Christ Victorious

“And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2.13-15 NRSV).

Every Sunday, churches of my fellowship celebrate what we call the Lord’s Supper. Someone gives a “communion meditation” in preparation for the Lord’s Supper, and then a tray or two with some crumbs or pellets of bread or crackers is passed around, followed by a tray filled with little cups of grape juice. We say the bread represents the crucified body, and the juice the shed blood, of our Lord Jesus. The communion meditation often focuses, rightly, on the death of Christ for us. I’ve noticed though, from time to time, that we get ahead of ourselves and make it more about the “victory” of the resurrection. Now, I am a firm believer in the resurrection, and understand it as the event that proved true everything Jesus said beforehand about his mission and identity. However, I don’t think only the resurrection was a “victory.” The death on the cross was a victory as well, the true climax of human history.

On the cross, Jesus assumed fully the role of suffering servant that Israel had failed to accept.

On the cross, Jesus displayed the coming judgment of God against Israel, to be meted out by the Romans.

On the cross, Jesus suffered the wrath of God against sin.

On the cross, Jesus faced the worst fears of every person: shame, pain and death.

On the cross, Jesus identified with all the world’s miserable outcasts, past, present and future.

On the cross, Jesus drew to himself all people.

In the cross, the Lord Jesus confronted the temporal and spiritual “authorities” and overcame them all. What seems to the naked eye to be a sad defeat was, in fact, the greatest conquest ever.

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NRSV).

Won’t Do It

My lovely wife makes me chuckle from time to time. We have friends who hope to move to Florida, and another couple of friends considering a good job offer in Florida, and so we have been mulling over the possibilities. For me, the question is how to pay for the move and how to have steady income flowing when we get there. Logically, I’d be interested in job information from Florida, as well as an idea of cost of living (rent, groceries, gas, etc.). Oddly enough – and the idea that made me chuckle – was the suggestion by my wife that I follow up on a hint from one of our Florida friends that there are Churches of Christ looking for preachers there.

Holy crap.

If you’ve been reading this blog for long and know anything about the a cappella Church of Christ, I hope you can see what’s wrong with that suggestion.

The first problem would be doctrinal. What Church of Christ, knowing 1/10 of what I believe, would take me. Would I hide what I believe to keep getting a paycheck?

The second issue is precisely the paycheck. I’ve received support for mission work and would gladly accept it again, but I have to have a measure of creative liberty about how to carry forward the ministry project. People who attend a church I serve and pay my bills start getting a proprietary feel about everything, thinking they are free to tear me down without a second thought and do nothing in ministry themselves.

That brings me to the third reason why I can’t accept a full-time, paid parish ministry: I can’t handle being the hired gun. I love working with people on ministry projects and want to see people doing their best for the reign of God, but I refuse to be the only person doing the work. My goal is to be a leader, not a sole proprietor or entrepreneur (or… shudder… a CEO answering to a board of trustees). If I’m paid to do ministry and no one else is, people will cross their arms and do as little as possible…other than mutter under their breath about how I’m doing it wrong.

You full-time, paid ministers who pull it off successfully without losing your souls have my highest respect. I’m just not one of you.

Hungry and Sick

“Hungry men seek food and sick men healing none the less because they know that after the meal or the cure the ordinary ups and downs of life still await them.” – C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

Joe and Jim were fraternal twins, and an odd couple of men to boot. All their lives neither ever married, but lived together in an apartment up some stairs. Eccentric from the start, one week they got stranger. Joe went to the doctor and learned he was in danger – he had a condition of the heart. Jim was feeling fat, so overweight that he thought he should do something smart. Joe pretended he wasn’t sick, surely that was the trick, because he’d only fall ill again. Jim stopped eating and so began cheating his body of nutrients. Why seek a remedy if later you’d only fall again into calamity? Why keep consuming when hunger is always returning?

Joe and Jim were strange men, like a lot of Christians. The world will be burning, so why try turning the situation around? A world full of hurt and hunger and pain, the believers see but try to ignore. God will come down wearing a crown to throw it all away. This is the lie, about pie in the sky, but people with ears to hear know better.

This present age will end and all will be judged…works will be fully revealed. Then heaven descends earth joins in, all that was done for Christ truly perfected.

“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NRSV).

Judging the Herbalist

It was a warm, sunny day in August 1994 when I first attended a college class. I went wearing a “Christian” T-Shirt. It wasn’t anything flashy, but that was an indicator of my entire approach to “secular” college life. Living at the Bible college, where I took one class, I drove over to the Community College for the bulk of my classes. I felt as though I was going into enemy territory. Only now, years later, have I come to realize how wrong my perspective was.

There’s a strong “us-and-them” attitude that ran through my evangelicalism. I felt as though I was on a rescue ship uselessly trying to throw lifelines to the largely unwilling masses on a sinking cruise ship. It felt more than a little desperate, and over time it worked its way into a hard fundamentalism.

During perhaps my third or fourth semester, having spent a full semester enrolled at the Bible College before returing to the Community College, I took a public speaking class. One of the ladies in the class was really into herbal remedies at the time, so every time she gave a presentation it had to do with herbs. Her final talk was really in-depth on the topic, talking about going out to the woods with a Native American (for you Canadians, that’d be First Nation) “medicine man” looking for and learning about herbs. I was convinced she was nothing more than a “New Ager,” and I refused to be deceived.

It’s not that I was ever mean towards her or debated with her, but on the other hand I didn’t give a kind and receptive ear to what she had to say. I couldn’t really hear her because I had already judged her. Perhaps I was only hurting myself, but had I been more receptive without abandoning my faith in Christ we could possibly have learned together about the Creator and His good creation.


“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28-30 ESV).

Decades ago ancient receipts were found in Egypt. Written in Greek, those paid in full were marked “tetelestai,” meaning the debt or price was fully paid. That this would be the last word of Jesus (or its equivelent, considering that he likely spoke Aramaic) is significant.

Bearing the weight of his mission to Israel and through Israel to the world, Jesus went to the cross. Facing the casually precise cruelty of the Roman oppressors and the calculated deceit of the Jewish leaders, Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth as a sign of God’s judgment against sin in general and Israel’s failure in particular. Israel’s time as a nation was limited, judgment would come in a matter of decades upon Jerusalem and a new people of God would be formed of those willing to take up their crosses and follow the Messiah.

Waves of the sin of centuries crashed over him until all its force was spent. Completing his work and discharging his duty of mercy and justice, he fulfilled all prophecies and accomplished the victory of the ages.