Tag Archives: Crucifixion

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Smash Flood

‘They will look on Me, the One that they have pierced…and grieve bitterly. On that day a fountain will open to cleanse them from sin and impurity’ (Zech. 12:10; 13:1).

Jesus mirrored hard truth. Outraged man shattered the mirror. God retaliated by releasing a flood of divine mercy from His broken frame, the only source that restores us to the truth.

Barbara Taylor Brown says it best: ‘I remember being at a retreat once where the leader asked us to think of someone who represented Christ in our lives. One woman stood up and said: “I kept thinking: who is it who told me the truth about myself so clearly that I wanted to kill him for it?” Jesus died because He told the truth to everyone He met. He was the truth, a perfect mirror in which people saw themselves in God’s own light.’

The Desert Stream staff now habitually gathers to tell each other the truth about one another’s strengths and weaknesses. As the sugary, soft fruit of the therapeutic age, we delight in blessing each other’s good points but brace ourselves for the bad. We flinch to even use language like ‘bad’, preferring words like ‘unchallenged strengths.’

What I recall from those meetings is the ‘bad.’ I couldn’t recount the ‘blessings’ but have wrestled in the wee hours with the difference between how I see reality and how others see mine. I have not wanted to kill certain staff members but I’ve rehearsed ‘setting them straight’ monologues before sleep. How much bigger the gap between God’s truth and ours? The difference: in exposing our self-deceptions, He submits to our smashing, and offers Himself as the antidote.

He gives all—His body pierced for our washing and broken for our bread, the meal that makes us whole. For us who are troubled and touchy and too readily defended—pour out Your ‘vengeance’ upon us this Good Friday, Good God.

Barbara Taylor Brown again: ‘In the presence of His integrity, our pretense is exposed. In the presence of His constancy, our cowardice comes to light. In the presence of His fierce love for God and us, our hardness of heart is revealed. I am not worse than you nor you I, but leave Him in the room and there is no room to hide. He is the light of the world. In His presence, we either fall down to worship Him or do everything we can to extinguish His light.

Today, while He dies, do not turn away. Make yourself look in the mirror. Today no-one gets away from being shamed by His beauty. Today no-one flees without being laid bare by His light.’

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Mercy 15: Mercy for Transformation

‘Do not be conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…’ (Romans 12: 2a)

‘That was the first time I had ever heard anything hopeful about homosexuality’: a not unfamiliar response from Christians who hear us share our journeys out of homosexuality and into wholeness in Christ. Read more »

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Friends Who Fear

‘It is a dreadful thing to fall in the hands of the living God.’ (Heb. 10: 31)

Lion Photo by ucumariBecause of Jesus, I am a friend of God. And because of Jesus, I fear God. By that I mean I revere Him and tremble at His Word. He is a friend I don’t want to mess with.

That the Creator and Redeemer of all would stoop down to raise us up baffles me; that He also calls us friends blows my mind. What I do know is that such friendship is ours only because of the radical initiative of the Father and equally radical obedience of the Son. Only through their willingness to endure the Divine Wound—the Cross–in which both suffered the loss of each other, are we free to be His friends.

Our friendship with God cost Him everything. I do not minimize the vast and profound victory of His blood and broken body. I savor its sweetness daily. But as I ingest that Holy Meal I realize that He has also laid claim to me: I am no longer my own. He purchased me at an inestimable price. The Eucharist frees us to know this on a bodily level in a way that corresponds with St. Paul’s exhortation that believers flee all forms of sexual immorality because our bodies are no longer ours to do what we will. They are His, members of Christ. (I Cor. 6: 12-20)

I tremble when I consider what I could do with my body or another’s. This friend of God fears defiling the houses where He dwells. I fear the God who created all human temples and who will hold me accountable for whether I dignified fellow image-bearers or reduced them to my lusts. That is not a phobic, ‘shame-based’ response to socially unacceptable desires. That is holy fear based on allegiance to a holy God. Such fear inspires holy love and awe for our fellow humanity precisely because they belong to Him.

Perhaps part of the slide of the American church into a kind of apostasy, sexually-speaking, is due to the fact that we have emphasized friendship with God to the neglect of fearing Him. We may well use the language of the Cross as the way into such friendship. But then we conveniently remove the Cross as the sign and seal of our new humanity and the reverence with which we are to treat others.

I fear for those who claim to be Jesus’ friends but show no fear in regards to what they do to their, or others’, bodies. Pray urgently for friends who have no fear.

‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, who has insulted the Spirit of grace?’ (Heb. 10: 26-29)

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Broken and Beautiful

What relevance is the Resurrected Christ for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction? Or with any other profound sexual problem?

As one who shares that struggle, I often feel like the rather clueless disciples, stumbling about in the dark with the risen Christ. Disoriented by mixed signals from the church and world, ‘harassed at every turn’ (2 Cor 7:5), I fail to see Him among us.

And yet in blessed moments, He opens our eyes and we see Him as He is. His tender power surpasses our deepest need and transcends moral abstractions. In an instant we realize that our need is only Him—His Real Presence, the life of the world becoming our life, the center in which we rest, the anchor of our soul, sure and steadfast. (Heb. 6:19)

Mysteries, all, made tangible by His body, broken for us and beautiful. It is fitting that only at table together, in the breaking of the bread—the re-presentation of His crucifixion, of His brokenness, that the disciples’ eyes were opened to behold Jesus in His resurrection, His wholeness.

‘When He was at table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him…’ (Lk 24: 30)

I am convinced that we shall behold the Risen Christ only when we discover Him in His broken body.

A few nights back I revisited the beauty of that brokenness. We gathered as one body at our Living Waters Training; there I taught on overcoming sexual brokenness through the advocacy of the Church. Given the unusually high levels of confusion in our culture today over same-sex attraction, I felt compelled to urge all same-sex strugglers (approximately one-third of the group) to come forward. The remaining folks–‘the traditionally-broken’—came forward to lay hands on them and impart power from on high.

God brought such freedom. The Risen Christ met us in acknowledged brokenness and revealed Himself to us: tender power to raise those deadened by fear and confusion and to make us one body.

If we want to know Him, the Risen Lord, we must be known by them: His body, broken and beautiful.

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Merciful Discipline 3: Broken, We Endure Shame

This is the third post of six in the Merciful Discipline Series. A complete list of available posts will be at the end of each article as they are made available.

Merciful Discipline 3: Broken, We Endure Shame

In the Church, God has put Himself into hands that betray Him again and again. – Pope Benedict

Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers;
may Your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need.
Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of Your Name;
deliver us, and forgive us our sins for Your Name’s sake.
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
(PS 79:8-10a)

We repent on behalf of the abuse-broken church. We do not raise a defense for churchmen who did the right thing; we confess the sins of those who did wrong—bishops who failed to adequately discipline priests, negligent care of victims and their greater communities, the failure of the powers-that-be to steward existing policies of protection for minors.

We the Church are brought low. Our failures have leveled us. Just as the abuse of one is the abuse of us all, so is her discipline the discipline of the whole. Jesus prophesied on the eve of His crucifixion that ‘the shepherd would be struck, and the sheep would be scattered.’ (Matt. 26:31) As various Church leaders have been struck down by their mishandling of abuse, we too are cast down.

Will we scatter or fall forward unto the Crucified? We can repent on behalf of the abuse-broken Church. We can wait and pray. With Him, through Him, on His behalf, we can endure shame in the hope of new life.

I faced such a choice many years ago. Under my charge, a close colleague had abused two minors. That instigated a 10-year-process of discipline which included: purging the staff, tending to the victims, searching out other potential victims, and establishing new policies of prevention. In the eyes of the law and (arguably) God, I was the one ultimately responsible for the abuse. I became the subject of countless interrogations and the agent of raising huge sums of money to repair the damage done.

We as a ministry surrendered to God. He was disciplining us. Though we had much to do, my posture was face down. Had we not discovered the Crucified we would have followed the counsel of most who urged us to dissolve the ministry in light of our new financial burden.

‘When You disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer.’ (Is 26: 16) We had no strength to run from His refinement. We stayed down and discovered that only His wounds could heal the shame of the wounds we had inflicted on others. Our hope lay in faith: ‘He only disciplines those He loves.’ (Heb. 12:6)

Similarly, the Church today must learn to get low and stay low in this season of discipline. We err in raising fists at greedy lawyers, godless journalists, or an outraged public. We look to the Lord of our discipline, who uses many agents to refine those He loves. Through the Crucified, we can endure the shame and accept His discipline as a severe mercy. In the words of Benedict: ‘I wish to exhort all of you…to reflect on the wounds inflicted on Christ’s body, the sometimes painful remedies needed to bind and heal them.’

Enduring the shame means accepting a loss of credibility, especially in regards to the Church’s advocacy of the dignity and integrity and inviolability of every life. Sexual abuse mocks her beautiful sexual ethic, and weakens her authority to uphold it. Referring to decades of unrestrained minor abuse in Ireland, Benedict exhorted the bishops there: ‘All of this seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.’ We glimpse this in the Old Testament. After Eli failed to restrain his sons, Israel suffered a terrible defeat. She fled the Philistines who then captured the ark of the covenant. (1Sam 4:17)

We can endure the shame because of Christ. He endured the final shaming at Calvary to grant us grace to endure ours. Take heart! We become more like Him as we submit to discipline. Maybe that’s why Lent is so long: 40 days along a thorny ascent path that ends before the broken body, crowned with thorns.

Lent is for slow learners like us. Change takes time. Discovering how to bear the shame of our corporate abuses is a lesson in endurance. In time, He will assume it wholly and transform us into transparent witnesses of our own failures and defenders of the weak.

Our discipline need not be morbidly introspection. He actively refines our hearts—their values and practices—employing real shame generated by the real damage done. As we turn toward Him, He burns off ‘the worldly sorrow that brings forth death’ (2Cor 7:10).

We ‘fix our eyes on Himself, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ (Heb. 12: 2, 3)
The hope of resurrection sustains us in this season of crucifixion, His merciful discipline. We are reduced to the bloody God. Like Him, we endure shame for the joy set before us.

It is likely that the rest of Pope Benedict’s pontificate will be consumed by this scandal. Sexual abuse in the Church will most likely define it. – Gregory Erlandson and Matthew Burnson Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis

MORE:

The Merciful Discipline Series of Posts (updated with each new post as they become available):

 

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