Category Archives: Faith

Lent (Holy Saturday) – Sorrow

This is a song called “Sorrow” by The National. I think the tone and lyrics of this song really gets at what this day means in the Lenten season. It is a song of profound void, about a desire not to lose the power that a relationship can have in someone’s life. Here are the lyrics:

Sorrow found me when I was young,
Sorrow waited, sorrow won.
Sorrow that put me on the pills,
It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk.
Don’t leave my half a heart alone
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.

Sorrows my body on the waves
Sorrows a girl inside my cave
I live in a city sorrow built
It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk.
Don’t leave my half a heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.

Don’t leave my half a heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.

Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.

Holy Saturday is about living in the moment “in between”; in between the cross on Friday and the empty tomb on Sunday. But it is also a day to reflect on the loss we encounter if Christ is not present with us. Yes that can be a very dark place, but I also find it necessary to meditate on what that would look like in our lives, so that when we wake on Easter Sunday our joy is that much better knowing that Saturday is over.

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Lent (Palm Sunday)

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41)

Today many pastors got up on their pulpits, stages, lecterns and talked about the “triumphal entry” of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a colt and was praised by onlookers. Some would say this moment meant that the true king entered his city being worshiped, others say the event was of a prophet performing street theater subverting the ruling authorities of the day. I don’t really feel like talking at length about either today. We can guess the mindset that Jesus had all day long, all Holy Week long if we wish. We can ask: What was he thinking about? Did he know he was going to die? What were his true intentions while in Jerusalem?

I don’t know if I am just tired of those questions or too cynical to think we can ultimately know them, but what strikes me most as I read over this passage is verse 41 in the text. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” Whatever we want to say about this week in the liturgical year, the most important and yet most dangerous week in the life of the church, we must at least allow ourselves to be confronted with the sheer vulnerability and pain that Jesus felt at this time. Jesus enters the city, and his first reaction is a heap of tears. The city that was to be the light on the hill and the salt of the earth has been so compromised, so tainted and fallen from it’s original intention. Can’t we relate to Jesus in this moment? We have ourselves seen the places in our lives we thought would shine with beauty be torn apart by whatever wickedness, our own or others doing. We have entered the places that where once was peace is now utter chaos. So let us enter this week in lament with Jesus, over the places we have been hurt and the places we have done the hurting. Yes, we will experience the empty tomb next week, but let us not be in too much of a rush to get there so as to miss the darkness that is very real in our lives. Jesus leads us there, but he does not leave us alone…

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Lent (Day 24): Fruits of the Spirit- Continued

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.”

 

(So far this week my aim has been to elaborate some on what Paul might be getting at when he talks about the fruit of the Spirit in  Galations 5. We have covered love and joy thus far, and though I would like to spend a day on each example listed among the fruits I feel as though I should stick to a weekly schedule with my blog and finish the theme of the fruits by this Saturday. Tomorrow I will conclude the subject of this week with a song that ties all of this together quite well.)

PEACE, FORBEARANCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF-CONTROL.

I’ve added the translation from Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible because I feel like it demonstrates beautifully and poetically what these words mean in motion. What I mean by that is sometimes we hear words over time, and they can become very repetitive and bland, not because that is their essence but because we have at times stripped them of their vitality. I don’t think this is always intentional, sometimes it just happens. Come on, you know that when you read this passage sometimes you just sit there thinking, “What do these all really mean?”. And don’t you sometimes think that this all sounds like the least revolutionary and rebellious type thing you could possibly do?

And yet it is so subversive, so counter-cultural that its true implications are hidden from us in plain sight. I remember a reflection by Bono of U2 that has always stuck out to me. He was talking about his desire to be a true rock star. He said that rock ‘n’ roll is inherently rebellious, and for him the most rebellious thing he could do was to sit in the back of a tour bus with his bandmates and read scripture.  Everyone was partying late into the night, getting high and drunk, sleeping around and just going crazy. For Bono, none of that was subversive, it was the same across the board. It was the norm. What he wanted was a life less ordinary. I think many of us live in a culture that is the “the same across the board” in this sense; lives filled with chaos and disorder, quick satisfaction and temporary fixes, betrayal and manipulation, systems that discourage compassion and radical love. When we truly explore what our lives and the lives of those around consist of, we can be encouraged by a life that displays “affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely”

That is truly a radical life.

A harmonious life.

A life lived in God’s rhythms.

A life we can have.

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Lent (Day 23): Joy

* Today’s post is written with a heavy heart for today many of us lost a grandmother, mother, wife and friend in Bobbie Hanks. She will be sorely missed, but she leaves behind her a beautiful story that is written in the lives of those who knew her and were close with her. It might seem odd to write a post on Joy tonight, but since it is my belief that she is experiencing more fully the goodness of God today, I can’t think of a better thing to talk about.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

 

JOY

What to do with this funny little word? Many of us in fact don’t know what to do with it or would be hard pressed to recognize it even if it was sitting on a bench next to us. A lot of times we equate it with happiness. However this connection, though at times true, does joy a disservice.  Happiness is often what we strive for in life, why we want to have a higher paying job, a different city to live in, new friends to hang out with. We think that if we can attain happiness then we have attained life. But this should not be our highest pursuit. I believe in fact that joy should be one of our highest pursuits, and that joy is what our hearts truly long for in the end. Happiness really depends on a feeling of gratification. And though this is not always bad, it is quite limited in its scope.

A shorthand definition for joy is this: experiencing the goodness of God. This goodness can be experienced through the gifts and grace that God extends to us, but it can also be encountered in his righteousness, truth and mercy. It can be seen in what he does for us, in what he does for others and what he is in and of himself. Joy is a delight in God, and what makes this so much more rich and deep and life giving is that it can be done in the highs and lows of our lives. Happiness is really a very narrow experience, for it can really only be had when things seem to work right for us, or when we find pleasure. Joy is a different animal altogether, it is something that can be found even when life seems so disoriented, confused and sorrowful. Life may not seem to be working right with or for us, but through the midst of it we can sense and trust the goodness of God and be sustained by that. Happiness is very temporary, a blowing of the wind, whereas joy is something eternal. Joy points us towards the future and is bound up in a hope that longs for the reconciliation of ourselves  and our world with the supremely good God. Joy can outlast pain and evil because deep down it knows it does not have the final word. I think joy often happens when we realize the moments in which we are trusting and hoping in something that is beyond what we are seeing.

So what are we to do with joy? I believe it is our calling to look for and live into the moments of our lives and sense and trust that there is a God who is good and right working through the tapestry of our stories. Yes, we will still feel the pain of death and loss, but our joy is grounded in the hope that those things do not in fact have the final say. There is in fact something beyond those two realities….resurrection.

This we pray. Amen.


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Lent (Days 18-22): Fruit of the Spirit

Hey guys! Wow I took a little bit of a vacation from this blog of mine and I am missing it very much. Life got busy, I got lazy, and the rest is what they call history. But I am back again and I am remaking my goal to blog at least once a day. I think part of what I need to do is make the blogs shorter and more to the point. I am quite adept at taking a long time to say what I really want to say. The other thing that I am trying to do is have a weekly theme that goes with my writing. So I have mapped out some things for the rest of Lent and aim to talk about all of it. So our theme for this week will be “the fruit of the Spirit” that Paul talks about in his letter to the Galatians. Here is the text:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

So let’s take the first one today:

Love. It is a word that is so often said and one that can be so passively given. It can also be a word that we dare not speak to each other, because it is such a powerful word as well, and its implications can be quite terrifying. But we can speak of love all we want. We can talk about it all day long, but the real challenge that is set before us is to live it. Will we make the choice to love over and against the other choices to suppress it, deny it, withhold it, manipulate it, etc. And how often do we choose to the other options? How many excuses can we give to why we don’t love the way we should? Are we honest enough with ourselves to say that it is not always “I don’t know how to love” but “I just don’t want to love!”

The reasons for this abound: love is costly. We have to lay bare ourselves in ways that seem to violate our identities and our deepest sense of pride. So often we do not love because it will expose our weakest selves, and we just can’t imagine what could happen as a result of doing that. Many of us have not been loved like we should have been; and so love is such a foreign concept, such a hidden idea to us that it almost seems like a fairy tale someone is trying to pass off as literal. We have lost the ability to imagine that love can be a reality.

In the midst of all of this confusion, we have a person who can guide us. Jesus walked this earth and loved people in ways that we still don’t comprehend. He spoke boldly and lovingly, he challenged and he consoled, he healed and yet he cut into the deepest interior of the lives of his audience. And all this was done in love. Jesus’ approach to love was not so much something to be believed in as much as it was and is a way to be. So St. Paul extends that invitation to us, to be love and to channel the love that God demonstrates in our lives to those around us. Yes it will expose us and make us vulnerable, but it will also set us free. And Jesus likes freedom, and he loves offering it to those who will trust his way of being.

 

 

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Lent (Days 16+17): Doubt as Faith

“It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.”

– Fyoder Dostoevsky

 

One of the most dangerous correlations we can make is to link faith with certainty. It is quite easy though, it seems to quiet a lot of the crazy thoughts we have in a given day. Being certain seems so strong and impervious, and yet it is one of the most dishonest things we can do with faith. Certainty doesn’t encourage transformation but instead can keep things status quo. Doubt is essential, not simply relegated to a part of faith but an act that can keep it engaged and vibrant. Frederick Buechner said “Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. It keeps us awake and moving.”

But why are we so afraid of it? Why am I? There are reasons that are noble and not so noble. Yes we don’t want to step on the sacred, but what if the divine calls us to wrestle and fight and challenge? If you read scripture then you can’t deny this as a common theme. Jacob literally wrestles with the divine, and he is changed in the process. Struggle is what changes us, and God writes so many stories that involved it. But we humans, myself included, want to hide and be comfortable. And so some reasons we do not express our doubt is because this will be compromised. It will cost us something.  Easier to be certain, for then you can live your life unchanged. To doubt can be an act of repentance, to turn our ways towards God in a posture of true engagement.

Jacob limped away from his encounter with God. But he was transformed. He had a new name and was becoming a new man. And this process, by God’s sheer grace, can change us too if we only be willing to risk and trust God with our doubts and struggles.

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Lent (Days 14 + 15): Love is Confrontational

What captivates you about this image?

What is it about this image that challenges you?

This is a graffiti piece created by the artist Banksy, which you may already be familiar with or recently found out about him through the Oscar nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. Many of his works have very thought provoking scenes that usually serve as social critique of commercialization and political systems. This is one of my favorite pieces by him for many reasons. One reason it that I love how this image turns my expectation on its head. As I study the posture, the body language, it is one of abrupt action and disruption. And yet in the man’s hand is an offering that is both beautiful and lovely. Can these two realities exist together? Disruption and beauty. Chaos and love. Will I keep on compartmentalizing them or will I be able to hold these two realities together and see them as an option? This is an image that reminds me that love can be a confrontation. It can disarm and be somewhat abrasive. Love does not necessarily equal being nice. At some points, it is not nice at all.

And yet this is a humble act.

The person in this image is carrying flowers, and the flowers are a gift. Flowers attract many of our senses, they are visually beautiful and colorful, their aroma is intoxicating and there textures can be soft to the touch. Flowers can change an environment, they can help us encounter our worlds from a different perspective. They are given in hopes that they will transform relationships and our shared environments. This is an image that reminds me of God and my most meaningful relationships with other people. The people who have loved me the most, who have given of themselves and been the most humble, have been the people who got in my face and challenged me. They disrupted my sense of comfort and routine, they exploded the myths I was living by, they exposed me of my sin. And yet at the same time they offered grace and acceptance. Essentially they helped transform my environment and let me see things from an alternate lens.

And God does this so well himself, and we can see it in scripture when we are really honest with it and not trying to glean little lessons from it but see it as a collection of real, gritty stories of people who walked with God like we do now. Doubting, frustrated, complaining and seeking. God sought those people out and shook them, he awoke them from their slumber. And he allowed them to enter into very confusing and chaotic times, much as he still does now. He placed them in situations in which they had no idea how to cope or handle themselves, much as he does now. And yet they followed, they searched and wandered and kept going because deep within themselves they knew a truth that we still know now if only we would be free enough to trust it: that true love is humble and yet confrontational, disruptive and yet beautiful, chaotic and yet graceful.

Lord, help us to trust you even in the moments where you seem like an enemy. Give us the vision to see that love is humbly confrontational. Help us to love others like you have loved us.

Amen.

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