Pride & Dignity

We could talk about how every person’s selfish and self-destructive attitudes, actions, and affections disqualify us from deserving anything from God. Pride is a problem because it assumes I deserve something God based on something I have accomplished in myself, and due to sin I can never accomplish the level of goodness that God requires.

This is true, as far as it goes.

But here’s the thing: life with God has never been about human beings deserving something from God because they ever fulfilled some ideal of being quote “good enough.”

How could God, who creates and sustains the universe with a word, ever owe a created thing anything?

The truth is God doesn’t love people because they are owed it. He loves people because that’s just who he is. That’s what he does. He loves.

And this is the life of the universe.

We owe other people the appropriate honor, dignity, and concern not because of they’ve done anything to deserve it, but because regardless of what they’ve done, they are precious in God’s sight. We do deserve to be humbled sometimes because we forget that if we are lovely, it’s only because we are finally coming around to living the light of the truth that God loves us, just because he made us.

If we are in trouble as human beings, it because we reject and refuse that love in a thousand sinful, selfish, and destructive ways. We think we can live on our own apart from God’s love.

Humans have done this since the Garden of Eden!

We’ve all participated in the rejection of God’s love at some level, and this is the fundamental human problem. In this way we can see how pride is very much at the root of many sins, if not all sin. We all need to be accepted, to be loved, to be in fellowship; that’s the root desire that gets twisted into pride.

When by the grace of God we embrace humility as the Way of Christ, we realize we already have what we desire in him.

It’s been there the whole time.

Jesus invites all through the waters of baptism to his table, to his feast, to his banquet, to find true spiritual nourishment in the true bread and true drink of his own cleansing body and blood offered for the sins of the world.

We can come humbly to Christ, confessing and receiving him as Lord of our lives, instead of ourselves and find we are lifted up together as participants is Christ’s resurrection, received as friends of God, adopted as brothers and sisters of Jesus, and made co-heirs with Christ in his eternal Kingdom.

On the Narrow Door

Someone comes to Jesus and asks,

“Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (Luke 13:23, ESV)

Jesus doesn’t answer the question, though, at least not directly. He says, ““Strive to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24a, ESV)

What a side step! I think we immediately see two things in this first part of his response: First, the question was the wrong one. If it was the right one, I think Jesus would have answered it. So we can assume from this Christ doesn’t want us worrying about the number of people that are going to be saved into the Kingdom. Even though it wasn’t asked, Jesus cares enough to answer the right question, though, which is will I be saved?

Now, in the immediate context here, the salvation in view is probably specifically referring to the looming judgement that Israel will bring on themselves if they reject Jesus as Messiah and his way of life as essential.

Nevertheless, we would be foolish to think this warning doesn’t apply to every generation and every person!

Jesus wants us be thinking about our selves, our attention, our efforts to enter the Kingdom now, for the sake of eternity.

Now, salvation is always God work in us from beginning to end, but this doesn’t mean he turns us into robots. The same St. Paul that talks about grace through faith in Ephesians also wrote to the Philippians: “… my beloved… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13, ESV)

Remember, grace is opposed to earning, not effort. It’s been said we don’t work for grace, we strive from grace. The availability of salvation, and the power to persevere in it are always given to us, no strings attached. But Jesus will never force us to follow him. Those that want to follow Jesus have to make that decision, and actually follow. This takes real mental and physical effort. This is what Jesus is talking about when he says we are to strive to enter the Kingdom.

But what about the narrow door? Jesus talks about earthly treasure that can’t follow us into heaven in Luke 12. In Hebrews 12, the author encourages the church to lay aside the weight of sin. The door is narrow because there are things that we just can’t bring with us into the Kingdom. We’re going to have to let some things go in order to fit. We certainly can’t bring the physical stuff we accumulate for ourselves. We can’t bring our selfish and self-destructive attitudes, actions, and affections. We can’t bring anything, in other words, that does not look like Christ.

I believe the door is as narrow as the Cross where Jesus died.

It was there, at the cross, that Christ was glorified, that his rule of love was made manifest, and where path from death to life was made straight for us. Jesus, in his perfect humanity and divinity, was able to make a way for all of us still caught up in all forms of evil and death. He went ahead of all humanity, blazing a trail with the light of his love, his forgiveness, and his victory over sin. He did something that would be impossible for any of us on our own: he came out the other side of the death—Resurrected, never to die again. Not only does he continue to shine that light for us to see the way, but he sends his Spirit of grace to empower us with his very life, so that we too can follow him through the narrow way of the cross, endure death and share in the Resurrection.

So we can and must strive by grace and in faith for the Cross of Christ, to cling to it, and not just the idea of it.

It is not enough to simply know about Jesus. To enjoy his presence from time to time, on our own terms. We can’t assume that we will enter the Kingdom now or ever, just because we participate in Holy Eucharist sometimes and listen to Bible teachers on YouTube, if our efforts do not continue to direct us toward Jesus in our overall way of life.

It is not enough to simply acknowledge in our minds that his way is The Way, without putting for the effort to truly walk in it in the present. The warning here is unavoidable: there will be consequences for not walking through the door while it is open, and there will be a time where some will want to walk through it, but will have simply waited to long. There are some people that will respond to Christ at the last minute, and truly follow him—while others will have been around Jesus for awhile, and never take a real step toward him.

“And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”” (Luke 13:29–30, ESV)

Those that come immediately into the Kingdom, even if they are last to hear about it, will nevertheless find the Bread of Heaven which will keep them to eternal life. Those that delay in following Christ, even if they’ve known of him for a long while, will live to regret it.

To enter the narrow door to the Kingdom of God now and forever, we must strive to participate in the cross-shaped life of Christ, today. Not tomorrow, when we wrongly think we’ll be more prepared. The door might be shut then.

But today.

Photo by Max Zed on Unsplash

A Faith That Sings

Reflections on Mary’s Song (Luke 1:46–55)

Our Christian faith is a faith that sings.

The people of God have always sung about our God and his goodness to us. We live in a cultural context—and sometimes even a church context—where we are forgetting how to sing.

On a very practical level, singing isn’t something many people get together to do anymore. Maybe, maybe around Christmas. Even in the church I notice some people choosing not to sing and let the worship leader do it for them. Of course, I think this is a sad mistake.

When we sing, something changes in our minds and hearts. And something changes even further when we sing words that are married to the truth of who God is and who we are. Grace can take root in those moments in special ways.

Mary, as she always does when we take her on her own terms, helps us to worship God by pointing us to Jesus. Through her song, the Magnificat, she helps us to understand true worship. Many worship songs have come and gone over the centuries, hers has stood fast—what is it about the Mary’s song that makes it the kind of worship song that will last into eternity?

There’s a lot, but let me draw out just three things for our time together today.

First, it’s a song that places God at the center. This is how it begins: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” My soul makes God bigger to me and to those around me. Notice this is God-centered, but it doesn’t neglect the impact on the individual.

But also notice—and here’s the second thing—that the emphasis, when it comes to the individual, is on humility. “He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” There is an honest acknowledgment from Mary that she is poor and oppressed. She and her people need God to act, not just in quote “spiritual” ways, but in ways that affect the concrete reality of their existence, in ways that prove that God keeps his promises, even when we human beings do not. This is why his mercy is needed.

This is the third observation: The joy comes as Mary recognizes that the mercy of God has always been for those that fear him, that is, those who understand that God’s purifying love is what must direct their lives in order for them to flourish. And the ultimate expression of God’s purifying love, the kind of love that lifts up the lowly but puts the proud in their place, is being born in Mary’s body.

Jesus, though he never sinned, bears the ultimate consequence of humanity’s selfish and self-destructive attitudes, actions, affections in his body as he dies on a cross. Yet, in his mercy he forgives every sin, even the sin of killing God, and so death begins to come undone and he is raised from death to Resurrection life in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the life that he gives freely and without reservation to all that will take it. It’s a life that makes a concrete difference for everyone who receives it—how could anyone stay the same after encountering and receiving in themselves the very life of God?

This is why Mary burst into song.

So, of course, the songs we sing matter. Are they God centered? Are they humble? Do they exalt God’s concrete action in the world in Jesus Christ? These are important questions. But the questions go deeper: Am I in my whole life, singing a song that would resonate with Mary’s? In other words, Am I God centered? Am I honest with myself about my concrete need for God? And am I trusting God to meet those needs for me in his Son, Jesus?

The Good News of the Magnificat is that God is God which means I don’t have to be. You and I can acknowledge our need, and live a life that marked by joyful thanks for God’s provision in Christ.

That’s a song worth singing a thousand different ways—and worth teaching the world to sing too—with our lips, and our lives, and from our hearts.

Photo: Icon written by Dennis Maloney

Trello is down which means my whole system for tracking/capturing/updating tasks is down. This is very rare (only time I can remember it happening) but boy is it frustrating.

Pretty happy with how my home workspace is coming together. Trying to purposely create a different vibe for a different kind of creative work than I do in my church study.

Today the Church celebrates James the Elder, Apostle.

O gracious God, your servant and apostle James was first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ: Pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service, by which they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Art: Calling of Saint James and Saint John, James Tissot 1886-1894

Calling of Saint James and Saint John, James Tissot

When I’m making coffee for just myself, the Aeropress is a method I enjoy often.

Here’s my recipe for a largish 12-14 oz mug:

2 Aeropress scoops of espresso-ground coffee in an inverted Aeropress.

Pour water just off-boil half way, saturating grinds and allowing a brief bloom.

Pour in just a bit more water, leaving some room at the top. Stir for about 10 seconds.

Put filter on, wait 2 minutes.

Place Aeropress on mug, and press.

Top off resulting concentrate with hot water as desired.

This will make a very bold cup of coffee! For some people, it’s too strong.

For the same large mug size, you can use one and half or even just one Aeropress scoop of coffee, to taste, for a milder mug.

Accidentally initiated a factory reset a couple of weeks ago. Took the opportunity to not reinstall social media (excepting and re-think how my home screen and app library should work for me.

Good news! Successfully replaced the light switch yesterday without killing myself.

Gearing up to replace a few switches and outlets around the house. This video was super helpful.

Today at St. George’s Anglican Church Pastor Shane reminded us that pride is the source of judgmentalism, and that ultimately, no one has any cause to compare themselves to others.

All pride in ourselves is ultimatley misplaced, because we all miss the mark when it comes to what’s most important: eternal life now and forever.

God pours out his mercy on all, and that’s all that matters.

Hope for the renewal of all things in and because of Jesus is what keeps me going when I consider and experience the suffering of the world. I’ve also found light in the ways that ultimate renewal manifests in the present–in true worship, in acts of kindness between strangers, in the refusal to receive the injustices of the world as the status quo.

Dusty’s stress at my wife Amber going out on the lake is palpable in this photo, I think.

The Downward Way of Christ and Salvation

We want our comfort and convenience. We want our power. We want to point out our success in pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But Jesus subverts these “saviors” and offers something different. He offers himself. He offers forgiveness of sins and grace to forgive others.

And many of us simply can’t see how this can work in the real world. What’s the point of living if we’re uncomfortable much of the time? How will we get anything done without requiring others do what we think is best? Where’s our identity if we can’t build up ever-improving sense of accomplishment and expression?

These are reasonable questions, and this is why the message of the Cross, the Good News of God in Christ, the Gospel of Jesus, is a scandal. We often say it is counterintuitive, which means it doesn’t conform to how we might thing things go.

Yet, Jesus conquers our objections, because as God in the flesh, he conquered death. When we look a the results of our pursuit of saviors apart from him, we all find the same ending point: death itself, with no hope for anything past that. We might find temporary comfort, we might have our way for a bit, we might experience a self-esteem high that feels great! But that doesn’t keep us from dying as result of our and everyone else’s selfish and self-destructive attitudes, actions, and affections.

Jesus, on the other hand, proved that his way is the way of life by coming back to life. This why he said people had to understand “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected… and be killed, and on the third day be raised…”

The Resurrection vindicates the downward way of Christ as the ultimate way of life and health and peace.

This commentary on Luke reads like a bunch of really great sermons. Which is probably its genesis!