The Path Ends; Life Begins

Today brings us at long last to the foot of the cross with the story of the first Easter.  We have followed the path with a desire to encounter Christ in a life-changing way and to find a renewal of faith.  The end of this path is not an end at all, though.  It is a new beginning.

New beginnings did not end on the first Easter Sunday.  They continue to happen.  The ministries of John and Charles Wesley provide a wonderful example.  After completing their studies at Oxford and being ordained in the Church of England, the Wesleys set off to North America as missionaries to the colony of Georgia.  The effort did not go as planned at all, and each returned to England disheartened.  By 1738 John Wesley questioned whether he had faith at all, but was encouraged by Peter Bohler to continue preaching.  That year John had his famous experience at Aldersgate when his heart was “strangely warmed.”  This proved to be a turning point in his ministry, but his faith journey was not at an end.  It was just beginning!

By 1739, the Wesleys began preaching in the “open air”–another point of beginning.  On Easter they preached near an old foundry that had been badly damaged in an explosion.  It was there that Charles Wesley’s hymn Christ the Lord is Risen Today was first sung–another point of beginning.  The winter that year was bitterly cold, which did not go well with open air preaching.  God blessed the ministry, though, and John Wesley was able to lease the foundry building itself.  This proved to be yet another point of beginning, as the foundry would continue to serve as the base for ministries by the people called Methodists for nearly forty years.  The Methodist church continues today from those early beginnings.

As you arrive at the foot of the cross, rejoice in your new beginning with the words of Charles Wesley.

1. Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

2. Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

3. Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

4. Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

5. Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

6. King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

Our journey into the labyrinth is complete, but our journey of faith has only just begun.  The path that brings us to the foot of the cross reveals Christ’s commitment to us.  It is a commitment that continues into eternity.  How will we respond?  He is risen. Arise and glorify Him!

Follow the Path!

[Use with Victory of Life, day 47 of A Labyrinth Pilgrimage]

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Low Point on the Path

Every journey has high points and low points.  This pilgrimage is no exception.  The symbol of the cross reminds us that Christ conquered death.  It is also a sobering reminder that He had to die in order to do it.

The death and burial of Jesus was the all-time low in the history of the world.  Christ was taken down from the cross on Preparation Day (the day before the sabbath) and His body was prepared for burial.  On the sabbath He lay in the grave.  Just as God rested from His work after creation, the Lord’s body rested again following the crucifixion.

We know very little about that sabbath day.  The Gospel accounts stop after Jesus was laid in the tomb.  They pick up again at the resurrection.  The only information in scripture between those times is an account that leaders of the Jewish community met with Pilate to secure the tomb.  What else was going on that day?  All we know is that the sabbath was observed.  Jesus’ followers mourned and waited.  Little did they know that they were waiting on God’s victory, which was coming in God’s time.

Robert Lowry was a Baptist preacher well known for his hymns.  Here are the words from all three stanzas of Up from the Grave He Arose, also known by its first line Low in the Grave He Lay.

1. Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
2. Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
3. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

The refrain to each pair of lines is a jubilant proclamation:

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Christ’s burial is a somber, low point on our journey to the foot of the cross.  Take some time to reflect on it, but don’t forget that we will be moving on.  The end of the journey lies ahead.

Follow the Path!

[Use with Challenge of Death, day 46 of A Labyrinth Pilgrimage]

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