Archives for the month of: March, 2013

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Rejoice. Again I say rejoice. Join with the saints. Join with heaven. Join with creation. See the light breaking through the dark. You are no longer bound to what you were. You are no longer a slave to death, a soul wondering in the night. You have passed from death to life. You have been redeemed. Cast aside your worries. Cast aside your fears.

The one who is and is to come has. He stands beckoning you to see. He has made the world his footstool. He has put death in its proper place. He has taken your shame. He has taken your guilt and thrown it into the ocean. He has given up his soul. He has marks to show his love. His love is beyond understanding.

Stand in the presence. Smell the fragrance. You are free. I am free. We are free. What was once dead is now alive. What was once lost is found.

You. You poor wretched sinner. You stand as one cleaned. You stand as an heir. A proper member of the kingdom. All authority. All power. You now take part in the greatest of love stories. You now take part in the greatest of truths.

You are loved. He is risen. Go and tell it on the mountain.

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Hope is not always cheery it is the consistent, authentic expectation of light even in the dark. 

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Today, is Good Friday. Today, we read and remember the death of Christ. Sunday is coming, to be sure, but there is hope to be found even on this day, even at Golgatha.

Often our situation is more Friday than Sunday. We do not have to look far to learn about stories of food deserts and homelessness  and depression and abuse and tragedy and violence. It is all around. 

Friday started in the early moments for Jesus. In the cool of the pre-dawn air Jesus was betrayed by a kiss and arrested. The innocent man was shackled and taken before the courts. In Isaiah 53 we read, “This one, who is the bearer of our infirmities, was accounted stricken, and struck down by God.” Though his was a life perfectly lived, he was mocked, accused, and sentenced. 

Crucify Him!

Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, upon him he took the punishment of us all. A criminal’s death was not humane. Rome knew how to torture. Good Friday brings us face to face with the agony of violence, the pain of death. 

The power of the Good Friday story identifies The Suffering Servant in Isaiah as our Messiah. Jesus humbled himself, became a man, and went to the cross for us. He did not side step Friday; he did not transcend suffering or pain or death. Jesus brought Salvation into every part of our world. There was no part of human experience Jesus did not experience. 

NT Wirght says, 

“It is because in his death on the cross we see a love which can only be identified as God’s love that we Christians say: He was not just a great teacher, dying for his beliefs. He was not just a good man suffering innocently. He was, and is, the loving God himself, come as a human being to save men, women, and children from sin and death, and from all the stain and fear and guilt and shame which cling to our hearts, our memories, our imaginations, our lives.”

There is hope on Good Friday because it is God there on the cross. Not just any man; It is God. 

Although it is easy to leave Good Friday quickly, we are called to take up the cross. This is more than a slogan. It is a call to step into the places where Friday is most evident in our world. We need to wait in the dark long enough to discover what God is doing under cover of darkness.

Jesus cried, “It is finished,” as he breathed his last. It was a cry to announce the Kingdom was breaking in. Salvation belongs to our God. The way of the Cross is the power God poured out for the world. 

It is costly to look into the darkness of human life. The road calls for suffering and pain and messiness, but it is the only way to see what must be done. Remember Hope is not always cheery it is the consistent, authentic expectation of light even in the dark.

We will get to Sunday, but love does not transcend Friday. Love suffers with the world. This is why we celebrate Good Friday. 

 

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Holy Thursday – a hugely important day in our faith. We have many ideas happening here and frankly it’s a day that shapes many of the denominations throughout the world. You have the establishing of communion, the lord’s supper, Eucharist, and you have the washing of the disciple’s feet, which in and of itself was a monumental moment in establishing how Christ viewed himself.

So where do you begin? Let us start in John 16:7 – “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

I’m sorry what? It’s better for us that Jesus leaves? Jesus himself said this. So think about that for a moment – Christ said basically – “you need me to leave.” Can you imagine what the disciples listening to this thought? This is the man that they had poured their lives into for years telling them essentially – “I’m going away, but it’s ok, you’re better off.”

Think for a moment that if the single most influential person in your life came to you and said – “Listen, I’m going away and you cannot follow yet, but don’t worry – you’re better off.” You’d have to be absolutely confused, plus he refers to the “advocate” coming which had to make the disciples’ heads spin. Jesus is throwing a ton at them and I imagine that the disciples are sitting around slack-jawed and confused.

I still don’t entirely know what he means. I mean Jesus is there with people in the flesh and he says “no, no, there’s something greater out there.” Let that soak in a moment. Jesus – the “God-Man,” the Saviour of the world is looking at the disciples in the eyes, and at millions more to follow and says – “there’s more just around the bend.”

That’s what Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday, whatever you call it, says to me. It says – get ready. Get ready because what’s coming and what’s next is beyond anything you can imagine or fathom at this moment. We get wrapped up in communion, there’s arguments over how often we should do it, what does it mean, is the Eucharist true, set all that aside for the moment and understand this – you take communion and you join in with the disciples themselves. You are saying – yes I remember, I remember that at that moment around the table Jesus tore apart everything that had come before. He had hinted at so much before, but John 14, 15, 16, and 17 really spell it out – and it’s unlike anything anyone expected. Jesus says – look, what you expected is not what you’re getting. You’re getting something more, something new, something different, something that will alter the shape of who you are and what you are.

This is what Holy Thursday is. It’s the early warning sign. It’s the set up. It’s the beginning of a new dawn of man. It’s when God reveals his plan. Reveals the life altering plan that not only saves mankind but brings his spirit to us. It’s the moment that forever splits time. Without the set up, without the beginning, there is nothing. We need this. We need Christ telling us that his power, his mercy is available to us. We need Christ telling us that he himself is laying down on the line. That he is a sacrifice, not a tragedy.

The sacrifice makes all the difference. If it’s a tragedy, it’s not full of power.

So then what do we say of the foot washing? We say – Christ establishes himself as a servant. Servants only do what a master asks – an allegory to what Christ fights through internally as he wrestles with the plan laid out before him. So what does this mean for us? It means we must be servants as well. It means that we must come to others as Christ did – helping, humbly, and serving beyond what we have been called to do.

Jesus knew full well that he was “above” foot washing yet still measured himself a servant and served. This foot washing before setting up the end of his life and his final mission/purpose can teach us so much about “perspective” but that’s a shallow layer. The deeper layer is that we have no choice but to be servants. We are compelled by Christ/the Advocate/God and if he himself can lower and serve, you have no excuse. I have no excuse. May this Thursday remind you of that.

God bless you this holy week.

“So that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
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This text, from 2 Corinthians 4, caught me today. Grace has a way of spreading.

A few chapters earlier, Paul calls the people of God an aroma. A people who spread the aroma of Christ throughout the world. This aroma is that of grace; it is the richness of God’s open embrace.
Grace is not just a transaction. Grace is the power of God. The church then offers this aroma to the world.

I have been reading and thinking about shame quite a bit recently. Shame spans across all human experience. Every person stands under the weight of shame. Some of us know well the heaviness. Others have not stopped because if they stop and look they might notice. Some-aware of the weight and pain of shame-live with numbness to avoid it. Regardless, shame is real. Shame is a power.

The woman at the well knows shame. John 4 tells us she came to the well in the middle of the day, during off hours. We are left to assume she travelled at this time because she wanted to be alone. The whispers were too much. It was exhausting to meet the “good” wives and mothers each morning.

Shame has a way of separating us, pushing even the assumed strong to the shadows. The disconnection of shame tells us we are not worthy of love or friendship. This is a painful story to carry around.
The woman approaches the well and Jesus speaks. “Give me a drink.”

She responds, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman?”

Her response is indirect, defensive. Defense is the muscle memory of shame. Shame tip-toes around assumed traps in self-defense of being vulnerable. Although, Jesus was genuine and kind, she expected the worst, likely because she has experienced the worst.

Then Jesus speaks again, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The conversation continues. Slowly, Jesus breaks through the woman’s guard. By the end of the conversation about “Living water,” this woman is different. The way of Jesus is the way of grace. It lightens weight of shame, it breaks through the walls of isolation.

Grace, in this story, sends the woman running. Not running to hide, but running back to the city with wonderful news.


As Jesus demonstrates, we are called to have a different kind of power. Suffering, self-giving grace is not a good slogan, yet it is powerful. It is a different kind of power, but it is a power. The Church is the fragrance of life to dying world.

We are a means of grace; we are the aroma of Christ.

The embrace of grace is the call of the church. The way of the cross is the power of God. This power for the world is a will to embrace.

A will to embrace…the other before we know their story or because we know their story
A will to embrace…the least and the lonely
A will to embrace…the people who are well-dressed and those who are ragged
A will to embrace…those how have done wrong over and over and over again

So we’re in the middle of Lent/closing days. Frankly I’ve lost count. This post isn’t to pat myself on the back and stand like Pharisee in the street beating my chest. This is to come clean –

I miss TV. I miss the warm glow, the canned laughter, forced jokes, heavy-handed writing. I miss it all. And I hate myself for it.

You see, I’ve always heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit and well, I passed that a while ago. You’d think that by skipping out on TV since 2/13, I’d have reached some new plane of thinking. Some new level of enlightenment. All I’ve found is that I just want to watch some dang TV.

Lent is about giving up something to partake in Christ. To perhaps devote time to doing something better. I’ve been doing that and I still want TV. What does this say about me? Does this say that I’m a bad Christian? (I’m leaving this in for all of you that dislike Lent because it’s a “works” thing) Does it say I’m addicted to TV? I don’t know.

I feel like the Israelites – I’ve tasted something good, but I keep running back to the old way. To the comfortable instant gratification way. Growing up I’d always laugh at the Israelites of the Old Testament and say “What loons! God was right there with them and they kept running away. I would never do that!”

Then I grew up.

Then I realized that I do it every day. Every day I chose something over Him. Every day I act a fool in some way and besmirch his name. Why do I do this? Can I argue the Calvinistic approach of total depravity? Sure, why not? But that’s a copout answer. I think I do it because every day I get a little swagger in me (as I heard a friend recently say). That’s the best part of being human isn’t it? That we always think we know what’s best. My three kids are always so quick to correct me, because that’s what we do. This doesn’t make it right, but it makes it something.

So how do I fix this? I don’t. I tie myself to the Mast and weather the storm. I group myself with amazing godly people who edify and build up. Point out my flaws and generally make me better.

Now what to do about TV? Ask me Good Friday….if you can find me….I’m turning my phone off and watching TV for 36 hours straight.