If you attend worship on Good Friday, you’ll no doubt hear Jesus’ dying words in John’s Gospel: “It is finished.” So much was finished there on the cross. It was the end of Jesus’ career, the end of His ministry, the end of His breathing, the end of His life, the end of Jesus Himself.
“Why is this night different from all other nights?” the child asks. The golden twilight feels heavier than usual. Father ties up his sandals hurriedly, and mother paces looking out the front window. Dustier by the minute, neighbors and friends suddenly stir up the narrow streets with suspense.
Without using Google, tell me what you know about the illustrious lives and careers of Chris Burgess and Adam Keefe. What about Bob Hamelin? You might know something about him if you followed the Kansas City Royals in the ’90s.
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, or, “Our Lady of Paris,” like Joan d’Arc and other saints before her, has been tried in the flames. Though the blaze could not be quenched through the desperate efforts of men who fought to save her, the tears of the French and Christians around the world will produce a fountain of grief that will water the ashes of destruction and produce new life.
Like us, the Psalms share a bed with suffering.Psalm 31:9–16 puts words to the grief and loneliness we feel. But David does more than provide a vocabulary for our suffering. He puts words of truth and faith in our mouths. He gives us a confession.
Whether your native tongue is English, Icelandic, or Arabic, during Holy Week you'll share a handful of words in common with believers around the world. They are Hebrew words. By them the Spirit tells us what the Son of the Father has done—and still does—for us.
He staggers through the filthy, scorching desert. “So this is where it ends,” he mumbles. “This is it. Surrounded by dirt. Covered in dirt. You win, dirt! Congratulations, dirt! Well played...I’m dying alone.” For the OCD detective of the hit TV series Monk, death surrounded by dirt is the most tragic ending imaginable.
Church membership often presents itself as a frightening prospect to many. It involves an array of potentially unpleasant things: offering envelopes, planned giving, annual congregational meetings, weekly programming, requests to serve on the council, board or in a volunteer group, or maybe even leading a bible study or small group.
The Father plants the Seed, which is His Word. Jesus is the seed that’s planted. We don't plant. The Father plants the Seed. Jesus is the Word, the Seed that's planted in the world. Jesus is planted in the world by the Father without any of our help.
More than anything I felt that these essays could help bring renewal to the church—not through offering some specific technique or glitzy program but instead challenging all the agendas, other than law and gospel.
Have you ever stopped to think about how remarkable it is that Jesus prays (Heb. 5:7-8)? God incarnate, the One who breathed out all of Scripture when in the flesh, breathed out His own prayers to God the Father. If we listen to Jesus, we will hear Him breathing out the very prayers He inspired in the Psalms.
In some Christian denominations, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday features a special, liturgical worship piece called “a farewell to alleluia.” This usually involves a special hymn that repeats the word “alleluia” throughout its stanzas, a reminder to the congregation that this word will not be sung again until Easter morning.
After teaching in both venerated institutions and glorified junk heaps on three continents over the past decade, I can tell you the scariest place in the world: adult Sunday School. I am not anti-Sunday School but would like to point out that in some Christian traditions giving the wrong answer to a theological question is akin to something between adultery and leprosy.
Many who bear the title "Christian" can't accept the fact that all their effort to save themselves is useless. They can’t accept that no matter how hard they try to get themselves right with God, their efforts will go unappreciated by God.
The year 1517 has become synonymous with the posting and publication of the 95 Theses, however, perhaps more important to Luther at the time was the first publication of his lectures on the penitential Psalms, or Psalms of Confession, in that same year.
You’ve been here before, and it’s all too familiar, almost boring (if it wasn’t so depressing). You’ve sinned that sin again. You know the one. Any notion of the “victorious” Christian life, or the leaving-behind of past ways—that is not your story.
“Always preach the Law, if necessary use words.” I know this isn’t exactly the Assisi quote, and I’m also aware of a severe distaste for this proverb among some. The idea behind the original quote, “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words,” goes something like this.
Gentle and humble, that's how God describes himself (Matt. 11:28-29). Jesus doesn't want us to know Him as a harsh, stern, or violent God. He's gentle, not proud or arrogant. He's humble, of no importance. Unimpressive. God isn't harsh or impressive. He's gentle and humble.
The full arc of our path through Lent and our final arrival at the Resurrection lie hidden within Isak Dinesen’s short story “Babette’s Feast,” upon which the Oscar-winning film was based. The story takes place in a Norwegian coastal village where two spinster sisters, Martine and Philippa, spend their days in plentiful prayer, generous good works, and ascetic living.
“Mephibosheth!...Do not fear, for I will show kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always” (2 Sam. 9:6–7). Mephibosheth was the victim of circumstance and timing. He was the grandson of Saul—the man who tried to kill David.
Over the past 125 years, a destructive force to the Gospel in American churches has spread among academics and lay people alike. This force is the use of the assumptions and methods of an approach to biblical interpretation known as The Historical-Critical Method, or Higher Criticism.
While waiting to pick up our kids from school one day, I sat with a friend who is a devout Muslim recently immigrated from Pakistan. We happened to pick up a discussion on the particularities of our religious communities. We know each other as broadly representative of our respective religions for no other reason than proximity and school zoning, so a deeper conversation, however brief, was welcomed by both of us.
Where do we get our courage to believe the Gospel? Who leads us to the font? Who supplies us with Jesus' body and blood? Who provides us with the strength and ability to meet the needs that arise as we do the work God gives to us to do?
Psalm 121, is as Luther says, a psalm “written to exhort believers because it contains the doctrine of faith. However, faith is the recognition of things that cannot be seen and must be hoped for, things that depend on the promise of the word of God.”
Christ Jesus, not the Law, is revealed in the Gospels as the one Mediator between God and sinners. Christ, the God-man, communes with sinners who remain sinners their whole life long but now through faith, for Christ's sake, have no sin credited to them.
Scripture records the fasts of numerous people and groups of people. Moses, David, Elijah, Hezekiah, Jesus, and Paul fasted (Deut. 9:9; 2 Sam. 12:16; 1 Kings 19:8; 2 Kings 18:6; Matt. 4:2; Acts 9:9). Jehoshaphat called for the nation of Israel to fast (2 Chron. 20:3).
Imagine how silly I felt, sitting there repeating this self-help mantra over and over. As silly as it felt, and still feels, I have followed my psychiatrist's instructions and again learned the power of speaking truth. And I know that when it starts to feel like the life is being sucked from me, I can confess all the truths. I am worthy of basic dignity.
Arm over arm I make my way to the other side of the pool. Mentally I count the strokes. As I touch the pool wall, I pull my head out of the water and meet his eyes, anxiously hoping to hear the words, “Perfect! That’s exactly what I had in mind!”