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I find myself agreeing with the writer of the article below. This is both a haunting and moving image of two people embracing each other unto death.
Every time I look back to this photo, I feel uncomfortable — it haunts me. It’s as if they are saying to me, we are not a number — not only cheap labor and cheap lives. We are human beings like you. Our life is precious like yours, and our dreams are precious too…
This was first shared with me by my friend Thomas from Everyday Liturgy.
Martin Bashir really takes on Bill O’Reilly’s ridiculous suggestion that Christ died because of taxes:
I have been blogging over at Everyday Liturgy recently. Feel free to check out my two recent posts.
For those of us who follow the rhythms of a church calendar, Lent is a special time of remembering one’s own mortality and need for Christ. And, whether one follows the church calendar or not, Christians everywhere agree that it is vital to pass on our faith to our children…[more]
December 2006. I had just walked down the aisle and took my seat among the other graduates at my small, Christian university. The charge to us graduates was given that day by a man from Uganda who spoke on numerous things, but, among the talk about AIDS in Africa and the importance of marriage, our Ugandan friend said (something to the effect of), “Christians should have more babies in order to combat Muslims who continue to have them”…[more]
You may call it “devos,” “quiet time,” or “God-and-me time,” but the fact of the matter is, if you are an evangelical Christian, you have a some point been told how important it is for you to read your Bible and pray every morning. Often, this comes in the form of a sermon or a song to read your Bible and pray every day so you grow, grow, grow.
Let me be honest: I suck at personal devotions. I am not good at them. They bore me, and I feel guilty even admitting this. My devotions often include a time for me to pray (briefly) and read the Bible (briefly).
I had a great discussion with a friend recently about personal devotions. He too has trouble. He too does not see the point. He too is bored with them. And he too feels guilty even admitting this.
For those of us who have been told we need to have “coffee and the Word” every morning but have trouble doing so, here’s a few questions:
- Is it biblical? I’m not sure to what end I am supposed to be having “Jesus-time,” but I’m pretty sure it’s not biblical. To give me a few proof texts about how Jesus went away from the crowds to pray does not prove that Jesus did this every morning and so should I.
- Is it valuable? Praying and reading Scripture is valuable. We are asked to pray. We have been given the gift of having the Bible in our hands, and we should take advantage of it.
- Am I wasting my spiritual gift? Maybe personal devotions don’t line up with whom God has made me as a person. I have not been blessed to be a “prayer warrior.” God has made me a person who is passionate about study and knowledge. Am I wasting my spiritual giftedness if I am trying to be the “arm” when I’m the “leg”?
- Is this a culturally-constructed obligation? In other words, do I feel guilty about it because I’ve been told I should feel guilty about it? If we are asking people to follow an obligation that is not one, we are setting up people for failure, disappointment, and disillusionment.
Those are just a few questions. I haven’t arrived at a conclusion about this, but I’d be interested in your thoughts.
On October 16, 2012, I lost my mom to breast cancer. This is the sermon/reflection I gave for her funeral.
Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We gather here today to mourn the death of and rejoice over the life of Deborah Lynn Curry, wife, friend, sister, grandmother, and mom: my mom. She leaves behind her beloved family: her husband, Evan; her mother, Irene; her brothers, Bob and Scott; her children: Jonathan, Philip, Aaron, Amanda, Katie, Arielle, and me; and her grandchildren: Giselle and Evan, IV. A strong woman of faith in God and love for her family. Deborah was born on April 16th, 1961, and died on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012. She was 51 years young.
Mom: life from death
As I began to prepare for the reflection, I wanted to think of a story about Mom like the time she got so angry at Dad that she threw a coffee mug at the window and chased him outside, pounding on the hood of his car as he drove off to work. Or how Mom would get upset when Dad would jokingly refer to her as “Nancy” after his own mother. Or about how much we laughed when she used to hide and chase us around the house with a wooden spoon. Or how she enthusiastically she would greet us when we’d come over. Or how she shed tears of joy when Giselle was born or how I would’ve missed my son Evan’s birth if it wasn’t for her.
But the more I think about Mom, I am drawn to the idea that she was someone who often “brought life from death.” Many of you may not have known this, but Mom grew up in a dysfunctional household with an abusive father. Her childhood was full of death, yet Mom brought life from it. She stopped the generational sin that could’ve been my reality, our reality, and worked hard to make sure our lives would not reflect the death of her own childhood. When Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in 2001, she used her situation to encourage others to live a life of faith. And, finally, when Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, she decided to spend more time with us, her family; instead of giving up, she fought for us. She responded to death with life. These are just a few examples of how my mom brought life from death.
It’s seems only appropriate to bury Mom on Saturday. Our Lord Jesus, too, was in the ground on Saturday. Having been crucified on a Friday, his body laid in the grave on Saturday. Since we know how the story ends, it’s easy for us to read the story of Jesus’ death on Friday and skip over Saturday to Sunday when he is resurrected.
But I imagine, on Saturday, the disciples must have felt similarly to how we feel now. One account expresses the heaviness of their hearts, they ” thought he would be the one to redeem Israel.” It appeared Jesus had failed. He was dead. Finished. Never to be seen again. And, on Saturday, the hopes and dreams of Jesus’ followers lay dead in the grave with their Lord. They lost hope. They cried. They mourned. Their hearts ached. They were disappointed. They felt robbed. They felt cheated. The man who they believed would redeem Israel, to their knowledge, was simply rotting in the grave. Dead. Time must have moved very slowly that day without Jesus. Those 24 hours must have felt like an eternity. And, for all they knew, it wasn’t going to get any better.
But then Sunday came. Jesus rose from the dead. God brought life from death. And the pain, sorrow, disappointment, and dashed hopes of the disciples were all washed away when the resurrected Christ stood before them, spoke to them, and broke bread with them.
Saturday was a day of disappointment and tears, hours feeling like eternity, and death permeating every thought and every moment. For us, Mom’s death permeates our every thought and every moment. Like the disciples, we feel robbed and cheated. We are disappointed. The hopes we had of Mom defeating cancer in this life are dashed. So we mourn and cry. Our Saturday will turn into days, months, and years. It will feel like an eternity. Even the creation groans as it waits for the sons of God to be revealed.
But Sunday came for the disciples. And Sunday will come for us. Resurrection came, and resurrection will come again. We will experience the resurrection of which Christ was the firstfruits. As the Scriptures teach us, one day in the future, when Christ returns, the veil between heaven and earth will be lifted, and we will see Christ as he really is. Those who have died will be resurrected like Christ, and all of followers of Jesus will be given physical-but-renewed bodies (the redemption of our bodies, as Paul says). God will renew the earth, judge evil, and we will reign with him in the new heaven and new earth forever. And, on that day, Scripture tells us that there will be no more tears, sorrow, or pain; for we will be God’s people, and he will be our God. God does not abandon the world, but enters it and renews it. This is our goal, our final destination: a new heaven and new earth. Saturday will be over, and Sunday will be fully realized.
And, if Christ had remained dead, the passage we heard Mom read from Romans 8 would not be true, and death would separate her from the love of God. But Christ has risen. Today, Mom is with him in Paradise, and, while she suffers no more, Saturday is still very much a reality for us. We wait for Sunday to come. We wait for Christ to come and make all things new. But, during this time, we live in hope for “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Sunday will come. We will see Mom once again. If we die before Christ returns, we will meet Mom in Paradise, but, when Christ returns (and hopefully sooner than later), Sunday will come, the followers of Jesus will be resurrected, the earth will be restored, life will come from death, Saturday will be over, and we will live on earth with Mom once again–the beautiful, smiling, red-headed, woman of faith we all loved so much. We will spend time on the beach in Maine again. We will hold her hand again. We will watch baseball with her again. She will listen to my stories again, go to Phil’s soccer games again, watch Jon lead worship again, fight about Jimmy Rollins with Aaron again, play dolls with Giselle and read books to Evan again, exchange laughs at the dinner table with Amanda, Katie, and Arielle again, and sing alongside Dad again.
And because Jesus conquered Saturday, we can be “sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Saturday seems long, my brothers and sisters, and I’m sure we will have many more Saturdays between now and then. But Sunday came, and Sunday will come again.
This morning I spent time in prayer through Lectio Divina on Philippians 1:1-2–
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (NIV).
I was particularly struck by this thought: what does it mean to be “servants” (Greek: “slaves”) of Christ Jesus? A servant is not led by his or her own will but is led by the will of the master.
I’m a control freak. I desire to control future. I desire to control circumstances.
But as a servant, I am called to relinquish that control to be led by my master, Christ Jesus.
As servants, we don’t control–we follow. Are we being led like servants or are we trying to be the master?
We all experience pain, yet this does not make suffering any easier. In fact, it makes it harder. Because we feel it in our souls, in our deepest parts. We can empathize with it and so we feel it in the wrenching of stomachs, the absence of God’s presence, in the tears running down our cheeks, in the paralysis of not knowing what to say or do to comfort.
Too many Christians jump over Good Friday to get to Easter. Friday: God experiences pain like we do. God, Almighty, is very “human” on Friday. The Father feels the wrenching pain in his stomach. The Son experiences loneliness (where is God?). And (I imagine) the Spirit is paralyzed. Sunday: God proves everyone wrong. Death does not have the last say, and Christ is the firstfruits of the redemption of our world. But if we jump to Sunday, Friday loses its importance.
PBU has been hit with a good amount of pain this year: three deaths by beloved individuals at the university (Dr. Hsu, Dr. Hirt, and Lisa Weidman) and students experiencing death in their families. We aren’t sure why this has happened. But we are aware what God has done and will do about it.
I take no consolation in the “they’re in a better place.” I do however take consolation in knowing that God will do something about death (see Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 21). I don’t take consolation in “they are no longer in pain now.” I do take consolation in that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit experienced pain, loneliness, and emotional paralysis like I have.
Somehow, for me, that makes pain easier.