Tag Archives: Vulnerability

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Storm Center

‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ (1JN 4:18)

We now live in a ‘gay marriage’ nation. Persons who fear the Lord, especially persons ‘barely escaping the error’ of homosexual practice, will experience a new vulnerability, the glare that results when another layer in the moral ozone disappears. Talk about global warming!

The moral tempest intensifies for us but we must not fear. We must not allow ourselves to be tossed about by the threat of abandonment, the deception that God is not advocating for us due to multiple victories on the ‘gay’ front.

Like the disciples who understandably feared for their lives due to a squall at sea, we may be tempted to shout at the Lord, ‘Do something; don’t You care if we drown?’ (MK 4:38)

Jesus quieted and stilled the din and restored calm to His kids. ‘Why were you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (v. 40) Where is our faith? In the swing vote of a human judge? Or in the God who knows and who uses all things to advance His Kingdom through persons who look to Him alone?

God is in complete command. Amid the moral storm, He is preparing for Himself an army of bright, shining lamps that will grow in number and brilliance as the days grow darker. Lean into your Beloved. Stay near Him in His sleeping and in His rising. Let faith guard your heart from fear. The real Presence of His love is our refuge.

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Intimate Authority: Easter’s Enlistment

This is the seventh and concluding post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts. Annette and I, as well as the staff here at Desert Stream Ministries, wish you a deeply blessed Easter. He is Risen!

Intimate Authority: Easter’s Enlistment

Why was Mary Magdalene the first disciple Jesus entrusted with His resurrection? According to John’s Gospel, Peter and John raced to the empty tomb but could not comprehend Christ resurrected.

Both John the Beloved and Peter the Rock saw evidence but did not see. After hearing countless prophecies from Jesus, ‘they still did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead.’ (Jn 20:9)

Peter and John left the empty tomb and went home, perhaps too weary and overwhelmed to grasp the truth. One can see and not see. Jesus entrusted this sight to Mary Magdalene. How strange for her. She wanted the powerful disciples to make sense of the empty tomb. She bid them come and they left, disoriented. Mary lingered at the tomb, weeping.

She wept and lingered there. That was her great gift, this evidence of intimacy with Jesus. For what else better defines intimate reliance upon another but weeping and lingering? Love alone provokes tears for another; love alone compels us to wait, to abide, to linger. These simple expressions of intimacy—tears and lingering—are the basis for her authority.

From her first encounter with Jesus, washing His feet with her tears as the Pharisee looked on aghast, to this last recorded encounter at the tomb, Mary wept. She embodied a tender and profound dependence upon Jesus. In brokenness, she clung to Him; His holiness absorbed her shame and transformed Mary into a radiant, radical disciple.

Naked surrender to Jesus—a gift of her more responsive gender and of her heightened vulnerability to false intimacy—made Mary trustworthy. She knew her cure. Lustful men had only served to fracture her, to take pieces of her; religious men then condemned her for it. Only One gave her form, made her whole. Jesus’ life became hers.

God chose an ex-prostitute to bear witness of that Life—the Resurrection–the most important event in human history. Are you beginning to understand why the Roman Catholic Church named her the ‘Apostle of the Apostles?’

Mary’s life with Jesus testified: with Him, she could do anything. When He died, she discovered the painful corollary: without Him, nothing. That’s why the grief. Grief grounded her at the tomb. Hope sustained her.

She had nowhere else to go. So she waited at the tomb, weeping and lingering. Here we see the deep broken ground of her heart, awaiting reunion with the Beloved. Her response to two angels concerning her tears is telling: she was not awed by them but concerned only about Him—‘Someone took Jesus away—where is HE?’ (Jn 20: 12, 13)

Then Jesus appeared to her, glorified and not yet apparent to Mary. She asked Him to tell her where Jesus was so she could retrieve His body from the hands of temple robbers. He spoke her name, opened her eyes, and reclaimed her life with His raised one. (vs. 14-16)

Reunion. Grief transformed to joy. My hunch is she wanted Him, desired only to be with Him, to weep with gratitude and linger with Him, alone. Jesus dethrones her desire. Instead of extending comfort, Jesus commissions her: ‘Don’t hold onto Me. Tell my brothers!’ (v.17)

I think of thousands of peers and friends around the world whose lives mirror Mary’s. Most know deep brokenness. Surrendered to Jesus, they in turn know Jesus well. He is their integrity, their wholeness. Will we hear Jesus’ words afresh this Easter? Will we, grateful for every sin He has assumed, every wound He has won, every cross He enables us to carry, not hold onto Him? Will we rather, empowered afresh with the Spirit of His new life, run with Mary and proclaim from our depths: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (v. 18)

Will we stop waiting for someone else to do what we alone can do? Will we stop deferring to ‘important’ disciples but rather ask Jesus to make us faithful witnesses? To proclaim how Life has subsumed our brokenness and set us free?

I urge you this Easter: follow Mary’s example. Rise up and reveal His new life through yours. Easter has enlisted you as a member of the Magdalene Army.

‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back…

You will spread out to the left and to the right; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid, you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth, and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His Name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He is called the God of all the earth.’ (Is. 54: 2-5)

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Intimate Authority Holy Week Meditations, 4

Mary Magdalene anoints the feet of Jesus Christ, watched by the apostles. Original Artwork: Engraving by W Greatbach after the painting by Rubens. (Photo by Spencer Arnold/Getty Images)

This is the fourth post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.


Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 4

Mary Magdalene, in her recognition and reliance upon her Merciful Deliverer, became authoritative in holy love. Tears of remorse became gratitude. Peace, love and joy dwelt in her depths now. Degradation and accusation became distant relatives that she could refuse.

You could say that sexual brokenness, surrendered to Him, made her strong. Her weakness invited His power; whenever tempted by the old kingdoms, she had only to draw near to Him. Her gender made a difference here. She possessed that beautiful responsiveness which Jesus, the whole Man, cleansed and ignited with holy love. He became her center; His pure, strong light lit her from within.

Her redeemed womanhood, combined with her moral vulnerability (we are usually not delivered from all susceptibility to our pasts), forged a dependency upon Him that was qualitatively different from that of the other disciples. While other men had shamed and fractured her further, Jesus’ presence set her free. Her wholeness was bound up in His life, her holiness in the intimacy they shared.

In gratitude, she gave all that she had to Him. That is evident in another extravagant display of worship. Mark describes her anointing Jesus with oil, breaking open an intensely fragrant and expensive bottle and pouring it over Him in front of everyone! Like the Pharisee in Luke 7, Jesus’ band was not impressed by Mary’s slavish, wasteful ‘worship.’ (Mk 14: 1-11).

Mark’s account differs significantly from Luke’s. It takes place just prior to Jesus initiating His Holy Supper with the disciples. Luke recounts Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears and with oil, but Mark describes Mary anointing His head, a sign of familiarity with Him. She knew Him now, and like any devoted woman, understood what Jesus’ male friends didn’t. Jesus was going to die.

She was anointing His body for His death. In the old kingdom, Mary must have used such oil to enliven her customers. She saved the best for last, to inaugurate the New Kingdom opened to all through the Cross. Mary had surrendered all to Him and Jesus redeemed it all, even the tricks of her trade, to fulfill His purposes.

Marvelous to me is her obedience in light of the social shame she still provoked. ‘Some were indignant’ (v. 4); the scorn started early on with the Pharisee in Lk 7 and continued with Jesus’ disciples until the end. ‘Once a bad girl, always a bad girl…’ The traditions of men endure, even in the twice-born. The beauty of Mary? Shame never stopped her. She endured the shame for the joy set before her, the gift of knowing Him intimately and loving Him extravagantly.

What is costly worship for you? What do you offer Jesus that is often misunderstood by others and yet gives glory to Your Creator and Redeemer? I think of my peers with histories of same-sex attraction (a hard enough disclosure) who audaciously testify that Jesus is setting them free from its domination (harder still to confess in our gay-friendly age). For every ‘Amen’, that witness of Jesus’ redeeming power provokes a shake of the head or even a warning to not damage someone by giving them false hope.

What do you offer publicly to Jesus that is costly, fragrant, and scorned? May Mary’s worship set you free to worship Him with renewed audacity.

‘Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for Me…I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ (Mk 14: 6, 9)

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Mercy’s Rule

Day 10 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘When the battle becomes too much for me, I throw myself like a child into the arms of the Heavenly Father and trust I will not perish…I do not lose heart. I trust God’s grace, which abounds in the worst misery.’ (606)

Bad shame can trap us; the traditions of men are tricky. They may have truth on their side, but they forfeit the main rule which governs Jesus’ morality—Mercy for the sin-sick, who in turn extend Mercy out of a recognition of their own moral vulnerability.

How Jesus handled the woman caught in adultery exemplifies Mercy’s rule.

(Jn. 8:1-11) She had violated herself and others in adultery, a serious offense. Such a sin could cost you your life, a truth that the religious teachers and leaders knew and set before Jesus as to expose His aim to uphold both Mercy and Truth.

First, why is the woman brought before Jesus, and not also her male, (presumably) married partner? That may help decode the hearts of the religious. She had no advocate in contrast to the man and his family; in that culture, women (especially single ones) had almost no power and yet were thought to be nearly all-powerful in their ability to seduce men! I believe that Jesus is redressing this inequity here by advocating for her, the weaker party.

He did so by appealing to the moral vulnerability of all the accusers: ‘If you have never had a sinful, adulterous thought, then kill her; let the pure serve judgment!’ Perhaps drawing upon His definition of adultery which equates lustful thoughts with actions (Matt. 5:27-30), he commanded an examination of conscience. To their credit, the men heeded his challenge. Each dropped his stone.

As far as we know, only the woman held out her open hand for Mercy. Though set free from their condemnation, she was only freed from the sin of adultery by Jesus, who commanded her: ‘Go and leave your life of sin.’ (v.11) We presume she did. Mercy cleared away her accusers (the traditions of men), and made a way for her repentance.

Jesus’ love renders us all unfaithful; none are only true. Mercy frees us from ignorant accusers and frees us for a progressively true love born of Mercy.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to help remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Lk. 6:42)

‘Jesus, we want to see reality the way You do. Give us Your eyes of Mercy, first to recognize our own unfaithfulness then to extend Mercy to others based on Your generous Mercy to us. Help us here, O God. Cleanse our adulterous, accusatory hearts; set us free for Mercy. Make us especially mindful of disempowered ones who are under the judgment of the powerful. Let Mercy have her perfect way in our hearts.’

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