Tag Archives: Lent

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grounded 3

A Lent unlike any other: rather than beef up devotion, I find myself reducing spiritual intake. Much of the time I find myself gaping at a Franciscan cross in my living room. Reduction. That’s how I cope in quarantine.

This invasive virus is made worse by wars of words—partisan bickering, lay people pontificating on the latest covid-19 sound bite, weird prophesies that otherwise discerning people blast through the virtual universe. Fools rush into our fortresses. Reduced. To Jesus. Amid many words, I want the Word.

Only One opened my blind eyes and gave me life. Gives me life. Besides staring cross-eyed, I’m reading over and over the last two Sunday Gospels. These are miracle stories, our miracles, which we can personalize as an antidote to our paralysis.

The Word of light opened this blindman’s eyes (John 9). Jesus didn’t quibble about what made me blind (‘born-that-way’, etc.) He just chose to heal me as to glorify Himself (vs.1-5). And He walked with me every step of the way as I grew to discover Him: first the prophet, then the healer, then at last, the Son of Man. The blind see, wisemen go dark, and ‘blessed is the one who takes no offense in Me,’ says the humble King (Lk. 7:23).

The Word of life summons me daily. Lazarus (John 11) stank of death, and grieving loved ones lost sight of the real Jesus as the stench rose. ‘He wouldn’t have died had you been there, Jesus!’ said his intimates; ‘Let us die with Lazarus!’ Hard to say what disturbed Jesus more: the death of his friend or how grief distorted their spiritual sight. As Jesus’ friends, perhaps we too trouble Him with bent vision. And I wonder if my reduction will result in greater faith or the ‘worldly sorrow that brings forth death’ (2 Cor. 7:10). I heed Him, as He commands Lazarus’ tombstone to be rolled away then insists of the dead man: ‘Come forth!’ (vs. 38, 43)

The Word speaks a better Word to us: ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life; the one who believes in Me will live’ (Jn 11:25). Endowed with power to accomplish what He wills, the Word goes forth (Is. 55:11) and will raise His grounded ones.

‘I am under vows to You, O God. I will present my thank offerings to You. For You have delivered me from death, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.’ (Ps. 56: 12, 13)

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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bearing the cross

Bearing

Though I love the benefits of Jesus’ cross, I am tempted to hate sharing in that cross with Him. It hurts to bear up under the burden He invites us to shoulder, namely grief over His Church.

During prayer for the healing of our corporate compromises, I realized: what I most value as a Christian—killing sin through swift confession before it kills me, my marriage, or another; living out loud in community in order to grow beyond same-sex attraction into real fruitfulness—is not enough believed or practiced in my Church. For this I suffer, a grief Jesus has invited me to bear. I am not alone but alongside other members who share these values and love the bride enough to grieve too.

This Lent He invited us into a little share of His cross; would we bear this for an hour or so each week in prayer? We discovered we couldn’t shake that burden after the meetings ended. It stayed with us, and seems now like a heart condition. Indeed, we carry it for her cleansing. Perhaps St. Paul’s mysterious reference in Col. 1:24 to bear in one’s body a share in Jesus’ suffering for His body applies here. Who knows? We pray on.

My friend Dana recalled her experience of a 14-mile procession she and friends made one Good Friday with a large wooden cross—each took turns shouldering it: ‘As I carried the cross, it sunk into me and its weight increased. It became a part of me; I realized that it was Jesus inviting me to walk with Him to help carry His cross. What seemed too heavy became doable with Him.’ Christ in us: to suffer, and to hope for glory (Col. 1: 27). That reminds me of Bonhoeffer’s words: ‘We know too little in the church today about the peculiar blessing of bearing. Bearing, not shaking off; bearing, but not collapsing either; bearing as Christ bore the cross, remaining underneath, and there beneath it, to find Christ.’

Having looked hard together at a scandalized Church, we have done more than meet to pray; rather, we have received a spirit of prayer with which to pray unceasingly for her. Over the long haul. Change takes time and occurs as prayer like underground wells spring up on the earth and accomplish the impossible.

We pray for witnesses of transformation in the sexual arena to arise and take their places alongside leaders who welcome, guide, and amplify their experience of an empowered Gospel.

We pray for the eloquent truth of Pope Emeritus Benedict—‘Sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction which is not homosexual…its meaning is to bring about the union of man and woman which gives humanity posterity, children, future. This…is the essence of sexuality’—to fuse with the fatherly compassion of Pope Francis. May that fullness of mercy and truth compel Christians to turn from sexual sin (beginning with clergy) toward the arduous, splendid process of becoming chaste.

We pray for courageous leaders who eschew politics for the transformation of souls. Might orthodox leaders refuse clericalism by equipping lay men and women to serve the broken; might the unorthodox be routed lest the Church’s mercy be diluted further by the call to ‘accompaniment’ without repentance or discipline.

Might we, horrified by our own sin, find beneath the cross that no sin can ever be alien to us (Bonhoeffer) and in mercy cry out for all sinners–bishops and busboys, popes and plumbers. Might God grace us to bear holy grief and the hope of glory long after Lent.

‘We do not want you to grieve like those who have no hope…’ (1 Thess. 4:13).

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Killing The Truth

The other night, I dreamt of complicity—a good friend and colleague had been pronounced innocent of murder yet I knew otherwise. She killed someone and I killed the truth by saying nothing.

I was just speaking with a fellow minister/healer from another country who described an important priest there who brought in a lot of money for the Church; most there knew he regularly pursued same-gender sex, yet even the bishop gave him a ‘pass’ because of his usefulness.

Are we all a little complicit? Certainly we are all divided by a duplicitous Church: shepherds who race after lone lambs in order to consume them, fathers who seduce spiritual daughters under silky vestments, bishops who see but don’t say, a man who pontificates over ‘child sacrifice’ yet whose sword is soft with unsanctified mercy, so much so that we struggle to trust his rhetoric.

Yet my divided heart toward the Church benefits no-one. My rant may just amplify the voice of the accuser himself; he is good at saying for the sake of slaying even the righteous.

Perhaps we should pray. I awaken these days after bad dreams and recall the mess we are in, yes we. I am one of the faithful, with as much say as anyone before God. Prayer knows no hierarchy. Or if there is one, it seems from Scripture to be inverted, as if God Himself prefers little ones who cry out for mercy (Matt. 18: 31, 32; LK 10:21) over the wise and strong.

I don’t know many big leaders, just weak people who trust God. And become mighty in faith, ‘routing foreign armies’ (Heb. 11:34). Mary herself sang of the One who ‘brings down rulers from their thrones and lifts up the humble’ (LK 1:52).

Lent is a time of deliberately humbling ourselves before the One. I pray that He might take us down in order to lift us up as we ask Him to initiate in all members a clear call to repentance. For those who resist Him and persist in hypocrisy, I ask for Him to use our prayers like stones of David and to slay giants.

I can wake up numb to the divided Church and further dull myself in a host of sins. I then become like the ones I accuse. Or I can pray. Will you join us this Lent (which starts Ash Wednesday the 6th) as we cry out for a Church that is at once chaste and fruitful through undivided devotion to Jesus and each other? We shall do our little part through a 6-part Lenten prayer series. May prayer make a way through duplicity and complicity!

‘Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.’ (J 4:9, 10)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Why Gender Matters 5: Otherness Nurtures Family

Besides the obvious reasons why a man and a woman need each other to bring forth life, he and she together help the lives that they create become creative.

That takes effort: surmounting the fear that her difference from me is precisely what I most need to thrive. And trusting God that my gendered gift supplies something essential to her. We must foster that reliance upon each other so that otherness breeds more appreciation than annoyance. Or intimidation. Or judgment. I love Bonhoeffer words: ‘God created this person in His image, not mine.’ When I am tempted to forego her vantage point for mine, I recall those words and realize that I am setting myself over the Creator by denying the gift of her difference. Disagree with each other? Of course. Deny her gift? Perilous!

Lent helps here. One discipline we undertake together in this season is daily prayer and reflection on a devotional guide. I never cease to be amazed at her take on the material. It is a window to her soul that I can only discover if I look. And listen. Her splendid difference from me is precisely what engages and challenges and summons my best. She knows that her voice matters. That frees her to respect mine with the editing rights that her conscience demands. I return the favor.

At times such engaging reveals my worst. Before her I face what I do not want to express. In tough areas that I would rather leap over than submit, I must give an answer. And there I discover an ally. In the searchlight of the one I love most, I expose my own demons so that love can have its deepest way in me. My dark silence casts the longest shadow on her. So too does the light shine most brightly when we confess our faults in order to heal each other (James 5:16).

We gathered for a family birthday for Annette last week. My gratitude lies in how our kids look out for each other. I see this as a gift of how Annette has looked out for their best interests. Each of them said just that, in the particular ways she has served them. She gives generously, a mother par excellence. Might her security in the love we share stoke her freedom to offer herself?

Maybe. If so, then I consider my love for her—freely given, with all the fullness I can muster—the best offering of my life.

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Blessed Betrayers

‘In the Church, Jesus entrusts Himself to those who betray Him over and over.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

As we proceed with Jesus to Calvary, we linger at the Last Supper where we witness St. Peter dining comfortably with Jesus, curious of who Jesus’ betrayer might be and confident that it is not himself (JN 13:21-38).

Perhaps the purpose of Lent and Holy Week is to challenge such confidence by inviting us into the desert in order to spotlight our denials. No better lesson than St. Peter’s: after a holy meal surrounded by friends, he steps out alone into the klieg light where he strives to save his life rather than lose it for Jesus (JN 18: 15-27). I am less surprised by his and our unwillingness to be true to Jesus than by our lack of self-awareness. Only faithful? We deceive ourselves.

The seven virtues we looked at this Lent expose gaps; they highlight self-illusions. We whose hope masks unresolved grief, whose faith caves to fear in a second, and whose love dares not conflict—the desert lays us bare. In the heat and the hunger, we who champion global justice and enslave love ones, who exercise fortitude in consuming multiple episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Walking Dead’ but cannot abide with Jesus for 10 minutes, and while viewing divide our souls with more graphic violence, sex and words than our grandparents experienced in their lifetimes—that is the unchaste mess we are in.

At least Peter’s three denials were obvious. Ours are not. This Lent, I am grateful for a renewed awareness of my denial of wisdom, the truth of how things really are. I would rather frame reality as pleasant in order to please myself and sleep peacefully. I am subject to the spirit of the Israelites who implored the wise: ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel’ (IS 30: 10, 11)!

Like St. Peter, we want to honor Jesus but refuse to be personally dishonored. Peter refused a good foot-washing (JN 13:6-8). Yet he like us needed cleansing at core. We need love to engulf our clubfeet, scour the dirt and stench, and transform our moral disabilities into something pleasing to God. He sees all and summons us to give Him all this Maundy Thursday. Hobble to the altar with expectancy. Take heart: ‘The burning sand will become a pool’ (IS 35: 7).

 

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