Court dress

But the Son of God has come! April 10, 2023

1 John 5:19-20 The world around us is under the control of the evil one. And the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. … He is eternal life.

My heart is so full of the blessing of yesterday–I want to share a few of many special moments with you. Dave and I love attending the sunrise service at 6:00 a.m. The service begins in total darkness as we review God’s work leading up to this day. We are each handed a candle, and the first half of the service is conducted by candlelight.

Before I go on, a bit of context:

On Thursday evening, at the end of the footwashing service, the altar had been stripped of every decoration as the light gradually lowers until the pastor ends with the reading by candlelight of Luke 22:39-53. Verse 53 ends with, “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” As he says “the power of darkness,” the pastor blows out his candle. At the same instant, all remaining light in the sanctuary is extinguished. We sit in silence in the darkness, and when we’re ready, leave in the same way.

On Friday, from noon until 3:00, in various ways, including art works from people in the congregation, we shared in Jesus’s suffering on the cross, suffering for each of us. We are invited to write our sins and burdens and walk forward to leave our folded papers in a basket at the foot of the rough wooden cross, bearing a crown of thorns, at the front of the church. At the end of the service, these are taken outside and burned, to symbolize Christ bearing them for us.

On Easter morning, as we enter the dark sanctuary, we have in our minds the stripped altar and the cross. But at a certain moment in the service, the lights and the choir explode, and we see the sanctuary full of flowers. Madly ringing bells we have brought from home for this moment, the congregation joins the choir in wholehearted praise.

This year, when the lights came on, we also saw an amazing mosaic at the front of the church. This also requires a bit of context, going back to Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22. We were invited to bring to that service a piece of pottery from home, which we placed in a big metal tub and smashed with hammers at the end of the service, to illustrate our brokenness.

An artist, with the help of anyone from the church who wished to participate, took those broken pieces and created beauty from them. People crowded around after the service to admire it and to identify pieces from their own broken cup or bowl or pitcher. Many of us were in tears at this visual, visceral symbol of God’s transformation and healing offered us through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. The photo I managed to capture:

The mosaic reminded me of the last chapter of Suffering and the Heart of God. Diane Langberg waxes poetic as she describes Jesus on the cross, and then restored to life, healing our brokenness. Here’s part of what she says:

The cross is a place of death and evil; decay and wrath. It is a pace of darkness, thirst, isolation, rejection, abandonment, and bondage. It is the absence of God and all that is good. It is hell itself.

And whom do we see there? The Lily of the Valley, the Rose of Sharon. We see the fairest of ten thousand, the beauty of God incarnate. We see purity, holiness, infinite love, compassion, and eternal glory. …

Death and evil seemed to have won. But God had so much more up his sleeve:

What happened that third day? Decay was transformed into glory. Death was swallowed up by life. Evil was transfigured into holiness, and the wrath of men into praise. Darkness was changed to light, and hell defeated by heaven. Thirst is transformed into living water and brokenness into the bread of life. Alienation led to restored relationship and bondage led to freedom.

If garbage can be transformed into beauty on such a scale as this, then surely it can happen in my small life and in the lives of others. … The cross, a thing of beauty? Yes, for it is at the cross that we behold all of the beauties of Christ in perfection. All of his love is drawn out there. All of his character expressed. The wounds of Jesus are far more fair than all the splendor of this world. …

Children of God in a world controlled by the Evil One. I fear the odds are against us. Our wits are too slow, our understanding finite and our strength too frail. But, glorious but, “the Son of God has come … to transform garbage into beauty, first in our lives and then in those we serve. … So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). And what is it that is unseen? The Lord of Glory, the Lord of all Beauty, who wears the appearance of a slain Lamb as his court dress. …

May we count Him alone as worthy and all else as rubbish. May we desire one thing—to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek his beautiful face. And then may the beauty of our Lord be upon us. May he establish the work of our lives.

I invite you to enjoy our choir’s Easter anthem, called “Glad of Heart,” written in 1568, here (start at 1:39:50) Of course, you can watch any of the rest of the live stream you wish–or either of the other two services. The worship during communion begins at 1:59:23. Here is the text:

  1. Now glad of heart be everyone! The fight is fought, the battle won, the Christ is set upon his throne, alleluia, alleluia!
  2. Who on the wood was crucified, who rose again, as at this tide, in glory to his Father’s side, alleluia, allelluia!
  3. Who baffled death and harrowed hell and led the souls that loved him well, all in the light of lights to dwell: alleluia, alleluia!
  4. To him we lift our heart and voice and in his paradise rejoice with harp and pipe and happy noise. Sing alleluia, alleluia!
  5. Then rise all Christian folk with me and carol forth the One in Three that was, and is, and is to be, alleluia, alleluia!

Though this has become a long post, I want to share one more thing, related to verse 4 of this anthem. Several weeks ago I started practicing with my grandchildren a simple piece of music (“Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia, Praise ye the Lord) to share with their parents at our Easter brunch, accompanied by a variety of simple instruments. The adults at the table each had an instrument as well, to join in the song after the children “taught” it to them. “Happy noise” indeed! It was such fun that we sang and “played” other songs as well, ending, at Talita’s request, with “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.” Since the morning sermon had referenced Jesus as the Morning Star, each of us to reflect his glory, this seemed oddly appropriate!

5 thoughts on “Court dress

  1. Thank you so much for these two entries, Debbie. I found them incredibly beautiful and meaningful. “Alelu” to you and your precious family, too! Beautiful foto!! The mosaic seems very miraculous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave just reminded me that Karis used to call herself “Crackpot.” Maybe I’ll tell that story again on Thursday’s post.


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