This Easter reflection is dedicated to my earthly dad,
Edward O. Brands,
who passed from this life into the direct living presence of
the loving God,
on Jan. 14, 2020 – as a man who believes in Jesus.
Here is a personal top-X-ever: No life is small –
every one of us drummers can give our best,
our all (like three generations, in a cradle,
a book, a healing act, a dance, a film…) for the King:
Please note that references in parentheses (-) refer
to books of the Bible unless otherwise specified.
Our Greatest Glory
I believe Jesus, the real Jesus who walked this earth as one of us even when that stubbed his toenails, is the Messiah-Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of all (Mark 1; John 1, Ephes 1, Heb 1, Revel 11). This Jesus is the eternal life-giving-word and fullest revelation of God, in whom dwells all the fullness of God, the Immanuel who is God-with-us-in-human-person, including when he ate fish for breakfast (Matt 1, John 1, 21, Colos 1; Heb 1; Revel 1). This Jesus is the true human image of the loving-creator life-giving God (Gen 1; Matt 1; Luke 5; John 1, 3, 11; 1 John 4). Therefore, in the open public living of this Jesus in our midst, we see and know God’s very heart of love pulsing down the streets of this world (Matt 8-9, John 1, 3, 1 John 4). This Jesus is the first-born-from-death-to-new-life person, the image of the new and true humanity in God’s re-creating love (Rom 1-8, Revel 1). So in the same breath of Jesus’ life, we see the truest way of human living as God created us to be, the life most often characterized in the Gospels as compassion (Matt 4-9, 11-12, 25, Luke 4, John 11, etc.). In words and actions, this Jesus lived God’s love incarnate among us, caring for all people (all races, all “classes,” all children and women and men) with simple compassion, healing all our brokenness with undying hope, and leading us into his ways of love and wisdom, for serving to share his blessings with others in this world (Matt 4-12, 25, 28; etc.). In this love, this Jesus sacrificed his life to give us the fullness of truly good life without end – and this is decisively demonstrated in the reality of his resurrection into the fully renewed human living that we also will ultimately inherit in God’s renewing and new creation work (Matt 28; John 20-21, Rom 8, 1 Cor 15, Colos 1, Revel 1, etc.). In sum, this Jesus IS and gives us freely the greatest hope of God for all human beings. In this Jesus, we are being renewed as masterpieces of God’s creative arts (John 3; Ephes; Revel 1, 5, 22).
So I also believe the greatest privilege, glory, and honor we can experience and can affirm in anyone’s life is following this Jesus. My earthly dad, Edward O. Brands, believed in Jesus during his time in this world. With my dad’s passing from this life, I know my dad knows God’s heart of love fully now in the direct presence of this still-living Jesus. The flowers shining on our table throughout the week of my dad’s passing, as testimony of his faith, featured color-memories of Jesus’ blood shed so we will live, mingled with color-promises of the new dawn into our glory in Jesus. This, all this, is our inheritance in the loving God of love, life, compassion, hope, and renewal.
A Time In Song
In grieving through my dad’s passing, I find comfort and hope again through the realization that such a time as this is a time for music, especially when words alone are not enough, and we need hope from beyond ourselves. Whatever your struggles in these days or in times to come, I encourage you to draw blessings with me from such creative treasures, which I believe will be at the head of the parade into the new city of God on the great day of our resurrection (Revel 21-22).
(On the third day following Jesus’ burial), while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed… She turned… and saw Jesus standing there… Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” …Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”
I tell you a mystery: …we will all be changed… For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable… “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” God… gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
I saw one like the Son of Man; …his face was like the sun shining with full force. He said, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last… I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades… See, I am coming soon… I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end… It is I, Jesus…” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come…” Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
It is my… hope that… by boldness…, Christ will be exalted so his honor will be seen in my body. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain… because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I want to know Christ: the power of his resurrection, and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, so that somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead… So I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus… And I know I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
– John 20; 1 Cor 15; Philip; Revel 1, 22 (see NRSV, NIV, NEB).
One way Jesus’ honor can shine through our lives is singing this hope. One of my best and earliest memories of my dad is his love to sing with gusto in Sunday morning worship times. So I highlight here my favorite hymn, with memories of my dad’s singing this then and knowledge he is singing it now: “Lead On O King Eternal.” I observe for a moment that this praise to the king of peace can be tragically misunderstood as it speaks of “battle and conquest” – but I sing it still to its truly different drum-beat: the “battle” of Jesus’ non-violent sacrifice to disarm evil through love (the great faith also of the American Civil Rights movement), the “power” of grace that can dispel the slavery of all sin and injustice, the “weapon” of love that can neutralize all hate and war. This is the deeper battle that rages through our neighborhoods and cities, our national politics and global economics, our repetition of history’s follies and our unconscious prejudices, our lack of care for what matters most in the lives of others – and this is the brokenness of the cultures that Jesus’ compassionate justice can heal for and through all who hope and serve (Matt 8-12; 24-25). As the hymn sings it: For not with swords’ loud clashing, but in deeds of love and mercy, Jesus’ kingdom sings his sweet amen of peace. For in Jesus’ love and peace the hatreds of Hell cannot prevail, and the ultimate enemy death will be swallowed in Jesus’ victory of life. This is the upside-down kingdom of the loving God, this is Jesus’ victory for us through faith. This soaring hope shivers me to tears – you can sing along at (even despite obnoxious ideological advertising):
I also recommend many other strains for listening into hope with a wide open heart, through our struggles and crises in this life. The play-list link below includes a moving demonstration of the power of singing from the heart, followed by a simple invitation to “Lay It All Down.” I then include three renditions (choose your favorite or let all three waves flow over you) of J. S. Bach, “Air on the G String,” for when words fall short – the music that proves to me there is a true and living God of surpassing peace and beauty, and to me, Romans chapter 8 as prayer. There is here promise of true peace in the “Eye of the Storm” – followed by highlights from John Rutter’s Requiem, one of the most transcending musical expressions of hope I know. This also includes wider priceless moments like “Memory” in the moving musical Cats, which I take as a metaphorical expression of hope for resurrection; expressions of praising our way into God’s hope by Bethel Music and Phil Wickham; and the new classic, “10,000 Reasons.” This “concert” concludes with Handel’s soaring “Hallelujah” (praise Yahweh), from The Messiah,– a mighty declaration of the true Messiah of love and hope and peace in this messed up world – by an international chorus transcending time, and in my favorite interpretation, a fantastic jiving’ black gospel style version. Fittingly, the Amen, the classic biblical blessing, is sung forth by a multitude of choral voices (as in Revel 5). I encourage you to put on a fresh pot of coffee and drink in a long listening for hope.
The Omega Project
Such a time as this is also about living into our future. I am an avid fan of science fiction – TV, movies, books, imagining adventures in the vast stars and awaiting future beyond… When I speak of the “Omega Project,” it may sound like a science fiction film. In this case, it’s not fiction, it reaches beyond science, and it’s better than your favorite films. The “Omega Project” transcends this time and this space. In this most crucial of all cases, science cannot get us there in time, and science cannot adequately know this space. This project reaches beyond us, our current time, and this world – into things of a new creation. The Omega project is God’s new creation, which was not supposed to be needed, but which God will do freely now that we do.
Revelation speaks of the living Jesus as the alpha and the omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, as symbols of God’s earliest life-creating word and God’s ultimate new-life-creating word. Here we receive a glimpse of a great wonder-filled mystery. Jesus is God’s Alpha project, God’s infinite creative word as a living person among us, the one in and through whom all creation and life was created (Gen 1, John 1). Jesus is God’s Omega project, the ultimate mission to renew all things, the final word on this world and its history, the ultimate word that will inaugurate the next. Miraculously, symbolically, sacramentally, in all the best ways, Jesus is our Alpha, our original God-given life in this world; Jesus is our Omega, our ever-lasting life in God’s loving presence and God’s new creation reality. Our Omega and ultimately full life, our fully renewed human life beginning already now in Jesus’ living Spirit, continues on even when the corrupted aspects of our first life pass, and envelopes into its promise all the good of this first life. My dad’s first life has passed now into the next: and so begins his resurrection. So I look forward now, to the day we will join in an embrace to celebrate Jesus’ return to complete the greatest miracle: God’s Omega project, all things new, in a truly good world, forever.
For next steps of growing into wider wisdom and in this and related matter, here are a few stirring resources:
* C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle.
* N. T. Wright: Surprised By Hope; Resurrection (DVD); and see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fki5wq48fpc; and “Resurrection and the Renewal of Creation” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GenlGUkZ-6Q
* Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder (reflections on Revelation).
Readers are also encouraged to explore other posts in this series: Living Life.
God so loved the world… God is love!
Then I saw a new heaven and new earth…
and the tree of life…
at the middle of the great street of the city…
and the leaves of the tree
are for the healing of the cultures.
John 3; 1 John 4; Revelation 21, 22