Palm Sunday: “The Emperor Has No Clothes” [POEM]


I feel far, Lord.
But I know you’re here.  I know it.
(Do I?)

(Can I?)

It’s the nature of the matter; a matter of nature, I suppose.
Perhaps only now I feel at the deepest existential depths:
“I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Or in a word: Hosanna

That cry.  That plea.

The certainty of uncertainty.
The pregnancy of a pause.
The pondering of a moment.

That moment.  The moment.  

The moment that dressed my doubt in assurance.
But that emperor has no clothes
(or so everything says).

So where does my assurance lie?
Where do my feet stand?

My body pelted with rain, snow, and hail;
I pray my heart rests beside a fire,
drinking tea,
rocking in a chair,
my shoulders draped in that most costly of quilts -
my Rest.

Clothe me–
with the coat I lay on your path–
for this emperor is naked

and needs his King.

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

Sin: God’s Favorite Part of Being God


sandorfi-le-pardon-wide

Lent is a time that we dwells a lot on Sin. It’s a preparation for Easter and celebrating the Resurrection, and so to prepare for this, we must meditate on those things that Resurrection itself addressed. Resurrection was a response to Sin and Death. The more we feel and dwell in the reality of our Sin and Death, the more tangible Resurrection becomes.

This can seem morose, annoying, unnecessary, or not in line with our identity as Christians. Should we do this though it might make us depressed, feel like self-focused navel-gazing, or if it distracts us from much of the rest of our Christian living?

There’s definitely a time and place for it and a degree after which it becomes unhealthy, but more than what this does for/to us or our emotional state, could I offer another reason that it’s good to have times where we bring our focus to our weakness and sinfulness?

God loves it.
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Cool Hand Luke’s “Of Man”: a favorite album is now free (and perfect for Lent)


cool-hand-luke-of-man-coverIf you don’t care about the commentary, and just want the amazing music, you can get it at Noisetrade. If you’d like to listen to the album first, just press play:

Someone’s “favorites” are a weird thing to define.  They are prone to fickleness, are tied so closely with whatever else is subjectively happening in one’s life, and usually bear little resemblance to what that person would consider as the technically “best” of any particular thing. So when you have a “favorite” that sustains that title for years–decades, even–it’s a big deal.

Since high school my favorite band has been Cool Hand Luke. Back then they were a little hardcore screamo band. At that time, to get their CD, you had to mail a check to the lead singer’s house. As time when on, their style changed at the very same time and in the very same way as my own. It felt like we were growing together.

Around my senior year of high school, they came out with an album called Wake Up,  O SleeperAnyone who’s heard of CHL probably knows them from this stunningly powerful work of art. It quickly became the most influential and “favorite” album of mine. And it has been ever since.

Towards the end of college, I became pretty good friends with the lead singer. For a while, every few months, we’d talk for a couple of hours on the phone. He was discerning whether to go to seminary and what to do about the financial mess their shady manager had left the band in. I got to see his heart and the heart behind the beautiful music they made.

Eventually, he got married, I started seminary, and he decided it was time to end the band and begin seminary himself. But there was one last project he felt he had to do.

Of Man.

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Welcome to Ash Wednesday. Lent begins.


ash-wednesday-pew-lentToday is Ash Wednesday. In just under two months from today we’ll come to the highest point in the Christian Church calendar, Easter. That is where we’ll celebrate Christ’s Resurrection and how God’s perfect world broke into the present and our greatest enemies–sin and death–were conquered and shown to have no more dominion over us and the rest of the world. It’s meant to be the most effusive, overflowing, even ridiculous time of joy.

And yet, when we look at Jesus’ Resurrection, we see that before it ever took place, there was Death. And before that, there was an entire lifetime of loneliness, pain, suffering weakness, and isolation. We see that it was a life surrounded by evil forces and whispers that haunt and hurt Jesus and the people he loved.

And so, our early Church Mothers and Father thought it would be wise to have this time before Easter to prepare, so we might end up celebrating during Easter all the more.

Resurrection was itself a statement against our two greatest enemies: Sin and Death. And so to participate in Resurrection, we take the time of Lent to meditate and press into those things to which Resurrection was the response. We do this not out of morbidity, but out of anticipation.

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Lent begins tomorrow. (Will you just give it a try?)


Jesus & The Cross

I grew up in a church tradition that did not take seriously the Christian Church Calendar. Even as I went to college and moved into communities that took some level of tradition more seriously (which was usually limited to quoting Puritans and Reformers in sermons), the Church Calendar wasn’t that big of a deal. It was seen as something sort-of cool that could be incorporated into the already established life of the Church; a buffet from which leaders could pick and choose some aspects that might be helpful in organizing some sermon series or songs. But it certainly wasn’t seen as something that a church should actually incorporate itself into, or build it’s own rhythm around.

I’ve had the privilege of having this paradigm rocked the past several years at my church, and have fallen in love with the Church calendar. It influences much of the rhythm and timbre of my everyday life–both ecclesial and otherwise. I find such life in living within a stream of thought that was not simply created within the past generation by baptizing modern Western American cultural ideas.

I love finding myself as embedded within the cloud of witnesses that have gone before me as possible–even those I may disagree with passionately and fundamentally. Because, at the end of the day, they are my family, and families have traditions. Sure, you can be “that guy” that does his own thing and doesn’t participate in the family rhythms, but where’s the life in that?

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“Coffee Crucifix” (a sonnet for National Coffee Day)


Coffee Crucifix

Crescent ring under porcelain smooth
___stain the wood-stained finish.
______(It is finished.)
___Marked with muddy water;
___mark the merry day; to
___marry the murdered man.

Floral notes in blackened waves
___crash the shore of trembled lips.
Choral bright, in darkest night,
___wake the tone of trebled kiss.

Younger tastes left open-wide; older eyes made
satisfied.

Mark the wood: complex simplicity.
Pierce my heart: storied infinity.

[read my other Holy Week poetry here]

all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

Ascension: Our glory & the Bible’s hinge


jesus-christ-ascension-iconToday in the Christian church calendar is Ascension Day, the day we celebrate Christ ascending into heaven 40 days after his resurrection and now sits at “the right hand of God the Father.” (You can read a prayer and poem I posted earlier for this Holy Day)

The Useless Ascension

The idea of “Ascension” doesn’t seem to get a lot of play nowadays in the Church. This, in spite of the fact that it is an essential part of all the Church’s earliest doctrinal formulations, and the subject of the most-quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament:

The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Compared to other, non-creedal things like Hell, homosexuality, and “attacks on biblical authority”, the Ascension isn’t really talked about. Maybe this is because the Ascension isn’t really a “doctrine”–it’s an “event” and a “declaration”.

And we western Christians love our systematic “doctrines” that we can pick apart as nauseam and/or figure out how we can “apply it to our lives” in such a way that we can feel like we’re “good Christians.” But honestly, the Ascension doesn’t have many direct applications for today.
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prayer & meditation for Ascension Day


Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from the the Book of Common Prayer & the site Morning Prayer)

Also read my own meditations on this Holy Day.
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Trickle-Up Resurrection (Guatemala Lessons)


Rothko-easterMy church is currently in a series called “Resurrection Stories” in which we’re going through each of the non-Jesus stories of resurrections (or “resuscitations”—whatever) found in the Bible. It is, after all, still Easter.

A few weeks ago, as we were talking about Elisha raising the Shunnamite’s son, our pastor pointed out that most of these resurrection stories seem to center more on the people around the dead person than the dead person themselves. And so, in a sense, these resurrections are more for the people affected by death than the one dead; the ones that “receive” the true resurrection power are mostly those around the resurrected one.

Further, as he pointed out, most all of these people that “receive” the truest benefits of these resurrections are women—the most alienated and disempowered group throughout world history.
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It’s Still Easter: a Theology of Color [photo sermon]


philly-tree-pink-spring

This week’s WordPress Photo theme is “Color“. Rather than simply writing about different pictures I’ve taken, I’m instead trying to write “photo sermons” based on these topics. In these posts, I want to try and use the photo itself as my “text”–trying to see how God reveals himself in his “other” book, in addition to the Bible.

In our last photo sermon, I talked about how I love that Easter comes around Spring time and so the natural world beautifully reflects the spiritual truth being celebrated. Also in line with this truth is the fact that Easter–just like Spring–is not just one day–it’s an entire season in the Church calendar.

It takes time for beauty and truth to get into and blossom within our souls. It takes preparation and anticipation for the roots of our hearts to quicken like the trees around us–to feel life coursing in them once more.

This is beautiful. And it doesn’t need to be this way.
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{Easter friday} | prayer & readings for Easter Week (2013)


For Easter Week: reading schedule/reflections.

prayer.

Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(from the liberti Lent & Easter 2012 prayerbook & the Book of Common Prayer)

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{Easter thursday} | prayer & readings for Easter Week (2013)


For Easter Week: reading schedule/reflections.

prayer.

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from the liberti Lent & Easter 2012 prayerbook & the Book of Common Prayer)

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The Cross vs. The Resurrection


art-museum-crucifix-death-pmaIn Christian theology, there is a seemingly small thing that really influences so much of one’s theological outlook and even how they think they should live as a Christian.

Are you “Team Cross” or “Team Resurrection”?

Yeah, yeah, I know that the right answer is “both”, but really, most people tend to emphasize one more than the other.

What got me thinking about this was a Facebook post I saw on Easter evening. The poster said that the Resurrection was not when Jesus conquered sin and death. Instead, Jesus did that on the Cross, and the Resurrection was “simply” the “validation” of what Jesus did.

In other words, all that Jesus came to accomplish was done on Good Friday. God the Father saw it, thought it was awesome, so he went ahead and raised Jesus on Sunday.

In other other words, if the Resurrection never happened, nothing “essential” to salvation would be lost, merely the “proof” that it had been accomplished.

It really stuck with me, and no matter how much I tried to re-articulate it in my mind, give him the benefit of the doubt, or pick apart my own presuppositions, I really couldn’t shake how strongly I disagreed with this statement.

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{Easter wednesday} | prayer & readings for Easter Week (2013)


For Easter Week: reading schedule/reflections.

prayer.

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(from the liberti Lent & Easter 2012 prayerbook & the Book of Common Prayer)

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Our Easter Hope: Jesus Didn’t Rise from the Dead


statue-easter-bookHappy Easter! Let me greet all of you with the same Easter greeting that has been offered by generations upon generations of Christians before:

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

(And you respond with:)

Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Now I don’t know how many of you have grown up saying that or have eventually settled into traditions that do, but I wonder how many of us have noticed the grammar of that statement. Why has it never said, “Alleluia, Christ rose”, or “Alleluia, Christ has risen”?

There is an extremely important and immensely practical aspect of the Resurrection that, as I’ve moved in more and more church circles, I’ve realized has either become de-emphasized, forgotten, or never known in the first place:

Jesus did not rise from the dead.
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