The following are some articles that have been floating around in the back of my mind for the last week or so, and have got me to thinking and meditating. Enjoy.
“Palm Sunday Sermon: Lose Your Faith!”, Kim Fabricius
Today I’m going to try to speak shocking, scandalous, scalding truth, say outrageous, even sacrilegious things. You will probably be too polite to heckle or jeer me, but if you walk out on me I shall consider it the highest compliment. I thought of having the elders hand out eggs for to you to throw at me, but pitied the poor cleaners. But eggs are nothing compared to the darts I’m going to fire at you. It’s time to attack your faith, wound it, leave it bleeding, dying, dead — just like the guy on the cross.
This sermon doesn’t have three points, it’s got three words: Lose your faith! (I warned you I would be sacrilegious.) Yes, lose your faith. Lose your faith in God. For as the French mystic Simone Weil insisted, there is a kind of atheism that is purifying, cleansing us of idols. Lose your faith in the god that the cross exposes as a no-god, a sham god. Lose your faith in the god who is but the product of your projections, fantasies, wishes, and needs, a security blanket or good-luck charm god. Lose your faith in the god who is there to hold your hand, solve your problems, rescue you from your trials and tribulations, the deus ex machina, literally the “machine god”, wheeled out onto the stage in ancient Greek drama, introduced to the plot artificially to resolve its complications and secure a happy ending. Lose your faith in the god who confers upon you a privileged status that is safe and secure. Lose your faith in the god who promises you health, wealth, fulfilment, and success, who pulls rabbits out of hats. Lose your faith in the god with whom your conscience can be at ease with itself. Lose your faith in the god who, in Dennis Potter’s words, is the bandage, not the wound. Lose your faith in the god who always answers when you pray and comes when you call. Lose your faith in the god who is never hidden, absent, dead, entombed. For the “Father who art in heaven” — this week he is to be found in hell — with his Son.
“Bearing the Silence of God”, Ziya Meral
If our good is a stable, safe, healthy, happy, and reasonably wealthy middle-class life, then logically one can conclude that God really does not work for the good of the largest portion of the global church today.
Similarly, when we look at Paul’s list of sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11, it’s clear that Paul’s life will never be known as a good one by today’s pop psychology or quick-fix spirituality books. Didn’t Paul ever stop and wonder why he wasn’t blessed? Since Paul is clearly an intelligent man who can recognize the problem, we are forced to entertain other possibilities.
Maybe Paul was influenced by Stoic ideas that encouraged him to seek pain in order to develop his strength and be a virtuous man. Perhaps Neoplatonic ideas that saw the material body as a hindrance to be overcome in order to achieve the freedom of the soul encouraged Paul to pursue a life of suffering and sacrifice. Or, one can employ modern psychoanalytical tools that may show that Paul was a masochist who actively sought pain and enjoyed being in such conditions.
All of these potential answers point to self-gratification as the ultimate goal of life. This is parallel to our modern conceptions of the good life, for which the ultimate end is self-satisfaction and glorification (although self-discipline was long ago discarded as a means to that end).
At this point, the incapacity of the modern church to reconcile the suffering of the global church with the God of love is evident. But, our highest good is not a problem-free life; it is to be like the Son.
“The Call to Create Culture”, Joel Pelsue
From the beginning, God has called us to tend the culture as we would tend a garden. He defined the parameters for Adam and Eve and gave them a mandate: God “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” He commanded them “to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”
Just as God brought order out of chaos during creation, He commanded this man and this woman, made in His image, to pursue and maintain order as they established their family, who eventually would populate the earth and create culture.
We were never called to merely focus on ourselves in a pietistic ghetto. Man’s responsibility was to tend creation, so that it would be fruitful, and for man himself to be fruitful. When they were planting seeds, digging irrigation, creating economic systems, or establishing governments, they were fulfilling their calling as men and women made in the image of God and called to create and “subdue.”
So it is today. As we are fruitful, we must tend to our families and society at large, just as Adam and Eve were to tend to their garden.
“Thoughts on Holy Week”, Brett McCracken
But for those of us who believe not just that Jesus Christ was real but that he spoke the truth (for example, that he was the Son of God and the savior of all humanity), the events of Easter did more than change history; they ripped open the fabric of the cosmos. When Jesus rode that donkey triumphantly into Jerusalem and then was systematically butchered less than a week later, he was living the most significant week the world has ever seen.
It’s hard to grasp the magnitude and meaning of this moment — this apogee of history. But symbolism has always helped us understand the incomprehensible, and there are some really great symbols in this story.
My favorite has always been the image of the temple veil being ripped completely down the middle at the moment of Christ’s death. Matthew 27: 50 – 51 records it in this way: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom…”
Holy #&*$. Can you imagine being in the Temple when this happened? This, after all, was the veil separating God’s house (the Holy of Holies) from where men could go (the rest of the Temple). It was the ultimate symbol of man’s separation from God by sin (Isaiah 59:1 – 2). Only the High Priest, once a year, could pass through the veil and enter into God’s presence for all of Israel, making atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16). The rending of the veil at the moment Christ sacrificed himself, then, gives us some idea of what the cross meant: Christ’s own blood was a sufficient atonement for sins forever. The way into the Holy of Holies was now open and accessible, for all people, for all time, both Jew and gentile. Jesus made God personal.
“March is the Fairest Month”, Brett McCracken
You know the moment in a basketball game when your team is down by a dozen or so points, but makes a run and brings it to within two? And then the crowd rises to its feet, loudly cheering, and the team gets a new bounce in its step, hitting a long three to take the lead? That moment, with the deafening noise and dispirited opponents losing control — is a moment when you can touch the glory, where you glimpse — dare I say it — the divine. You get goosebumps, you slap a stranger’s hand, and you raise your voice to the rafters for the glory to continue.
In these moments I envision God smiling at us humans and thinking, they are feeling it in small doses — the wholeness, purity, redemption, and triumph that is My gift. Unfortunately, many of us leave these sporting “highs” without thinking that maybe they point to something greater that surrounds us. What if sport really is a gift from God? What if the blessings of sport are only a fraction of what is available to us? I think it probably saddens God when the good things in life — sports, natural beauty, art, etc — are cheapened and seen only as ends unto themselves; not as the signposts to a greater grace that exists in the world.
And so we should not cheapen basketball by writing off its “trivial” place in the grand scheme of things. Instead we should realize that the small wonders and momentary blessings matter in life. Why? Because the existence of rays of light implies a vast sun, and if we ever want to comprehend something that vivid, we should start by taking the light in small doses, wherever we can find it.