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The Internet

The internet is such a fickle master. We trust it with our lives, and then it betrays us. LinkedIn, only recently the crown jewel of professional networking sites, was crushed today. This service with over 300 million members plunged 25% in value since the stock market opened this morning. Closer home Partners HealthCare, owner of the premier Boston teaching hospitals, announced it had been hacked, with 3300 patients accounts possibly exposed. And how many of us have suddenly awakened from a computer screen stupor to realize how many days, weeks and months we have lost by pursuing online trivialities?

In previous generations peoples identities were formed by interaction with family, community, peers, and yes, even church. Their friends lived in the same block, or maybe across town, but these friends were people they knew well, and who knew them. There was a mutuality of respect, give and take, and interconnectedness. For more and more of us, these formative relationships are being replaced by the siren song of the internet. It seduces us by co-opting our entertainment and work related interests, our spiritual and relational desires, and our hope for significance. It promises to meet these needs and even more, and then delivers far, far less.

Our friends do not live in the yellow house across from the old ball field any more. We can’t stop by and visit, engaging in real conversation and real connection with real people. Instead of struggling together over questions of values and beliefs, we scan profiles. Our friends today live on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram. We don’t engage with them in a solid, human connection. We “friend” them and “like” their posts. We may not even know their real name. It often seems we are trying to develop a relationship with pixels that disappear with the click of a mouse.

There is no question the internet brings a tremendous new world into our lives, and that we have the potential to be empowered beyond the wildest imaginations of previous generations.
Yet if this incredible new force is not held in check by a balanced worldview that includes the presence of God in our lives, the internet could very easily become our master. Our fickle master. We all know people whose lives seems to have easily lost the equivalent of LinkedIn’s 25% plunge in value as they settle for the online world over the real one. As Christians we must realize Jesus came to us as God in the flesh. That is the only way we could see what God is really like — a cute photo on Snapchat just wouldn’t work. 

Oh, by the way, if you’re on LinkedIn, feel free to add me to your connections.

Children

Last Sunday we recognized our graduates and had a luncheon celebrating them. One of our high school graduates I have known since she was in kindergarten. It is amazing to see the beautiful young woman she has become. We value our children. But this has not always been so in history.

I recently read an interesting article on the internet written by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry called “How Christianity Invented Children.” He said that we forget how deep a cultural revolution Christianity brought about.

He said that today it is simply taken for granted that the innocence and vulnerability of children make them of beings of particular value, and entitled to particular care. But he goes on to say that this view of children is a historical oddity.

In ancient Greece and Rome, children were considered nonpersons. High infant mortality rates caused people not to develop emotional attachments to children. Various pagan authors describe children as being more like plants than human beings. In Rome, a child?s father had the right to kill him for whatever reason until he came of age.

People were valued by their place in society. Free born adult males were the most valued. Foreigners, slaves, women and children were not important or significant.

One of the most notorious practices that was rejected by Christianity was “expositio” which was the abandonment of unwanted infants. Girls were abandoned much more often than boys. Also in the ancient world was sexual exploitation of children.

Gobry points out that this was the world into which Christianity came, condemning abortion and infanticide as loudly and as early as it could. Christianity called attention to children and ascribed special worth to them. Christians noticed Jesus? instruction to imitate children and proposed ways that Christians should look up to and become more like children.

Thus, Christianity?s invention of the cultural idea of children being treasured human beings was the result of the of its most revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of God. If the God who made heaven and earth chose to reveal himself, not as an emperor, but as a lowly human punished on the cross, then no one could claim higher dignity than anyone else on the basis of earthly status.” That was a radical idea that has changed our culture.

Easter Power

Jesus Christ was dead. Jesus Christ is risen! Jesus Christ is forever alive!

Those three statements point out the possibility of the most profound yet unimaginable change in our own lives occurring as we come into a living connection with God. That connection happens as we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, receive by faith the benefits of the wholeness and hope he gives, and follow him as we live the rest of our lives.

Jesus Christ was dead. His early followers had watched him die on the cross, and heard him cry with his last breath “It is finished.” None of us have reached the end of our own lives yet and experienced physical death. All of us, however, have a past that is already dead to us. We have memories from the past. Some are good. Still others are painful and haunting. We relish the precious times from earlier years, and are sometimes haunted by our other decisions and deeds. There is no way for us to relive the good and correct the bad. It is gone, dead.

The good news is Jesus has dealt with our past. By his death on the cross he fixed the sinful and dead past life of every believer. Jesus death changes the very nature of who we are and frees us to live in communion  with God. The Bible says “…everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43) As we receive forgiveness and new life flows into us we become reborn as children of God.

Jesus Christ is risen! We know the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins is effective because God’s power was demonstrated in a most radical way. Jesus did not remain dead. He is risen! His resurrection was something totally outside the normal working of the universe. In one mighty act God reversed the course of everything and created righteousness out of sin, life out of death.

We have a living Savior. Jesus, resurrected to life again, made the promise to his followers that he would be with them every day of their lives, everywhere they found themselves. Because of who he is, and how his authority was verified by countless eye witnesses, we can trust that what he says is true. Christ is with those who belong to him. He hears our prayers, provides sustainable support, rekindles hope, and walks with us day by day.

Jesus Christ is forever alive! When he rose from the dead, Jesus broke the powerful force of death. Because he lives, we can face tomorrow. By God’s powerful act the biggest threat facing us is defeated. The resurrection proves that life exists beyond the grave. No longer do we need to be controlled by fear of the end of our existence. While it may be appropriate to dread the process of our dying, death itself is but a transition into the place where Jesus lives. Imagining what continuing our lives in the home of God is impossible in our limited human knowledge. If we listen to what Jesus says, however, we can even begin to discover snippets of what that life shall be like, and it’s going to be good!

Jesus Christ was dead. Jesus Christ is risen! Jesus Christ is forever alive!

May those three truths provide you with a road map of hope for life. The Christian’s past, present, and future are changed by the power of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. This is the good news of Easter. Believe it, live it, enjoy it, and share it with the blessing and power of God.

Happy Easter!

The theme for this years Lenten services is He Set His Face Toward Jerusalem. We have walked with Jesus these Wednesday nights since Ash Wednesday as he made his way to Jerusalem for Passover and then to the cross. It is now Holy Week. Last Sunday we joined together to wave palm branches and proclaim Christ's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Our voices joined with those across the centuries as we called out the words in Matthew 21:

     “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
     “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
     “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Thursday night we will come together in quietness to reenact the Last Supper. We reflect with sadness that those same voices that sang his praises as he came into Jerusalem will now ring out, “Crucify him! Free Barrabas!”  We cringe when we read of Peter's denial. We will hang our heads in shame that we too often deny him.

We will suffer with him on Good Friday as we see him dying on the cross for our sins. That will be the darkest time of all. But Resurrection Sunday will come soon with Easter, and we'll join together in joyful celebration with our risen Lord! He rose victorious over evil and death. We will be thrilled with the women of old who found the tomb empty! And because of that we will join him in heaven! This journey will have taken us through the forty days of Lent. During this time we have looked within and searched ourselves for those areas of life where we need to repent and be forgiven. It's been a thoughtful journey with a glorious ending!

     Hallelujah! He has risen just as he said!

Someone said to me the other day that he hated for Lent to end because it will be such a long time until Advent comes again. Those two events are so closely connected. At Advent we await the coming of Christ into the world. And during Lent we focus on the reason he came and see it to completion. Both are significant and relevant to our Christian lives. Let's use the time between these seasons to learn and grow in faith and share the good news of the gospel with the world around us!

Blessings to you this Holy season!

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First Baptist Church
819 Mass Ave, Arlington, MA
781-643-3024

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Service: 10 am
Nursery provided!

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