BLOG ARCHIVES

  • WASHED AND WAITING: FINDING OURSELVES IN JESUS’ IDENTITY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    I am currently reading through New Testament scholar Wesley Hill’s powerful and vulnerable memoir called Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.  In his book, Hill recounts his coming to terms with his evangelical faith in Jesus with his homosexual attractions.  While there are more than a few places that are worth drawing out, I wanted to highlight one particular passage.

    In one passage, Hill discovered for the first time the necessity to understand his status as the beloved child of God.  Above all identities and all beliefs, he needed to hear that he is the beloved child.

    For Hill, his baptism identifies him with Jesus and it gives him a measure of strength and grace to wait in the tension of this present life.  He remains faithful to the calling of Jesus while living in the tension of unfulfilled sexual desire.  That is very tough.

    His memoir, though, got me thinking about my own identity.  As I go through a season of unemployment, I have found the need to transform my identity from what I do for a living, to who I am apart from a business card.  Every time I log into LinkedIn, I am confronted with my lack of employment, and it is pretty painful to be reminded of it.

    Have you ever had a similar feeling?

    That’s why Hill’s reminder of identity is so crucial in difficult stations of life.  He brings in N.T. Wright’s grace filled admonition to look to the cross of Jesus, for there we see the extravagant and inexorable self-giving love of the triune God.  There we see our identity.

    Did you catch that?

    When we look away from ourselves and place our vision on the crucified Christ, we are able to see that we are radically loved.  We are loved not because of our job, or deeds, or talents, or charm, but simply because.  Simply because of Jesus and in our union with him (which deserves a ten part blog series).  

    Is there more to it?  Of course there is!  I’ve heard it said that the Christian faith is a pool that has ample room for toddlers to wade in the shallows and has enough depth for those who want to dive.  But for now, we are simply loved by Jesus.  And I simply hope you grasp this incredible news.

    Photo Credit: Steampunk Family the von Hedwigs via Compfight cc

  • SOMETHING TO HOLD ONTO DURING THE DARKEST NIGHT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    I wanted to share a quote from Biblical scholar D.A. Carson on the all too real topic of suffering:

    In the darkest night of the soul, Christians have something to hold onto that Job never knew.  We know Christ crucified.  Christians have learned that when there seems to be no other evidence of God’s love, they cannot escape the cross.  ‘He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things.’ (Romans 8:32)…When we suffer there will sometimes be mystery.  Will there also be faith?  Yes.  If our attention is focused more on the cross and on the God of the cross than on the suffering itself.

    D.A. Carson

    How Long, O Lord?

    When all is lost, and it looks like God is asleep on the beach somewhere, we still have the cross.  We still see the extent of his love– even when there seems to be radio silence.

    Thanks be to God!

    Photo Credit: Jason A. Samfield via Compfight cc

  • REMBRANDT AND THE CROSS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy, Theology

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    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    Isaiah 53:4-6
    “Raising the Cross” Rembrandt
    “Raising the Cross” by Rembrandt

    ***

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
    so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    II Corinthians 5:21
    “The Descent from the Cross” by Rembrandt
    ***
    By means for our first [parents] (Adam and Eve), we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death.  So at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning were His disciples, having cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, can come to the life of God.
    -Irenaeus of Lyons
     

    “The Entombment of Christ” by Rembrandt

    Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood, naked.  He was beaten, had his beard torn off and was deserted by his followers.  Jesus was placed as a common criminal, a person on the side of the road strategically placed to show the strength of Rome.  The same person who created the world and fashioned the cosmos was now held to a tree.  He was looked upon as a subject of scorn, an object of derision.  He was placed there for the world.  And quite frankly, I was a cause of His pain.

    God, the source of beauty, was destroyed and disfigured beyond all recognition for the sake of humanity.
    So, come to Jesus, come to the cross where new life is found.  Now is the day of salvation. [1]

    (Repost from the archives)

  • REMBRANDT AND GOOD FRIDAY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    As you read this, I hope you might take a few minutes this Good Friday to read and chew on the words below.  Place yourself at the sites of each biblical scene, and try to picture yourself there.  Here is a piece of music that I hope you turn on in the background as you do this, give it a shot and really get into the God’s story of redemption.  Be blessed my friends through the work of Edvard Grieg, Rembrandt, and most importantly Jesus, our crucified Lord.

     

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    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    Isaiah 53:4-6

    “Raising the Cross” Rembrandt

     

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
    so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    II Corinthians 5:21

    “The Descent from the Cross” Rembrandt

    By means for our first [parents] (Adam and Eve), we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death.  So at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning were His disciples, having cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, can come to the life of God.
    -Irenaeus of Lyons

    “The Entombment of Christ” by Rembrandt

     

    Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood, naked.  He was beaten, had his beard torn off and was deserted by his followers.  Jesus was placed as a common criminal, a person on the side of the road strategically placed to show the strength of Rome.  The same person who created the world and fashioned the cosmos was now held to a tree.  He was looked upon as a subject of scorn, an object of derision.  He was placed there for the world.  And quite frankly, I was a cause of His pain.

    God, the source of beauty, was destroyed and disfigured beyond all recognition for the sake of humanity.

    So, come to Jesus, come to the cross where new life is found.  Now is the day of salvation. [1]

     

  • WHEN GOD DIED

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk, Liturgy, Theology

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    If there is one thing you need to know about the Roman Empire, it’s that the dominant ancient power knew how to kill people and to keep them under their thumb.

    If people ever stepped out of line, or if there were ever any hints of rebellion, the Roman authorities would take drastic measure.  They would take an individual, a rebel leader or criminal, and do a really horrible thing to them.  They would take the person and hang them on a cross outside of a major city with a sign next to them stating why they were slowly dying on that piece of wood.  During the infamous Spartacus slave/gladiator revolt in the First Century BC, the Roman authorities fought a massive insurrection.  They were finally able to put it down through the use of force, capturing a large number of former slaves.  

    What did they do to the six thousand people they captured?  They crucified them ALL to crosses along a major road.  6,000 people, lining the Appian Way in Italy.  6,000!  

    Thousands of executed people would have sent one message, “Don’t mess with Rome!”  (Unless you wanted to end up hanging naked, suffocating to death)

    When you hear nonsense that Jesus was not killed on Friday, don’t listen to it.  The Romans knew how to kill people.  Jesus would not have “swooned” on the cross, he would not have been spared the ultimate punishment through passing out on the cross.  While certain scholars and religions (namely Islam) deny the historical death of Jesus, according to ancient non-Christian sources, there was a man named Jesus and he was executed.

    But his death is not the end of the story!  Just wait for a few more days, and dawn will break.  But for now, it’s OK to feel sorrowful.  I encourage you to attend a Maundy Thursday and/or Good Friday service at your church (or a nearby RCC, Anglican, or Presbyterian should have one).

    Isaiah 53:4-9
     
    4 Surely he has borne our griefs
       and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
       smitten by God, and afflicted.
    5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
       he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
       and with his wounds we are healed.
    6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
       we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
       the iniquity of us all.
    7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
       yet he opened not his mouth;
    like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
       and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
       so he opened not his mouth.
    8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
       and as for his generation, who considered
    that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
       stricken for the transgression of my people?
    9 And they made his grave with the wicked
       and with a rich man in his death,
    although he had done no violence,
       and there was no deceit in his mouth.
     
  • O SACRED HEAD, NOW WOUNDED

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Hymn

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    O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
    Bernard of Clairvaux

    O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
    Now scornfully surrounded with thorns Your only crown,
    O sacred Head, no glory now from Your face does shine;
    Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call You mine.

    Men mock and taunt and jeer You. They smite Your countenance.
    Though mighty worlds shall fear You, and flee before Your glance.
    How pale You are with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
    Your eyes with pain now languish that once were bright as morn!

    My burden in Your passion, Lord, You have borne for me,
    For it was my transgression, my shame, on Calvary.

    I cast me down before you; wrath is my rightful lot.
    Have mercy, I implore You; Redeemer, spurn me not!

    What language shall I borrow to thank You, dearest Friend,

    For this, Your dying sorrow, Your pity without end?
    Oh, make me Yours forever, and keep me strong and true;
    Lord, let me never, never outlive my love for You.