Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Rescue

Back on Good Friday this year, I had some friends come over to think of Jesus and say a prayer or two.  I put together this video to get our minds on the reality of it all.  It seemed to help and we said some meditative prayers to keep Jesus and his suffering in the center of our minds for a while.  It must have been effective for it kept coming back to my mind throughout the day.

So why have I waited until a Tuesday Evening in July to post this reflection?  Well... you know, life happens and I kept putting it off and then I kept thinking well maybe I should wait until Good Friday comes around again... but then, a conversation with a friend earlier today caused me to reconsider.

Simply put, it occurred to me that today and every Tuesday, millions of Christians take time to meditate on Jesus and his suffering.  It is part of the most popular Christian devotion on earth to set aside two days of the week, Tuesday and Friday, to meditate on the key sorrowful moments in our Lord's life, specifically the final hours leading up to and including his crucifixion.

Adding some historical perspective, for the past several centuries it has been common to pause two days out of the week (traditionally Wednesday, the night our Lord was betrayed and Friday, the day he was crucified) and think about our Lord and his suffering.  Other days are dedicated to more glorious and beautiful events in His life.

But still I hesitated.  I mean, most people don't want to think about Jesus suffering, it makes them sad.

Well, there must be some plot to get me to post this today because I then had another conversation with a friend about the way we avoid thinking about such a horrible, bloody and gory event.  She wondered why (rightly so since we seem fine with gore and violence in much of our entertainment) and it triggered a memory.

We are protected from seeing blood,
it is considered bad presentation...
Years ago my Pastor preached about how in America we are now protected from the sight of blood in everyday life.  It isn't just for sanitation reasons either, it is a presentation and selling point, even in the way we package our meat now with little pads to soak up the blood.  I still remember the bloody butcher shops of my youth and the way meat was packaged with the blood quite visible.

I suppose in societies that are still centered on agriculture they are more comfortable with seeing the blood and gore involved in everyday food preparation.  I certainly remember the times we processed our own chickens on our farm.  It was a bloody, smelly, feathery mess!  But that is just the way it was.

So my Pastor had a point.  We are protected from the site of blood in everyday real life.  The movies can depict it in a surreal fashion but with more and more people being urbanized, we just don't get exposed to blood every day in real life.  And since blood represents life (we cannot live without it) it is especially disturbing when we see the blood of somebody we love.

Yet I'm not sure this accounts for all of our aversion.  There seems to be more to it. (Pastor Bill probably thought so as well, but alas, I cannot remember the rest of his sermon.)

Perhaps we simply are not comfortable with a God who suffers with us at all.

But our God does suffer with us.  Even now.  Somehow His suffering echoes in eternity and forever He is united with all human suffering, participating in it.

That being the case, it only stands to reason that we too can unite our suffering with His.  Maybe this is what Paul was getting at in Colossians 1:24.

For me, when I allow that to sink in, it is the most comforting thought on earth.  What is there left to fear?  My God even walks through death with me.... and then conquers it for me because death cannot keep Him down!

Ahhh... see there, I get ahead of myself!  That meditation is typically done on Wednesdays and Sundays.  But then, there is nothing stopping any of us from meditating on all of the events of Christ's life every day, and some people indeed do just that!  The daily meditation suggestions are more like minimal guidelines than rules anyway.  See them all by clicking here!

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tombs
bestowing life!

Arabic Transliteration:
Al-Masih qam min bain'il-amwat,
wa wati al mowt bil mowt,
wa wahab'l hayah lil ladhina fi'l qubur

المسيح قام من بين الأموات
ووطئ الموت بالموت
ووهب الحياة للذين في القبور


Christus is opgestaan uit de doden,
door Zijn dood vertreedt Hij de dood
en schenkt het Leven
aan hen in het graf!

Le Christ est ressuscité des morts;
par la mort, il a vaincu la mort;
à ceux qui sont dans les tombeaux
il a donné la vie!

Christus ist auferstanden von den Toten
hat den Tod durch den Tod zertreten
und denen in den Gräbern das Leben geschenkt!

Greek transliteration:
Hristos Anesti ek nekron,
thanato thanaton patisas,
ke tis en tis mnimassi zoin harisamenos

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν,
θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας,
καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι,
ζωὴν χαρισάμενος!

המשיח קם מבין המתים
רמס מות במותו
וחיים למתים נתן

Cristo è risorto dai morti,
Con la morte ha vinto la morte,
E a quelli nelle tombe
Ha donato la vita!


Christus resurrexit a mortuis,
Morte mortem calcavit,
Et eis in sepulchris
Vitam donans.

Chrystus powstał z martwych
śmiercią podeptał śmierć
i będącym w grobach
życie dał!

Hristos a înviat din morţi,
Cu moartea pre moarte călcând,
Şi celor din morminte,
Viaţă dăruindu-le!

ru|Христос воскрес из мертвых,
смертью смерть поправ
и пребывающим во гробах
жизнь даровав!

Cristo ha resucitado de los muertos,
pisoteando la muerte por la muerte,
y a los que están en los sepulcros
dando la vida.

Mesih ölülerden dirildi,
ölüm ile ölümü tepeleyerek

ve mezarda olanlara hayat bağışladı.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Listening to The Tune

One of the readings at Church today was from the book of Samuel.  It was the story of how Samuel, a young man growing up in the temple kept hearing somebody call his name in the middle of the night.  He would get up and go to Eli the priest and say "You called me?" Eli kept sending the boy back to bed and then finally realized it was God speaking to him and so instructed him when he heard it next time to say "Speak Lord, your servant is listening".

Samuel hadn't learned to recognize the difference between the voice of God within and other voices.  He went on however to learn to listen very well and to tell others what he heard God saying.  He eventually anointed David as King over Israel.

But taking time to listen to God's voice within is not always easy.  It takes practice and the ability to set aside time, quiet our hearts and prepare them for being able to listen.

For example, there was a time in my life where my self-loathing was so pronounced that I was afraid to listen for God's voice because I thought he'd be mad at me.  It took years to grow past this and I remember a turning point was reading Henri Nouwen's "Life of the Beloved" in which I learned to hear and believe the voice of God who loves me infinitely over the voice of my self-loathing.

Recently, I've finally taken the advice of my spiritual advisors down through the years to start journaling... being quiet, listening to God and writing down what I sense Him saying is a highly effective focusing tool for me.  I can always check what I'm hearing against scripture and bounce it off my spiritual advisors to make sure I'm hearing it right... but it has been an extremely valuable experience over the last couple years.

As we were discussing today's reading in my study group, I couldn't help thinking back of the old Larry Norman song called "The Tune".  Probably my all time favorite musical metaphor, it was created by chance in a concert.  He improvised the entire thing live after he flubbed up a bit on the piano and jokingly said "Once there was a tune!" to kind of mock himself.  Luckily someone had taped the show and he was able to recreate it and eventually record it.

Today I went back and watched the little Youtube video I put together back in 2005.  I cannot believe how powerfully it still affects me when I watch it.  I harvested simple images and matched them to the lyrics which are in turn whimsical, funny, tragic and joyous.  I wept at the joyous parts today.  Again.

Maybe you will find joy in it too.

Below are all the lyrics.  Blessings!

Once there was a tune and everyone knew how it went
But as time went by, people began to forget
Until at last no one could remember.
And there was hatred, and wars, and death.

Then one day somebody said, "How does the tune go?"

"There is no tune, there never was; it's only a myth."
These were the philosophers.

"You mean there's no tune at all?"

"Well, it doesn't really matter what tune you play
As long as you play something."
These were the religious leaders.

And so the world played on.
And there was hatred, and wars, and death.

Then one day the people became weary of this song
And they all sat down on the side of a hill
And suddenly they heard a very strange voice
And somebody said, "That sounds like the tune."

"There is no tune, there never was, there never will be."

"Well, it doesn't really matter what tune you play
As long as you play something
And you don't hurt anybody - especially me."

But the people listened
And a man appeared before them
With a smile on his face
And a sad look, too,
And he was singing the tune.

And some of the people began to sing along.

And the people who loved Him
Decided to follow him,
But the people who hated him
Decided to kill him. And they did.

And when it was finished,
They went back to their houses of philosophy and religion
And they sat down to their tables to eat and drink.

Suddenly, they were interrupted by a familiar voice
And they ran to their windows and looked outside
To see who it was. It was him.

And they became confused and afraid
And they wondered how they could be rid of him
Once and for all.
And while they were watching him,
Something very strange happened.

"How did he do that?"
"I don't really know, but he's gone...
And when trouble goes, you don't ask where.
He'll never return again. I hope."

Yet again they were interrupted.
This time they ran out into the streets to lay hold of him
But they couldn't find him.
Just a lot of people smiling, and they all know the tune.

And when the people made a mistake
They stopped and they listened.
That's how they knew the tune,
Because they listened.

And if you listen, you'll heart it.
It's all around you.

Just listen to your radio,
Watch television,
Listen to your leaders, to the authorities,
To the governments, to the experts.

But if you really listen,
You can hear another tune,
But you have to listen quietly,
And you have to listen every day.