Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"I Will Never"

We resist humility.  

As Christians, we prefer to face life armed with moral certitude.  After all, we believe strongly in Good Things: marriage, Christian education, liturgy, personal and societal morals, and countless exacting points of theology which we have labored to fine-tune to precision.  And we have the authority of Scripture, Confessions, Catechisms, and Ecclesiastical Tradition on our side…not to mention intellectual acuity and eloquence!  

We like certainty.  It feels safe to be certain.  Of our beliefs.  Of our rightness.  Of our staunch resistance to the decay we see around us and our unwillingness to compromise.  Our faith is strong and secure.  Therefore…we declare.  Some of us declare silently within ourselves.  Others of us declare out loud…via conversation, sermons, social media, or even…blogs!

The problem is that all too often, those declarations have much to do with our own faithfulness and little to do with the faithfulness of Christ.  It easily translates into pride and superiority, making our voice repulsive to our hearers.

We become like Peter who, I imagine, was entirely persuaded when he declared, "Even if all of these fall away because of you, I will never fall away.  Even if I have to DIE with you, I will never deny you!"  We all know how that turned out.

Peter, like us, had the wisdom of the Proverbs at his disposal: "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall."  

But humility is a hard-won virtue that often comes to fruition only after we have "declared" and subsequently found ourselves on our knees weeping bitterly and pleading for mercy because we, like Peter, have done the very thing about which we proclaimed, "I will never…!"

The Good News is, that though God resists the proud, he gives grace to the humble.  Christ waits for us in that place and looks on us with understanding and compassion.  Our failure…our denial…are not the final words.  The Final Word is the Word of Life who raises us from our knees, declares his constancy in spite of our inconstancy, and then sends us out as witnesses with a new and faithful declaration: the Forgiveness of Sins. 

Though we resist humility, our Lord will see it formed in us so that when we declare His Truth, it will be sweet as honey to our hearers.  We will be heard…and believed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Put Up Your Sword

One of his close and trusted friends betrayed him…gave him over to the violent mob standing by with intent to take his life. Peter knew the injustice of it.  The betrayal.  The wrongness. The sheer wickedness of it.  Any True Friend would have done the same!  Grab the sword and defend him!  Fend off the enemies of this Innocent Man! 

But the One who was betrayed and who knew he was being led to his death spoke, "Put up your sword, Peter.  Don't you know that all I have to do is call out to my Father and he would send more than 72,000 angels to my defense?"  

He was The Omnipotent One.  All the power of the universe was at his disposal!  But he refused to summon that power.  Not only that…he had the audacity to use that power to HEAL and RESTORE that self-righteous man who was bent on killing  him!

When we experience betrayal and injustice, how desperately we want to summon every means at our disposal to displace the betrayers…to expose and defeat the malicious intent of our enemies!  And our means are paltry means.  As likely to fall back on our own heads as to achieve our desired end.   Yet we rise up to full height and draw our swords.  

But if we listen, we will hear the unmistakable call to follow in our Master's footsteps and his command to put up our swords.  The only way we can do that is by believing what Christ himself believed in that moment.  

He TRUSTED his Father.  Not to keep him from the agony of suffering and the ensuing death…but after that death to raise him to life again, to exalt him, and to bring Life to the World through it.  When Christ went to his death and the grave, he actually died you know.  His lifeless body lost its power…lost its ability to call on his Father for legions to come and deliver him.  Christ had to submit himself to that place of darkness and powerlessness…that death…with full belief that his Father was trustworthy.  That he would keep his word.  That he would be faithful.  Christ couldn't raise himself from the dead.  He had to BE raised by the Father.  

This too must be our confidence…our hope…our trust…our firm belief.  That when we refuse to draw our sword and exact justice, when we give ourselves over to betrayal and injustice, when that leads to powerlessness and death (both figurative and literal) as it inevitably does, that our Father will be faithful to raise us to new life.  Just as Peter's sword would have been insufficient to quell the mob, our swords too are ineffective.  They may inflict damage, but they don't bring life.  

May we learn to entrust ourselves to the One who judges righteously and will raise us up in the Last Day!

NOTE: Derivative thoughts from today's sermon


One thousand five hundred seventy three 
Turns of the earth ago,
You left 
Carrying the sunrise with you.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What Storytellers Do

George Banks will be honored.
George Banks will be redeemed.
George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. 

Maybe not in life…but in imagination.  

Because that's what we storytellers do.  We restore order with imagination.

We instill hope.  Again.  And again.  And again.