I’m so pleased to have discovered a podcast that addresses issues of color, ethnicity, and diversity with a Christ-centered perspective. Prof. Janine Bolling and Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling host The (Im)partial Churchpodcast for Lutheran Hour Ministries, a podcast exploring “how Christians embrace different cultures, celebrate diversity, and live out their faith.”
Entertaining as this brother-sister duo is, when addressing the issues of BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color), cancel culture, and cultural diversity, they follow the apostle Paul’s admonition to “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6). As they point out in “What Not to Say” (episode 3), salt preserves, and we must use our speech to preserve relationships between people, not destroy.
The Bollings are winsome and practical, providing with their podcast a place for Christians to look for ways in which to live out their faith midst cultural diversity. Bringing their personal and professional experiences into the conversation makes it that much more relatable, while grounding their discussion in frequent references to Scripture and what God calls us to be as His family bought and reconciled through the Cross of His Son provides the solid ground of love and hope and fresh motivation to build bridges between communities.
Repentance. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Love. For Christians these qualities are part of the very identity we have in Christ Jesus.
The (Im)partial Church engages and informs, inspires and connects, all in service to the God who calls us above the noise and fray of hostility to live to His glory in obedience and love and humility and sacrifice.
Listen to this podcast and be refreshed and energized to meet the challenges of a culture that would divide rather than unite us. As Christians we are called to this ministry of reconciliation by living missionally, reflecting the new life we have in Jesus.
If someone were to tell us that knowing God is Three Persons in One is an easy concept to understand, we would have to declare them either a simpleton or a liar. But if someone were to tell us that this concept of the Trinity makes all the difference to how we interact with him in adoration and joy, with his overflowing love as the driving engine of our evangelism, we may just stop and ask this rejoicing Christian to explain. And Michael Reeves, president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in the UK, does just that in Overflow: How the Joy of the Trinity Inspires Our Mission.
There is a reason that Christ commanded, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19, bold italics mine), and Reeves does a great job spelling it out for us simply and convincingly in this short book that will leave a lasting impact.
Charles Spurgeon once said this: “The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.” (p. 11)
Reeves shows us that “the Trinity is not a weird puzzle for theological nerds but glorious good news for every Christian to enjoy”; that “the radiantly self-giving nature of God as the wellspring of all love, joy, goodness—and mission” is revealed from Genesis to Revelation; that when the Trinity is denied, love is denied; and “how, when Christians share God’s own outgoing fullness and radiance, we shine as lights in this current darkness.”
Reeves writes, “Mission is rooted in the Trinity, in the very being and nature and heart of God. And this is something deeply heart-winning and attractive in Him. If there is one thing I really want, above all, to communicate in this book, it is the great truth that God is mission. Wherever you’re at with God, particularly if you aren’t too thrilled with Him at the moment, I’d love for your eyes to be opened so you see just how stunningly beautiful and satisfying He is. I pray that your heart begins—maybe for the first time in a long time, maybe for the first time ever—to burn with a love for Him. Not just a duty that compels you and tells you what you ought to do, but rather, that you truly love Him! And then, out of this deep love, you will want to see the whole world come to know about Him too.” (p. 18)
“Mission is the outworking of God’s very nature. Before we ever did anything for Him, this God comes and gives His life away for us. So mission does not start with something we do, but with something done for us” (p. 48).
“Mission is the overflow of love from the enjoyment of divine fellowship. As we partake in the Father’s pleasure in His Son, and the Son’s pleasure in His Father, and the Spirit’s enlivening of their mutual love, it causes us to share their love for the world. Thus we become like what we worship. It is then, friend, you will want to sing of Him: when you are basking in the sunshine of God’s love. Because, as Jesus said, the ‘mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart’” (Luke 6:45 HCSB) (p. 56).
Reeves reminds us of the Father’s eternal love, what Christ has done for us on the Cross, and the Spirit’s regeneration, and encourages us to live in the light of this gospel truth: “You can live by the flesh, which means living under a spirit of slavery, always propelled by an insatiable lack, by guilt, by greed, by the desire to justify yourself. Or you can live as a child of God, by the Spirit of adoption.” (p. 82) “The children of God live from a fullness of life, a fullness of blessing. We can’t help but overflow with it. Other people need it too.” (p. 89)
This book is full of encouragement for those who feel themselves spiritually weary or empty. It is Christ-centered, Gospel-proclaiming, and Trinitarian-affirming and celebrating. I heartily recommend it.
Sitting across the table from you Wonder what you’re thinking Is it just the food? Something more? You look up. The sweetness in your eyes Dispels all doubts in wedded bliss All conversations merge into one There’s no one for me but you.
Sitting down at Your table with You Dark the vagrant thoughts in my head Not on the bread, nor on the wine Your living Presence hid to my eyes Your tender, humbling gaze on me, I look up: Enthroned majesty cloaked in a naked Lamb Slain for the love of a sinner like me There’s no one for me but You.
Ribbed, malnutritioned, unhallowed eyes knuckle mine And without turning I see in wintry desert climes A thing to be desired above all others A taste to consume and be consumed by A reign of terror sublime where worms meet flesh Of tree-fruit hung, mouth-watering pulp of initiation Plucked, bitten off, in excess of secret concupiscence
In ravishment of the verboten, for that which I hate, I had done, and thus doing, am undone, the unmaggoted Fruit in its rainbow pride turning to dust and ashes in my mouth. For I have traded a Love without price For emaciated fruited-husks littering the fields of deceit Yet again, an unslumbered hungering malice ever-stalking At my heels, until out it comes, the vinegared indigestible
Bulk of it spilled vomitously, wretched retchings of a fool Words and deeds like knives ungorged flying mercilessly And I with unclean hands, naked in the cool of the evening Hidden, yet sought, drawn to the hallowed treed shade where Gratuitously, there is room for me, manna for me, Bread of life, Water that quenches my thirst, Whose wine-dark blood Spent in mercy divine washes over and covers me so To walk at last in honeyed valleys and orchards free.
Song of Songs 2:3 [She]: As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
As clouds curl and stretch above a ginkgo tree a twilight gold wreathes three small figures their Dad quickening his steps as they race toward open church doors their laughter echoing in its depths and I still warm from the summer’s smile sit waiting on the benches of sung psalms there to worship the living God who knew this moment before it began a moment that began long before my conception in the dreaming womb of a mother returned to the songs of her land and I cold from her lost embrace, lost lamb carried in the arms of the Shepherd to sail motherhood embraced by the cossetting arms of a sun-kissed husband and the eager hands of ebullient children whose mouths warble love like songbirds in the Sabbath twilight as clouds curl and stretch above a ginkgo tree.
For my husband and children on Mother’s Day with love.
Grave clothes left behind see death’s dominion broken in an empty tomb
Light the air, so bright silent glory transpiring the King ascending
John 11: 25-26 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”
It was Good Friday morning and Humble Singh was watching the clock.
He had done this every Good Friday for as long as he could remember, even while his wife, Millie, was still alive and before he had sold his business and moved to live with his son and his family.
It was a quarter to nine. Soon Jesus would arrive, cross-laden, at Golgotha. His face is beaten to a pulp, Jewish and Gentile spit mingles with his blood, and he is struggling with exhaustion and pain as long strips of deeply scored flesh lie open on his back from the scourging, and every nerve in his body screams in anticipation of the crucifixion. The soldiers hurry him along. They conscript a bystander to carry the horizontal beam on his back.
Ten till. Humble sat in his sitting room at the back of the house. Suddenly he leapt up and went into the back garden. Red tulips. Purple hyacinths. Large burgundy magnolia buds like the bruises that covered Christ’s body. The Roman soldiers had mocked him with a purple robe and a crown of thorns while beating him repeatedly. The Jewish priests and their hitting, spitting and slapping needed their scorn driven home. But it was their hour of shame. “His blood be on us and on our children!” the crowd had cried. The mob must have its victim. Even if that victim was pure, blameless. The Lamb of God.
A minute till nine. They lie him down, stripped, arms held down on the cross beam. Humble looks up at a movement in the shrubbery. A bunny had scurried through the open garden gate. Humble hurries to close it. Piercing nails. Blood running free. Writhing agony. Joints stretching in excruciating torture. The crowd gathers round. Women sob. Many watch in satisfaction.
“Humble! Yoo hoo, Humble!” a woman’s voice sings out. It was Prithi, known in the predominantly Asian neighborhood as the “Giddy Widow.” She approaches him with a broad smile and with nowhere to run, unlike the bunny, Humble returns her greeting. She comes into the garden, her heels clicking on the pavement, bangles bouncing on attractively plump arms and her rouged face a pantomime of coquetry.
They wander around the garden, Prithi chatty, Humble surreptitiously checking his watch. It was a large garden, professionally tended, an arbor here, a fish pond there, a large oak in the middle of the grounds, shady trees of cherry, plum, and maple. No olive trees. Unlike that garden where Christ sweated huge drops of blood at what he would be enduring today. “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”
“A man they call Jesus” he tells them
the source of his healing
he who had been born blind
sitting in the temple
day after day
begging for alms
one spits on the ground
makes mud, covers his eyes
sends him to wash
in the pool of Siloam
and immediately he sees
this one who had never seen before
“Where is he?” they ask him
and he can’t say until that same one
finds him, after he, now healed,
had been thrown out of the temple
for recounting the miracle, for saying,
“If this man were not from God,
he could do nothing.”
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
this man asks him. “Who is he, sir?”
the healed man wants to know. “Tell me
so that I may believe in him.”
The healer reveals himself as the one
and the man replies, “Lord, I believe,”
and worships him
he worships him!
well, wouldn’t you?
if you were blind from birth
and your eyes are opened
with a bit of spittle and dirt
and you come up out of the water
and you can see! oh God! you can see!
but not just anything, like a temple
not just anyone, like a robed priest
you can see a man they call Jesus!
Prompt from Peter Frankis of dVerse challenges us to "Meet the Bar" by "Coming full circle."
Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? — Ecclesiastes 7:13
what God has done a crook in your lot can’t be set right by human device bent to a degree sorely injudicious by reason’s measure imperfect yardsticks we hold up to judge what God has done
what God has done humility to bear a stony field unleveled path that curved back that strained heart the roof that caved vanquished plans deathless grief if we dare decry what folly to fight when we can’t change what God has done
what God has done he sent his Son to bear our sins to pay the price to win our peace to lead the crooked down a narrow way to carry the weak to strengthen the tired to lead them home on eagle’s wings of faith and love of hope and joy to open blind eyes to see, my soul, what God has done
Job 12: 13-16 [Job speaks] “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his.”
Jude 24-25 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Romans 11: 33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Sarah of dVerse asks us to choose a poem we’ve read over the last year and write a response to it in conversation, as it were, with its preoccupations. I’ve chosen John Updike’s “Fine Point,” written just weeks before his death in January 2009. His consciousness of our tainted public and personal history, and faith’s endurance as he alludes to Psalm 23, is what engages me most. And so my response, “En Pointe.”
What divinity is this that tempers our clay
with hammers of wrath expended on temple,
church, in our uneasy play with pagan tunes
of lust? Even as we covet our neighbor’s lamb
we would sing tuneful papyrus songs in our Babylon
with lyres hung under willows, calling out as children
“Abba, Father,” knowing we are heard by the Name
of One who bore the curse of our sinful rebellions.
O Son of David, thou whose lips have tendered infinity –
“It is finished” — mercy and justice united — blood
spilled and body spent on the cross so that Surely—
yes, “surely”— and all the days of my life wilt thou
pursue — not merely “follow”— poor substitute
for the ancient tongue which reaches out in mercy
as unbounded as a lover’s song of songs to me
now to dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. Selah.
I stand at the well at the desert’s end the camels noisy at the trough there’s the star blazing above me the night sky distraught with light. I, looking down as into a mirror, drawn to the abyss below.
The star grows preternaturally, soundless my cries echo it close, spilling embittered tears, so might the well’s bounds overflow, now the journey has been for nothing my hopes and fears for naught.
This cankered sore that my heart is this cauled face, disfigured husk, what the worldly-wise has given birth to, I sag to my knees and howl: there is no sorrow as impenetrable as knowing the road you’ve followed in the end was all a mirage.
Even as death hangs o’er me an eternal vision belies it; alone I stand under starlight alone I gaze at the night this wanderer as foolish as a beast wondering that the yawning darkness had not overtaken the light.
If birth is but a prelude to death what if death is the prelude to life? Here, across trackless sands following a star as bright as the morning shines to watch over me in the night; bemused I lift my eyes up to see a distant rise, there to see a babe born who set the star in the skies.
Slim, liminal, posterns of light these words given and received outskirting impossibilities and health-riven cheek-jowling pain absenting gormless vacuity, Jude not Judas, thirty pieces of silver husbandry of waterless clouds but faith’s Canaan vine-laden Jerusalem’s milk unfathomable peace Cross-borne recrudescence and a Kingdom come.