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Easter jazz

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

“Who will roll away the stone?” Mark 16:3

“Who will roll away the stone?” the women asked as they approached Jesus’ tomb. Their Savior had died, their hopes were gone, and their heads hang in despair as the question lingered in the air. Can you relate to that?

We have stones that need to be rolled away, too. Our way is blocked with giant stones with names like cancer and COVID-19, stones with names like debt and divorce, names like shame and sorrow, and the actual names of people like the crazy co-worker, the insane in-law, the nosy neighbor.

Like the women that first Easter Sunday morning, we too wonder, “Who will roll away the stone?”

In many ways, the message of Easter is like jazz music. Jazz music originated with African-American musicians in New Orleans around 1900, and it often expresses discordant notes of pain that are then resolved with the swing of sweet notes of joy.  

Easter is like jazz music. The people loved Jesus for His compassion for the outcast, His inspiring teaching of love, and His healing of the sick. Imagine their despair when Jesus was arrested, flogged, spat upon, mocked with a purple robe and crown of thorns, beat upon the head, forced to carry His cross to Calvary, the Place of the Skull, and then the nails slammed through his hands and feet, and forced to hang there naked and suffering, No wonder Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It’s bad enough when you and I feel forsaken by God, but here was the Son of God feeling forsaken by God! That despair was shared by Jesus’ disciples. The disciples were hiding out in a room, afraid for their future, fearing they would be next.

But that was on Friday. Very early on Sunday morning, everything changed. The stone was rolled away, an angel in white clothes had bright news, that although they came thinking they would see a dead corpse, instead they saw an empty tomb, because Jesus was crucified, but now He has risen! The One who had been nailed to a cross was now raised from the grave, the One who had been whipped was now being worshiped.

His story was also their story. The wondering women had their stone moved, the shamed Simon Peter discovered that his Savior was alive. Notice verse 7 says to tell the disciples “and Peter.” The frightened disciples became bold preachers of the gospel.

What a crazy change in three days! No wonder they were overwhelmed with emotion.

Verse 5 says they were “amazed” and “alarmed.” Verse 8 says “trembling” and “astonishment overwhelmed them” and that they were “afraid.”

That’s why I say Easter is like jazz— it moves from discord to resolution, from pain to joy, and it requires a certain mystery and faith. Somebody asked Louis Armstrong what jazz music was, and he said, “If you have to ask, you don’t know!”

But you can know the Easter jazz. You can believe in Jesus Christ. His story was their story and it can be your story and mine.

The apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 2:1, 4-6: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… But God, who is rich and mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ, even though you were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”

Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 51-52: “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”

Easter does not mean that we will no longer have problems. The music of our lives will continue to have bent notes and broken cords. But because of His resurrection, the discord will be resolved with the sweet sound of hope for all of us who believe.

What stones do you need to have rolled away? What hope do you need to hear? Shh! Listen closely. I think I hear Jesus playing jazz!

Movie review: “I Can Only Imagine”

ICanOnlyImagineMovie

My wife and I were deeply moved by the new film, I Can Only Imagine. I was so emotional that I had to compose myself before I could drive home– it was that powerful.
You may know the song, but do you know the story behind the song? “I Can Only Imagine” by Bart Millard of the Christian band Mercy Me is the best-selling, most-played Christian single of all time. The new film by the same title tells the moving true story of the songwriter and how he wrote the song.
The film tells how Bart Millard’s father abused him and his mother, and constantly told Bart he was not good enough. [Spoiler alert—skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know the basic plot.] Thanks to a football injury and a music teacher’s insistence, Bart discovered he had a gift to sing. When his father told him to forget his dreams, he left home, turned his back on the girlfriend who loved him, and tried to escape his troubles by singing with a traveling band.
I won’t give away the ending, because the circumstances of how he recorded the song have surprising twists and turns along the way, but suffice to say that Bart had to face his fears to reach his dreams. And yes, the film dramatically presents the full song near the end of the film.
Dennis Quaid is amazing as the actor playing Bart’s abusive father. People who have endured abuse will feel the pain Bart feels from his father, but many people with sins in their own past, like myself, will identify with the pain of the father himself.
This is a Christian film, but it is not “preachy.” The story is raw, real and unapologetically soaked with the hope of the gospel. Go see this film if you like music, if you like romance, if your dreams have been crushed, if you have been abused, if you have abused someone, if you have a broken home, if you are grieving the death of a loved one, if you need forgiveness, if you need to forgive, and if you need hope.

Question about divorce

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

I received the following question by email from someone from another church who has granted permission for me to post the question and my reply:
“I have consulted my pastor and other pastors concerning our Baptist teachings about divorce and remain confused. I am divorced. I made an oath at my wedding of “til death do us part” and finished with “so help me God.” Even though adultery entered my spouse’s life, do I remain bound by my oath? Did you do a blog on this topic? Or, better yet … will you do one and let me know.”

Dear Friend,
I understand that you are already divorced, apparently because of your spouse’s adultery, and your question is, “do I remain bound by my oath?”
It appears there are two parts to your question. First, the question of whether your divorce was permissable, and second, the question of whether you are free to remarry. So let’s take the two issues separately:
1. The question of permissable divorce. According to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:32, adultery is a permissable reason for divorce. Thus if your spouse committed adultery, you did have biblical grounds for divorce. The other biblical ground for divorce is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15, when one spouse is an unbeliever and leaves.
(I would caution readers, however, that just because your spouse commits adultery or leaves you for a time does not mean that you should rush into a divorce. If at all possible, you should seek a counselor and seek restoration in your marriage. I have known couples who suffered adultery and other problems in their relationship who were able to experience repentance, forgiveness and restoration.
The second caution I would give to readers is that if you are suffering physical abuse or severe verbal abuse, you may need to remove yourself from your home to an undisclosed location for your own safety.)

2. The question of remarriage after divorce. You mentioned “our Baptist teachings about divorce.” While I am glad to be a Baptist, we must make certain that our teachings come from the Bible, not Baptist tradition or any other tradition that contradicts scripture.
Jesus recognized the fact that the woman at the well had five husbands, although she was cohabitating with the man she was with at the time she met Jesus, and that man was not her husband (John 4:17-18). By this statement, Jesus recognized each of these five marriages as true marriages.
A common “Baptist teaching” about Matthew 5:32 is that it bans remarriage after divorce, because it says that anyone who divorces his wife causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
However, the New Testament Greek verb used in the original text used the passive voice, which means the subject receives the action, rather than causing the action. In other words, divorce is a stigma that the husband puts on his wife by divorcing her. It is something the first husband does to the woman and the man she remarries. The stigma is being divorced and being married to a divorced person. Notice in the verse that the stigma occurs whether or not there is ever a remarriage, because it says “anyone who divorces his wife… causes her to become an adulteress.” Notice he causes the adultery before any remarriage. It could be translated, that he adulterizes her. This is referring to the stigma of divorce. It is interesting that the 2011 revision of the New International Version translates Matthew 5:32, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery…”
I recognize that this is a controversial passage, and there are differences of opinion about it, but I do not think the scripture teaches that remarriage after divorce is automatically a sin.