Wednesday, March 30, 2016

He Is Alive!

He Is Alive! (John 20 & Luke 24)

         Early Easter Morning, Mary Magdalene wept with Dread the Darkened path to Jesus’ tomb.  When she found the tomb empty, she wept even more bitterly.  The two angels, in his grave, hear her cry and ask, “Woman, why are you weeping so?”  
         She was weeping because her Source of Hope, her Reason to Live, was gone from her life.  Now, his body was taken as well, and she could not even say good bye.  She could not touch him one last time.
         When Jesus then appears, disguised in his Risen Body, Mary is still weeping.  Her inconsolable tears only cease when he opens her eyes to Truth, to Reality Transformed, to Life Made New.
         Her response was to cling to the feet of her Lord.  She could not bear to be separate from him again.   His request of her was to let loose her embrace, to take breath of his comfort.  For she must now, be Witness to Truth -she must go and tell the bothers: Our Savior Lives!  He is Alive in the Love of our Father!
          Not far away, two other disciples of Jesus are on the road to Emmaus.  Though the Son is now Risen, their path, like Mary’s, is Darkened by Death.  They walked this road many times before, yet they are lost. They are desperate to find their way -in a world bereft of its Messiah.
They were struggling to grasp the Times Gone Mad; how their own leaders had him crucified; how his brother betrayed him; how the Man, who could command the sea to be still, offered no resistance to the Evil scheme of little men.
         Jesus Disguised, disperses their Easter Morning Cloud.  He joins their journey.  He unlocks their Hope.  With his Ancient Word, so long hidden, he makes sense of Evil and Affliction; of Men Gone Bad; of the Suffering Servant and the Lamb of God.  The hard miles they shared were dissolved by Truth.  The hours were but minutes, their tears but a ghost.
         Like Mary before, they clung to his Presence -as he made to go on.  He opened their eyes with Living Bread broken, with Truth Revealed -his Word made Flesh.  Though vanished in sight, he left their hearts afire –driving them back into the night, to retrace the hard day’s walk.  For they must now too, be Witness to Truth, to the share the Good News: Our Savior Lives!  We are not alone!  He walks with us.  All things are made new!
         My Jesus, as Peter said on the mountain top -in the Glory of your Transfigured Presence- “Lord, it is good to be here with you!”  And like Peter, I too want to set up tents.  Like Mary, and like the two disciples, I want to stay forever in the Resplendence of your Resurrection Power.
I have tasted Easter’s Victory.  But its Morning Light makes it clear to see: You have plans for me -to be your Witness.  I must follow you back down -into the throes of life.  I must let go of your feet.  I must be content to have Supped upon your Flesh.  
         Holy Spirit, your beckon is Eternal.  Where you are leading, and what you would have me do, is yet in focus.  But I know the end of the Story.  I have heard your Victory sound.  Sin and Death are defeated.  New Life is your Gift for all to Receive –to take into the world, that all may be Free.
         Father, in your Mercy, you have snatched me from Death.  By the Power of your Holy Spirit, through the Name of Jesus your Son, may my life be a Witness to your Truth, your Hope and your Love.  In all things, may I exclaim, “It is not I who lives, but my Risen Lord, who is Alive in me!”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Oh Cross Of Christ

Oh Cross Of Christ

Oh Tree of Life, from Seedling to Throne,
           to Feel what you Felt,
to Know, what you have Known!

You held Him in your Arms,
to the Envy of his Mother,
as there he Hung, Alone to Suffer.

He was Crushed for us,
made to Drink the Cup,
his Dignity Taken, you bore him up.

Despised, Forgotten, Forsaken was he,
you Raised him High,
for all Time to See.

What Purpose, what Destiny, to Be that Altar Wood,
to have Offered the Sacrificial Lamb,
on that Hill where you Stood.

What was it like, his Wounds pressed upon your grain,
to be Soaked in his Saving Blood,
to Share his Salvific Pain?

As you carried his Body, so Heavy with Sin,
did you feel the Burden,
of my Guilt within?

Oh Cross of Christ, friend to Sorrow, familiar with Strife,
his Companion into Death,
                    Companion me now, into Life.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My God, My God

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?
(Mk 15:34)

         No one exits this life unmarked by its storms, without stories of their scars.  Indeed, it can be deduced with certainty, that it is our purpose to be tested –even as our Lord was allowed to be tested.
         Lent, the season which casts the shadow of the Cross, gives pause to the meaning of suffering.  The Passion and Death of our Innocent Lord, though incomprehensible, must yet be fathomed by faith before we can take hold of the Easter Promise.
         Hanging on the Cross, Jesus bore the unmerited marks of the fiercest storm ever raged, the scars of the fiercest war ever waged.  His All-Loving Father allowed him to be tested –to know torment.  Even, to be swallowed by Death.
         Jesus chose to suffer for us.  Yes, he endured an expiatory suffering for our sins, but he also suffered so that we could suffer and not die, that we can suffer and find Life.  Jesus has shown us the way –he has shown us how to suffer.
         The Greatest Lie Ever Believed is that life should be free of suffering, that if God loves us, he would not permit such an unthinkable thing.  Yet our perfect God, who perfectly loved his perfect Son, did just that.
         Our perfect God, who perfectly loves us, spoke us into existence –knowing that in this temporary home, we must be tested, that we be found to have faith, to have become obedient, to have become a Believer.  And the surest test of our faith is suffering.  What better cause is there to renounce God, than suffering?  What better cause is there to focus on Self, to abandon Hope, or to embrace Bitterness, than suffering?
         Only Faith, impregnated by suffering, will unfailingly lead us to our Crucified Lord.  And, if Faith is thus demanded, would not our Loving God, then, allow the suffering which makes it so fertile?
In our suffering, Satan would have us believe that we are forsaken by a God who does not love us.  This temptation, this Satanic Belief, is the cause of all Unbelief.  Jesus, who was like us in all ways but sin, experienced this demonic temptation, as life was draining out of his tortured and bloodied body.
         The disciples he called friends had deserted him.  His enemies, who so viciously brought him down, were mocking him.  Pain ravaged his Body, Mind and Soul.  All, as he hung naked and helpless before his mother.  His dying words gave voice to what Satan was screaming into his spirit: My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?
         This is how he felt, as Death’s Darkness was unveiled, as its gaping jaws swallowed the last light in his eyes.  No human could have felt any different.  But what he felt, did not define what he believed.  In fact, these dying words of abandonment were the opening verse of Psalm 22 –a lamenting prayer that concludes with the Joyful confidence of certain Victory, of Resurrection foretold.
         Jesus’ last words, were a favorite prayer of the downtrodden Jew familiar with suffering, and they were a fitting testament to their Savior King, the sacrificial Lamb of God.
         Jesus, in my flesh I am weak, but in you, I am strong.  In my suffering, I choose to set my eyes on you, the Seraph Raised, to join my pain to your Eternal Cross.  My mind struggles to understand, but by the Power of your Holy Spirit, through the Blood of your Cross, I can believe -that my Father loves me, that he holds before me a future full of Hope, that no matter how I may feel, the Truth of Easter reigns.  In the Shadow of your Cross is the Light of Life.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

If I But Had A Sign

If I But Had A Sign

         Last night, I was tired Lord.  The day was long, and I was wearied by its pain.  In my weakness, I felt all alone.  In the darkness, a sign of your Love, I could not see.  I fell asleep telling myself it was not so.
         This morning, you opened my eyes to your blue sky.  I opened your Word, and you revived my soul.  I prayed, and your friendship was made new.
         Lord, the air I breathe, is a sign of your presence, carrying the Whisperings of your Holy Spirit.
         Every drop of rain is a sign of your Living Water, of the New Life you are offering me.
         Every star in heaven’s night is a sign of your Power over Darkness, of Hope’s victory.
         The earth I stand upon points to your Love, as you created it to sustain me.
         Even if I shut tight my eyes, and close off my ears, your Glory is sung with each beat of my heart –for I am your Sign, my Lord.  I exist to sing your Praise.  I am, because you love me.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Seventy-Seven Times

Seventy-Seven Times (Matthew 18:21)

         Peter, the Rock, began his walk with Christ, as we all do -asking clueless questions.  He asked, “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me?  As often as seven times?”  He might as well have asked, “At what point does unforgiveness become sin?”  St. Paul said, “When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me.”  
         Many, if not most, of Peter’s peers felt unforgiveness was acceptable, even righteous, as long as it was “equitable”.  If someone poked out one of your eyes, it would be justifiable retaliation to poke out one of theirs.  But Peter’s short time with Jesus changed his view of things.  So he must have felt quite enlightened, to have so magnanimously set his forgiveness threshold to the height of seven wrongs –as seven was the number of divine perfection.  In spite of his progress, he still possessed a childish understanding of forgiveness.  
         The rug was pulled out from under Peter’s feet when Jesus responded, “Not seven … but seventy-seven times.”  For Peter, Christ’s response demanded, not just a reset, but a fundamental reformatting of his sense of justice.  For Peter, wrongs had to be righted, dignity had to be defended, and mercy could only be extended so far.
         “Seventy-Seven” was the number for infinity, and even God could not be expected to endure such wrong, let alone a mere man.   Peter must have been beyond conflicted. He understood that it was Jesus’ nature to forgive.  But he could not yet understand the nature of forgiveness.  He was still stuck in the paradigm that life should be fair, and justice should prevail.   Before he could learn to unconditionally forgive, he first had to experience the need for unjustifiable forgiveness.
        Peter had to first betray his most cherished friend, his Lord and Master.  He had to learn the emptiness, the despair, the guilt and shame of breaking the trust of the one who unreservedly believed in him.  He had to be convulsed by tears of remorse to learn the meaning of forgiveness.  Peter not only abandoned his friend to die alone, but denied knowing him three times.  Three, the number for completion, was the descriptor of his guilt.
         We cannot love unless we first know God’s Love.  Neither, can we forgive, unless we first know God’s forgiveness.  In having sinned greatly, Peter was forgiven greatly.   Jesus, the source of Love, is so, the source of Forgiveness.  He who has been loved, knows God.  And he who has been forgiven, knows both God and love.
         Forgiveness then, is first and foremost, an Act of God, the personification of Jesus, who came to undo what the Devil has done (1John 3:8).  The Devil comes to steal our birthright as children of God, to divide His Body –to undo the Unity of the Holy Spirit.  The instant we become aware of unforgiveness beginning to raise its ugly head, we must renounce it, by affirming our Kinship to God, by willing his Spirit to be released into the wounds of our lives.
         Unforgiveness is never an option in the Kingdom of God, since our willingness to forgive others is the prerequisite for the forgiveness of our own sinfulness.  Our union with God is inseparable from that to which he is united: the humanity which so easily offends us.  Our commitment to unity, then, must be one and the same, with our desire for Eternal Life with God.  
         If Unforgiveness is the work of the Devil, then Forgiveness is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Forgiveness is not merely a gratuitous act of altruism, it is the restoration of the Body of Christ.  It is God made manifest in the Wounds of Humanity.  It is the Pinnacle of Redemption, of Grace Revealed.  Forgiveness is Mercy Re-Given.
         Save me Lord from my childish, petty and arrogant pride which is so quick to judge guilty, so bound to demand justice, so entrenched that I cannot let loose the hurt that wounds me.  Lord, of my darkest sin you have forgiven me –its abhorrence deterred not your love.  Jesus, may the Blood of your Cross impel me to embrace your Cherished Ones whom I have deemed unworthy.  Father, if I give way to unforgiveness, may your Holy Spirit withhold my breath until I breathe your words of forgiveness.