Merry Christmas !!

Merry Christmas to you and yours;

May you experience genuine peace  … despite your circumstances … this Christmas and all through the new year as you begin to truly realize God’s amazing love shown through his son, Jesus.

A New Command; Easter 2013

After Jesus identifies Judas as the betrayer and sends him out he addresses his disciples:

“Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son himself, and will glorify him at once.  My children, I will be with you only a little longer.  You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now:  Where I am going, you cannot come.”  

“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”    (Jn. 13: 31-35)

The Embrace of Love

 

This is painting I noticed walking through the Vatican Museum last year while “Chasing Francis of Assisi”.  It caught my attention because I thought Pedro Cano was able to create the heart felt emotion of a loving embrace between two men, Pope Paul II and Cardinal Wyszynski.

I came from a family that never hugged or outwardly showed loving affection.  But with time well spent around my wife’s family and in our “Christian family” circle I have come to truly appreciate a hug.   We all need to be valued and accepted as we are.  And I believe that we as individuals are beginning to love one another … no matter what church we are attending … nondenominational, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Franciscan ….

But what about our various church denominations and their leadership?  Are our churches really exhibiting the love of Christ?  Does the “world” know the collective “body of Christ” by the love we have for one another?  Are we working together in our communities to help the poor, feed the hungry, and house our homeless??  Could we not accomplish so much more for Jesus by working together?  


Jesus is alive!  “Peace be with you.”

Peace Be With You

 

Let us break bread together.

The Emmaus Meal

 

And love one another.  “The most excellent way.”

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”     (I Cor. 13)

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

St. Brigida Communion

 

“This, this is the God we adore, 

  Our faithful, unchangeable friend,

Whose love is as great as his power,

And neither knows measure nor end.”    Joseph Hart (1712-1768)

How can we understand such a deep, infinite, compelling, and transforming love?  I can not but only begin to comprehend it in the very same love He has lavished on me through my family and friends.  Thank you for your Living Word … may my will be washed in submission … yielding and rejoicing in Heaven’s best for the sake of others and for the glory of your name.  Amen

Have a blessed Easter.

Humble Servanthood: Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet

a chalk and grisaille on paper by Edelfelt from www.turnbacktogod.com

a chalk and grisaille on paper by Edelfelt from http://www.turnbacktogod.com

After his ‘triumphal entry’ to Jerusalem seated on a donkey’s colt Jesus predicts his death.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.  Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”  

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”  The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said and angel had spoken to him.”   John 12: 23-29

Now Jesus and his chosen few withdraw to an upper room in Jerusalem to partake in the Passover Feast.   Here he institutes the “Memorial” of the Eucharist:

“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.  For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way , after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  Mt.26: 26-29, Mk.14: 22-25, Lk.22: 17-20.

He then makes hints of being betrayed by one of them at the table and they question each other who it might be.

It seems absurd, amidst this setting, but it is presumed due to Jesus’ indication that the coming of his ‘kingdom’ is imminent, some of the apostles begin to discuss which of them is the greatest.  How can this be?  After walking with Jesus throughout his ministry, listening to his teaching regarding the nature of this ‘kingdom’, how can they not understand?

Of course, now, this is so easy from my current perspective.   I am not being persecuted under the power of the Roman Empire longing for a new ‘earthly kingdom.’  So what does Jesus do?  He begins to wash the feet of his disciples.

Painting by Ford Madox Brown 1865; from www.turnbacktogod.com

Painting by Ford Madox Brown 1865; from http://www.turnbacktogod.com

“A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest.  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.  You are those who stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Lk.22: 24-30

a painting of Jesus washing feet at Last Supper; from www.turnbacktogod.com

a painting of Jesus washing feet at Last Supper; from http://www.turnbacktogod.com

“Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.  The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”  Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.  And you are clean, though not every one of you.”  For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.”

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.  “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  Jn.13: 1-17

I can only wonder how long before the disciples fully discerned the incredible intensity of Jesus’ love for them and the nature of his humility toward them.  He, their Lord and Teacher stooped to serve their needs, and they (we) should do the same for one another.  This example of humility in servanthood is what we “followers of Jesus” are to show one another.  I find this very convicting.  Our western culture is so ‘me first’ oriented that I will truly need an extra measure of grace to not walk in the path of least resistance.

A contemporary painting of Jesus washing feet; from 'Words of Life-shadowlilies.wordpress'

A contemporary painting of Jesus washing feet; from ‘Words of Life-shadowlilies.wordpress’

The sovereignty of Christ from the cross is a new sovereignty.  It has destroyed forever the formula that might is right.  It has put to shame the self-assertion of false heroism.  It has surrounded with imperishable dignity the completeness of sacrifice.  It has made clear to the pure heart that the prerogative of authority is wider service.  The divine King rules forever by dying.       Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901)

My dear Jesus, Lord and Teacher, this example of humility and service … preceding the ultimate humiliation of the “Way of Suffering” …. crucified for all humanity … Even though you possessed the very nature of God, you claimed nothing for Your own advantage but emptied yourself taking the form of a slave.  Thank you for coming to serve and giving your life as a ransom for many.  I fear that I am too self-centered and selfish.  Help me to become more like you.  Show me how to humbly wash the feet of my brothers and sisters, bringing glory to the Son of Man.    Amen

 

 

 

For Marge and the Dealy family, with all our love.

This world is not my home.  I’m just passing through.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Oh Lord, you know I have no friend like you.

If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

They’re expecting me and that’s one thing I know

My Saviour pardoned me and now I onward go.

I know he’ll take me through, though I am weak and poor

And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.

Just up in Gloryland we’ll live eternally.

The saints on every hand are shouting victory.

Then the songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven’s shore.

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

I have a loving family just up in Gloryland

And I don’t expect to stop until I shake God’s hand.

They’re waiting now for me in heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you.

If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do?

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

 

 

 

The Burial of Jesus

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This photo was taken from DomKirken (the Dome Church) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The following passage is taken from The Narrated Bible, a Bible arranged in chronological order.

The Burial of Jesus


Even in Jesus’ burial a remarkable story unfolds involving two men whose names will live throughout history:  Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  That anyone outside Jesus’ family would have sufficient courage to ask for his body would be curious enough.  The real surprise, however, is that it should be a member of the very council which had called for Jesus’ execution.  Yet the record notes that Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, is also a believer, and it is he who will bury Jesus’ body in his own tomb.  Joseph will be aided by Nicodemus, the Pharisee and Jewish ruler who had come to Jesus by night asking how one is to be born again.  Although the record of that visit did not disclose the result of their discussion, the happy ending is that apparently Nicodemus has become a believer.  It is fitting, therefore, that two men whose lives have been so touched by Jesus should now express their gratitude in this final tribute.

“It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath).  So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly o Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead.  Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.  When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.

With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.  Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.  Taking Jesus body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.  This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.  Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.  He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes.  But they rested on the Sabbath in  obedience to the commandment.

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.  “Sir,” they said,  “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day.  Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead.  This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered.  “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posing a guard.”

(All from passages in Mt. 27, Mk 15, Lk 23 and Jn 19)

Of course, you know the rest of the story.  Our Savior did indeed rise from the dead!  And he now sits at the right hand of God the Father interceding on our behalf.  So rejoice and be glad.

I wish you all a very Happy Easter.  May hope live strong in your heart.

The Sanctuary of Worship

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This photo was taken in old town Mazatlan, Mexico

One of my favorite things to do when in other countries is to visit their churches.  They come in many sizes and shapes.  Some are rather simple and non assuming, while others are quite beautiful and extravagant.  As a child I was always drawn to a church with a choir and pipe organ.  There seems to be something almost super spiritual when being in the presence of so many voices in harmony along with the power of a huge pipe organ that helps you forget the cares of this world.

But I have also been moved to tears by a small group singing a hymn or praise song when the words reached deep into my heart and touched me personally.

In the passage from John 4 Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and after a few interchanges she says, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know;  we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4: 19-24)

Immediately after Jesus gave up his spirit “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” allowing us direct access to the throne of God.  (see Matthew 27: 51)

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Thus we can worship God in spirit and truth in any “sanctuary”.  I have many favorite “places” :  Cornerstone Christian Church, our ‘home’ church, the living room in our home, the beautiful beach in Bandon, etc.  But sometimes I am caught by surprise and I hear a song on the radio while driving and my car becomes my “sanctuary.”

This will be my last “Francis blog” from home.  I will be leaving for Italy Easter morning.  Lord willing, I will send a few blogs from Assisi after worshiping in the same “sanctuaries” where God spoke to Francis’s heart and changed the direction of his life.

So, my Jesus, let the pilgrimage begin.  I am the clay.  You are the potter.  All praise and glory belong to You.

The Way of Suffering

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Photo was taken in the Grotto, a Catholic retreat and garden near Portland, Oregon.

“See, my servant will act wisely;

he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.

Just as there were many who were appalled at him —

his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man

and his form marred beyond human likeness —

so will he sprinkle many nations,

and kings will shut their mouths because of him.

For what they were not told, they will see,

and what they have not heard, they will understand.”

(Isaiah 52: 13-15)

Keeping Watch

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“STAY  HERE  AND  KEEP  WATCH  WITH  ME.”

Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane

“Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”  he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us go!  Here comes my betrayer.”    (Matthew 26: 36-45)

This passage has always been a sobering one to me.  I can so easily identify with the disciples.  “The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  If ever there was an area in my spiritual life that needed improvement this is it.  Becoming like Francis and shirking all possessions, wealth, and position would in some ways make this process easier …. but what a price!   Certainly there must be a ‘middle road’ of sorts for a “post modern Christian” like myself.

As I embark on this ‘pilgrimage’ I am hoping that I will be able to balance the role of “photographer” and that of “pilgrim”.  I hope to find (perhaps I will need to “make”) time to spend in prayer and meditation.  I have set a goal of attempting spend all such time NOT thinking of ‘self’ but rather waiting in silence for what God puts on my heart.  This will likely be very difficult.

We ‘pilgrims’ that are “Chasing Francis” all desire to become more and more like Jesus as we follow him.   “Stay here and keep watch for us.”

Spirituality of Place

Aside

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In Chasing Francis, Ion Cron  explains that a ‘pilgrimage’ is a “way of praying with your feet.”  One generally goes on a pilgrimage “if you feel there is something missing inside your soul, and the way to find it is to go to sacred places … places where God made himself known to others.  In sacred places, something gets done to you that you’ve been unable to do for yourself.”

He further introduces the concept of “spirituality of place” where something mystical happens through spiritual energy of past events (is a special place) to you, the pilgrim.  He uses the example of going to Yankee Stadium with his uncle.

I had such an experience in 2004 when my wife and I visited Copenhagen.  I had not been there in 40 years.  But prior to that we (my Danish parents and I) would spend 2 weeks vacation time there every year.  It was and still is quite safe to walk the streets of Copenhagen.  My parents would allow me to leave the hotel at 11:30 am and walk to the ‘Old Fort’ and catch the King’s Guard marching down the streets.  I would walk beside them all the way to Amalienborg Slot, the Royal family’s castle in the city where the ‘changing of the Guard’ takes place everyday at noon.  When the king was home there would be a band playing, as well.  If it was the King’s birthday the Guards would change from their blue uniforms to their red dress uniforms and have a large parade through the city.

After so many years it was like stepping back in time.  Hearing the orders being ‘barked’ out, the clicking of their heels on the cobblestones, and following the visitors as the soldiers worked their way around the square in the castle brought back great memories and it was extra special this time because I was sharing the experience with my wife.

I am willing to bet that you, too have experienced a similar ‘spirituality of place.’

We are only 2 weeks away from our “Chasing Francis pilgrimage.”  I am not certain what to expect.  I do not necessarily believe that there is ‘something missing in my soul’ but perhaps there is.  I have determined to be open to what God will do in me.  Already, by reading Ian’s book and ‘When Helping Hurts’ I sense a yearning for even a ‘deeper’ prayer and quiet time, as well as a need to somehow begin ‘simplifying’ our lives and doing ‘something more’ to help the poor, especially in our community.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”  (Titus 2: 11-14)

Rebirth; A new creation

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“Get thee behind me, Satin.”

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  (John 3: 6)

Continue to work out … your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling … for it is God who is all the while at work in you–energizing and creating in you the power and desire–both to will and to work for his good pleasure …(Philippians 2: 12-13)

As Francis does an “about face” to follow Jesus, he chooses to ignore the laughter of his ‘old friends’ and becomes  angry, but not at them, but rather at himself.  For suddenly “he sees his former life before him, in its folly, its lack of object, its childish vanity.  He saw himself in all his pitiful reality–and in front of him stood in shining beauty the life he hitherto had not led–the true life, the just life, the beautiful, noble, rich life–life in Jesus Christ.  (Jorgensen)

Francis began to seek the will of God.  Nearby, just outside the city limits was a cave in the cliff where he liked to go to pray.  Sometimes alone, but usually with a single friend, a distinguished person who remained true to him despite his “change of mind.”  (Thomas of Celano)

And there, away from the world, in this dark cave, he found a ‘secret chamber’ where he could pray to his Heavenly Father.  And little by little, day by day his desire to do the will of God increased.  He began to devalue himself and eventually the poor took the place of his ‘old friends.’

As God’s sons and daughters, we should be without the kind of guile that gives to others only when it will mean a good return in some way for us.  We should seek, before God, to be His humble servants, pure in our heart’s desire to give and do, just as He directs us …

God’s Spirit will come to rest upon you, and upon anyone who will live this way, enduring to the last the constant temptation to live for yourself alone (Isaiah 11:2).  The Father has promised that if we obey his command to love others, He and His Son, our Jesus Christ, will come and make their home with us and dwell with us forever (John 14: 21-23).  Moreover, we will be seen and known as children of the heavenly Father because it will be obvious to all that we are busily, faithfully doing His work and not seeking our own ends (Matthew 5:45).

When we live this way, it may be said that we are truly wedded to Him–in spirit, we the brothers, the sisters, and the mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:48-50).

A man or woman begins to live in the Spirit by determining to become “the bride” of our Lord.  In faith, we wed our souls to the Spirit of Christ and begin to enjoy doing His will.  We become His “brothers and sisters” as we do the will of His Father who is in heaven.  And we are “mothers” to Him when we allow Him to sit enthroned deep within our hearts by loving Him dearly and purely, keeping in good conscience by surrendering to His lordship over all that is ours.

As we knit ourselves with Him in this way, joined to Him in our hearts, a new spirit is born in us.  Thus, our spiritual progress is similar to the way life grows within a physical womb.  Eventually, we will no longer be living like men and women of the world.  Instead, we will be so filled with the Spirit of Christ that we birth Him again into this world by doing the loving acts He himself would do if He were present in the body (John 14: 12)  First Letter to All the Faithful: 45-53   (A Day In Your Presence, David Hazard; Rekindling the Inner Fire, Series)

This then, Lord Jesus, is my prayer and desire:  “that something more of you may be born into this world through me.”   Amen