Tag Archives: The Cross

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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November 15, 2014: Freedom for the Other, Part 2

‘Christian spousal love is a living icon of the sacrificial spousal love between Christ and the Church. It is an outward sign of the invisible mystery of Jesus’ love for His bride and the bride’s love for Him.’ Brant Pitre

Woman liberated my freedom to become a mature man. Period. Without arising to become bigger for one equal to me and yet profoundly different, I would have stalled in my growth. Spiritually, emotionally, sexually: I needed woman, and she needed me.

Well, one woman did. For the last 35 years, Annette has been the chief target of my affections, my prayers, my frustrations, and my pleasure. She receives the best of my self-giving and filters the brunt of my brokenness. I cannot imagine life without her. We experience the world together; though our unity is composed of two very different, strong-willed people, we have forged one grid through which we engage ‘life.’

Out of this oneness four children have emerged who now as adults are fairly skilled at navigating their own schooners and storms. They grew up as Annette and I navigated our course. Our freedom to love in light of ‘conflicts on the outside, fears within ‘(2 Cor 7:5) was the Cross. We founded our marital freedom on the One who gave all to gain us. He trained me to look to Him as the man I was becoming; He freed her to welcome Him as her sufficiency and in turn yield to this flawed icon.

The Cross made us fruitful. Like anything precious, fruit resulted from sacrifice. The Cross reminded us to deny one’s own need when the other’s was greater, be it in words or silence, deeds or blessed inaction. We were pierced for the other’s suffering. At times we were pierced by what the other could not give us, even if we needed it. Jesus’ piercing gave us a place to go when mere human love failed.

The result is mutual gratitude for the seasoned offering of the other. The Catholic Catechism says it best: ‘Christian marriage bestows on the husband and the wife a supernatural power that flows directly from the Crucifixion. This grace [of marriage] is a fruit of Christ’s Cross, the source of all life.’ (CCC 1615, 1616) The Cross granted Annette and I the freedom to offer oneself to the other, over and over again. Freedom demands godly restraints and holy provocation. The Cross supplies both.

As one who comes out of a same-sex attracted background, I am amused at persons who seek to reduce our marriage to questions of ‘attraction,’ as if it depended on the virtuosity of our bedroom gymnastics. Of course I am only grateful for the bodily love that sealed our love and created four other lives. Yet I am equally grateful, if not more, for the deeper, harder call of learning to value this other because she is worthy of value, not because of what I ‘get’ from her. Our consumer-driven quest for perfect sensual and sentimental partnership is driven by greed and results in loneliness.

Freedom rises from the love prescribed by St. John Paul ll then Karl Wojtyla. He writes: ‘Marriage is put to the test when the sensual and emotional reactions weaken…nothing remains but the value of the person. Then the inner truth of love comes to light. If that love is a true gift of self, it will not only survive the dry times but will sink deeper roots.’

Spouses who before Jesus and each other surrender their differences, their cares and needs, and their bodies, over and over, discover something essential—a love so full of meaning and purpose that it points to a Reality beyond itself. 

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Pennsylvania, Jeff Comeaux – Coordinator: For strength and vision for Jeff, for existing groups and to see new groups established. Also, grace for preparations for RHN conference in Lancaster, 2015.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Guadalajara, Mexico, Marisol, Coordinator: For wisdom  as they meet to determine and plan for the start of the next Aguas Vivas group.
  3. Restored Hope Network: Love & Truth Network, Garry Ingraham, Endicott, NY: Grace and strength to accomplish all that is before him in ministry and personal life. GAME, Peter Anderson, New York, NY: For the Lord to bring more of those seeking discipleship and soul care, clarity regarding a possible transition to more full-time work with Game and courage to stand strong and pure in the heart of NYC.

“Courage for Reverend Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 12, 13, 14, 15

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October 23: Pierced for Love

‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.’ (Eph. 5:22)

I will admit: facing my own brokenness in the Church and offering that vulnerability to fellow congregants is not always easy. I would prefer to pose ‘resurrected’, my wounds NOT visible. But the huge Crucifix that looms large over my parish sanctuary demands otherwise. He gave all to us, and so must we, one to another. In truth, His offering–a broken body and shed blood–is the very basis for our being a people. Through the Cross, Jesus pledges Himself to us forever. That pledge liberates our freedom to love one another.

I was greatly helped by Dr. Grant Pitre’s book ‘Jesus the Bridegroom.’ In it, Pitre chronicles bridal imagery throughout Scripture, anchors it in Hebrew tradition, and emphasizes St. John’s use of Jesus the Bridegroom; the Church, His bride. Startlingly, Pitre argues that God’s spousal love for us is most pointedly revealed at Calvary. His piercing is the culmination of God’s all-consuming desire to unite Himself to us forever. On Good Friday, Jesus married us.

Stay with me. Pitre claims that ‘Jesus’ wedding day is the day of His death, the day of His Crucifixion…’ St. Paul’s reference to the Church being prepared and washed and presented to Christ (Eph. 5) is rooted in ‘the ancient Jewish bridal bath and wedding ceremony.’ That washing had everything to do with the blood and water loosed in His dying. Jesus absolute self-giving on Calvary is His bridal pledge to us, a wedding vow born ‘of a love as strong as death.’ (Song of Sol 8:6)

St. Augustine goes further; he likens Calvary to God’s spousal union with His people. ‘Like a bridegroom Christ went forth from His nuptial chamber…He came to the marriage bed of the Cross and there, ascending it, consummated a marriage…He surrendered Himself to torment for His bride in a communication of love.’ Christopher West quotes St. John Paul ll who sums it up this way: ‘The “sincere gift” contained in the Sacrifice of the Cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love.’

When we gaze at Christ Crucified, remember: God loves us deeply, passionately, like a husband who dies to show his wife how much he loves her. Only this Bridegroom lives, His sacrifice signaling the undying love to which He binds Himself to us forever. Lovestruck, might His people respond: ‘We do.’

Please join us as we pray for:

1. Upper Midwest Region, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Jean Mersberger – Coordinator: For strength and vision for Jean, for existing groups and for new groups to be established.
2. Foundazione Novae Terrae (www.novaeterrae.eu) Italy: Strength and provision to fight for ‘right to life’ measures throughout Europe.
3. Harrisburg Diocese: Discernment for timing and team of new Living Waters group.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director of Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 23, 24, 25, 26

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