One day, death shall slip away into the sunset.
One day, death shall die.
This week certainly holds a paradox. Tomorrow night, the Church throughout the world will remember the night when Jesus was betrayed. The Church will remember the Last Supper and subsequent betrayal. This feast that Jesus took part in would have been rooted in the Passover narrative. His disciples heard the story for years when God acted to bring his people out of bondage in Egypt. He brought them out, guiding them with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. He led them and protected them even when they wanted to rebel. Even when they wanted to go back to the land of chains.
There was a new chapter being written in this book of redemption though. There was another meal being used to reinterpret the story of Egypt. There was another feast meant to point his friends towards another act of redemption. God had indeed come down to lead his people, this time it would be to defang death and to offer life to the community of the redeemed.
One day death will die, but that promise only comes through one man’s death. While sin and death came through Adam’s disobedience a long time ago, this “new Adam” (as one New Testament writer puts it) would bring in new life through an act of obedience. While Adam’s act of eating something (a natural part of life) brought on death, Jesus’ crucifixion would clear a pathway for life. This paradox makes my head spin sometimes, but you know what? We don’t have to fully understand this to be a part of the community of the redeemed.
Death shall die, my friends. For those who are in Christ, the sting of death has been removed. I hope you join this family, all you need to do is trust in the words of Christ and believe that God raised him from the dead. Through one man’s death, all men and women are offered life.
Aren’t you grateful for that paradox?
As you may or may not know, my wife and I have recently found ourselves journeying towards the Anglican tradition. Originally, I was invited by a seminary classmate to visit their Anglican church for a service. It only took a few visits until we were both hooked on the liturgical service and the constant immersion of the people of God into the story of the Kingdom.
One of the things I appreciated from this tradition is the emphasis on God’s Word as a part of one’s church life. We read four chunks of Scripture in the service from four different parts of Scripture, and we are encouraged to read four chunks of Scripture at home through the guidance of the Book of Common Prayer. With so many opportunities to be formed by the Word, one will find themselves soon caught up in the redemptive narrative of the Bible.
I have found that the above prayer of St. Patrick reflects this immersion in the narrative of God’s story. It is rooted deeply in the Psalms and it is founded in the goodness of God’s creation.
For the early Celtic Christians, God was near. The Trinitarian God that is revealed in the Bible could also be seen in creation. The Celtic cross that is so prevalent draws on this frame of reference. Scripture and creation are inextricably tied in this one form, as the roundness of the sun and the shape of the cross are etched together. The revelation of God that is described by Paul in Romans are tied in this symbol, since God is revealed in both nature and the Bible.
The psalmists are so confident in their God, even when things look dark, even when things look utterly hopeless. There was room still for God’s salvation, for he saved his people through the Exodus. He saved his people through invasions, famines, and slavery. And if God did it once, he can surely do it again. That’s why Patrick could arise each day and rely on the strength of God.
Please keep in mind though that Patrick was not more spiritually talented than you or I. No, he had to learn to trust in God. And through his experience, he was able to boldly proclaim the prayer above. He was able to arise each day because he knew the God who formed the foundations of the universe also formed him and cared for him.
I pray that we would rely on this sure foundation.
It’s that time of the year again, where Americans celebrate the 1/64th Irish blood in their veins with song, corned beef, and Guinness. So unless you find yourself in a Baptist, Pentecostal, or dry household, beer will likely be on tap.
In my own experience, I grew up in a dry household. Even though it was a dry household, I never received the impression that our family had a condemning view towards alcohol. With the exceptions of going to a San Diego Padres game and having the classic hammered fan yelling chants at the opposing team or spilling gross Miller or Bud Lite on us, I was never really exposed to it. In fact, I never thought too much about it until years later.
I recall in my recent Church History classes that it seemed as if the American Church (in all its iterations) developed a negative view of alcohol in the last century. It came about through the Progressive movement of the Late Nineteenth to Early Twentieth Century, where many people (including churches and Christians) tried to use the State to implement an ideal nation. Without getting into the politics of it all, it seems like that perception has never quite fully disappeared.
However, compare this American perspective with the Irish Christians of the olden days like St Brigid above. They were a different breed of Christians, a little bit lighter than the developing Roman Catholic Church. While there were deeply Trinitarian in their theology, they also saw God in the wild (but not in the pantheistic understanding). They were frequently seen as an ancient group that had a love of nature, since it reminded them of God’s goodness. They also loved stories, and they saw the connection between the secular and sacred. And to make the large leap into the future, the love of stories is usually connected with the pub and a hearty ale.
For those who are being shaped by the Word of Christ, I want to make clear statements that drunkenness, not necessarily drinking, is condemned in Scripture. So if you find yourself with a green beer in your hand this weekend, I hope you consume it responsibly. And with St. Brigid, raise a pint of ale to the King of Kings in preparation for the return of the King of Kings! Raise your Guinness, knowing that one day we will raise a glass with “Heaven’s family, drinking it through all eternity.”
March brings many great things. This month brings spring, March Madness, my birthday (hooray!), and St Patrick’s Day. New life and old celebrations come to the forefront in this wonderful month. Since March is often associated with green, I thought it would be appropriate to focus here on Wisdom Wednesdays on the Emerald Isle of Ireland. While I might be a little biased towards the Irish, the roots of Christianity are incredibly deep there and I have learned incredible things from these Irish Christians of old.*
When we think of Ireland and Christianity, typically the image of St Patrick comes up. Patrick was a man from the Scotland area who was captured by Irish seafarers and was brought to work in Ireland at around the age 16 in 401-5 AD (the date of this event is not quite certain). A few years passed in slavery before he would escape from the island and from his chains. Later in his life, he received a deep impression by God to go back to the island that once held him hostage. God had called him back to the pagan island of his captivity to bring the good news that Jesus was Lord. Decades later, he was ordained in his late 40s and then returned to the island in 432. He would spend 30 years on this island and eventually died around 462.
Patrick was a bishop of the church, who would also become a missionary to the land. He frequently confronted many chieftains in Ireland. As a former slave, he knew the land and culture well, and he was able to spread the faith across the island. At that time, the Celtic tribes were militaristic and engaged in human sacrifice from time to time. However, through the spread of the gospel of Christ, change occurred in that land. While some missionary forces spread the faith through the point of a sword, both the missionary effort of Patrick and the monastic movement within Ireland would help spread the faith peacefully. Ireland would become a beacon of light during the tumultuous times surrounding the Fall of Rome. The missionary force from this island would help spread Christianity across the continent.
In the remaining posts of this month-long series, we will explore the unique distinctions of Celtic Christianity and also the robust prayer life of these ancient followers of Christ.
*I am indebted to Michael Bischof of Souleader Ministries for this information. His class at Fuller Seminary tremendously helped me in my walk with Christ and also introduced me to this incredible saint.