NRH


The foolishness of the Cross of Christ

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To be honest, many people do misunderstand the cross, and think of it as some kind of divine child abuse, as if the suffering of Christ in itself instead of the compassion of Christ in and through suffering is what pleases God.

Yet even when framed correctly, as the act of self-sacrifice, love, forgiveness, and redemption that it is, it remains “… a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,” (1 Corinthians 1:23, ESV)

Why? I think because story of the Cross told simply and faithfully is a story about humanity’s inability to save ourselves, to lift ourselves completely out of our worst tendencies. The story of Cross says everyone needs to be taught and transformed in order to live. The story of Cross says human beings don’t know how to live apart from God, because it is impossible to live apart from God. The story of Cross says all the wisdom of humanity is nothing compared to one simple and perfect act of divine love.

God’s ways have always been simple: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV)

We can do a lot as human beings: we can go to space, cure many diseases, discover much of the world and build all kinds of great wonders, but what we can’t seem to do without help is live in harmony with God and each other. The world still seems awfully short on justice, often unwilling to consider kindness, and wondering what humility really is. We cannot overpower the sin that leads to death.

How are we to even know what justice and love and kindness and walking humbly in the ways of God even means?

Quite simply, we can look to Christ, because Christ is the wisdom of God for us. This means not only does he teach the wisdom of God for our benefit, he lives out the wisdom of God for our salvation.

God, come to us as one of us in Christ Jesus, chooses the way of humble forgiveness to be the way of salvation. And his way is vindicated by his Resurrection in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can hardly grasp that this is the way that God would save the world, yet we now know that perfect love expressed in forgiveness for sinners is the antidote to sin, an antidote only God himself could manifest, that only God himself could administer.


This post is based on a sermon I preached.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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Saturday morning at home.

Christ is the Mountain

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Isaiah casts a breathtaking vision for the inevitable future that awaits us.

“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4, ESV)

Isaiah sees a world in which people, tired of violence and war, finally admit they are walking in darkness, that they don’t know how to move forward in the way that leads to life. In this vision, all come to the mountain of the Lord, where they finally learn how to be at peace and literally cultivate life in light of the truth of the ways of God.

It’s not as if God has ever not been teaching the world, how to live, though!

He has sent many prophets (see: the Bible).

It’s just that because of our tendency toward selfishness and self-destructiveness in our attitudes, actions, and affections, we irrationally ignore God’s life-giving word and do our own thing—even when our own thing leads to death.

This is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew:

“For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37–39, ESV)

There’s nothing wrong with eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, but the point was they did not at all change their way of life in light of what was going to happen, in light of what God was speaking to them.

Because of this, they were swept away, and quite literally missed the boat of God’s blessing and protection.

This could be any of us, at any time, if we are not careful, and if we continue to wander in the darkness of our own selfish confusion, and our self-destructive desires.

But God has not left the nations to walk in darkness. He sent us the light of his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the light, and he is the mountain where the good judgements of God take place.

St. Augustine said,

“Approach the mountain, climb up the mountain, and you that climb it, do not go down…There you will be safe, there you will be protected; Christ is your mountain of refuge ”

In his life, we see light, and we understand how to live. In his death on the cross, he condemned sin in the flesh by demonstrating the power of truly self-less love. By his Resurrection, he scatters the darkness from before our path and offers us a share in his eternal life now and forever by his Holy Spirit.

This is public knowledge!

Christ’s work is ours to receive freely by faith, and ours to share freely in word and deed with the world as we wait for all to recognize their need for mercy.

Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash

King of Forgiveness

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Even the people of God can’t govern themselves in such a way that provides for the flourishing of the community. This is because all people, including the people that God calls to himself, are infected by their own selfish and self-destructive attitudes, actions, and affections.

So even when we try to rule with the best of intentions, the most thoughtful checks and balances, the best statements of human rights, we get all twisted up in our own way. Fear, greed, and pride lead to violence, war, and death. Every time. Every purely human empire falls eventually.

So, God promises steps in to rule directly. He will appoint leaders. He will raise up a human king in the line of the best human king Israel ever had, David. This king won’t fail in all the ways that David did, morally, ethically, politically. This king will finally be faithful to God’s rule…but how?

This King will be God himself come to us, as one of us.

This King is, of course, Christ himself.

This means whatever we think we know about how kingdoms are supposed to operate, supposed to be run, supposed work, takes a back seat as we are illumined by the way of Christ…which is just so very different than the kingdoms of this world.

We could think of many ways that we would establish a kingdom. But we probably wouldn’t think of allowing our enemies, foreign and domestic, crucify us under false pretenses and forgiving them anyways.

But this is what Jesus did.

Jesus' Kingdom is founded on forgiveness, ruled from the Cross, and advanced in the way of the Cross.

As naive and idealistic as that might sound, it’s how God does things. And his is the only Kingdom that will be left standing in the end.

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🕹️ Just finished Homeworld: Cataclysm (AKA Homeworld: Emergence) and I absolutely loved it. What a game! A different emotional experience than the original Homeworld to be sure, but a very fun ride.

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Ordained a priest 7 years ago today. So grateful to God and to those that he has called me to serve. I’m especially thankful for my wife, Amber, who is a constant support, source of wisdom, and inspiration to me as she serves faithfully in her own ministries.

Practice what you pray

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Prayer is what grounded and energized Jesus' life of action for the sake of the world.

Jesus practiced what he preached and what he prayed.

He was faithful in prayer; we read about it throughout the Gospels.

He also took action as he healed the sick, threw out the dishonest money changers from the temple, restored dignity to prostitutes, elevated the value of children, and even stood against the death penalty for an adulterous woman.

Almost every time, someone was there to critique Jesus harshly, even as he was modeling and working true justice in the world. But St. Peter says,

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23, ESV)

When we follow the story of Jesus closely, we realize the world has no shortage of unjust judges. We realize so often we are the unjust judges, trying to justify our own selfish and destructive attitudes, actions, and affections, regardless what that means for ourselves or those around us.

Jesus entrusted himself to Justice, to God, as he submitted even to the unjust judgement of sinful and selfish human beings, giving his very life on a Roman cross.

Yet as we were wrongly proclaiming him guilty, he was freely forgiving every sin. As we were condemning him to death, he was taking death itself with him to the grave.

His love was so great, that it endured the greatest injustice imaginable, and began to bend the universe back into the shape it should be. He rose from the dead in vindication that love and forgiveness and mercy triumph over judgement.

In this, he accomplished true justice. Not in the sense that everyone gets what they deserve—if that was the case no one could be saved, because we all truly deserve to be judged and condemned by our sins.

But Jesus accomplishes justice in the sense that he is setting things right in the world, robbing death of its power, and replacing it with the certain hope of renewal of all things as sheer gift of undeserved grace from God.

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Kallistos (Timothy) Ware 11 September 1934 — 24 August 2022 Memory Eternal!

On the Narrow Door

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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

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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

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Daytime desk pic

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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.

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

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Woods Canyon Lake, AZ

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

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Battle station ready for my Monday morning sermon prep focus session (reading/research)

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I need these prayers

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Today we commemorate St.. James, who demontrates that leadership and authority in the church have much more to do with the Spirit of self-giving than getting things done.

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📚 Some gems found today at Costco, of all places: a great Sherlock Holmes box set, a really helpful collection of key American writings and political speeches, and a fascinating compilation of Eastern philosophy, all in fantastic looking bindings and covers.Great stuff to have on hand for the whole fam!

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So thankful to be the father of these amazing humans

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Sun’s going down

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Erin Go Bragh tobacco Knob Creek 9 Year bourbon

Happy Father’s Day!

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View from the deck where we’re staying right now in Prescott, AZ.

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Happy Monday of Easter Week, friends! I’m giving Royal Yacht a try and so far I like it!

A prayer for today from my Anglican tradition–in hopes it will be a blessing:

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with reverence the Paschal feast may be made worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.