Mark 14: 66-72
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
To ask Him if He sees, when He made the eyes
that angrily accuse;
To ask Him if He hears, when He made the ears
that ring with raging accusation;
To ask Him if He is mute, when He made the mouth
that spits hurt challenge;
To ask Him if He knows, cares, desires to stem
the flood of misery
When He knew, cared, desired enough to bear
To ask and then grieve to ask
And in my grief to fall abashed into waiting arms
again, and yet once again,
To ask, “O God, how great is Your lovingkindness!”
Here We Go Round . . .
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.1
A feast of rest, a feast of praise
Fills my heart, my mouth, my days;
A Sabbath feast of prayer and love
A shout of “Hallelujah!” to God above.
O let me never from this feast descend
But ever by Your Spirit ascend;
Hold me, Father, with Your right hand
As by faith on holy ground I stand.
Ushered in by Your Son’s call
To the festal celebration hall
Joy abundant and peace unfettered
From Your table I am fed.
Should I stray from Your dear presence
Let me quickly feel Your absence
And in Your grace, rejoicing always,
Before Your table find my place.
Hebrews 12: 22-24
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Prayer for Ellen
Before You I fall, the blood of the slain Lamb
Like rubies lit across the spilt years,
Dispersing hungry darkness, preying fears
Dismayed faith, that my prayers in ceaseless
Torrent may wash through unbelief and doubt
And the inane repetitions of old words
Earth-bound and worn, ill-used in faith, weary
But that fright has flung them on my tongue
Again to plead mercied miracle for a friend.
The Author, the Word
If an author needs a reader
To see with different eyes
The words that she has written
Which once were on her heart,
The reader needs the author
To show her other worlds
That only words can offer
As a bridge to different hearts.
Still better is the Author
Who became the Word in flesh
And walked among the suffering,
Our griefs upon His heart,
Who with divine compassion
Bore our sins upon His cross
Then wrote in broken hearts
His unending song of Love.
Just as I have never seen a dry leaf
turn supple green under the spring rain,
I have never seen a corpse’s bones
reborn as from the womb like a baby.
This defies mother nature’s course,
she who’s answerable to her Maker,
unless the Maker Himself the rain becomes
and the womb that gives birth
to His lovers.
We Are All Beggars
In the spring of 1521, a man stood alone before an inquisitorial council, summoned by the Pope and Emperor Charles V, to renounce his writings and his beliefs. Instead, he stood firm, saying,
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.
Just days prior to his death many years later, this same man, Martin Luther, wrote that before the Holy Scriptures, “Wir sind alle Bettler” (“We are all beggars”).
We are all beggars. Newly clad in the righteousness of Christ, having discarded our sin-soaked garments, we stand with hands empty before our holy God to receive each day our fill of nourishing food from the table of Christ our King, a table laden with all that comes to us by the Spirit of God in the Bible. “How sweet are Your words to my taste!” writes the psalmist. “Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (119:103). “O taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps. 34:8) Through His word, Christ Jesus teaches and guides us, and by His Spirit enables us, so we shout with confidence with the apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!” (Phil. 4:13)
Continue reading “We Are All Beggars”
Walking On Water With You
LORD, you want me to live upside down defying gravity
I can’t unless you hold me to the ceiling and that’s insanity
I want to keep lurching back to my feet or I’ll be dead
Floating on air with you and most of the time my head
Keeps exploding because everything is turned around
But You tell me I’m right side up and not to frown
When I can walk on water like You.
You’ve rearranged my living not to put myself first,
To love my enemy and do good to all who thirst
To turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile
To let go of the bling the world prizes with a smile
And enjoy the freedom of a brand new life in You
To let my self die so You can live and I in You
Because when I lose my life I gain it for free
In your kingdom eternally though I can’t see
But by faith which is fantasy to most people minus one
Who look out for sensible ways to get the job done
While living in the world like me.
But I trust You, Lord, and what you say is right
The Way to live my life is by faith and not by sight
I’ll walk in the Spirit and obey and not retreat
And forget the world says that it seems to spell defeat
To see the first is the last and the last is the first
When the devil fights like there’s no end to the curse
Though we’re in the last days, You still haven’t come back
And not to criticize but that seems out of whack
But it’s true because You said it so I’ll live upside down
And with You holding me I believe I’ll get my crown
And I can walk on water like You.
(Based on Matt. 5, 1 John 2: 15-16, John 16:33, & 1 John 5: 4-15)
Rap poetry is an energetic, raw, and unpretentious genre which is not always put to its best use as an instrument for good. But sometimes it is. If you’re not familiar with its use in the church, popular Christian rapper Shai Linne’s “Justified” is a great example of lyrical theology at its finest in contemporary culture and I encourage you to read it here.
The House of Mourning
Come to the house of mourning
You will see me there
In the darkening shadows
Of the sighing halls and stairs.
Candles brighten doorways
But they never flicker strong
Though many people enter
And some may call it home.
The Need-Be Lamb
Random seem the sparks that fly, the winds that flow
That feed a forest’s fire; so too the face that weeps, the heart
That breaks, the gun that fires in the night, the wound
That bleeds & the rage that burns, the mouth that spews,
The knives that scream behind the smiles which spread onto
Tomorrow’s screeds and screens. When faithless Cain still
Roams the streets and threadlike hamlet paths,
When he still runs from sacrifice, the blood of slaughtered
Lamb, when he in self-righteous unbelief decries his sin
Be not so foul, himself not need-be so washed, guilt-spent,
And flees God-given holy balm to find his own release,
Then will freedom lead to chains and sin his master be.
So earth’s children rise to die among sin-tangled roots
Like sweet-smelling vine that rots in place enshrouding
Abel’s call as he, though faithful was, by murder silent lay.
Yet each with blood-stained hands looks to see the sinless One
They slaughtered, each nailed upon the tree, the incarnate God
Who in holy love spilled free His blood and shattered prison-gates
So Abel’s children, now sinless judged, can guiltless live by faith,
As by grace each finds this Lamb, the worthy sacrifice,
Must need-be for sin, whether Cain or Abel you be.
So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Genesis 4: 3-8 (NASB)
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
Revelation 5: 9-10
I feel as if I’ve put it off long enough while going around in circles, thinking, thinking, thinking, feeling that it must be said, to myself and to you – if you are a Christian believer – that you and I are no different from the man on the stretcher whose sins were forgiven by the Son of God, or the woman who touched the hem of His garment and found the healing she had sought from her disease.
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
I had never heard this 18th-century Christmas carol until very recently but it has since been playing in my mind, at once familiar & fresh. Penned by Richard Hutchins in 1761, it has inspired music by, among many others, Elizabeth Poston in the last century and another performed by Lee Nelson & the Wartburg Choir in 2013. (I’ve posted both versions below.)
The metaphor of the apple tree appears in the Song of Songs, when the bride says of her Beloved: “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” (Song 2:3).
Understanding Thanksgiving, post-Thanksgiving Day!
It’s after Thanksgiving Day and let the postmortems begin! I’m only half-joking. For many of us who rarely see family members because of time, distance, or circumstance, Thanksgiving Day gatherings simply add new scars to old wounds or put to sudden death relationships that hang by the most meagre familial ties. History looms over the proceedings, manacling participants to doomed conversations haunted by the past, bitter blasts that erupt from beneath the thin crust of apple pie amiability.
Continue reading “Understanding Thanksgiving, post-Thanksgiving Day!”
You Overtake Me
You overtake me, Jesus,
Though fleet of foot
You need not be
As the wind soft
Silent breezes now
In full sudden embrace
As a mother to her child rushes
Though ever near
Stoops, takes her up
Kisses the grimy world
Away in enfolding arms
And fills the trembling heart
With love that never leaves
Eternal, ever stays.
Francis Schaeffer & Dorothy Sayers
from Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (1976)
“No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions. Christians [have] that absolute in God’s revelation.”
from Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? (1940)
I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it …. We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of amiable indifference.”
How many times a day do we make
The conscious choice to choose the fake,
To accept a lie than deal with the mistake
Of going along with people on the take?
Rembrandt: Jacob Wrestling
Martin Luther characterized it as one of the most obscure recorded: an amazing account, the mysterious struggle between two combatants, one human, one divine, written of in Genesis 32: 22-31.
Jesus in the Day of Small Things
For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice ….”
– Zechariah 4: 10
Anyone who hasn’t turned on the news and come away disheartened isn’t paying attention. The years that saw men and women strive for noble ideals in the interest of their countrymen, when the Constitutional Convention assembled to debate the great truths that should be enshrined as the foundational principles of a nation, those days are long past. The leaders that strode across the canvas of time – George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson – seem shrouded in the distant past replaced by the frontrunners of our current presidential primaries, a morally and intellectually bankrupt buffoon and an equally corrupt power-hungry crony capitalist.