Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CP 246 A glorious bloody mess

CP 246 A glorious bloody mess…
Hi people, I have to write about this while it is still so clear in my mind and heart. Two insights from Good Friday, from separate sources, with no connection to any of my preparations. On Good Friday our resident music/internet resource person, Merrion Hoffmann, found a short video clip which was played as the conclusion of the Service. You have to watch it! It’s about Simon of Cyrene, the man who was hauled out of the crowd to help Jesus carry his cross on the way to Calvary. (You can find it by going to Look for Videos, then Easter, then Simon of Cyrene.)
In the clip Simon reflects with tearful wonder, about the messiest day of his life. Some quotes:
  • ‘If this guy’s blood gets on me…it stains me… and I can’t do the Passover… and that’s the whole reason for being in Jerusalem…’
  • ‘I looked at my hands… stained with his blood… I thought would make me unclean… but I realized… it’s the blood that makes me clean!'
How's that for insight. I've never given a moment's thought to the 'bloody' impact of what happened to the man from Cyrene... 'It's the blood that makes me clean!'

Then, on Easter Saturday I had a conversation with a friend in Canberra who had been reading Walter Wangerin’s ‘Reliving the Passion’. Wangerin's two page devotion for Good Friday records his reconstruction of how Joseph of Arithmathea gets Jesus off that cross… a ladder… ropes around his shoulders… wrenching out the nails with ‘sudden force’… removing the spike through the heels… hugging the torso of Jesus…’
You know, I’d never given a moment’s thought to Joseph’s sacred work that Friday evening either. He could not have done what he did without inflicting further damage on the corpse. His work that day also rendered him unclean, first by blood, and also by contact with the body, and therefore unable to celebrate the Passover.
Two men, unrelated except by their cameos in the events of that day are unclean in the worst way according to Mosaic law. No Passover for either of them this year. But it doesn’t matter, does it? The true Passover Lamb has shed his blood for the sins of the world. It’s a new day, a new era. The old has passed away, the new has come. Never need do Passover again… As John writes in his first letter, ‘The blood of Jesus cleanses us of all sin.’
Don’t know about you, but my spirit thrives on insights like that. More than thrives, it heals, it celebrates. It rejoices in its growing knowledge of the Holy One. How great is our God. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CP 245 Good Friday: the counter-intuitive Messiah

CP 245 Good Friday: the counter-intuitive Messiah
Or: the rhythm of the great exchange.
I’ve always marvelled at the way the Lord’s plan for redeeming humanity unfolds in such an unexpected, topsy-turvy way. The best example is the ‘great exchange’ text. Those of you who know me well will know that the scripture verse which impacts me most profoundly is 2 Corinthians 5:21:
For our sake he made him to be sin, who knew no sin, that, in him, we might become the righteousness of God. (Italics mine)
This week, in many small nudges, examples of that unexpected reversal kept popping up. I resolved to ‘collect them’ for Good Friday. There will be many more… share them with me so we can put a topsy-turvy psalm together. Here’s my hastily put-together draft.

Heavenly Father, almighty and eternal, holy and loving,
we have come to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For our sakes:

He became poor that we might become rich.
He became of earth that we might be glorified in heaven.
He became servant that we might become sons and daughters.
He became prisoner that we might be free.

He was stripped of the clothing of earth that we might be covered in the clothing of heaven.
His appearance was appalling in its disfigurement so that we might shine as stars in the universe.
He endured the perversion of justice that we might receive mercy and grace.
He was cursed in the shame of the cross so that we could live blessed and blamefree.

He died in thirst that we might drink of the water of life.
He was despised that we might not be rejected.
He was crushed and oppressed that we could know freedom from oppression.
He lay in the darkness of the grave that we might be graced with the light of life.

He became ‘far-off’ that we could be brought near.
He was forsaken that we might be welcomed.
He was made lowly that we might be glorified.
He lay in darkness that we might see light.

The man of sorrows is the giver of joy.
The man of anguish is the giver of peace.
The man of suffering is the giver of healing and relief.
The man acquainted with grief is the source of all comfort

His anointing into death releases for us the oil of gladness in life.
He drank the cup of bitterness that we might drink the cup of salvation.
He breathed his last that we might breathe pure kingdom air.
He died within time that we could live in eternity.

For our sake he made him to be sin, who knew no sin, that, in him, we might become the righteousness of God.

That’s all folks. I’ll leave you with a couple of other bits that passed my desk this week…

Through His sorrows, we discover the depth of Jesus’ meekness and surrender to His Father’s will. This surrender is revealed in what He did not do…
He didn’t defend Himself;
He didn’t revile others when He was reviled;
He didn’t turn away from those who beat Him;
He didn’t slander others when He was falsely accused;
He didn’t hide His face from those who spat upon Him;
He didn’t come down from the cross when He was mocked, and ridiculed.

Meekness is not weakness. He who is Almighty could have called an army of angels to rescue Him from His sorrows, but instead, He chose to go to the cross and freely gave His life so you could find your life in Him.
(Author unknown)
“He washed your eyes with His tears so you could see”—adapted from a hymn.

Good Friday… the day death died! (From a letter-box flier)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

CP 244 What manner of king is this?

CP 244 What manner of king is this?

We need a king.
Almighty God, send a king, a real king… now… please?

Not just any old king.
Send a liberty-bringing king.
Send a leader who has power and might,
a warrior king of strength and courage.
We want a king who heals the sick,
who relieves the burdened and comforts the afflicted,
who restores sight and opens ears.
But, Lord our God, we need a messiah king.
We need a king who can overcome
the inner-tyrannies which beset us.
Our hearts betray us.
Our actions and inactions condemn us.
Our shame crushes us.
Our guilt crucifies us.

 The enemy is too strong for us.
We cannot withstand his relentless accusations.
His darkness overwhelms us.
A tyrant holds the keys to our miserable lives.
We can scarcely breathe in his suffocating embrace.
Are we to be consigned to death?

Lord of heaven and earth,
we have waited so long.
Hear our cry. Kyrie eleison! Have mercy!
We long for freedom. We ache for it.
Send your king soon, Lord. Send him now.
When Lord, when?

Listen! Did you hear it?
A voice, from ancient times…
“Behold your King comes to you…”

Listen! I hear noise. Do you hear it?
Crowd noise. Rolling crowd. Excited crowd.
Loud. Swelling. Roaring.
Closer and closer.

The crowd finds common voice,
common praise and joy.
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna to the Son of David.”

Our king comes… riding on a donkey?
Jesus of Nazareth?
Is this your man, Lord?
Is this your promised king?
Is this the Anointed One?

The welcoming throng halts behind him.
The eyes of the coming king survey his city.
He weeps.
“Jerusalem, O Jerusalem…”

The ass-borne king and caravan moves on…
As it prophetically must.
The Temple draws him as a magnet draws steel:
The royal Son to His Father’s house.
The earthly setting of the throne room of the Most High.
The coming king is aghast.
Sacred place betrayed for mammon space?
Indignation flares volcanic! Anger erupts…
A whip cracks. Tables of trade sent flying.
Get out! Out! Out! Now!
“My house will be called a house of prayer…”

            Credentials must be established.
“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things…”

There should be a coronation feast.
“He took the bread… he took the cup…
This is my body… This is my blood…
for you… for forgiveness… Do this in remembrance…”
            The procession to enthronement begins in the garden.
            “So Judas came, leading Temple guards and chief priests…”

Credentials are formally tested.
“The High Priest said to him,
I charge you under oath by the living God:
Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

The royal lips speak the eternally noble and necessary answer.
“Yes, it is as you say…”

The world’s powers also seek to question.
“Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’”

I cannot help but wonder, my Lord and God:
No king takes office without your anointing.
And now my mind recalls a strange occurrence:
“Mary took a pint of pure nard…
She poured it on Jesus’ feet…”

But where are the royal symbols, Lord?
“The governor’s soldiers… stripped him and put a scarlet robe
on him, and then wove a crown of thorns and set it on his head.
They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and
mocked him. ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’”

The king is presented to his subjects.
“Behold your King…”

…to be loyally received.
“We have no king but Caesar.”

He, and his title, are set in place.
“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

The king breathes his last.
He dies.
And is buried.
Our dead and buried king.

What sort of a king is this?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?

On the third day he rose again.
What? He rose from death?
Death could not hold him?
Death could not hold him!

Our king is alive!
Impossible! But true!
He lives and breathes again.
The kingdom of heaven is indeed near…
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”
The kingdom of heaven is not near. It is here!

The kingdom of this king is unshakeable.
“Don’t be afraid!
I am the First and the Last.
I am The Living One;
I was dead, but now I am alive for ever and ever!
And I have the keys of death and the realm of the dead.”

David’s son is truly David’s Lord!
The river of forgiveness breaks its banks...
the colours of grace and mercy are everywhere.
The tyrant’s power is broken.
Look! The stronghold is destroyed.

            I can breathe. I can breathe!
            We can all breathe again.
“Because I live, you also shall live.”
“Because I breathe again, you also will breathe again.”

I am free. You are free. We are free.

Jesus the Christ, you are King of all kings.
You are Lord of all lords.
King of truth, holy king, loving king,
king of our hearts,
liberty-bringing king we needed.
King who meets our deepest needs.

Lord Jesus, Christ and King,
We worship you, praise you, bless you and adore you.
We place our trust in you…
and trust only you, the Father’s promised King.
We will love as you have loved us…

We can but bow before you.

            Holy, Holy, Holy.  

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

CP 243 What poor old Lazarus lost!

CP 243 What poor old Lazarus lost!
My friends, I couldn’t resist sending this to you, given that the raising of Lazarus was the Gospel text last Sunday. And, as a second ‘gift’ I’m sending you a little piece from Henry Nouwen. I’m inspired to send this second small item because one of you, in a phone call, revealed how utterly naked and bereft you felt when you surrendered your control to Him who is Lord.
(At the end of this week I’ll send you CP244 as a Good Friday / Easter thing. It’s about our King.)

Adjusting to the Light 
(by Miller Williams

—air —air! I can barely breathe …aah! 
Whatever it was, I think I shook it off. 
Except my head hurts and I stink. 
Except what is this place and what am I doing here? 

Brother, you’re in a tomb. You were dead four days. 
Jesus came and made you alive again. 

Lazarus, listen, we have things to tell you. 
We killed the sheep you meant to take to market. 
We couldn’t keep your old dog either. 
He obeyed you. The rest of us he barked at. 
Rebecca, who cried two days, has given her hand 
to the sandalmaker’s son. Please understand, we
didn’t know Jesus could do this. 

We’re glad you’re back. But give us time to think. 
Imagine our surprise to have you—well, 
not well, but weller. I’m sorry, but you do stink. 
I’m sorry but you do stink. Everyone, give us some air.
We want to say we’re sorry for all that.
And one thing more. We threw away your lyre.
But listen, we’ll pay whatever the sheep was worth.
Your dog too. And put your room the way it was before.

And the piece from Henry Nouwen… 
“Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.”

- Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

CP 242 The dance of the Dry Bones

CrossPurposes 242 The dance of the Dry Bones
(Friends, this is a Fred-edited version of a piece that came to me. I like it, and I hope it speaks to you. Fred)
A Reading – Fifth Sunday in Lent: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11
Ezekiel:  The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me,
The Lord:  Son of man, can these bones live?”
Ezekiel:  I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”
Psalmist:  Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life!  Hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.
Paul:  To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law — indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Ezekiel:  Then he said to me,
The Lord:  “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
Paul:  But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Ezekiel:  So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them;
Psalmist:  Lord, hear my voice!
Ezekiel:  . . . but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me,
The Lord:  “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”
Ezekiel:  I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Paul:  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
The Lord:  “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’
Psalmist:  If you, O LORD, kept records of wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? But there is forgiveness with you, and that is why you’re worshiped.
The Lord:  Prophesy, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 
Psalmist:  I pray to God—my life a prayer—and wait for what he’ll say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning,
The Lord:  And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves.
Psalmist:  . . . waiting and watching till morning.
The Lord:  I will put my Spirit within you,
Paul:  When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
Psalmist:  Wait and watch for God—with God’s arrival comes love, with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
The Lord:  . . . and you shall live . . . then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act.
(Compiled by Leah Ellison Bradley – edited Fred V …based on RSV and Message text)