Christ is risen!
We give thanks for the gift of Easter
that runs beyond our expectations,
beyond our categories of reason,
even more, beyond the sinking sense of our own lives.
We know about the powers of death,
powers that persist among us,
powers that drive us from you, and
from our neighbour, and
from our best selves.
We know about the powers of fear and greed and anxiety,
and brutality and certitude.
powers before which we are helpless.
And then you…you at dawn, unquenched,
you in the darkness,
you on Saturday,
you who breaks the world to joy.
Yours is the kingdom…not the kingdom of death,
Yours is the power…not the power of death,
Yours is the glory…not the glory of death.
Yours…You…and we give thanks
for the newness beyond our achieving.
who crashed your thunder,
who shook the earth, and
scared the wits out of chaos.
You God who with strong arm saved your people
by miracle and wonder and majestic act.
You are the same God to whom we turn,
we turn in our days of trouble,
and in our weary nights;
we look for steadfast love and are dismayed,
we wait for your promises, but wait in fatigue,
we ponder your forgetfulness and lack of compassion,
and we grow silent.
Our lives, addressed to you,
have this bitter-sweet taste of
loud-clashing miracles and weak-kneed doubt.
So we come in our bewilderment and wonderment,
deeply trusting, almost afraid to trust much,
passionately insisting, too timid to insist much,
fervently hoping, exhausted for hoping too much.
Look upon us in our deep need,
mark the wounds of our brothers and sisters just here,
notice the turmoil in our lives, and the lives of our families,
credit the incongruity of the rich and the poor in our very city,
and the staggering injustices abroad in our land,
tend to the rage out of control, rage justified by displacement,
rage gone crazy by absence, silence, and deprivation,
measure the suffering,
count the sufferers,
number the wounds.
You tamer of chaos and mender of all tears in the canvas of creation,
we ponder your suffering,
your crown of thorns,
your garment taken in lottery,
your mocked life,
and now we throw upon your suffering humiliation,
the suffering of the world.
You defeater of death, whose power could not hold you,
come in your Easter,
come in your sweeping victory,
come in your glorious new life.
Easter us in joy and strength.
Be our God, be your true self, lord of life,
massively turn our life toward your life
and away from our anti-neighbor, anti-self deathliness.
Hear our thankful, grateful, unashamed Hallelujah!
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.
Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.
I admit, this one makes me squirm. If it were not for the last sentence, I might reject it entirely. So before I write a 37 minute long thing that probably won’t even be read by more than two people, I will let everyone else have a hearty go. Some questions though…
Can “evil” preside over the church?
What is “evil”? I mean, to an ex-alcoholic pastor, another pastor who drinks is evil. So there is a degree of subjectivity here. Again, Charles Spurgeon smoked cigars. To many evangelical fundies, this is like fornicating with Satan.
I wish I could have sat in on the debates surrounding the writing of this article. Were some of them beating their wife and kids every night, and preaching the next morning? Did these priests attempt to make a door for men who took a liking to young boys? I really wish I knew.
Anglicans do support the last sentence, though.
At the end of the normal training on this evening, Trey would be presented with his orange belt in tai kwan do.
The instructor ran them through their warm ups as always, then into the kicking drills.
For the first time since he enrolled Trey was not only going to do his kicking, he was going to hold the big pads that his fellow students would kick.
It was a small symbol to his peers that he was climbing up the martial arts ranks.
The problem arose when it was evident that his bigger, weightier classmates were overpowering him and the instructor came to help and gently chuckled as Trey handed him back the pads.
The class ended and the big moment arrived, the reception of the next level of belts.
The instructor was effusive in his praise of the three graduates, pronouncing that it was possibly the best orange belt testing in school history.
How proud I was as he announced the grades and spoke so highly of my beloved little man.
Trey dropped his yellow belt to the floor and, on cue, snapped open the orange belt which was then ceremoniously tied around his waist with a respectful bow from his instructor.
When we got in my truck to leave, it was soon evident that my son wasn’t happy.
He was embarrassed about the kicking drill and upset that people had chuckled at his attempt to hold the pads.
He is smaller and lighter than many his age and gets teased at school…and he felt like the mockery had transferred to this place as well.
I listened…then asked him if he had heard the high praise spoken over him as he received his belt.
He guessed he had…but it didn’t matter.
He only heard in his heart what past experience and pain allowed him to receive.
He allowed a little negative log to dam a river of positive feedback.
He gave away the joy that was rightfully his.
As his father, I wept over him and for him as he slept that night.
For many of us, I believe another Father weeps as well.
We can no longer hear His words of love and affirmation, no longer see good in His hand of providence.
We are suspicious of our classmates and disappointed in our Instructor.
We are willing to weep with those who weep, but secretly wish that those rejoicing would go elsewhere.
What little joy we have comes from sharing our misery…and that is a very small joy,indeed.
Sometimes, I write for myself as well as others.
My boy and I are a lot alike.
Make your own application….
Last night, as I lay in bed unable to sleep it struck me that I’ve lost a few years along the way.
I can remember working in certain places and certain times, but not where I lived during those times.
I don’t remember how I got from life event A to life event B or how I ended up at life events past those.
It was a disconcerting realization.
I know that those were times of emotional trauma and transition, but I can’t recall much more than that.
Stuff happened…stuff I guess I got past, but never got over.
We occasionally have people come on these pages and adjure folks who have been traumatized in the church to “just get over it”.
They are to do this, of course, “in the power of the Holy Spirit”.
That’s what Christians are supposed to do.
There is some Scriptural validity to this admonition, of course.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:13–14 ESV)
The problem comes when you can’t forget…or you forget things you didn’t intend to.
Many of us in middle age or later are still subconsciously reacting to words and events that happened in our youth…those words and events have shaped our lives behind our eyes and through our souls.
We are vessels full of pain and shame and anger…and the Holy Spirit.
My word this morning is for those who haven’t got over it…who haven’t had a miraculous healing of the heart.
We may never get over it…but we can get through it, get past it, or maybe just get to a point where we can live with it.
Live…without our wounds dictating our circumstances.
What we can’t do is allow our ourselves to be defined by it.
We inch forward…and it’s easier when we do it together.
I need some company…
1. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz created a firestorm in Christian social media when he told a supporter of traditional marriage to sell his stock in the company if he disagreed with Starbucks support of gay marriage. Corporate America has been driving the gay rights bus for a long time now…when I was hired by a major bank in 2002 “inclusiveness training” was the very first thing on the agenda.
Corporate America is a beast in the biblical sense, as anti-Christ as the trade guilds of Revelation…yet every election cycle the church is called to support the party that is most closely affiliated with it. I’m not saying the other party is superior, I’m saying we can’t recognize a beast until it devours us.
2. I never read how the above is a “sign of the times”…but it more closely matches the biblical model than 90% of the natural events and doctrinal disputes we associate with such.
3. Holy Week is upon us…will you observe and participate in it or is it just another week with a “special” service at the end?
4. Millions of people went to tens of thousands of churches and were blessed and fed yesterday.Sometimes we need a news flash to remind us…
5. When the church emulates the world it contributes to the decline of both.
6. When we ask God to take down abusive pastors we rarely ask Him to do things in the body as He did with Ananias and Sapphira. I suspect we can’t have one without the other.
7. The only thing I can say that prayer truly changes is my focus…
8. If you will learn to measure your success by what you’ve given away instead of what you have acquired, the world cannot steal your joy.
9. Corporate America judges by those things measurable by numbers…God judges by the unmeasurable qualities of the heart. Choose your judge wisely…
10. One of my biggest concerns is that we in blogdom need to be much more careful about communicating the fact that rogue pastors and abusive churches are the exception, not the rule. The world is watching…which is why we must deal with those exceptions with truth and in righteousness.
We count on your words that flow from our ears
to our hearts, and we are glad.
But even while we listen,
we live much of our lives underneath the table.
We read these old stories, and
we know about intrigue and fear and
anxiety and near violence
We mostly do not act out our violence
but we imagine and ponder and scheme;
and then we, too, must cover up
and the cover-up ferments;
our lives become complex and burdened.
We keep inventing ourselves and our underneath selves turn out
to be less than adequate
and we wish we were other than we are.
We juggle your good purposes and
our hidden yearnings and
try to serve two masters,
try to live two narratives,
try to live two dreams,
and we are weary.
Because we know our hearts of anxiety so well,
we seem fated to disease.
But because we know your heart of fidelity so well,
we know you will defeat our demons
and make us new.
We know about your abiding fidelity in
Jesus of Nazareth.
Give us patience and steadfastness as we
process the ragged edges of our lives.