March 30, 2018

Lent Devotional Series, Good Friday: It is Finished

The Cross of Fitzpatrick

Today recalls a moment of collision.  Humility clashes with cowardice.  Authority bangs against power.  Righteousness crashes into corruption.  The women mourn and witness a murder and the sheep-men scatter as their shepherd hangs.   The executioner begins to understand.  A man waiting for the Kingdom boldly prepares for a burial.  Then the moment of collision happens.  The thunder claps, the lights go out, the creator dies, and evil wins the day.  Or so it seems today.  But…

We did not understand the creator-God’s promise.  So we mourn with the women and scatter with the men.  We missed the truth.  Everything is different.

We have a choice to make.

March 11, 2018

Lent Devotional Series, Fourth Sunday: A Battle Between Serpents

Moses by Benjamin West,1793
Some of our neighbours are terminal.  The symptoms are severe and we know that death is about to make its last turn before staring our neighbour directly in the eye in a contest it will inevitably win.  Then we look at ourselves.  We are sick too.  It is a nagging sickness that seems to have no cure.  We are also terminal but the symptoms are mild enough that we can normally go about our days even though we know that something is not right, or knowing that we are out of sorts, or even knowing that something should be different.  Every so often we get a glimpse of a miracle cure that comes seemingly out of nowhere.   We doubt it will work so we try to create our own miracle.  We fail, we wretch, and we take another foggy step toward our death.  The consequence of sin has become acute.  

March 4, 2018

Lent Devotional Series, Third Sunday: A foolish option

Cleansing of the Temple, detail by Pieter Aertsen
17th Century
For some people I know, my being a Christian is an odd quirk.  It doesn’t make me anathema to them but it also doesn’t seem to make them think I am a particularly good person.  It, among other things, is what makes me a bit odd but still more-or-less likeable.  I remember walking into a conversation one day that one of these people – I’ll call him Jimmy – was having with a mutual friend, who is also a Christian.  As soon as I walked into the room Jimmy looked at me and said, “Can you honestly tell me that you believe in angels and a devil?”  He had a smirk and a curious laugh as he spoke but it was not to mock me.  It communicated more that he thought these were beyond credulity.  I like talking to Jimmy because I can be frank about what I believe with him and we can have a serious conversation about it but when the conversation gets too intense we can easily slide into a chat about Doctor Who and he’ll let me proselytize again in a few weeks.  “I do,” I replied to Jimmy.  “But you need to realize that isn’t nearly so weird as the fact that I believe a guy who died came back to life after a few days.  Angels are way easier than that.”
“Well, I suppose,” said Jimmy.  “So... David Tennant or Matt Smith?”

“Foolish question.  Tennant.  Of course!”

February 25, 2018

Lent Devotional Series, Second Sunday: Two Stories

Get Behind Me, Satan!, James Tissot

Faith is a crucial piece to the Christian walk.  A truism, for sure.  Faith is also a frustrating piece to the Christian walk.  Perhaps not faith, but at least the way some Christians talk about faith, with statements like Just have faith or God has a plan and things will work out.  I am certain that God does have a plan and I am equally certain that things will ultimately “work out” but I am nervous when our statement of faith gets tied up with such ideas.  My adverb in the last sentence was intentional – ultimately.  Today though, when I need faith, is penultimate.  Today, in the penultimate moment, things ultimately working out may not seem that helpful to me.  A lot of horrendous things happen on the way to the ultimate and, for all intents and purposes, it looks like things typically do not work out.  What does faith mean during these moments?

February 21, 2018

Book Review - John Stackhouse's Why You're Here

Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World is John Stackhouse’s contribution to a conversation about ethics.  For Stackhouse, ethics are not a simple list of good things and bad things but are instead the character or essence of the thing.  Stackhouse uses this definition to suggest a reason why we are here: to maximize shalom.  Maximizing shalom means we have a job to do.  The book begins with a statement of what God expects of all people, then does the same regarding God’s expectation of Christians in particular, and then closes with some thoughts about what this looks like in practicality, which is where I found the majority of benefit in reading.