A Journey Towards Unity – Ephesians 4:12-14a

This is the final week of Easter. Pentecost awaits us. Something utterly different awaits God’s people. Something fresh is coming. Something new. This is what the first Christians after Christ ascended to be sit next to the Father, knew nothing of, except that they were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come to them. Pentecost is the day of new newness; the day the ancient Hebrews received the Law, and the now it’s celebrated as the day the new Law become clear. Christ in us. We become the new temple, the place that God actually dwells; a place that He longs to be. This is why unity is so precious. When God’s people, the new temple, work together and display Christ together, He can more easily and radically be seen. The temple was built by many parts, using their gifts to display the beauty and worth of Jesus in His temple. Here’s the Ephesians 4 passage for today:

The Grown-Up Body – Ephesians 4:12-14a

12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14 Then we shall no longer be children…

As we learned in the previous post, the gifts of God were given to the people of God so that the body of Christ would make God’s oneness and presence known to all. This passage in Ephesians 4 is about the whole body, every member, growing up into maturity, which in Paul’s mind is unity, not uniformity. The various apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts noted in verse 11 were given to certain people, not so that those people could do all the work of ministry, but so that every member of the body, the whole temple, diverse in each individual part, would be trained and equipped to share in the work of making God’s oneness known.

God is so utterly concerned with the building up of his body (the temple) into the fullness of Christ that he has ensured, in every region and in every era, there would be those who are gifted to equip the members of Christ’s body to be witnesses of Christ Himself. There would be those who speak with power the Word of God; others who would announce the good news to those who are far off; those who would look after local churches; and those who would teach the whole counsel of God, and so on.

It takes the whole body and all the gifts of God working together to build up the body of Christ into maturity. As a mature body, we will avoid hurting each other with selfish motives and petty arguments, much like children who frustrate parents with their “me” and “now” syndromes – i.e. “It’s all about me” and “I want what I want now.” We belong to one another and we are called to grow up, to mature, to put away our childish ways, and be ready to be used for the sake of the whole.

A Prayer For Us Today

Father, we are your children, set free from sin because of the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. Help us also to break free from our childish ways, growing into maturity. Give us grace to use our gifts, to stop caring only about “me” and for wanting what we want “now.” Give us vision for the future, for what will be when you return, so we can live out your will for us today, and your oneness will be seen by those who are far from you. Amen.

For Those Who Want To Go Deeper

If our life in Christ means that we will always be growing up, then in what ways do you need to grow up? Be honest with yourself; the Father loves you unconditionally. How does your church or denomination need to mature? Do you suffer from the “me” and “now” syndromes?

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A Journey Towards Unity – Ephesians 4:1-3

Happy Easter! After reading that, you might be thinking to yourself, “You’re a little late bro…Easter was a few weeks ago.” And to that I would say… “You’re right, but that was only the beginning of the Easter season.” We are now in week 4 of Easter building up to the Christian crescendo of Pentecost (7 weeks after the Passover/Easter), the moment the Church become truly alive, filled with God’s Spirit and thrust out into the world to display the beauty and worth of Jesus’ kingship. Pentecost lands on May 23rd this year (my 2nd child’s 9th birthday!).

What’s unique about the end of the Easter season this year, in Phoenix, is that on the day of Pentecost (May 23rd) there is a multi-denominational gathering of Catholics and Protestants coming together to celebrate the oneness they have in Jesus, to come together based on their faith in Jesus, and not to stay divided based on their doctrinal differences.

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So in the Easter spirit of being united under the oneness of Jesus, I wanted to share a journey through Ephesians 4:1-16 that may help you understand this oneness in Jesus, and to embrace this movement of unity that is essential to the calling of every person who has faith in Jesus, and to take Jesus up on his invitation to go deeper with Him.

Here’s day one:

The Called Body – Ephesians 4:1-3

1 I urge you, then—I who am a prisoner because I serve the Lord: live a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called you. 2 Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. 3 Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together.

This is the opening of the second part of Paul’s letter to the church in the city of Ephesus. The first three chapters of Ephesians contain Paul’s overview of the doctrinal and liturgical formation of the church, and now he’s doing what should always be done with doctrine and liturgy: applying it to the whole of life! As Paul draws the Church, the body of Christ, into the life it ought to be concerned with, regarding the good news of what Christ has done for her, he begins by reminding her of the calling that the whole body has been given.

Paul urges the Ephesians to “lead a life that is worthy of the vocation to which you were called” (vs. 1, New Jerusalem Bible).

This is the call of the Church: to live, to embody, to display, to put into practice what God has made possible because of Jesus. In the Greek New Testament, there is repetition found in verse 1 with the two words vocation and called, which are derived from the same Greek word, kaléō. Kaléō means to call to someone in such a way that they actually listen and obey, much like sheep would recognize and obey the voice of their shepherd.

In this case, Paul is calling the body of Christ to respond to the vocation of humility, gentleness, and long-suffering, and to preserve the oneness of Christ’s body through the peace that is given to us through God’s Spirit. According to Philippians 2:2-5, Paul is clearly calling the body of Christ into the very character of Christ. This will become much clearer to us as we continue to give our hearts and minds to Ephesians 4:1-16 in the days to come.

Complete harmony is only found in Christ. No matter where our paycheck comes from, our true vocation comes from him, so we must be willing to give him our faithful allegiance. It is Christ Jesus who has conquered death itself, and all who follow his voice are assured that the same victory will be theirs as well. This is the beginning of all forms of unity, and we should strive toward this unity in the Spirit with all that we have.

A Prayer For Us Today

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us, sinners. We long to hear and obey your voice, the voice of the Chief Shepherd, but there are so many competing voices today. These voices tell us false stories of happiness, success, power, and prestige. We often believe their lies. Be gracious to us as we learn to listen and obey and walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, the gospel that calls, cleanses, equips, and reconciles. Let us be drawn more and more into your character as you make us one. This is our fervent prayer. Amen.

For Those Who Want to Go Deeper

The gospel of Jesus calls for our faithful allegiance. What stumbling blocks are keeping you from being faithful to Jesus? What competing voices have you believed more than God? Today, confess these things to Christ Jesus in prayer, and consider confiding in a fellow brother or sister in Christ who is willing to walk alongside you on your journey of repentance. Be honest with yourself, but be kind as well. Don’t give yourself a personal beating… Jesus took the beating (and death) for you, and it was sufficient. We don’t have to beat ourselves up over our sin. We just have to be honest about our sin. Jesus isn’t a condemning to his children, so don’t be condemning to yourself. This exercise is meant to take you to the hidden places that you wish weren’t there, place them in front of Jesus, and say, “There you go. I don’t want these anymore. Renew my mind and work healing in the inner parts of my soul.” Go for it. Transformation awaits the honest ones.

The Armenian Genocide Remembered

Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion on 301 CE, although the presence of Jesus followers dates back to the first century, where we learn in extra biblical literature that two of Jesus’ disciples, Bartholomew and Thaddeus, who traveled to Armenia sometime between 60-70 CE. Since it’s inception, this church has been an oppressed church, spending much of their Christian existence in hiding, persecution, or in suffering.

The Armenian people have lived in the modern day Turkish region for some 3,000 and were an independent nation, although control over their region had many empires who came into and went out of power and control of that area. In the 15th century, the Armenian people were swallowed up and absorbed into a very powerful empire called the Ottoman empire.

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The Ottoman empire was a Muslim empire, and they allowed the Armenians to maintain some of their identity as orthodox Christians, but were also treated as subservient subjects and had many economic, political, and social obstacles that kept them from thriving, but they thrived none-the-less. Armenians were known to be better educated and wealthier than their Turkish neighbors somehow, which slowly led to resentment of the Armenian people. There was also a fear among the Ottoman empire that the Armenians would be more loyal to a Christian government, particularly to their neighbor, Russia.

Over the next few centuries the Ottoman empire began to lose power and in the late 19th century, the Armenians had a strong voice and were fighting for civil rights among their people. This angered the Turkish Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, who was fanatically committed to the Ottoman empire and demanded loyalty to it and was committed to silence the Armenian voice again.

In 1894 and in 1896, many Armenian villages were attacked and hundreds of thousands of Armenians were slaughtered. This was the first organized ‘silencing’ that gave rise to young militant Turks who were committed to removing the “pesky” Armenians. In 1908 Turkey had a regime change. These were the young reformed Turks who wanted a more modernized Turkey, which eventually was realized by the Armenians, that a modern Turkey meant a Turkey without Armenians. These “pesky” successful Armenians (despite opposition) just kept thriving and this was a threat to Turkish leadership.

Then in 1914, Turkey entered World War I on the side of Germany, and at the same time the Ottoman empire declared a holy war against Christians (namely Armenian Christians), because they saw them as traitors. The Armenians had sided with Russian military during this time, and then the dam broke.

On April 24th, 1915, genocide of the Armenian people began. This day in history, 100 years ago, marks the day when Turkish military arrested and slaughtered hundreds of Armenia’s top leaders and thinkers. Then they focused on the institutional removal of all Armenians from that region. They were forced out of their homes, sent on mass marches into the desert that led them to slaughter.

Many Armenians died by being stripped naked while being forced to walk in the desert for days with no food or water until they died. If they resisted, they were shot and killed. The method of murder ranged from anything one could think of; they drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive, smoked them out in buildings, etc.

Stories like these were shared in a small meeting that myself and a handful of other friends had with Armenian friends in Scottsdale. We share a time of refreshments and a short movie with them before we had a chance to hear their family stories of pain and loss at the hands of Turkish rulers. Children were kidnapped and converted to Islamic faith, women were raped and forced to be sex slaves, and Turks moved into the abandoned homes of the Armenians.

This went on until the early 1920’s. Many sources vary in the final number of Armenians who were slaughtered during the genocide, but most agree that over 1.5 million were killed, and many more were deported and never allowed to enter their homeland again.

To this day, the Turkish government still does not acknowledge this genocide nor do they admit that these events actually happened as stories tell them. Many Armenians and social justice advocates speak out against the Turkish government, but it has not changed the fact that it is still illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened to Armenians during during that era.

To add to the injustice, American news outlets and politicians have also been reluctant to use the word “genocide” to describe what the Turks did to the Armenians. The United States of America has still not formally recognized what happened to the Armenians as genocide out of fear of losing Turkey as an ally. Some ground has been gained to honor the families of this genocide and to recognize what has happened, but we still have a long ways to go.

I write this post to honor my friends who have taught me how to suffer and not die from the pain and to bring awareness to grave injustices that still go on in the name of keeping allies. Many Orthodox Christians being killed in the present day in the Middle East are Armenians, and the silence of this event allows other dictators and terrorists organizations to think they are capable of such great evil without proper consequences and accountability. There is no doubt that Adolf Hitler learned from the Ottoman empire  on how to systematically slaughter a whole people group and justify it.

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This is Father Zacharia, he was exiled from Turkey and is now the first Armenian priest in Arizona. He and the other leaders and parishoners at St. Apkar in Scottsdale are godly people who have welcomed us into their lives as friends.

We must speak out against the silencing of all evil, terrorism, dictators, and work to eradicate such evil in this world. The first step is to recognize this still goes on today even though we don’t see it as clearly as we can see other types of genocide in hind sight. Your voice matters. Retell these stories. Get to know survivors of genocide from various nations. Open up your world view and become friends with refugees and immigrants who most likely live next door or around the corner from where you live.

Today, I want to honor the Armenian people group and thank them for not giving up and continuing the legacy of their people through story telling no matter the cost. I pray you would have the courage to tell the unspeakable stories in your life and to stand for those who have been silenced for too long. I pray that through this story you may have the courage to fight for those being oppressed in your world and to stand and fight for those who can’t stand or fight on their own. We need communities of courageous healers in the days to come, and want to invite all who have ears to hear and eyes to see, to commit to a new way of living that fights and stands and pleads for those who need allies.

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Missional Ecumenism and the First-Century Church

Missional Ecumenism has been a big discussion over the last century of church life. If this phrase is new to you, in it’s simplest form, it means unity of the body of Christ around the mission of God. The word “ecumenism” comes from the Greek word oikoumene, which means “the whole inhabited earth.”

This ecumenical vision is both the mission to reconcile “the visible Church of every era” which is referred to as being ‘one body’ (Ephesians 4:1-4) and God’s mission to reconcile the “whole inhabited earth” (Matthew 24:14) as the concern of all who are God’s children (Genesis 12:1-3).

Unity of the body of Christ is always about mission. The mission of God is always about unity. One could also take the words “ecumenism” and “unity” and replace it in some way with the word “reconciliation,” which is the heart behind the whole gospel; Christ reconciling all things to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).

This reconciliation is wrought by men and women, who through faith in Christ Jesus, live a beatitudes kind-of-life, embracing the poverty of their own spirit, mourning over their sin and sin done against others and themselves, restraining their power to be used for good, and ultimately, working up a hunger and thirst for justice and goodness. This will lead to a life of mercy, purity, peacemaking, and in most cases, a life of persecution.

For a good example of what the beatitudes kind-of-life look like in story form, we could turn to the letter to Philemon, where the reality of reconciliation is employed in all it’s beauty, and missional ecumenism is seen from the very beginning of this Jesus movement.

In this letter we learn of a problem. Philemon had a run away slave named Onesimus, who fled his home, left Colossae and somehow ended up in Ephesus. We don’t know if Onesimus knew of Paul from Philemon, or if he was on the run, and heard Paul preaching while Paul was under house arrest in Ephesus. But somehow, he heard the gospel, received Christ, and became a disciple of Paul there in Ephesus, and falls head over heels in love with Jesus. Paul clearly sees the renewal that took place in this run away slaves life and wants to disciple him by having he and Philemon eventually live out a picture of the gospel; reconciliation.

It’s clear that Paul has in mind reconciliation with his letter to Philemon, because he urges Philemon to not just allow Onesimus back into his community, but to receive him as a brother, a partner in the gospel!

Go ahead, check it out for yourself. Grab a Bible and read Philemon real quick, it’s a brief one-page letter.

Did you see it? The gospel of reconciliation? Paul is crystal clear, he wants nothing less than the unity of two enemies who are now both unified under the Messiah, and one brother is to give the other brother emancipation papers. “Free him Philemon!”

In this letter, we read overtones of the Exodus narrative which was behind all of Paul’s letters and interpreted through Christ’s death and resurrection. Paul now wants Philemon to embrace the new exodus that Christ gave him (Philemon), and extend a new exodus to Onesimus. “Live out the gospel Philemon! Let Onesimus go free!”

We need to know that the punishment for a run away slave was likely crucifixion in this case. After all, if slaves run away without punishment, then who’s to say other slaves won’t follow suit unless somehow puts the hammer down. And what of Philemon if he goes along with it? What will other slave owners say? Will they try to harm Philemon? Paul is asking a lot, but if we continue to look at this passage, we see that Paul may be offering a lot as well.

This is why Paul also mentions, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” (Philemon 18)

Notice Paul says to charge the cost of Onesimus’ offense to his account, which would mean whatever Onesimus would be given, or maybe whatever would be blamed on Philemon for releasing a run away slave, blame it on Paul. So Paul may be saying, “If he deserves the cross, then I’ll take it for him!” Or, “If you might receive punishment for releasing him, let the town know it’s on me, I’ll receive your punishment.” Paul is displaying the ministry of reconciliation here, he’s displaying Christ’s sacrifice in a tangible way.

Clearly after reading Philemon in this context, Paul has a much bigger view of reconciliation than we have after a casual reading of this text. Paul has an entirely different perspective. Indeed Philemon and Onesimus are a part of the new creation in Christ.

For Philemon to be able to receive Onesimus back, he had to think more of him than himself (poverty of spirit). He had to mourn over what he lost, what he’s going to lose in the community if he doesn’t punish Onesimus, and how he may  have wanted revenge or punishment against Onesimus. He would’ve had to restrain his cultural power and offer freedom, and this would surely fuel his hunger and thirst for more justice in areas of oppression elsewhere.

The cross of Christ is busting out of this letter to Philemon as Paul is able to say to Philemon, whatever he owes you, put it to my account, I will pay for his offense. This is the ministry of reconciliation that we are being gifted with as followers of Jesus, and this is what God is asking of us to live out for our sake and for His name’s sake.

The purpose of life in Christ was always and will always be a mission of ecumenism, being reconciled to Christ, and laboring to be reconciled to one another. The former empowering the latter. This is at the core of being the church. May we not allow other things to become more important than this reality that Christ prayed for in John 17; that they may all be one… so that the world will believe.

To Easter… and Beyond!

My kids have grown up with the movie Toy Story that has the two lovable and imaginative characters, Buzz Lightyear and Woody. I have to admit, every time I watch one of the Toy Story movies and hear Buzz say, “To infinity… and beyond!”, I secretly hope that the movie creators would create a narrative that would take us up into a daydream with Buzz about what it’s like to actually go to “infinity and beyond.”

I think if we’re honest with ourselves and could break out of our hollow modern shells that has squashed the fairy tales, myths, and legends, we would all long to go to that place Buzz is talking about. To get away from the grind, to fly to a place far away, to be a hero in another realm, to slay the dragon, and take that adventure you’ve always wanted. We were made for more, and that’s where these longings could teach us something about God’s narrative.

In the biblical narrative, “infinity and beyond” came to us, invited us into that narrative, gave us a home called earth, and asked us to fill this place with purpose and meaning that is from “infinity and beyond.” You see, we live in an era that has honored science, reason, rational thinking, medicine, and the like, and the cost on our society has been a decapitation of the supernatural, and the Christian world has embraced it more than most people.

Sure there is Christian language about the supernatural and even a charismatic approach to prayer and the like, but the world to many Christians is still divided into the sacred and the profane, the material and the immaterial, the natural and the supernatural, and in many ways we do not have a context for merge both worlds, to give a fuller meaning to life as we know it. This is where Ash Wednesday comes to mind.

Ash Wednesday is a day for the many Christian denominations to ‘kick off’ if you will, the journey towards Easter. Originally, Ash Wednesday got its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, and then placing them on the heads of participants, while an officiant recites something like this: “Turn from your sin, be faithful to the Gospel, and remember from dust were you made, and to dust you shall return.”

In the biblical narrative, the use of ashes were mostly used to show that someone is either grieving from a tragedy or showing remorse for sin, and it serve as an external sign of repentance (2 Samuel 13:19; Job 42:3-6; Jeremiah 6:26). Ash Wednesday is a day of remembrance, but it’s so much more to me. It’s a day to tangibly remember we broke trust with God. We ate a natural piece of forbidden fruit and brought upon natural and supernatural consequences, thus we need natural and supernatural help.

Ash Wednesday is reminding us that in humanity, we are stuck to the natural realm and do not have the ability to restore supernatural realities. In comes Jesus the Christ, and Ash Wednesday is definitely all about Jesus. It’s all about placing our sin in front of us, remember who were are and not placing the weight of salvation on ourselves, because we can’t restore the supernatural. It’s about preparing our hearts to see with both eyes wide open, the death and the resurrection of Jesus.

In the very natural act of confessing and receiving ashes on our foreheads, we are re-enacting the garden narrative with Adam and Eve and accepting our fate of death and separating, but not without hope. We lament on Ash Wednesday and we fast over the 40 days (or so) of the Lenten season to prepare our bodies, minds, and hearts, to receive in a fresh new way every year, supernatural help that could only come from Jesus, the ultimate natural supernaturalist!

Jesus, the new Adam, invites his people into a new realm called righteousness in a world that will never be fully righteous. Even though Ash Wednesday is not an official sacrament of the church, it is very much an invitation into a supernatural world in a very natural kind of way. It is an invitation to go up to the mountain of mercy and receive something from God that no one or nothing in this natural world could ever offer to you.

Jesus, in the biblical narrative, was conceived supernaturally, but born of naturally to a virgin named Mary. He grew naturally in favor with man and supernaturally with God. He was sinless, offered a new way to be human, dismantled the religious life that missed God and therefore suffered under Pontius Pilate by the will of God, but the desire of the religious leaders. He was crucified, he died, and was buried naturally. On the third day, Jesus rose again supernaturally, showed himself to over 500 witnesses, then ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of power of God the Father. From there, he will one day return to restore natural order supernaturally, as he will lovingly judge the living and the dead and give to each man what they longed for.

Jesus offers a supernatural life now, in this very natural realm, and asks that those who have received this mercy and become family with him, live in such a way that brings greater purpose and meaning to what he has created. Ash Wednesday is a way to take Jesu by the hand, and follow him to a realm outside of time and space, and meet with him so that you are never the same naturally or supernaturally. We were created for more than what our eyes have seen and our brains can comprehend. We were created to live with both eyes open to the natural and the supernatural world and to see the beauty, the joy, the color, the smells, the tastes, the feelings, of what the supernatural world has breathed into the natural realm.

It ought not to remain a divide between the material and the immaterial realms. Jesus, the immaterial God became material, and restored what man broke in Eden. Jesus is the restoration of shalom, the Eucharistic life, the life of divine thankfulness invites freely all who would have eyes to see and ears to hear, the taste of a new kind of food that will restore what was lost in the garden through the forbidden fruit being carelessly eaten.

So this lenten season, may you ascend the hill, and through your fasting, your confession of what’s really true about you, your turning from sin, and believing that the natural and supernatural realms aren’t mutually exclusive, may you learn to live today in the natural realm with a natural supernatural savior. He is waiting for you to close the gap and believe that there is more to life than just rationale, reason, and boring parties. He’s longing for you so say like Buzz, “To Easter and beyond!” where the mysterious  resurrection is a divine reality for all who believe, today!

Eugene Peterson’s Isaiah 58: A Necessary Word for Western Christendom

“Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
“Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
“If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
“If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so!

Deaths and Resurrections

The narratives of life are many and messy most of the time and they follow certain story lines. Two of the most dominant parts of any narrative are the deaths that take place and then the resurrections that happen thereafter. This is what we pay for when we go see movies, these plot lines that ultimately take us to the point of death or near death, and then we get to see the story turn and a type of resurrection happens. Deaths and resurrections.

From a Christian worldview (at least ‘Christian’ in the sense of those who actually follow Jesus) we know that this theme is birthed from within us, that is, we all have this longing to be resurrected from a death, a loss, from pain. And within this same worldview we know that this longing is actualized in what Christ Jesus did for all of us, when we were still his enemies. Jesus’ death and resurrection secure reconciliation for those who trust in Christ, but it also gives purpose and meaning to various forms a sufferings, deaths, as the ultimate purpose in life isn’t to dodge pain, but to be resurrected and reconciled to the truest source of life out of our pain, the life of life, Jesus.

But on this side of redemption, it seems that there too few resurrections and too many deaths. Yes, I can hear the cliche Christianese response say, “But death where is your victory, death where is your sting!” And to that I’d say, that phrase isn’t completely true until the final days when Christ returns and the final resurrection of the dead takes place. This Christianese response has pervaded Christian religious mumbo jumbo so much that we live in a culture that has numbed ourselves from truly dying (or feeling the sting of death, or at least giving acknowledgement to it) that our resurrections are weak and fabrcarted with emotions and words, false lights, void of power and transformation that comes from the life of life.

Today, I feel death all around me and I’m grateful for friends who know how to face the reality of death and grieve properly so when the resurrection actually comes, it’s real and tangible, and Jesus’ life and presence are more beautiful than they were before. Life sucks at times and brings you to the point of death, indeed it will even kill us in more ways that just physical death. But when the life of life shows up, the life that didn’t just shine light into our darkness, but the life that shined light out from the darkness our darkness. It’s then that we realized that Jesus sits with us in our pain and loss and deaths, and offers a life that life is really all about.

The life of life, shining the light of all lights out of dark backgrounds so that we can actually see him, because when fabricated lights are always around us, we lose the dark backdrop that allows us to see Jesus on this side of redemtpion. Deaths are many today, and resurrections are few and far between, but I live in the hope of the true resurrection that it will not always be that way. That good will win, evil will be destroyed forever, Satan and all those who prey on the weak will reap their pay in full, and that all that has been lost will be recovered through the resurrection. This narrative I so utterly believe in and long for when it’s complete.