Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Nov
21

rulesdontapply-one-sheet

After a long break from acting and making films, Warren Beatty returns to the big screen this week with Rules Don’t Apply. The film is a nostalgic love story set in 1950’s Hollywood. Although it is centered around the larger-than-life figure of Howard Hughes, Beatty insists it is not a biopic. This well-made passion project is more about reminiscing upon a time when Warren Beatty first arrived in Hollywood than making a historical picture about the life of Howard Hughes. Rules Don’t Apply is a fun trip back to a time when Hollywood was much different than it is today.

Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) is a driver with big ideas who gets a job working for Howard Hughes with the hopes of being able to make a pitch. Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) is a Southern beauty queen who has recently moved to Hollywood thinking she will become a movie star. Their paths cross when Frank is assigned to drive Marla and her mother (Annette Bening). Mr. Hughes has a strict rule that drivers are not to date the actresses. This along with Forbes and Mabrey’s devout Christian upbringing keeps them apart for awhile, but eventually, they begin a complicated relationship.

The highlight of Rules Don’t Apply is Warren Beatty’s portrayal of Howard Hughes. It is not a perfect impression, but again this film does not pretend to be a biopic. Beatty is brilliant because you can tell he enjoys acting and he deeply cares about this project. The problem with the film is that it jumps around too much and it’s not sure what it wants to be. It suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a love story? Is it a movie about Howard Hughes? Is it a comedy? It is all these things and more. The good news is that even though the movie has a minor case of ADD, it is done well and it is a delight to watch.

There is a religious element to the film, but like many portrayals of religion in Hollywood, it does not offer any depth. The two young lovers wrestle with the morals of their faith. The film raises the issue but then does not provide any details. It seems like Frank and Marla choose a life void of religion because after the conflict arises, religion is absent throughout the rest of the story. There is one exception to this near the end of the film when Hughes asks Frank if he believes in an afterlife. Neither one of them is comfortable saying yes or no. This agnostic answer sums up how the film thinks of religion.

If you like the look and feel of movies from the 1950’s and 60’s, then Rules Don’t Apply is perfect for you. It is charming and delightful. You will laugh and enjoy your time at the movies. I had fun watching it, and I’m glad Warren Beatty is back at it again. I don’t think this movie holds up to some of his earlier works, but now he has knocked some of the rust off, maybe he won’t wait so long to do it all again.

Nov
10

We have just endured an election that was nasty on all sides. It divided family, friends, and our country. Now the election has ended, people are feeling an array of emotions. Feelings such as joy, happiness, apathy, fear, sadness, confusion, and others are present in many Americans. The question being asked on all sides is “What now?” For Christians, the answer is the same. It doesn’t matter who you voted for in the election. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. We serve a King who is in charge of the Universe. Our allegiance to Jesus is more important than anything else that might divide us. We are brothers and sisters in Christ! So, what now?

We pray. Scripture does not call us only to pray for good leaders, or only to pray for the leaders we like. We are to pray for “all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:2). We pray that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Tim. 2:2). A peaceful life allows us to do good to those around us and share the gospel with people we meet.

We love. It is easy to love the people who are dear to us or people who share our values and beliefs, but Jesus calls us to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Hate produces hate. Love has the power to transform the world. It is important that people continually see the love of God in us.

We gather. The most important thing we do each week is to come together around a table in anticipation of the return of Jesus. We break bread and share the fruit of the vine to remember what he has done for us and to acknowledge he will return one day. Until he returns, we work towards God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

No matter who is President, our mission remains the same.

Nov
10

agape_feast_05

Peter Leithart offers a wonderful and beautiful reflection on how Christians should respond to the election of Donald Trump.

For the first time in decades, the GOP offered a candidate whose pro-life convictions are wobbly and whose commitment to traditional marriage is non-existent. Four years from now, Roe and Obergefell will be untouched.

Trump did not call for national repentance. He electrified crowds with identity politics, scapegoating, and bread-and-butter talk about trade, jobs, security.

For a generation, we fooled ourselves into thinking a majority of Americans share our morals. It’s past time to get real.

What to do? Take Solomon’s counsel. In a world where everything solid melts into vapor, “there is nothing better than to eat, drink and be merry.”

Eat and drink at the Lord’s table. Sing Psalms.

Singing puts the election in its proper, subordinate place. When the world is crooked, we call the Judge to straighten it out. Ruled by fools or thugs, we lift the high King on our praises so He will scatter our enemies. Under pressures and threats, we sing to steel ourselves for martyrdom.

At the Lord’s table, we consume the Crucified to share His cross. We proclaim the Lord’s triumphant death to powers and principalities. We feast in defiant joy because our Good Shepherd prepares a table in the midst of enemies.

Eating, drinking, and singing isn’t an Epicurean retreat. It’s not a white flag. It’s the fundamental shape of Christian politics, and always has been.

Oct
13

This election has been difficult for all Americans. We have been asked to choose between two candidates whose disapproval ratings are at all time highs. Rather than vote for a candidate, many people are voting against a candidate. People know who they don’t want, and they are reluctantly voting for who they perceive to be the lesser of two evils.

Where does a person draw the line? How far is too far? These are the questions some voters have been asking themselves during this election season, especially after the last few days. Christians have an ethic that sets us apart from the rest of the world. We are supposed to behave in a certain way. To be holy means to be different. Our different way of living should inspire people to be like Jesus. When we compromise our holiness, we compromise our witness. This means there is a line we can cross, but what it is it?

For me, one issue is above all others. It is a principle we find in the first chapter of Genesis, and its fingerprints are on the entire Bible.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:27)

Every person has been created in the image of God. This fundamental fact is at the root of many of the commands we find in Scripture. Sometimes it is stated explicitly (James 3:8-9). Other times it is implied. It is the basis for loving our neighbors, loving our enemies, and helping people in need. This principle is the foundation of our ethic. We stand against abortion and racism both because we believe all people are created in the image of God. If a person denies this truth, then I cannot support them because it goes against everything I believe.

It is easy to see how Hillary Clinton rejects this precept in her support of abortion. Unborn children are the most innocent human beings on this planet. They are the least among us, and as Christians, we are called to be a voice for the voiceless. We must not allow other people to devalue these children. They are living humans created in the image of God, and they deserve the right to life. To end their life is murder.

Donald Trump denies the image of God in a different way. This is most evident in his comments concerning women that have recently appeared in the news. I think it is important to pay attention to exactly what he said. His words cannot easily be dismissed as foul language or “locker room talk.”

In 2005, the following conversation was recorded.

Trump: You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Unidentified voice: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab them by the p***y. You can do anything.

In a 2006 interview with Howard Stern, the two had the following exchange concerning Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.

Trump: My daughter is beautiful, Ivanka.

Stern: By the way, your daughter.

Trump: She’s beautiful

Stern: Can I say this? A piece of a**.

Trump: Yeah

These are not the only disturbing comments that Trump has made. There are many more, but these are some of the most telling. They give us insight into his view of women. It’s obvious he thinks of women as objects. He believes his celebrity status allows him to kiss and touch women without their consent. He is unwilling to stand up to a radio talk show host who demeans his daughter by calling her a piece of meat. He even gives the host permission to speak of his daughter in inappropriate ways. This isn’t just what he thinks of a few women. This is how he sees all women, including his daughter. He doesn’t see women as human beings created in the image of God.

Failing to recognize the image of God in another human being dehumanizes them and ourselves. We lose part of our humanity when we treat people as objects. A society that does not acknowledge the image of God in every individual is a society that opens the door for violence (abortion, rape, sexual assault, slavery, etc.) to exist and thrive. Christians must take a stand on this issue. Christians must choose a leader who refuses to devalue any person no matter their age, gender, race, etc. This principle, more than any other, sets us apart from the world.

A vote for Hillary Clinton means we choose power over unborn children. A vote for Donald Trump means we choose power over women. We are not called to seek power or align ourselves with politicians. We are called to stand up for the least among us. We are called to take the side of the marginalized. We are called to speak truth to power and oppose anyone who seeks to use their power or status to take advantage of a human soul created in God’s image.

This election is more important than the economy, taxes, or Supreme Court justices. It is about the heart and soul of Christianity in America. Many will compromise their morals in some way. They will find some argument, and there are plenty available on both sides, that will excuse a vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate. There are no legitimate excuses. If a person votes for Trump or Clinton, all they can do is ask for forgiveness. Supporting either candidate will hurt our witness among the very people we are trying to reach. We must think beyond politics and consider the kingdom of God.

Politicians will always let us down. They offer false promises and false hope. Thankfully, we belong to a kingdom that is everlasting, and we serve a king that will reign forever. Politicians would like us to believe that losing an election is the end of the world, but it is not. The end has already been determined, and Christ is victorious. The most important thing we can do is stand with Jesus. He is faithful. He keeps his promises. He alone offers salvation. I cannot support Clinton. I cannot support Trump, but I can wholeheartedly stand behind the King of kings and give him my full allegiance.

Sep
26

In a recent New York Times editorial, David Brooks identified a problem facing our culture.

“A generation ago about half of all Americans felt they could trust the people around them, but now less than a third think other people are trustworthy…Young people are the most distrustful of all; only about 19 percent of millennials believe other people can be trusted. But across all age groups there is a rising culture of paranoia and conspiracy-mongering…The true thing about distrust, in politics and in life generally, is that it is self-destructive. Distrustful people end up isolating themselves, alienating others and corroding their inner natures.” – David Brooks

In 1 Thessalonians 2, we are given a glimpse into the ministry of Paul. An essential part of Paul’s ministry focused on establishing trust. He tells the Thessalonians that his motives are pure (1 Thess. 2:3-6). He points to his actions among them (1 Thess. 2:7-12). His relationship with the Thessalonians was like a “nursing mother taking care of her own children.” He shared the gospel but he also shared himself (1 Thess. 2:8). The Thessalonians knew they could trust Paul because of the sacrifices he was making in their presence (1 Thess. 2:9).

Trust does not happen on its own. It takes work. To share yourself with others involves risk. It takes people willing to be vulnerable. Someone has to take the first step. Someone has to be open before others open up. Once some level of trust is achieved, it must be nurtured. It should never be taken advantage of or abused, but instead it should be strengthened into a foundation for relationships and communities to thrive.

In an age of distrust, Christians are called to be something different. We need to be a people who build trust rather than tear it down. The church needs to be a place where trust is foundational. Christians need to be trustworthy. Distrust is destructive. People need individuals, communities, and systems in which they can trust. Christians can provide what people are looking for because we serve a God who is the epitome of trustworthiness. May we commit to the hard work of building trust by sharing ourselves so that God will be glorified.

Sep
21

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matt. 5:43-47)

As I look at Facebook, I see a lot of us vs. them statements and articles being posted. We naturally tend to divide ourselves into groups. We demonize the other side while overlooking the faults and shortcomings of our own group. Whenever a new issue arises, we do not have to examine the facts because we have already made up our minds the moment we chose a side. Arguments abound on Facebook because no one ever changes their mind because of a post on social media. Our posts rally the side we are on while infuriating the other side. People go back and forth, jabs are thrown, and eventually both sides are upset and more ingrained concerning their original position than before the argument began. There is little or no meaningful engagement on social media when we set out to prove the other side wrong. Worse yet, when we see others as our enemy, we often dehumanize them in some way. This is rarely a conscious decision on our part. However, it happens because we are trying to rationalize why they have come to a conclusion or position that we find irredeemable.

I am not against having discussions where deep disagreements exist. In fact, I believe this is necessary and healthy to our communities and our nation as a whole. I do believe that before we post or comment on Facebook, we should follow the advice of Jesus.

1. We should pray for our enemies, whether they are real or perceived.

2. We should see everyone as a human being created in the image of God. It is especially easy to dehumanize when you are staring at a screen rather than a person.

3. We should seek the good will of anyone we are engaging, whether we know them or not.

4. We should proceed with humility, understanding we might be wrong.

The ways of Jesus bless our lives and the lives of others. They challenge us to be better human beings. As we proceed with the difficult conversations of life, let us do so not simply to win an argument or prove others wrong, but to imitate Jesus in every aspect of our life.

Sep
15

the_avett_brothers_-_true_sadness

“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.'” (Luke 17:20-21)

The Avett Brothers’ song, True Sadness, is about what is wrong with the world. There is a cancer that has spread to every thing and every person. The cancer is sin, but it manifests itself in different ways. The chorus of the song acknowledges that people may seem fine, but deep down there is a “true sadness.” We are good at hiding our brokeness. In a culture obsessed with social media, we often lack the deep relationships that allow us to be vulnerable and address the real issues in our life. We can curtail the details of our life on Facebook so that everything looks terrific when in reality we all have issues if anyone would “take the time to peel a few layers” away. Our lives have been altered by the darkness that entered the world when Adam and Eve broke the covenant with God.

The song mentions alcoholism early on, but then there is a lengthy reflection on the problem of lust.

Angela became a target
As soon as her beauty was seen
By young men who try to reduce her down
To a scene on an x-rated screen
Is she not more than the curve of her hips?
Is she not more than the shine on her lips?
Does she not dream to sing and to live and to dance down her own path?
Without being torn apart
Does she not have a heart?

The root of lust is one of the biggest problems that affects our world. It is the problem of not seeing human beings for who they truly are, people created in the image of God. When one person lusts after another person, they are looking at that person as a mere object. The Avett Brothers repeatedly ask the question, “Is she not more…?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Objectifying individuals leads to sins such as lust, rape, slavery, murder, etc. When a person is no longer a person, it frees people to do whatever they like. When we treat people as objects, we rob them of their dignity, and we become a little less human ourselves. We do not act as we were created to act. We allow the darkness to take hold, and we become part of the problem.

Although the song is entitled “True Sadness,” it is not without hope. There are glimpses of redemption throughout the song. It begins with a friend who comes to help in a time of need.

You were a friend to me when my wheels were off the track
And though you say there is no need I intend to pay you back
When my mind was turning loose and all my thoughts were turning black
You shined a light on me and I intend to pay you back

Next, there is the hope of overcoming the power of addiction. In a line most likely referring to AA, The Avett Brothers sing, “And I’ve seen the program make men out of monsters.” Sin distorts the image of God within us. When we give into sin, we lose some of our own dignity. A monster is not human, but there is always the possibility of regaining the humanity we have lost.

The battle we face is constant and can be grueling. We live in a dark world, but we are called to be a part of a new reality.

I cannot go on with this evil inside me
I step out my front door and I feel it surround me
Just know the kingdom of God is within you
Even though the battle is bound to continue

In Luke 17:20-21, the Pharisees were looking for magnificent signs, but Jesus informs them there are none. Rather, the kingdom of God was in their midst. It was more ordinary than they had expected. God had taken on flesh and blood. He came to heal the sick and feed the poor. The kingdom of God was staring them in the face, but they could not see it.

Our lives are more often changed by the ordinary than the extraordinary. The church, the kingdom of God on earth, must be incarnational. It must take on flesh and blood so that we may step into the lives of others and shine the light they so desperately need. In a world longing for human interactions, we must be a community committed to openness, vulnerability, sharing, and redemption. Programs like AA are able to “make men out of monsters” because no one is hiding behind a mask. The relationships are real. Confession is essential to getting better. Transformation is taken seriously because it is a matter of life and death.

What sometimes seems ordinary is quite extraordinary. Jesus did not look like what the Pharisees were searching for. He was a mere human, but he was so much more than that. He was God in the flesh. Our battle will continue, but we must remember that God is in our midst. The power to overcome darkness and see the world in a different way is possible through the power of Jesus. This song reminds us to take one day at a time. Life is never easy. Jesus never promised it would be, but the power we need to overcome is closer than we might realize.

Aug
12

Petes-Dragon-Poster

Pete’s Dragon is a mix of all kinds of different things that will encourage various emotions in the viewer. If you are looking for a faithful remake of the original, then you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a film with impressive visual effects based off characters you are familiar with, then you will be pleased. If audiences will allow the new Pete’s Dragon to stand on its own, and not expect too much from it going in, then I believe they will be pleasantly surprised. It is an inspiring film that encourages belief in what one cannot see and for this reason, it is an important film for Christians.

Pete’s Dragon has many obstacles to overcome. It is based on a beloved children’s movie that some people are quite passionate about. People have opinions about the film before they ever enter the theater. The film itself is predictable, and some of the characters are one-dimensional. From the moment Gavin (Karl Urban) appears on screen, it is evident he is the bad guy, and it’s not difficult to figure out where the moving is heading. Pete’s Dragon utilizes the familiar narrative of a creature who is misunderstood by the masses and must rely on a few compassionate individuals to come to his aid. Adopting a format that is well-known is not always a bad thing as long as you do it well or do something with it. I am happy to report that Pete’s Dragon does do something special with the familiar story.

Robert Redford plays Meacham, an old man who likes to tinker in his shop and tell stories that seem unbelievable to the neighborhood kids. His daughter Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) works for the forestry department. She does not think too highly of her father’s tall tales. She is a researcher and believes in hard evidence. Although the part Robert Redford plays is small, it is extremely significant to the film. His dialogue at the beginning of the movie sets up everything that will follow. Pete’s Dragon is a critique of modernist thinking that relies heavily on rationalism and the scientific method. Grace is skeptical of her father’s stories. She believes in her work. She believes in what she can see, touch, feel, taste, and hear. She has spent her life in the forest, and she has never seen a dragon. Meacham reminds the children and Grace that there are unseen things that are very real.

I am not sure what C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien would have thought about good dragons, but I believe they would have enjoyed this delightful movie that reminds viewers there is more to this world than what a person can see. Pete’s Dragon is not complex. It does not explore the greater realm of ethics as Lewis and Tolkien did in their works, but it does raise a fundamental question about how people understand the world. Although ethics are not explicitly explored in the film, it does consider questions regarding the source of ethics. Are ethics something people come up with on their own, or are they related to something greater than humanity? These are deep questions, but it is possible people begin to form answers to these questions earlier than one might expect. Lewis, Tolkien, and G. K. Chesterton all understood that there is something special about children’s stories, myths, fantasy, etc. Although these stories may not be true, they teach truth, and they prepare people for truth. I believe this is also true of Pete’s Dragon.

Pete’s Dragon is visually pleasing. It tells a story that will be familiar to many adults but will quickly engage the emotions of children. Most importantly, it is a movie with an important message. The writer of Hebrews says, “faith is…the conviction of things not see.” Can a person believe and trust in something or someone they have not seen? The writer of Hebrews thinks so and so does Pete’s Dragon.

Jul
12

christonthecross

This song is a reflection on the life of Jesus through his mother’s eyes. This is a perspective we are not used to. We know Mary is the mother of Jesus. We know she is given this prominent role at the beginning of the Gospel. We also know that she appears at the cross. Mary is present at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life and the end, but we often do not reflect on what it was like for her to experience these events. What was it like for Mary to nurture and raise Jesus and to later see him put to death? What was it like for her to cuddle Jesus as a baby and then see him beaten and spit upon? What was it like for Mary to play with Jesus as a child and then stand at the foot of the cross?

There is much that we do not know concerning the life of Jesus from his birth to the beginning of his ministry. What we do know is that Mary was his mother. She gave birth to him. She raised him, and even though we don’t have any of her prayers from this time period, we know what a mother prays for and hopes for. I like how the third stanza begins. It doesn’t just say Mary prayed. It says a mother prays. The sentiment expressed in this prayer could have been prayed by Mary, but it is also something that mothers have prayed for thousands of years.

A mother prays, “Sleep tight, my child, sleep well

For I’ll be at your side

That no shadow, no darkness, no tolling bell,

Shall pierce your dreams this night”

This is what all parents want for their children. We want to protect them from all the evil in the world. We want nothing bad to happen to them. We want to preserve their innocence. We look at these children and we admire them. They don’t see black or white, rich or poor. They see human beings. They love one another and we want to protect this. We don’t want them to know the world as we know it, and so we pray. We ask God to watch over our children knowing that one day their innocence will be lost and they will see the world for what it really is.

Parenting a child is full of highs and lows. When that child is born you experience love like you have never experienced it before. You are overwhelmed with love for this child you have just met. A bond is formed and it continues to grow and grow. Your heart is full but eventually your heart will break. It is inevitable. Your child will get hurt. They will get picked on or made fun of. They will feel pain. They will see evil and wonder why. All of these moments are worse as a parent than when we go through them ourselves. We work so hard to protect our children and then something happens. Tears fill their eyes and our hearts break.

There are some things that should not be. Last week violence broke out across our nation. People’s lives were taken from them. Let’s put the politics aside and remember the humanity involved in each of these situations. As I tuned into the news over the last few days, I heard a mother from Minnesota and a father from Dallas who both lost children. I heard the hurt and sadness in their voices. They had spent all this time raising and trying to protect their children and then they are taken from them. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. This is what all of us fear, and sadly this is the world we live in.

Some may say, “The world has not always been this way.” I would beg to differ. In the days of Noah, the world was full of violence and this upset God. The story of the gospel is the story of an innocent man being put to death by the people in authority. Mary’s firstborn son. The child that Mary loved and raised. The child she carried inside her for nine months. The child she tucked in bed at night becomes the victim of horrific violence. We like to talk about the benefits of the cross but we sometimes forget the human element. Mary’s child endured horrific pain and suffering while she stood nearby. What happened at the cross is an indictment against humanity. It shows what we are capable of, and not just Romans or pagans, but the very people of God helped to put Jesus on the cross. When we allow hate into our heart anything can happen. Jesus commands us not to hate because he says hate leads to murder. What we all must do in this volatile time in our country is examine our heart and make sure there is no hate in it.

This song is important is because it reminds us that there was a loss at the cross. This is the most famous story in the Bible and so we know what happens. We understand the horror of the cross but we also know the hope of resurrection. If we are not careful, we will want to rush past the tragedy of Friday so we can get to the hope of Sunday. It is important that we grasp what happened at the cross, and not just in theological terms, but in terms of what it meant for Mary and Jesus. In the next to last stanza of the song, Springsteen reflects on this.

Now there’s a loss that can never be replaced

A destination that can never be reached

A light you’ll never find in another’s face

A sea whose distance cannot be breached

Although Jesus willingly went to the cross, he was aware that this would forever alter the rest of his life on earth. In Gethsemane, he prays for another way. Jesus will be resurrected but he will also ascend to be with the Father. He will never grow old. He will never be able to care for his elderly mother when she needs help. He will leave behind friends and family. Jesus does an amazing thing for us but it comes at a high cost. The cost is not just the brutality of his death. It is also all that he will leave behind. Although Mary may comprehend the mission of her Son, this still doesn’t take away the pain of her loss. She will no longer have her son here on earth. We experience this type of loss when a Christian brother or sister dies. We have the comfort of knowing we will be reunited, but we still grieve they are no longer with us. There are some things that cannot be undone in this lifetime. If a person robs a bank, then the money can be returned, but if a person takes a life, then there is no way to give that back. There is a loss that can never be replaced and Mary felt that loss at Calvary.

Jesus also understood the significance of what was about to happen. Springsteen sings,

In the garden at Gethsemane

He prayed for the life he’d never live,

He beseeched his Heavenly Father to remove

The cup of death from his lips

What was that prayer about in Gethsemane? We know that Jesus prayed for another way. We also know that he submitted himself to the will of the father. Why did Jesus want to find another way? Was it because he feared the pain he was about to endure? Maybe, but maybe it was because he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and with his family. We know that the people around Jesus were dear to him. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus. He enjoyed eating with people and helping others. Maybe his prayer was similar to Paul’s in Philippians who was torn between being with God and helping others. He wanted both but knew it wasn’t possible at that moment.

What is obvious is that Jesus understood he was making a sacrifice. He had competing emotions within him but he was willing to lay down his life for the masses. He went to the cross for you and for me. Sometimes when a poem or song is written we have to find the meaning ourselves. There are some songwriters who refuse to comment on what their songs mean. Bruce Springsteen is not one of them. While performing this song at concerts around the world Springsteen has commented on the meaning of this song. This is what he has said,

“The choices we make are given meaning by the things we sacrifice…The choices that we make are given their value by the things we give up for them.”

What he describes here is the Biblical definition of love. The cross is love because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for human beings. Jesus gives a similar definition of love in the parable of the good Samaritan. The story begins because a lawyer wants to know what it means to love his neighbor. It means that you sacrifice something for that person. You give up your time to care for them. You let them ride your donkey. You pay for their stay at the inn. You promise to check back in.

This song asks some deep questions about ourselves. What do our sacrifices say about us? What kinds of sacrifices are we making in our own lives? We talk a lot about love but we only love as much as we sacrifice. We all love God. We profess it every Sunday. Okay, then what have you done for God lately? How have you sacrificed for him? What about your neighbor? The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor. What have you done for the people around you? The world becomes a better place, not because we talk about love, but because we actually love.

The song ends by reflecting on the final moments Jesus and Mary have together before his death.

Well Jesus kissed his mother’s hands

Whispered, “Mother, still your tears,

For remember the soul of the universe

Willed a world and it appeared.”

This is a song about lament and sacrifice but it ends with a word of hope. In the Gospel of John, Jesus looks down from the cross and he speaks to his mother and he speaks to John. One of his last concerns before he died was that his mother would be taken care of. He commissions John to watch after her. Mary must have been heartbroken as she watched her son die, but Jesus must have been equally heartbroken as he saw his mother’s eyes fill with tears.

In the midst of tragedy and loss, it is important to grieve and lament. Paul commands that we mourn with those who are mourning. When something tragic happens, this should be our first response as Christians. Political pundits and talk show hosts will offer their commentary but the world has had enough commentary. We don’t need any more talking heads. What the world needs is compassion. They need people to recognize their hurts. They need people to listen. They need people to care. This is our job as Christians, but more than anything else we are to remind people of the hope that is alive in Jesus. In the song, Jesus reminds Mary who God is and what he has done. He created this world and he is still in control. We need to remember the power of God. We need to remember that Jesus conquered evil at the cross, conquered death in the resurrection, and one day he will return to right all wrongs. Although we may live in dark times, God will have the final word. We do not belong to darkness. We are children of light and it is our duty to shine this light wherever we go. May we never fear the darkness, but instead may we commit to shining brighter than ever in the darkest moments.

You can listen to the full sermon here.

Feb
11

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“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)

What is worship? It is something Christians do every week, but could you explain it if you had to? What would you say to someone who does not know what worship is? God alone is deserving of worship but throughout Scripture other objects, and people are worshiped. Worship involves giving yourself to something. You devote yourself to it. You give your time, money, adoration, and energy to it. You align yourself with what you worship and begin to take on the qualities and characteristics of the object of your devotion. This could be any number of things. It could be a career, nation, team, hobby, etc.

Worship is something all people do, regardless if they know it or not. It should be easy to identify what a person worships by looking at their life. What do they talk about? What do they spend time doing? Where do they give their money? Does a person resemble their favorite sports team? Does a person resemble their favorite political campaign? Does a person resemble Jesus?

“To adore…That means to lose oneself in the unfathomable, to plunge into the inexhaustible, to find peace in the incorruptible, to be absorbed in defined immensity, to offer oneself to the fire and the transparency, to annihilate oneself in proportion as one becomes more deliberately conscious of oneself, and to give of one’s deepest to that whose depth has no end.” – Teilhard de Chardin

The quote above is profound. I have read it multiple times. I have meditated on what it means, and I believe it is a marvelous description of Christian worship. Replace the word “adore” with worship. One of the significant differences between Christian worship and idolatry is that we give ourself to something beyond ourself. Idolatry is tempting because we can understand it and often manipulate it, but we cannot put God into a box. We cannot manipulate him. He is beyond us, and this is exactly why he deserves our worship.