“Here from this stable, here, from this Nazareth, this stony beach, this Jerusalem, this market place, this garden, this Praetorium, this Cross, this mountain, I announce it to you. I announce to you what is guessed at in all the phenomena of your world. You see the corn of wheat shrivel and break open and die, but you expect a crop. I tell you of the Springtime of which all springtimes speak. I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains. I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek. I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation. For I announce to you redemption. Behold I make all things new. Behold I do what cannot be done. I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten. I restore the years [that] you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheelchair. I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny [slander] and the failure of justice; and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of. And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.”—Thomas Howard, Christ the Tiger
On this Good Friday and on the brink of Easter, pause—go quiet and listen. You may just hear Jesus speak. I wonder what He will say to you.
“There’s nothing you can do wrong to make God love you less; there’s nothing you can do good to make God love you more.” —Horacio Spafford
Some days I really need to know this. In fact, every day. Okay—every minute of every day. You get the idea.
What a relief.
“He made us lamps for His light, not the salesmen or customers of His fire. He fits no category, exceeds every attribution, defies all description. He is immeasurably more than the object of our study—He’s the subject of the universe itself. “He’s the superlative of everything good you choose to call Him”, Rev. Lockwood proclaimed— yet we still tread the surface of the Sea of Him seeking to stay afloat—waters in which He intended us to drown.”
I’m going under for the third time. No rescue is necessary.
I confess have a favorite movie—Babette’s Feast*. Like Jesus, Babette prepared a feast for a village of enemies—of each other. The table is set with mercy, peace and reconciliation. I hope you’ll watch it someday. Near the end, Old Lorens, a surprising character in the story, offers a great toast…
“Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another. Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.” —Old Lorens Lowenhielm, Babette’s Feast
*Rated ‘G’, French-Danish, with subtitles
“Only God has the love we need—yet we’ve turned away from him, except to demand convenient instructions and cooperative help. So we manage every relational encounter with self-need as our ultimate value. We talk about topics we can handle. We try to build our mate’s self-esteem so we can feel good about ourselves. We pout so friends will ask what’s wrong. We tell jokes to keep from revealing loneliness. Self-need plus self-management—a spirit of entitlement and an attitude of independence—become the foundation of our lives, the bottom layer of ice. We become hopelessly religious.” —Larry Crabb
Go to church—but not for the music, the coffee, self-help sermons or bragging rights to how great the place makes you feel—pageantry that covers up wicked hearts never impressed Him. Go for Him. He’s there and He’s waiting, because He loves you more than you can know. We have no Christian entitlements—everything is blood-bought by Him before whom every knee shall bow. Go to church—revel in His love and majesty and bow your knee. But go. It’s not religion—it’s just Him.
See you Sunday.
“O, God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” —An Old Breton Fishermen’s prayer, from a plaque on President John F. Kennedy’s desk
God can seem dark and vast, stormy, dangerous and overwhelming—like the churning sea. But like the sea, He’s also encompassing—unpredictable at times—but His love and grace fill the deep, endless expanse of all He is. The sea is always bigger than the storm. Even on the waves He comes to us walking, reminding us, “Fear not—it is I,” and calms the storm.
We are surrounded and we are safe.
“Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’ Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Templeton Address, London, 10 May 1983.
And now it’s us—for the same reason. The American experiment was founded on a triangular model of liberty: Liberty requires Virtue; Virtue requires Faith; and Faith requires Liberty. Remove any of the supporting lines and the triangle collapses. Men have forgotten God—that’s why all this has happened.
Now you know what to pray for today.