When Mary Magdalene anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume, many of the onlookers were indignant. After all, her act of adoration was unnecessary, a costly use of resources that might have gone to nobler purposes. But Jesus rebuked this indignation and welcomed his disciple's flourish. In much the same way, artists throughout history are often seen as superfluous, their work an unnecessary luxury. Accordingly, they are often unappreciated. Yet this dismissive attitude cannot undermine the value of artists' work. Jesus himself is pleased with every creative endeavor that celebrates the beauty of his world. Since ultimately, it all celebrates of his Father.Read More
Every person experiences trauma at some point in life. And when this trauma takes place in a context of heightened vulnerability, say during childhood or within a trusting relationship, its devastating effects often reverberate for decades. Trauma can so alter a person’s view of themselves and the world that relating to others can prove near impossible. Like communication between alien species, misunderstandings abound. That difficulty tempts many of us to withdraw from the traumatized, or perhaps to offer glib fixes. But doing so forfeits seeing one of the great glories of God -- namely, that he is re-creating all things from the very fiber of trauma. God is remaking the world through the cross of Christ. In other words, apart from the trauma of Christ we are incomplete. But as his trauma manifests in us, we learn the language of heaven.Read More
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.Read More
Our present culture hails the bootstrapper (one who gets into or out of a situation using existing resources instead of external resources) as the epitome of the American Experiment -- without need, resilient, self reliant. The super Dad, the super Mom, the super Coworker. We often hear “God helps those who help themselves.”
I offer another definition of bootstrapper -- Coward. One who actually lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things. Even in our attempted bootstrapping ways, we’re not calmly pausing to look around at available options and resources for solutions. We’re desperately fighting to get out of the perceived weight we’re stuck under. The story of cowardly Gideon in Judges is much the same. Just like Gideon, we need help beyond ourselves, we need rescue. Thanks be to God that “The Lord was with Gideon” just as He is with us. And thanks to the Lord’s holy wisdom: Weak cowards are exactly who Jesus is looking for. We’re plan A. He loves cowards at the end of our rope, and He moves toward us, wants to be present with us. We who were given faith are his tangible presence on earth as the Holy Spirit moves within us. He gives us life abundant beyond any resources we have available, any scheme we can think up, and anything we can see here in our earthly reality.Read More
The Christian life is anything but the exemplar of ease and comfort that many of us seek. But what we receive, what we have, is God himself. Particularly, in times of dire affliction and distress, the LORD promises us himself, unconditionally and unreservedly. He is with us in our deepest anguish, heartache, and despair. And he will never leave nor forsake us! Yes, Jesus Christ is the Good News for the Hurting, and he is Good News even unto death; because Jesus, the destroyer of Death, is with us.Read More
Children enter this world wide-eyed and curious. And when nurtured and protected, they’re sense of wonder mixes with developing skills and understanding to birth dreams. They want to be astronauts or rock stars or Olympians or all of the above. But then they outgrow the safety of parental nurture, and the world’s cruelties rain on their parade. Dreams become a casualty of maturity, filed away alongside unicorns and fairy tales in a folder of the mind marked “former naiveties”. Turns out, life isn’t fair or sensible or trustworthy. The celebrity public service announcements got it wrong: you can’t be whatever you put your mind to. But what if somewhere amid this abyss of disillusionment, there was something even better than dreams -- something that cynicism and apathy could never quench. What if everything weak and lowly and pitiful proved to be the very substance of hope. What if being a nobody placed us in the company of kings.Read More
For many, résumé building is far more than a professional activity. It is a way of life. Adding bullet points to our running list of accomplishments feels like salvation, a way to assuage those haunting doubts of our self-worth. With each new achievement, we add a layer of protection, more proof that we matter, more distance between us and the terrifying prospect of being a nobody. But for all the successes our strengths can produce, they cannot erase our frailty. And when the pressure of racing to credential ourselves finally outstrips those frailties, we burn out. We crack at our weakest points and the whole building crumbles. It is the very fear of such a moment that drives us toward it at breakneck speed. Who would you be if your résumé were suddenly a blank page? To answer that question on your own is to know panic and self-deceit. But God has an answer for us: Who you are has nothing to do with what you’ve done. Breathe. Beloved children have no need for résumés.Read More
We live in a never ending game of hide and seek with our Father. The good news for us all is that we always hide in plain sight whether we know it or not. Our Father sees us, knows us, and loves us, no matter how unlovely we consider ourselves to be.Read More
Jesus is good news for all people. We see it in his incarnation, his atonement, his resurrection. He took up residency here among us and flipped the script on us: the power structures and motivations of his present time didn’t seem to hold sway on him--he lived in an upside down sort of way. He embodied perfection, too; the religious leaders were always trying to corner him on something with no success--he lived at peace with God from the inside out in a sort of way that people were drawn to. He also thought he was rich. No, he was wholeheartedly convinced that the power and glory of his Father was present even though it led him into death. Yes, Jesus lived an inside out, upside down, now but not yet life; he is Lord of us all, and that is good news indeed.Read More
Let us not take ourselves so seriously as to think we can grasp reality. All evil stems from the belief that we can understand all things, that we can put the pieces of the whole puzzle together, that we can arrive at clarity. In fact, clarity is always an illusion. It is the erroneous absence of need, the end of dependence, the death of God. If we have clarity, we no longer need God. We have built Babel. In such a state, we may give God credit, but only in the past tense, as if his contribution has run its course. We'll take it from here, thank you very much. After all, we have clarity. May it never be so among us. Rather, may we always know this: There are chasms of mystery beyond us, transcendent realities to which we have no comprehending access, but only the chance to wonder and worship. Laughter and praise are the fitting offerings of dependent, beloved children. And so we are.Read More
This week is Trinity Sunday, the first week of Ordinary Time in the Christian calendar.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Everything in salvation and the life of faith is so utterly Christ conditioned, that we are not only connected to His present, but also His past and His future. He goes first. So follow Him, even to a Cross. He is perfect God and perfect Man, so that His place can be your place just as you are, a sinner saved by grace.
Through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, God has provided hope for the world and for all our lives. But so much of life seems tied up in our fragility, stress, inadequacy, and failures. So often, we do not feel or sense the Spirit of Pentecost, and hope seems a hoax. But the Spirit of God doesn't abide by worldly wisdom, but by a divine and cruciform wisdom -- a wisdom that leads us to feel both ours and others' regrets and suffering deeply, even as God had felt the regret and suffering of us all.Read More
When God made the world, he filled it with mirrors. And the largest of these mirrors is us, human people. The purpose of these mirrors is to reflect the beauty, goodness, and truth of God, so that the creation might enjoy and thrive in the love of its creator. But there's a problem. All the mirrors are marred now. Some are twisted. Others cracked. And many have shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. In this state, our experience and vision of God is distorted at best and more often wrong altogether. We have all sought to fix this problem. We've pursued healing, both for themselves and the rest of the world, seeking to restore our view of God and rediscover a pure vision of his love. And some have done great work. Some mirrors have moved back toward their true shape decidedly. Trouble is, even if some mirror somewhere could reach full restoration -- and none yet have -- what benefit is it to insert a few true mirrors into the circus funhouse of distortion that is our world? Once reflection becomes as bent as it is here, no amount of true reflection can unbend the light. Truth is, we need something more than better mirrors. We need the light source himself. Reflection will not do here. We must have flesh and blood.Read More
The things we make say a lot about us. They reveal what we like, and therefore reveal something of what we are like. So too with our God. This world he made reveals what he likes, and therefore something of what he is like. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” the psalmist writes. And again: “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” In the many varied ways that this world glimmers to us, we are given opportunity to marvel at the glory of God, to wonder at his creativity and imagination. And it is only in being awestruck by him that we rightly see the value of his creation. When our awe wanes, we mistreat the creation -- either by over-valuing it and asking some piece of it to be our god; or by devaluing it and subjugating some piece of it to be our slave. But God would rescue us from those swamps of ruin. If what he has made cannot hold our gaze, then perhaps he can do so in the flesh. Jesus came into the world not to reflect God like the rest of creation, but to embody him. He came to arrest our hearts and fill us with awe to everlasting.Read More
God has promised that those who look to him will lack no good thing and never be ashamed. But how can this be? The history of God’s people seems to be little more than one long, meandering story of lack and shame. And when we look
at the evidence of our own lives, we see more of the same. What, then, do these promises of God mean? The answer is
in Jesus. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” the psalmist declares. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” In other words, a life with God is a life like that of Jesus. He was crushed and afflicted. Yet amid all these pains, he remained secure under the watchful eye of his Father. So it is for all people united to Jesus by faith. The Father treasures and watches over us with all the care and steadfastness he provided his beloved Son. We are just as secure as Jesus, though often crushed with him.
For Christians, victorious living is defined by the life of Jesus. His way is the way of victory. Yet, in looking at how Jesus spent his days, victory is not the first word that comes to mind. He was born in a stable to a mother slandered as unfaithful. As a toddler, he and his family fled their home country as refugees. He grew up poor, the son of a tradesman, in a region mocked for its lowly station. As an adult, he kept company with the dregs of society -- cheats, prostitutes, drunkards. The most noble leaders of his own people and creed condemned him. His own family considered him a fool. A dear companion sold him out for bag of silver. And his closest friends abandoned him to spare themselves. Jesus was crucified as a common thief. Meanwhile, the wicked sprout like grass and evildoers flourish. In what possible sort of world can this way of Christ be called victorious? Only one: the sort of world pregnant with resurrection.Read More
God in Christ has declared all things new and we believe Him, but all we know of this is an inner whisper. At the moment, the evidence is severely lacking. Hope and change continue to slip back into perversion and violence. The formation of faith, hope, and love do not bring the personal glory we had hoped, but cut us open to know the sufferings of our Christ. Is He worth it? Yes! So in unfulfilled longing, rejoice. Every promise will be fulfilled and every tear wiped away.Read More
From the moment of his Transfiguration, Jesus began a journey down from the mountain of glory, toward Jerusalem, and ultimately to the upside down glory of the cross. He flipped the world on its head, demonstrating forever that true divine glory works itself out in the self-sacrifice of love. Jesus was eternally destined for this journey to Jerusalem. He was sent to bring God's love to Zion and establish a heavenly culture there. He entered Jerusalem to great adulation and yet also riding a donkey, foreshadowing both the conquest and humiliation of the cross. In the kingdom of God, conquest is won through humiliation. Jesus achieved his greatest victory by way of his greatest defeat. He was anointed to spend himself in love for the sake of re-creating God's city and redeeming God's people. This anointing covered Jesus from head to toe. And it likewise covers all people who are baptized into his body. In baptism, Christians are anointed to participate in the life and death of Jesus. In baptism, we are anointed to minister redemption through the great gain and loss of love.Read More
Our world is broken. Nothing holds together. Everything dies. The order and authority that we struggle to impose on this fractured reality amount to temporary band-aids, at best. More often, our efforts to fix the mess only make matters worse. Nevertheless, God so loved this world that he sent his Son into its mire. And Jesus humbled himself, entering even the most devastated quarters of this burned out place. He bore the shame of sin, heard the lies of Satan, and knew the darkness of death. Yet, he did not enter these things only to endure them. He entered to defeat them. Jesus undid the power of shame. He crushed the head of Satan. And he flooded the black of death with light. Jesus imposed order and authority in ways we cannot. For there is only one true King. And his kingdom is boundless.Read More
On Holy Saturday we contemplate the silence of Christ in the grave.Read More