Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Defining Question

Happy Resurrection Sunday.

Happy death is conquered, sins forgiven Sunday.

No – I don’t believe it happened on this particular day, the first full moon after the vernal equinox, two thousand some years ago. Yet, tied as the story is to the Passover feast, the date probably comes close.

Gregorian calendar; Julian calendar. I don’t believe the exact date matters. 

What matters is that it happened: the literal physical resurrection of the man called Jesus who healed the sick and claimed to be the son of God.

I believe it. Yes.

It’s the defining question, isn’t it?

Thinking about resurrection I came across two interviews with U2’s Bono.  In one, recorded in 2013 for an Irish TV broadcast, The Meaning of Life with Gay Bryne, Byrne asked Bono, after a series of questions about prayer, “so then, what or who was Jesus as far as you’re concerned?”

Bono: I think it’s a defining question - for a Christian – is who was Christ, and I don’t think you’re let off easily by saying a great thinker or great philosopher. Because, actually, HE went round saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God or he was

Byrne: Not

Bono: No no - nuts. Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes. This is I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium. And I find it hard to accept that whole millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for two thousand years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter. I just don’t believe it.

Byrne: Therefore it follows that you believe he was divine.

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: And therefore it follows that you believe he rose physically from the dead.

Bono: Yes. I have no problem with miracles. I’m living around them. I am one.

Byrne: So when you pray then you pray to Jesus. The risen Jesus.

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: And you believe that he made promises that will come true.

Bono: Yes. I do.

That interview echoed his conversation a decade earlier recorded in Bono in Conversation with Mishka Assayas

Bono: I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Michka: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” . . .   So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was, the Messiah, or a complete nutcase. . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched.

Today, around the globe, Christians will sing of resurrection. In ancient chapels, dusty storefronts, modern cathedrals, gatherings under baobab trees, in city parks, prison cells, people whose lives were changed, rescued, restored will gather to sing of the moment in history when history itself was reclaimed and made new.

In places of hardship and persecution, hunger and poverty, cynicism and doubt, anger and fear, Christians will celebrate with joy and hope: because they believe that death has been conquered. This life is not the end. The individual story doesn’t end with cancer or overdose or an accidental shooting or a suicide bomb. The story - for us, our loved ones, this battered, groaning globe - is larger, grander, more glorious than we know. 

It continues past the grave, past whatever grim scenarios we humans set in motion.

There are many avenues to faith.

Some of us are blessed to grow up in families that live and breath faith so faithfully that we want to live and breathe it too.

Some of us, like the prodigal son, grow up in love’s embrace then wander in search of a greater reality, only to come to our senses and hurry home to a waiting father.

Some of us grow up in other traditions, other religions, and when we hear the good news of Christ recognize the fulfillment of all we’ve been told and all we’ve been waiting for.

Some come through miracles, through revelations. Some come through the patient witness of loving friends. Some in a moment of crisis hear the Word and believe.

Some through books. Study. Science. Beauty.

blog post I’ve been revisiting describes some of these paths, and another I’ve sometimes suggested to friends who insist they have no faith: honest, unbelieving prayer.

Determined atheist sci-fi writer John C. Wright prayed:

Dear God, I know… that you do not exist. Nonetheless, as a scholar, I am forced to entertain the hypothetical possibility that I am mistaken. So just in case I am mistaken, please reveal yourself to me in some fashion that will prove your case. If you do not answer, I can safely assume that either you do not care whether I believe in you, or that you have no power to produce evidence to persuade me…If you do not exist, this prayer is merely words in the air, and I lose nothing but a bit of my dignity. Thanking you in advance for your kind cooperation in this matter, John Wright.

In his own blog Wright describes in detail the response to his prayer: a heart attack, visions, miracles, and a strange journey to a deeply committed faith:

I would say my snide little prayer was answered with much more than I had asked, and I was given not just evidence, and not just overwhelming evidence, but joy unspeakable and life eternal. 
. . . In hindsight, if only I had not been so arrogant, I could have glanced around at the earth and sky, and seen the intricacy, wonder, and beauty of nature, regarded the unanswerable authority of the conscience within me, and known that I was a created being inside a created cosmos, not  a random sandheap blown for a season into a meaningless shape by blind winds. . . 

To me, the universe was death row, and I was a condemned prisoner who believed everything outside death row was delusion and wishful nonsense — and then I got a call from the governor of the universe, commuting my sentence. I will live forever. As will we all. This was my repayment for a life spent in blasphemy and hatred and slander against God. Instead of smiting me as I damned well deserved, He spared me, and exulted me, and showered me with grace.

I was converted. . . .

I then discovered that the Christian world view makes sense of much that the atheistic or agnostic worldview cannot make sense of, and even on its own philosophical terms, is a more robust explanation of the cosmos and man’s place in it, answering many questions successfully that atheists both claim cannot be answered, and then, without admitting it, act in their lives as if the question were answered, such as how to account for the rational faculties of man, the universality of moral principles, the order of the cosmos, how best to live, etc.

Across centuries and continents,many thoughtful men and women have probed questions of meaning, morality, order, beauty, and that one defining question: was Jesus who he said he was?

And many have found themselves singing Hallelujah with joy on Easter morning.

Do you believe he was divine?


And therefore it follows that you believe he rose physically from the dead.

Yes. I have no problem with miracles. I’m living around them. I am one.

So when you pray then you pray to Jesus. The risen Jesus.


And you believe that he made promises that will come true.

Yes. I do.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palms, Power, Pain, Betrayal, Prayer

Our service started this morning on the lawn outside our church, with guitars and palms and a short Palm Sunday reading.
Triumphal Entry, Emmanuel Nsama, Zambia 1969

It was a cold morning, hovering on the edge of snow. Our voices sounded thin in the cold air. The waving of palms was half-hearted and the hosannas were more like murmurs than the robust shouts the occasion called for. As I said, it was cold. And we’re Episcopalians– not much given to shouting.

Even so, there was something in the observance, and the readings that followed, that opened a window to something unexpected.

I’d been talking in the church atrium just before, over coffee and bagel, with a fellow parishioner who had asked what I thought of the presidential election. He mentioned the 2014 Charles Marsh biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory, and for a few minutes we wondered together how the German church had found itself supporting Adolph Hitler, why there were so few who joined Bonhoeffer in determined resistance.

Standing in the cold with a palm in my hand, I glimpsed, for just a moment, that emotion on the streets of Jerusalem, the cry of support for someone coming in power to smash the enemy and set things right.

It’s the same emotion that welcomed the Israelite kings, that cried out in praise of Caesar, that echoed through the Nuremburg parade grounds when Hitler held his rallies.

We all struggle with the voices inside us; we’re susceptible to that inner cry that wants to affix blame for the things that have gone wrong, that wants someone strong to come and take our side.

Demagogues, by definition, gain power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people. They promise to use that power to trample opponents and make life better for the people who support them.

And if we are the chosen ones, and they are the enemy, what’s to stop us from crying Hurrah! Hosanna! Heil!

Our service this morning led us back into church, where we followed the readings of Holy Week: the Passover meal in the upper room, the agonized prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ trial and beatings, Peter’s betrayal.

I’ve never understood Judas’ motivation: why sell out someone he’d followed for three years?

Yet this morning, listening to the familiar words, I suddenly felt Judas’ anger, his outrage, his own sense of betrayal: the one who was supposed to seize power and smash the Roman conquerors was kneeling to wash his followers’ feet. How dare he! As if Donald Trump, on Election Day, called time-out to make lunch for his campaign staff and quietly explained that he had no intention of winning. What a wasted opportunity!

Judas’ betrayal, I believe, was prompted by his own sense of betrayal, his anger that the story he envisioned was going wrong, that Jesus refused to grasp power and spoke of pain instead.

Peter’s betrayal was more from confusion, when he grabbed his sword and sliced at a soldier’s ear, and then from both confusion and fear, when he said, with mounting panic: “I don’t know him! I DON’T KNOW HIM!”

In one sense, he was right. He didn’t know him. Didn’t understand that Jesus would be the one to conquer power by choosing his own great pain instead.

The brief sermon this morning focused on the need to stay present in the story of Christ’s passion: to not rush to resurrection, to not run past the reality of Christ’s death on the cross.

We would all like to think the world is a mess because of those people over there. Immigrants, unions, Republicans, Obama. Refugees. Muslims. Terrorists. Christians!

We’d like them smashed, fixed, changed.


Whoever they are.

Whatever they’ve done.

But Jesus invites us to see our own complicity in the pain of the world.

Our own brokenness.

Our own sin.

Our own selfish refusal to listen or love.

And then he offers to take the consequence himself. To gather to himself our own death, our own darkness, our own outraged, outrageous anger.

That makes us angrier still.

How dare he.

In 1933, just days after Hitler's long-sought appointment as chancellor, Bonhoeffer preached a courageous sermon on Gideon and the inevitable attraction of power:
Gideon’s warriors must have been flabbergasted; they must have shuddered when he gave them the order to go home. The church is always astounded, and shudders, when it hears the voice of the One who commands it to renounce power and honor. To let go of all its calculations and let God alone do God’s work. We shake our heads and are scandalized as we watch many a Gideon among us going his way. But how can that confound us who see in the midst of our church the cross, which is the sign of powerlessness, dishonor, defenselessness, hopelessness, meaninglessness, and yet is also where we find divine power, honor, defense, hope, meaning, glory, life, victory. Do we now see the direct line from Gideon to the cross? Do we see that the name of this line, in a word, is “faith”?
Gideon conquers, the church conquers, we conquer, because faith alone conquers. But the victory belongs not to Gideon, the church, or ourselves, but to God. And God’s victory means our defeat, our humiliation. . . . It means the world and its shouting is silenced, that all our ideas and plans are frustrated; it means the cross. The cross over the world . . . .
The people approach the victorious Gideon with the final trial, the final temptation: “Be our lord, rule over us.” But Gideon has not forgotten his own history, nor the history of his people. . . . “The Lord will rule over you, and you shall have no other lord.” At this word, all the altars of gods and idols fall down, all worship of human beings and human self-idolization. They are all judged, condemned, cancelled out, crucified, and toppled into the dust before the One who alone is Lord. Beside us kneels Gideon, who was brought through fear and doubt to faith, before the altar of the one and only God, and with us Gideon prays, "Lord on the cross, be our only Lord. Amen.”
I listen to Christians explain why we should support Donald Trump and hear echoes of the cry for Gideon to gather his forces.

I listen to friends explain that Trump won’t win, we have nothing to fear, and think of the long years of German struggle, years of growing anger, of propaganda, of scapegoating, of longing for Germany to be great again, of feeding that voice that cries ‘let’s get rid of those who are causing the problem! We need someone strong who will make things right again!”

When we feel betrayed we are most at risk of betraying the one who invites us to the cross.
Christ's Crucifixion,  Master of
 Vyšší Brod, Bohemia, ca 1630

He invites us to set down our plans. Our swords.

Our rights. Our guns.

Our longing for privilege and power.

Our fear that the world we know and love has been ruined by forces we can't control.

Invites us to kneel with Gideon.

With Bonhoeffer.

With Peter, once he came to his senses.

Invites us to embrace the pain of betrayal.

Invites us to love our betrayers.

Invites us to kneel and pray:

Lord on the cross, be our only Lord. Amen.

An earlier Palm Sunday post: The Call of the Cross, April 1, 2012
For more about the cross and its significance: Thank You for the Cross

Sunday, March 13, 2016

After the Ashes: Freedom

I’ve been watching public forays on the fragile fringe of freedom.

Listening to the outcries about freedom of speech and wondering whose freedom of speech is endangered.

Freedom: the right to speak of punching critics in the face or of shooting people in the street or of killing whole families of alleged, untried enemies?

The right to publicly describe people as fat pigs, dogs, disgusting animals or worse?

The right to have staff manhandle journalists?

The right to defraud, defame, demean?

Yes, let’s talk about freedom.

Look in another direction and there are other freedoms, other rights:

The right to carry a gun that can kill dozens in seconds. 

To siphon money from poor to rich without paying any taxes. 

To end an unborn or newly born life rather than face unexpected hardship 

To shatter the very earth beneath our feet.  

We all have rights.

Lots of rights.

Some precious. Some recently invented.

None of them make us free.

Bob Dylan, at one stop on his spiritual pilgrimage, sang
“you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
 You’re gonna have to serve somebody
 Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
 But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
He had a good time stringing out the possibilities 
 You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
 You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
 You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
 They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.
 You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
 You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
 You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
 You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir
 But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
 You’re gonna have to serve somebody
 Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
 But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
I see lots of people serving anger, pride, stupidity, selfishness, greed.



Longing for power.

I see others serving a vision of unshackled identity lived in constant reaction to any hint of limits.

Serving a delusional vision of unencumbered selfhood.

There’s no limit to what we can serve.

No end to the arguments over rights.

But real freedom seems in short supply.

It’s interesting to see how topics near and dear to Paul, the apostle, in the decades after Christ’s death, are still just as relevant on the other side of the globe, two thousand years later.

Freedom: in the shadow of the Roman empire, the Jews longed to be free.

Slaves served their masters, women served men.  Many served idols, gods of every description, paid taxes to prefects or procurators, tried on sexual or philosophical identities, reveled in uncensored pleasures.

In his letters to believers in Corinth, living in the shadow of the brothels of Aphrodite’s temple, Paul probed the meaning of the freedom Christ had promised:

Were they free to do what they wanted? Free of the law? Of guilt? Of sin?

Free to assert their own rights in every situation?

Free to seek rights at the expense of others? 
I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.  I Corinthians 10:23  
The freedom Paul described was not the freedom to do or eat or say what he wanted, not the freedom to put his own rights first, or to enjoy the pleasures of the pagan world around him.

It was the freedom to become fully what he was made to be: 
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17) 
This Lent I’ve been trying to focus on things that will last: values that extend beyond this strange time we’re living in.

I find myself drawn to the freedom Paul wrote of, a freedom that comes not at the expense of others, but in service to others; not in opposition to God’s plan, but in deep obedience to his purposes.

Somehow our current culture has come to believe that freedom and discipline are in some way opposed, yet in the most basic, practical ways that idea is full of contradiction. When my children were small, I had to restrict their freedom to roam to keep them safe and make sure they didn’t wander into danger. As they became more reliably obedient, more willing to follow direction, I let them go further, then further. Their own self-discipline, then and in the decades since, has opened doors of opportunity and given them great freedom.

Tim Keller, well-loved pastor of Redeemer Church in New York, explains it like this:
In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions. Those that fit with the reality of our nature and the world produce greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy and fulfillment. Experimentation, risk, and making mistakes bring growth only if, over time, they show us our limits as well as our abilities. If we only grow intellectually, vocationally, and physically through judicious constraints–why would it not also be true for spiritual and moral growth? Instead of insisting on freedom to create spiritual reality, shouldn’t we be seeking to discover it and disciplining ourselves to live according to it?  (The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism) 
For too long we've naively celebrated lack of restraint as somehow akin to freedom, and now we are seeing the consequence as unrestrained enthusiasm for an unrestrained candidate stirs racial unrest, nativist fervor, and mounting, unrestrained anger.

I'm looking for leaders with a different kind of freedom: the freedom to say what needs to be said with dignity, grace, and gentle good humor. The freedom to put the needs of the weakest first, to stand firm for the common good in a way that unites rather than divides.

In Romans Paul wrote: 
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.    Romans 8:18-21  
That passage is too big to get my head around: it suggests that the pain of the world is tied to human behavior, that the healing of the world is tied to liberating freedom demonstrated by God’s children.

I find myself wondering how to live in that glorious freedom now, today, and find that freedom is realized in small, incremental steps: small daily choices that ripple out.

Freedom from anxiety and anger, even if that means turning off the radio, limiting my exposure to sources of news that stir unrestrained emotion.

Freedom to say what needs to be said, or do what needs to be done, without second guessing, or wondering what others will think.  

Freedom from too much stuff, too much spending, too much consumption.

Freedom from needing recognition, or safety, or comfort, or my own way.

Freedom to live as a much-loved child of God.

This is the fourth in a Lenten series.

Other Lenten posts:




From 2013:

Sunday, March 6, 2016

After the Ashes: Newness

Five years ago on New Year’s Eve, a house not far from us caught fire. No one was home and no one was hurt, but the fire started in the basement, the firehouse was lightly staffed, and by the time
enough firefighters arrived to get the blaze under control the house was just a smoldering shell and needed to be torn down.

The new house built on the lot looks almost exactly like the old: same split-entry design, same windows, same narrow cement porch. The weird mansard roof is gone (roof tiles sloping down sharply from a flatter roof of the same material), and the siding is newer, but in many ways it looks the same.

I walk by the house often and find myself wondering: if you were going to build a new house, wouldn’t you want to make it really new? Start with a new, more functional design, rather than settle for new siding?

I suppose the interior may be totally redesigned, but from what I can see, it’s new, but not really.

That word “new” is a tricky one. There are two words in Greek that are sometimes translated “new”. “Neos” has the same root as new:  “With neos the temporal aspect is dominant, marking out the present moment as compared with a former.” 

That new house on Biddle is “neos”: fresh, recent, in the same way that the new growth in my yard is neos: fresh, green, but showing up where the same plants grew last year.

The other word translated “new’ is kainos:  qualitatively different from what came before; unprecedented; unheard of; new not just in time, but in substance.

“Newness” is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible: promises of a new heaven and earth, a new creation, new covenant, new testament, new people.

That newness is almost always kainos: unprecedented, unheard of, new not just in time, but substance.

I’ve been reading 1 and 2 Kings. Israel had lots of new kings, from the first new king, Saul, to the last,  Jehoiachin, living in exile on an allowance from his Babylonian captors. From first to last, they were new in time, but never new in substance. The very idea of “king” was borrowed from surrounding nations. God, through Samuel, described it as a derivative idea that would come to no good.

In 1 Samuel 8, the priestly leader Samuel described the reality the people were demanding:
This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. (2 Samuel 8:11-18) 
Those words echoed through the centuries that followed as kingly power was misused, labor and goods demanded by the increasingly profligate leaders while the people themselves slipped closer and closer to the status of slaves.

Sometimes we think “new” will bring relief from the old, but if new is simply “neos”, new in time, new face, new surface, but not “kainos”, new in quality, substance and structure, little really changes.

We are living in a time when the cry for “new” is very loud. Our old structures seem more and more to benefit the few at the expense of the many: party politics, consumptive capitalism, fossil-fuel-dependent progress, ethnic loyalties, nationalist agendas.

Potential leaders promising “new” are met with energy and eagerness, but what’s promised is too often a recycling of failed paradigms: ideas that have led to tragedy before and will lead to tragedy again.

Like the Hebrew nations longing for new kings, we hope a new leader will bring relief.

The real relief looks very different from what’s currently on offer: an unprecedented newness brought by an unexpected leader who said the last will be first and the least shall be greatest, who refused to inhabit the failed paradigm of power and instead offered an outrageous new “kainos” testament of sacrifice, grace, and love.

I am hungry for that genuine newness: a new form of leadership, a new economic model, a new conversation, a new community.

We live in that already/ not-yet kingdom, invited to follow the example of Christ, called to live as new people, with new agendas, in the not-new world of distrust, envy, anger, pride.

It’s a painful, challenging place to live.

I’ve been wondering about John, author of the gospel of John, three short epistles, and the book of Revelation. More than almost any other, he saw the new life Jesus promised, but knew the cruel reality of this present world. He was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified and was no doubt well aware of the martyrdom of so many of his fellow disciples: beaten, stoned, and clubbed to death; killed with sword or spear; beheaded; crucified.

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans 
under the Command of Titus, David Roberts, Britain, 1850

According to many scholars the letters of John were written late in his life, sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. By the time they were written, most of his fellow disciples were dead, along with many others martyred for their faith in Christ. Thousands of his people had been massacred by Roman procurator Gessius Florus. Many thousands more died during the four-year Jewish-Roman War. A five-month siege of Jerusalem ended with starvation, slavery, and complete dispersal of the remaining residents of Jerusalem. Anything of value in the temple was carted off to Rome, then all that remained was smashed and burned.

John had more reason than most to long for revenge, give way to hatred and bitterness, long for renewal of the old ways, the old places.

But his letters speak of astonishing newness, grounded and governed by love:
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. (1 John 2:7-10)
After the ashes of Jerusalem John was able to speak of newness: an unprecedented command that repeated one of the oldest commands, but put it in a new, unheard of, unimaginable context.

Love your neighbor as yourself. The command was passed down by Leviticus, encoded in the ten commandments, an essential part of the Torah.

“Yet I am writing you a new – kainos – command,” John wrote. “It’s truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”

That new command took the idea of love, expanded it, enriched it, bathed it in light.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. if anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  (1 John 3:16-18) 
It’s hard to imagine talking of love when one’s whole way of life has been burned by the oppressor.

It’s hard to live as children of light when darkness seems to be closing in.

Yet we’re called to a newness that springs up from ashes, called to live as light in a world of darkness, called to welcoming, active, sacrificial love when all around are voices of anger, hate and exclusion.

Called to walk in a newness of life that grows deeper, richer, more surprising with every step. A newness that will never grow old.

"Behold, I am making all things new."
This is the fourth in a Lenten series.

Other Lenten posts:




From 2013: