Tag Archives: The Cross

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grounded 4

‘Many are awed by His miracles; few accept the shame of His Cross.’ Thomas a Kempis

From the beginning of His adult ministry, Jesus set His face like flint toward Jerusalem. He lived, breathed, and progressed Cross-ward. His destiny was death. For the life of the world.

This Good Friday, we may be less inclined to leap over the Crucified for miracles of new life. His broken Body stops us in our tracks as we wonder if we’ve a fever, or worse yet, if the mourner next to us is burning.

No stranger to miracles, Jesus performed plenty in order to prophecy the glory that would result from His shame. People loved signs and wonders. This frustrated Jesus. He knew that the majority would just end up demanding more signs, not their Savior.

Scripture describes Jesus as unwilling to entrust Himself to the miracle mob (Jn. 2: 18-25). When asked to show them His best ‘trick’, Jesus responded ‘crossly’: ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days’ (v. 19).

Conversion to the Savior means seeing only Him who goes before us to Calvary. The greatest miracle? That we now see how our sins pierced Him (Zech. 12:10) and we grieve, not as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4: 13b, 14) but with eyes who can see our hope. Our only One.

Our gift is attentiveness, small tokens of gratitude mouthed without sound but from our depths. We know His shameful scourge will become a fountain that cancels our shame and makes all things new (Zech. 13:1, 2). Let our worship rise fragrantly, like the oil Mary used to anoint Jesus for His death (Jn. 12:7).

We can add nothing to His gift of Blood and Water: fitting in plague time when, apart from noble medics and politicians, our hands are tied. Maybe, just maybe ‘we will never again say “Our gods” to the work of our hands’ (Hosea 14:3b). Under house arrest, we give up our schemes; we ‘die’ to any illusion of control. Today, Someone else is doing the hard work that gives life to the world.

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

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Best Group Ever

I kid you not. After 40 years of leading Living Waters groups, I just finished the best one ever. These twenty weeks rolled out like a dream. OK, chalk it up to extraordinary co-leaders (Marco and Becky) and inspired worship (Abbey singing at piano as we bowed before the Tabernacle and Divine Mercy).

Maybe it had something to do with diversity. I led one of many small groups alongside my coleader from IHOP; we accompanied a Reformed lay leader, a priest, a therapist, and two other Catholics—some single, some married, various kinds of lust—all unified in our commitment to becoming chaste gifts. Awesome.

Perhaps it was the team. Having done the group at my parish for six years now, we are gaining traction with lay leaders emerging from the group who now serve others. Every teaching, we had a man and a woman exchange well-honed, embodied reflections. God’s image in humanity—broken, being healed, hopeful—unfurled before us every week. It convinced me again that lay leaders, properly equipped, are the best witnesses and (practical) expositors of redemption.

The goal and apex of Living Waters: restoring honor between women and men. We admitted diminishment in our gender gift due to how we bruise each other. Perpetrators and victims all: still, the women bore more hurt, and it was humbling to witness these sassy, effectual career women and mothers weep before the Cross as Jesus accessed the damage done by sins of misogyny. We men squirmed, subject to the good shame over our misogynistic lusts and narcissism; we were also subject to toxic shame, which deadens us with self-hatred and tempts us to make women the problem. At the Cross, Jesus met us and bound up our shame, as well as misandry: the more subtle ways that women dishonor us.

Heavy stuff. Impossible without Jesus among us. The Cross is enough. When we bypass Jesus in the gender wars we can only seek to control or be controlled. Docile before Jesus, through the Cross, we spoke specific blessings over this ‘other’ whom God made in distinction from us. He is teaching us through the Cross to love each other, to honor His whole image.

The last meeting, during team prayer, many of us–wearied and distracted by the demands of the day–wondered: ‘What have I to give tonight?’ I received a picture of a golden mantle over us. I could see the anointing of Living Waters resting on the parish and us; unified, we as a team were extending that mantle. I felt the Lord whispering to us: ‘Just enter into My work tonight. It is Mine. I delight in giving you a little share in preparing a people for Myself.’ With that, we rested, and went forward into an intensive night. We remembered the work was His and were grateful to share in it. Frankly, I can’t wait to start again.

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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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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