Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Reflections before Easter

This is a surreal weekend. Yesterday was Good Friday and the thoughts of a suffering Messiah still linger inside me. I took a few minutes to think about weight of Christ’s death on the cross. I kept coming back to Philippians 2 for a picture of the incredible humility of Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

At the core of the Christian faith is the story of Jesus, God who entered the human story as one of us, and at the same time fully divine. He lived among us. Worked beside us. Was tempted the same as us. He was God in the flesh, humble to the point of being crucified. Jesus came to die. He didn’t come to merely teach, or even to show us what sacrifice looks like, he came to be sacrificed. I appreciate how Thomas Oden in Classic Christianity describes this, “He [Jesus] did not come to teach about the cross, but to be nailed to it. He came that there might be a gospel to preach.” Jesus did not die to merely teach us about dying for others. He came to embody the atonement. It is as if God, through the cross, communicates to us, “This, this horrible death, this murder and betrayal I endured, this is how much I love you.” It is a demonstration of the seriousness and terrible cost of our sin, God’s holiness, and it is an expression of the extent of God’s love for the world.

The cross is bloody, and brutal, and terrible, and the horrors suffered upon it were excruciating. Without the cross there is no Christianity. Without the cross, there is no atonement. God’s holiness prompts the expression of love and sacrifice seen on the cross.

I quote Oden once more, “Sin dug a gulf in a relationship. The cross bridged it. Sin resulted in estrangement. The cross reconciled it. Sin made war. The cross made peace. Sin broke fellowship. The cross repaired and restored it.”

Before celebrating the resurrection, I find myself drawn to the horrific and bloody cross of Jesus. I am humbled, in awe, and grateful forevermore, even if my words lack the capacity to express it.

A picture painted by Clement of Rome

I’m continuing to read the early church fathers, and this week I read some Clement of Rome. The following chapter is one of the more beautiful I came across in Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians. It feels like it could have come right out of the book of Psalms, or maybe Job. It paints a tremendous picture of God as Creator and sovereign over creation. I love reading passages like this. They are big. They are bold and powerful. They show God as the One who reigns supreme over His creation, and to think the same God saved me, loves me, and calls me one of His own is humbling. Chapter 20 of his Epistle to the Corinthians:

The heavens revolve by His arrangement and are subject to Him in peace. Day and night complete the revolution ordained by Him, and neither interferes in the least with the other. Sun and moon and the starry choirs, obedient to His arrangement, roll on in harmony, without any deviation, through their appointed orbits. The earth bears fruit according to His will in its proper seasons, and yields the full amount of food required for men and beasts and all the living things on it, neither wavering nor altering any of His decrees. The unsearchable decisions that govern the abysses and the inscrutable decisions that govern the deeps are maintained by the same decrees. The basin of the boundless sea, firmly built by His creative act for the collection of the waters, does not burst the barriers set up all around it, and does precisely what has been assigned to it. For He said: Thus far shalt though come, and thy billows shall be turned to spray within thee. The ocean, impassable for men, and the worlds beyond it are governed by the same decrees of the Master. The seasons–spring, summer, autumn, and winter–make room for one another in peaceful succession. The stations of the winds at the proper time render their service without disturbance. Ever-flowing springs, created for enjoyment and for health, without fail offer to men their life-sustaining breasts. The smallest of the animals meet in peaceful harmony. All these creatures the mighty Creator and Master of the universe ordained to act in peace and concord, thus benefitting the universe, but most abundantly ourselves who have taken refuge under His mercies through our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory and majesty forever and evermore. Amen.

Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians (Ch. 20) 

Where the Shepherd is

In an effort to make good on #7 of my Theological 13 for 2013, I’ve been reading St. Ignatius of Antioch. I don’t have much to add to the below passage (except that the translator makes St. Ignatius sound like Yoda at times, no complaints here), so I’ll let Ignatius do my talking :

Being born, then, of the light of truth, shun division and bad doctrines. Where the Shepherd is, there you, being sheep, must follow. For, many wolves there are, apparently worthy of confidence, who with the bait of baneful pleasure seek to capture the runners in God’s race; but if you stand united, they will have no success.

-Ignatius of Antioch, Ignatius to the Philadelphians 2:1-2

Late have I loved you

I have a love/hate relationship with writing papers for seminary classes. They can be time consuming. I may have a 20 page minimum and hit all the major points in 15. I can think of more entertaining ways to spend my weekend. I’m not sure I can think of too many more fulfilling ways, though. I find myself chasing tangents, small phrases or chapters that fall outside of the scope of my research, but fascinate me none the less. I love those moments. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, a couple hours have been spent soaking in the wonder that is an early church father’s revelation of the glory, grace, majesty, and splendor of the Most High King and His reckless love for us. I had one of those moments last night studying some of Saint Augustine’s writings. The following paragraph from Augustine’s Confessions stood out to me and seemed to speak to my soul:

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours. (Book X)

I thank God for speaking to my soul through the haste of my work.