain a deep and abiding relationship with us is profound and beyond our understanding. He is willing to sacrifice the works of His creation in order to restore us. God’s commitment to us and His approach to our atonement are stated unequivocally in John 2: 16.
 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Revised Standard Version)
 
Reference: An essay by Dr. Eugene Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, found on The Exchange: A Blog by Ed Stetzer, http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/january/closer-look-jesus-and-atonement-in-old-testament.html
 

Prayer Suggestion

Once again, you can use this standard prayer of confession to begin your time of repentance and then add your own personal confessions.
 
“Almighty God, you poured your Spirit upon gathered disciples creating bold tongues, open ears, and a new community of faith. We confess that we hold back the force of your Spirit among us. We do not listen for your word of grace, speak the good news of your love, or live as a people made one in Christ. Have mercy on us, O God. Transform our timid lives by the power of your Spirit, and fill us with a flaming desire to be your faithful people, doing your will for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
     Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 343.


Good Friday Events

GOOD FRIDAY OPEN HOUSE FOR PRAYER

Friday, April 14th 12:00pm-3:00pm Sanctuary

Come for meditation and prayer in our cathedral-like sanctuary. Drop in for a few minutes or a few hours. This has been a powerful time for connecting with God one-on-one, which draws people from throughout our neighborhood.

 

GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM & COMMUNION SERVICE

Friday, April 14th 7:00pm Sanctuary

This year’s Good Friday service will be a reflective evening of worship as we experience the premiere of Jesús Gomez’s Requiem. This powerful and beautiful work has been written for our Chancel Singers, Chancel Choir,  Chamber Orchestra, and Organ. Jesús, who has been our worship intern for two years, has graduated from PLU in choral conducting and is now teaching choral music at Glacier View Jr. High.

In the context of the this ancient liturgical form, we will receive communion together. Pastor Eric will share devotional thoughts and familiar passion hymns will also be sung. Prepare for a thrilling Easter celebration by experiencing the rich musical heritage of a Requiem written for Good Friday.

 



Tuesday, April 11—The Need for Atonement

Atonement—it’s a word we don’t use in everyday language that represents the recompense that is given to make amends for a wrong-doing or injury. Conceptually, atonement is a form of rebalancing after the disruption of a relationship; a payment of equal value is given to the person who has been negatively impacted by a wrongful action in order to settle the score.
 
We learn at a young age that we need to apologize when we do something that hurts another person. Apologies represent the simplest form of atonement, and they are socially acceptable ways to offset relatively minor infractions; however, apologies generally are believed to be insufficient in situations were more serious damage is done.
 
Mankind has developed complex laws to systematize atonement in society. These regulations define the degree of “wrongness” and assign seemingly appropriate levels of reparation. Of course, views regarding the effectiveness of these legal approaches vary widely and are influenced by many situational factors. In countless real-life cases, the injured person firmly believes that no amount or form of payment ever could provide sufficient penance for the offense that had been committed.
 
So now, stop and consider the theological implications of atonement. The offended party is God—our creator, who is sovereign over all of mankind and the world around us. He sees all and knows all. He is love incarnate, but He also is the law-giver and judge. He is so holy that every minor misstep we make must seem enormous to Him, generating huge rifts in our relationship with Him. Furthermore, our day-in and day-out repetition of sinful acts causes the wall between God and us to grow progressively thicker and higher—ultimately becoming insurmountable.
 
As the Bible tells us in Isaiah 59:1-2. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Revised Standard Version)
 
Clearly, there is no payment we could make that would satisfy the wrongs we have done to God—no way that we ever could atone for our sins and rebalance our relationship with the almighty. If we accept this reality, we are faced with the message that the Bible tells us in so many ways. Fortunately, as we begin to remember Christ’s walk to the cross and His resurrection, we already know how this horrifying truth was converted into a new beginning for each of us—not through our own efforts but through the sacrificial atonement God granted to us through the death of His son, Jesus Christ.
 
Paul said it so well in Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Revised Standard Version)
 

Prayer Suggestion

Use this standard prayer of confession to open your hearts and minds in order to obtain a deeper understanding of your need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Then, add your own personal confessions.
 
“Eternal God, our judge and redeemer, we confess that we have tried to hide from you, for we have done wrong. We have lived for ourselves, and apart from you. We have turned from our neighbors, and refused to bear the burdens of others. We have ignored the pain of the world, and passed by the hungry, the poor, and the oppressed. In your great mercy forgive our sins and free us from selfishness, that we may choose your will and obey your commandments; through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
 
Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 54.


Our Stories: Michael Artime

 
Michael Artime grew up in Belleville, Illinois, a half hour from St. Louis, before moving to Spokane in order to be a college professor at Whitworth. He received his job offer one week before he got married, so his wife Tiffany stayed in grad school in St. Louis while he moved in January. In May, she graduated and was required to complete a one-year internship in order to finish her Ph.D. Fortunately, she was assigned to the WSU counseling center—although that was still a 90-minute daily commute each way. Tiffany obtained a tenure-track position at St. Martin’s in Lacey, and then it was Michael’s turn to commute; he lived half a week in Lacey and half a week in Spokane before he moved over the pass permanently when he began part-time instruction work at UPS and TCC. Finally, Michael got a position as a visiting professor at PLU. A series of retirements and sabbaticals will keep him there for the next three years, and he certainly hopes to continue on at PLU afterward.
 
At Whitworth, integrating faith into the classroom was mandatory. He feels that this required him to “open up a space for a conversation about the way that people understood faith as it relates to an issue.” His job during that time was not to convince his students, but to “encourage them to ask questions about themselves that they might not otherwise ask.” At PLU, his desire is to live out his principles for his students, “modeling constructive dialogue and religious tolerance” while “providing information to students to guide them in figuring out the answers to some of these really big questions.”
 
As a political scientist, Michael acknowledges that we live in a divisive age, and he has some suggestions for how Christians can engage with society.
  • First, Christians cannot ignore what is going on and not talk about it. They have an obligation to know what is happening in the world.
  • Second, Christians need to approach politics with humility.
  • Third, too often the church avoids asking “What does the Bible say about this issue” and instead asks “Which party is more ‘Christian’?” For example, Michael points out that the Bible is pretty explicit about what our obligation is to the most vulnerable populations—specifically immigrants, refugees, the homeless, and the widows. Sometimes that means we have to be uncomfortable and unsafe in order to reach out to those people, but we are putting our faith into action at those times.
Michael adds, “When I see images of people fleeing horrendous situations, I think the church cannot turn its back on them. The church needs to get involved. It’s easy to be content with just casting your ballot or donating money. In reality, there are organizations throughout the community here that need volunteers; they need people to go and assist in some of these efforts. That’s the type of church that we should want to be. The world is watching us, so what do we want them to see? Hopefully, they will see a group of people that cares deeply about vulnerable populations.”



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