Category Archives: Liturgical Year

Have You Seen?

“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” —Matthew 17:1-2

Peter, James, and John were in the inner circle. Jesus would tell and show them things that he didn’t reveal even to the other disciples. They went everywhere with him. They saw the masses fed, the sick healed, and the dead raised. Jesus was doing things that only the prophets of God had ever done before. It was clear to them that Jesus belonged in the ranks of the holiest men known to history.

But for all that they had seen, nothing could prepare them for that day on the mountain. They expected this was just another “small group meeting.” They would pray for one another and for the Kingdom of God. Can you imagine their surprise when before their very eyes Jesus was transfigured? He shone like the sun, and his garments became pure white (no more dinginess from the dust of the road). Then out of thin air, Moses and Elijah, the champions of the law and of the prophets, appear with Jesus. If this isn’t enough to shake them, they then hear a voice from heaven proclaiming that Jesus is His son, and that they should listen to Him.

I’m sure this isn’t what they expected when they woke up. They had been with Jesus every day for almost three years; they had served with Him, taught with Him, walked with Him, done everything with Him. They thought they knew everything about Him. But before we judge them for their blindness, let’s ask ourselves the question. “Have I seen Jesus?” We too serve with Jesus, we’ve seen Him as we work in mission and as we’ve sought justice for the oppressed. But have we seen a Jesus that shines? Have we seen Jesus in the splendor of holiness? Have we heard the voice from heaven declaring that Jesus is His son, and that we should listen to Him?

Lent is sandwiched between this moment of splendor, and the moment of God’s greatest glory, the cross. In one we see in His radiance that He is holy and blameless. In the other we see His divine sacrifice for our sakes, that we might be blameless and holy too.

As we enter the season of Lent, this season of self-examination, let us call to mind both our Lord’s transfiguration and his crucifixion. It is in this picture, when we truly see Jesus, that all of our work for the Kingdom of God finds value.

Sing The Wondrous Story

“I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds.” —Psalm 26:6-7

The calendar moves on, and we are quickly closing in on my favorite time of the year—Lent. It may seem odd that a time of repentance and fasting would be anyone’s favorite time. What good can come from focusing on our faults for 40 days?

No good can come from us simply looking for all of our faults. It can only bring depression and malaise. But Lent is not a time to focus on our shortcomings, rather it is a time to focus on Christ, and on his sacrifice for us. Then, with an attitude of grateful joy, we look to ourselves and see how we might become more like him. This should be a hopeful time, a time of overflowing gratitude for what Christ has done for us.

I invite you to participate in all of our Lenten opportunities this year. With all of the emotional heaviness we experience in our culture, this season is a great opportunity to stir up our gratitude and our joy.

I specifically want to invite you—yes, you— to come and participate in the Cantata Choir as we meditate through song on the wondrous story.

I know what you’re thinking. Really, I do. It goes something like this, “Me sing? He wouldn’t say that if he heard me. I only sing with the radio in the privacy of my own car, or in the shower.” But here is a little known fact: The level of singing talent required to perform is indirectly proportional to the number of people you have singing with you (It’s the law of averages and simply physics). This means if you can sing “happy birthday” with a group of people, you’re entirely qualified!

Expectation Changes Everything

Recently Kristin and I found out we were expecting our second child. That revelation brought with it a flurry of activity! Expectation changes behavior. Overnight her diet changed – more fruit, more protein, and pre-natal vitamins. We began to think about names. We began to make mental lists to make sure we were ready for the arrival of this new baby. Expectation changes perception. Suddenly she understood why she was over-tired. She understood why she was more emotional than normal. When she viewed those emotions and feelings through the lens of pregnancy it all made sense. Expectation changes priorities. Because we are expecting, we are intentional with what she eats, we are intentional with how late we stay out, and we are intentional with preparing for that which we expect.

In the midst of this I think of Mary. Betrothed to be married, she was expecting. She was already making her plans; she was already in the middle of rearranged priorities. She was expecting a wedding. Then the Angel Gabriel stands before her and tells her of a new expectation (Luke 1:26-38). Mary humbly accepted and her life forever changed in an instant! Her thoughts became preoccupied with this new baby. The scriptures say that “Mary pondered these things in her heart.” How frightening it must have been to be pregnant and unmarried in those days. The stigma surely followed her throughout her life. But God’s priorities superseded the approval or understanding of people.

Today, we are far removed from that ancient story. In this season of Advent, we remember that Christ became a human to save us from sin and reconcile us to God. We use Advent as a reminder, and are grateful for God’s mercy to us. It is easy to forget that we too are a people who live in expectation. At mass we proclaim the mystery of faith together, “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again!” Generations have passed, and it may not seem likely that Christ will return in our lifetime, but Christ will come again. We celebrate Advent not only to remind us that Christ has come, but also to stir up expectation. Expectation changes everything. How will our thoughts, actions, and priorities change as we expect the return of Christ? Will we, like Mary, spurn public perception in favor of living out God’s priorities? Let us be a people consumed by expectancy!

Homework this week: Examine your priorities, thoughts, and behaviors through the lens of Christ’s return. How will a sense of expectation change your life?

Divine Consumerism

“Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:17

We know what it means to consume. We know that the reason Wal-mart exists is because when we buy things, we use them. When we use things, we lose them. When we lose things, we need more things! And we know that when something is consumed, it is used up, and is no longer useful. Isn’t that the point of consuming? But what if something could be consumed, and yet retain its properties? What if something could be assimilated and yet retain autonomy? God’s economics seem to run this way.

When God consumes something, it continues to be useful after consumption! In John 4:13-14 Jesus talks about consuming living water and never thirsting again; In Exodus 3:2 Fire engulfs the bush, and yet the bush doesn’t burn up; and In Acts 2 the Spirit of God envelopes the disciples and they become more useful than ever. But what does it matter? How does this effect us? Simply this, the Spirit of God wants to consume us. God is never satisfied with a part of our lives. But that’s what we tend to give God – a part of our lives. We cordon him off to Sundays and maybe one other night. We have our “spiritual side” that God has free reign over. But God is never satisfied with only part. He is interested in consuming us. God is interested in directing every aspect of our lives by his Spirit. It’s a scary prospect – until we remember that when God consumes he multiplies; when God consumes he makes that thing eternally useful. So let us make this “Wesleyan covenant prayer” our own as we approach Pentecost:

Gracious and Compassionate God, I am no longer my own, but Yours.
Put me to whatever you will, Place me with whomever You will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by You or laid aside for You,
exalted for You or humiliated for You.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and completely yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
You are mine, and I am yours.
Let it be so.
And let the covenant which I have made on earth, be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Amazingly Good Friday

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2

The redemption of mankind is in the Cross of Christ. The hope of mankind is in the Resurrection of Christ. But it was the cross that set us free. We get a little queasy when we think of Christ Crucified. We like to rush to the resurrection. It’s a much happier place. We see Jesus glorified by the Father, walking, talking, and eating with the disciples no worse for the wear. But we were redeemed by his suffering and death.

“Jesus Christ died for my sin,” is a sentence very familiar to our ears. But perhaps it’s a bit too familiar. Perhaps it has become so familiar that it has lost some of its power. We often say it as a platitude or an evangelical tool without contemplating the implications. All of humanity was under a death sentence. Our unrighteousness had separated us from the source of life; and slowly hope was suffocated by sin. But God became a man. The Uncreated became like the created. The Holy God walked outside of the Temple. God dwelt among us. Then the source of life allowed life to be taken from him. The All-powerful, Unchanging God died.

Today we still struggle with sin. Our pride and selfishness often drive our decisions. We are still worthy of death. But God looks to Good Friday. God sees the punishment for our sins executed on himself, and gives us the grace to walk in holiness, he clothes us in the righteousness of Christ. God became like us, so we could become like him. “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. ” (2 Cor 5:21) Let us meditate on this amazing mystery and rejoice.