April 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
Easter has come, and I am thrilled to see Spring arriving with it (finally!) after what felt like an endless winter. It’s such neat timing for this year that we celebrate resurrection just as Old Man Winter starts to loosen his grip on our world.
I read a post from Seedbed the other day that I want to pass on because I feel that it sums up what a lot of people might be feeling even though Easter has come. What if Spring came, but we still found ourselves in Winter? I remember that, at least where I live, March 21st came and went, and the weather could not care less. Even though the calendar said Spring, the weather said Winter. Some of us may be feeling something similar with our experience of Easter: Christ has risen, but we somehow haven’t grasped that event. We left the church service feeling much as we did before – and our days, our weeks since, have remained unchanged.
David Drury wrote a brief piece for Seedbed that explores this feeling and offers up the prayer: “Lord, help me not to miss you after Easter.” So many times, so many Easters, we celebrate the event and then return to our lives as before. We acknowledge the resurrection, but we remain untouched by it. I hope that you take the time to read this confession; if you’ve been feeling like you have been missing out on your relationship with Jesus after Easter, this might be a perspective that helps.
April 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
On Sundays, this blog has featured selections from Thomas a Kempis’ work, The Imitation of Christ. These works have been selected with Lenten themes in mind, such as fasting, prayer, and service. However, today we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! His resurrection has great implications for us as followers of Christ; let this selection speak to you accordingly.
The Voice of Christ
As I offered Myself willingly to God the Father for your sins with hands outstretched and body naked on the cross, so that nothing remained in Me that had not become a complete sacrifice to appease the divine wrath, so ought you be willing to offer yourself to Me day by day…as a pure and holy oblation, together with all your faculties and affections, with as much inward devotion as you can.
What more do I ask than that you give yourself entirely to Me? I care not for anything else you may give Me, for I seek not your gift but you. Just as it would not be enough for you to have everything if you did not have Me, so whatever you give cannot please Me if you do not give yourself.
Offer yourself to me, therefore, and giveyourself entirely for God – your offering will be accepted. Behold, I offered myself wholly to the Father for you, I even gave My whole Body and Blood for food that I might be all yours, and you Mine forever.
But if you rely upon self, and do not offer your free will to Mine, your offering will be incomplete and the union between us imperfect. Hence, if you desire to attain grace and freedom of heart, let the free offering of yourself into the hands of God precede your every action. This is why so few are inwardly free and enlightened – they know not how to renounce themselves entirely.
My word stands: “Everyone of you that doth not renounce all that he posseseth, cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14.33)
If, therefore, you wish to be My disciple, offer yourself to me with all your heart.
Lord Christ, I hear your words of challenge. As we celebrate your resurrection today, let us celebrate our own resurrection that is found in you. In our lives, bring about greater service, complete devotion, and true, loving relationship with you. Amen.
He is risen!
Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ: “The Offering of Christ on the Cross; Our Offering.” Translated by Aloysius Croft and Harold Bolton. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004.
April 7, 2012 § 1 Comment
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen.]” ~ Matthew 6.13 ~
Christ closes out his example prayer by including a request to not be led into temptation and to be delivered from evil. The first request may strike the audience as odd; would God be the one to lead a person into a situation where one might be tempted? Christ does not mean to imply that God stands as the cosmic puppet-master, driving his own followers to sin. Rather, the language seems to fall in line more with an idea of God testing one’s faith. The audience on the mountain that day would have heard this phrase and thought of times when God had tested those faithful to him in various ways. Examples of this would include Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22) and the Israelites in the wilderness being forced to rely on manna for their daily food (Exodus 16).
Shelton points out that disciples pray to be spared from temptation not because they do not trust God or believe in his power; rather, in keeping with the spirit of the Beatitudes, they recognize that “apart from God they have pitiful resources to resist evil.” (LitSNTC, pg. 168) Accordingly, the disciples beg for deliverance.
The bracketed section of the prayer above does not appear in the earliest and best Biblical manuscripts. However, it does appear in the Didache, an early church document written specifically to address doctrine and practice. It may have been a responsive section that the community of faith placed into their gatherings. (LitSNTC, pg. 168) However it was used, it does affirm the important points of prayer:
- To God belongs the Kingdom. This heavenly kingdom stands in opposition to earthly and spiritual forces that would attempt to assert their authority over God the Father and the Kingdom of Heaven. Part of being Christ’s disciple means that those who follow the Savior must drop their allegiances to other powers and work to further the Kingdom of God.
- To God belongs the Power. What power do we, frail creatures as we are, have in and of ourselves? This phrase recognizes that all power comes from God. Those who find themselves in positions of strength must remember God’s hand at work in their lives, and those who find themselves in places of weakness must look to God for the strength they cannot find anywhere else.
- To God belongs the Glory. In the Kingdom of Heaven, all glory should be directed to God alone. Vain ambition and selfish motives need not apply. The ambassadors of the Kingdom live to make God famous and lift him up in the eyes of others.
- Forever. This is not a temporary state of affairs; this is the enduring reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.
As followers of Christ, Lent leads us to this place: to be able to affirm, deeply in every corner of our heart, that we lay our petty plans, our self-conceit, and our selfish ambition at the foot of the Cross. Lent leads us to a place of crucifixion: that along with Christ, all the ways that we oppose the Kingdom of Heaven are executed. Lent also leads us to resurrection: that along with Christ, we experience the reawakening and renewing of God’s Holy Spirit within us so that we may be faithful ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, sharing the realities of the Beatitudes with others.
Lord Christ, let me experience the death of that which opposes you in my life. Transform me into a faithful servant for your glory. Amen.
*This blog has “gone dark” during the time between Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday, in recognition of the time Christ spent in the tomb.
Quote taken from Dr. James B. Shelton’s contribution on the Gospel of Matthew to The Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary. Edited by French L. Arrington and Roger Stronstad. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.