Tag Archives: The Cross

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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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Chastity: Order in Our Courts

Chastity: Order in Our Courts

Following Jesus to Calvary requires temperance, that gift of the Holy Spirit which sets love in order within us. The ordered soul loves to linger with Jesus. Yet we with shifting, bloodshot eyes struggle to keep watch with Him. Gerald May is right: ‘Addicts cannot meditate.’ So we cry out: ‘Come Holy Spirit, set love in order within us by uniting us with the One who has power to compose us. Make us whole as we fix our eyes on the One who suffers to set us free!’

Leanne Payne describes the peril of the divided heart: ‘An unhealthy fantasy life destroys. It wars against the true imagination which can intuit the real and thus is creative. When our minds are pregnant with illusion, we cannot be impregnated with what is true.’ (The Healing Presence) This Holy Week let us ask Jesus to take every lie that divides our hearts and unite us with Himself through His Spirit. May we linger longer with Him, uniting our suffering with His as we await new life.

Chastity is the first fruit of temperance. It derives its meaning from 1Cor. 12:24 in which St. Paul describes how God orders His members into one whole Body, ‘giving greater honor to the parts that lack it.’ So too does God order the various parts of our individual humanity into a whole. Chastity involves the integration of sexual love—the powerful, frustrating well of desire we bear in our bodies—with our first love relationship with Jesus (CCC #2335).

The Holy Spirit guides this lifetime goal of integration. Becoming chaste is about becoming whole, and involves as much our accepting the good gift of our gendered humanity as it does rejecting ‘the seductive power of an artificial civilization driven by lust and greed.’ (Joseph Pieper; 1Thes. 4:3-8)) Knowing how we subject our gift to La La Land, we cry out: ‘Jesus, the very forces that gave us life now threaten to destroy it. Have mercy, holy God!’

He does have mercy. His kindness draws us and binds up our fractures so we can abide longer with Him. His purpose in ordering our sexuality? So we can enjoy creation with the One who created it. He does not want His world to demonize us but rather to be a source of delight, within the loving limits of truth and the Spirit-fed virtues of temperance and chastity. How liberating to turn from sensational self-interest toward a genuine desire to know and honor the whole of a person!

We cleave to the One who is ‘resolute toward Jerusalem’ where Calvary awaits Him (LK 9:51). He calls us to walk with Him so we can gift others with a whole (enough) witness of gender clarity and tempered desire. We become for them a witness of the God who amid suffering binds up sorrow with love.

‘We seek to be chaste because someone we love needs us to be chaste.’ – Heather King

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Bloody Marriage

Marriage is messy business. So much so that Jesus allowed Himself to get messed up for us. He shed blood to reveal our starting point as spouses: ‘O God, the love I desire to give, I do not!’ Or more accurately, I cannot. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Annette and I just finished leading a round of Beauty and the Breach, an 8-week course in which we invite frustrated couples to discover the Cross together through merciful exchanges of blessing, sin, and need. Each couple bore distinct wounds but faced a common block in offering themselves freely to the other. We placed a big Cross in the middle of our gathering as a reminder that Jesus’ covenant with us—His commitment to the marriage–supersedes our own; we stirred up the faith that somehow His blood could bore through the debris obscuring our true selves from the other. His Cross also reminded us that when it came to expressing hard stuff to the other, or hearing hard stuff, we could pick up our little crosses and endure shame and pain for the joy set before us.

Some of the couples could point to big historic sins as contributors to the current breach. A few had thought ‘marriage’ might cure sexual addiction or same-sex attraction or deep-seated fears; in truth, they realized that a good marriage exposes before it absolves. In a previous group, one woman expressed how her husband’s confession of a litany of sexual sins may have been in his words ‘a resurrection’ but for her, it was the beginning of a slow, long crucifixion. She had to die to what she thought her life would be. A source of security had become a threat; her closest walking partner, a dangerous sinner. How to love? ‘Lord, have mercy on me, sinner…’

I am not being romantic here. All sin is not created equal and certain betrayals require solid boundaries in order to protect the betrayed and provoke genuine repentance on the part of the obvious sinner. But it also invites the offended party to reckon with his or her limited love—the way (s)he loves according to contract, because the other keeps his or her end of the marital deal and thus justifies one’s love. When that contract is broken, one feels justified in breaking vows. But we marry based on covenant, the truth that we invoked the ONE who shed blood to grant us the mercy needed to extend mercy, especially to the sinner we’re sleeping with.

During our last night at Beauty and the Breach, the Spirit directed me to Luke 18: 9-14 where Jesus gives wise counsel to any ‘confident of their own righteousness’ (v.9), namely the Pharisee who thanked God for not making him an adulterer. Next to him at church was such an adulterer who simply cried out for mercy. God saved only the latter (v. 14). My prayer? That the Cross reveal to all spouses our inability to love the other as we should. May mercy come quickly to meet former Pharisees and former prostitutes who marry; may the bloody God be glorified on such broken, level and ultimately beautiful ground.

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glorious wounds | andrew comiskey

Glorious Wounds

His smooth smiling face may have belied a deeper conflict but none was apparent. Jim responded to my story of sexual brokenness and Jesus’ healing with simply this: ‘My [homo]sexuality has been positive for me. But I can see why you needed Jesus. You were so wounded.’

When I suggested that ‘we are all wounded and that’s precisely why God allowed Himself to be wounded for us’, Jim begged to differ: ‘I understand God differently. I consider myself deeply spiritual, not Christian.’

He did not mean to be condescending. Jim was just being honest. No apparent wounds, no need for the Crucified God. I appreciate that he did not lump Jesus into his ‘Oprah-fied’ gospel.  The truth is: the cross remains a scandal for persons who want to control their own destinies with a little help from God, rather than persons whose help is God.

How did I or any of us come to that place of surrender? I believe that it has something to do with the mercy that meets us in another person, someone who somehow warrants our trust. In the light of love, we are freed to admit: ‘I have needs for love that I cannot manage and that another person cannot satisfy.’

Love alone frees us to lay down sleek defenses and show our wounds. Every week Annette and I gather with a group of men and women who do just that. Mercy drew us and now frees us to be poor together. Out of that poverty—the halting and at times shameful exposure of what needs to be cleaned and set and protected from further infection—we are becoming rich.

God is glorious among us. The Risen Christ, His wounds yet visible, is healing us from the inside out. Around the cross with these ones is heaven-on-earth. Nowhere I would rather be.

I keep praying and waiting for Jim to be among us. He needs us. He just does not know it yet. Maybe my presence will draw him yet, though I pray for others more winsome than I to do the trick. Regardless, I will keep reaching to him in love. May mercy flow like a river from our wounds, clean and glorious.

 

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(G)old Men

‘In this you rejoice, though now for a while you have suffered grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and glorious…’ (1P 1:6, 7)

I met my two friends in downtown Portland (OR); we three warriors in our late fifties, fighting for our integrity as husbands and fathers in light of our history of same-sex attraction. Burnished by cultural opposition and everyday losses, we have found together that our sexual weaknesses, submitted to Jesus and to each other, have made us strong. Through the Cross, what threatened to defile us has divinized us.

Strange to discover that around the corner 1300 ‘gay’ Christians were gathering at the annual GSN conference to celebrate all things homosexual in Jesus’ name. No longer a contradiction in terms, ‘gay’ Christians flourish today. To do so, they must bypass the Cross by splitting off spiritual commitment from sexual identity and practice.

How else do you explain this rather bizarre musing of a former Exodus leader who recently ‘came out’ as a ‘gay’ Christian? ‘Yes, I could see myself with a man; yes, I could see myself with a woman; yes, I can see myself being celibate.’ So many options, so many gods.

In contrast, my friends were leveled by the Merciful one who met both of them in the throes of homosexual adultery. Rather than justify their behavior by invoking the ‘new normal’, these two entered the fire; they underwent the stern and splendid task of becoming like Jesus by dying to idolatry and living for Him and the commitments they made in His name.

Their wives thank them; their adult children now thank them; broken members of their churches to whom they offer healing thank them. Lined with holiness, leathered by resistance, their handsome faces are lit from within. They live grateful lives, raised daily by the glorious One. They are golden.

In a Church so worldly that it cannot articulate why ‘gay Christians’ are a contradiction, we need their witness. It is golden, the hope of future generations.
‘Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be may be refined, purified, and made spotless until the end…the wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.’ (Dan. 11:35; 12:3)

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