Category Archives: REFLECTIONS ON THIS AND THAT

SIN SAYS “YES” & GOD SAYS “NO!”

I wish to say something about God’s “no” to Sin as He expresses it in the Church.

“For He made Him He who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
In the truth we have embraced, in our trusting God while we share the loss, hurt and anguish of the world—in these and more we reflect our Lord Jesus’ own trust in His Holy Father. From the cross on Golgotha as Luke tells us His last words were “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (As I write this—this very moment—one of our own (Alan Comer) is dying of cancer, enduring an agonizing exit, who has uttered and is uttering words just like that. “Father, into your hands I commit my very self!”)
Our very existence as the Body of the Living Jesus Christ, is a focused expression of God’s faithfulness to His commitment to the human family; not only to the Church but, through the Church and other of His gifts, to the world.  His goodness to us as sinners makes it clear that He will not allow Sin to have the last word and determine the destiny of humans. To those that Sin would strangle and suffocate and fill with despair the Church as a forgiven People, the Church as a reconciled People has been entrusted with a ministry of reconciliation.
The Church embodies and carries a message of inexpressibly good news and it’s this: “God knows about Sin but He refuses to let it have the last word because He is GOD and not a man (Hosea 11:9).” Even God cannot force a friendship upon people but He insists: “Whatever you want; My heart wants friendship. If you don’t want Me then we can’t be friends but the reason we’re not friends if we aren’t friends is not in Me! Where sin increases so does My grace. There is nothing in Me that keeps us apart. I am the sinned against and I say I am Sin’s enemy and I cancel its alienating power by My love of you.”
(Holy One, help us indeed to embody this truth about you. help those who teach us to teach us about this truth. Open their eyes to it and thrill them with it that they may come to us at times wide-eyed and astonished at you and the truth about you with messages that are worthy of you. Come to the Church’s aid in this that we might be thankful and happy servants of yours to our families and neighbors and to the world. This prayer in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.)

 

IT’S A GOD THING!

Sin alienates us from God!

That’s true, but the truth is bigger than that. Sin IS alienation.

It is not true that we sin and God punishes us with alienation. The truth is that in choosing sin we are choosing, have chosen alienation. To say alienation takes place as a result of our sinning is not true enough! (Yet see Isaiah 59:2.)

[We speak of sins being forgiven. This is good speech (Acts 2:38, Ephesians 1:7) even though we know that sins aren’t forgiven—sinners are.]

God doesn’t punish us with alienation—we choose it and He accepts the choice! Alienation is our doing not God’s!

Consequences follow our choosing alienation (which is the same as choosing Sin). He made us humans and as long as He maintains that decision and purpose we will make choices that (for good or ill) have consequences that include everlasting death or everlasting life. In choosing alienation we sever ourselves from God who is the source of all that is fine and lovely and righteous. In choosing alienation from God, the source of life, we choose death and all the consequences that go with that.

And God’s response to humanity’s choosing alienation; His response to our rejecting friendship with Him? What does He do?

He comes in and as Jesus Christ saying, “I’m utterly opposed to this alienation. I’m utterly opposed to Sin which is alienation. I find no joy in it! I want us to be friends, I want you to return to me and have fullness of life!.”

That is the meaning of the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and glorification of God in Jesus of Nazareth.

So, is He soft on Sin? Does He think it doesn’t matter? No that cannot be! You measure God’s hatred of Sin and sins by the depths of His love for humanity! For Him, to be soft on Sin and sins would be the same as His being casual about the alienation of His children (Acts 17:24-29) ; it would be the same as ignoring our death; the same as His caring nothing for us—the children He created! This He cannot do so He cannot be soft on Sin! On Sin!
And why is that?
It’s a God thing!
It’s the nature and heart of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He hates our sin; hates our alienation precisely because He loves us.
And why does the Holy One love us?
It’s a Holy God thing!
It’s the nature and heart of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And there is no other God!

(Holy One, help us who have had the privilege to hear of you to think noble thoughts of you. Help those you have called to teach us to so teach us that we will be believe and be shaped and energized by your glory, wonder and holy love.)

 

 

PACKED INTO TRAINS BY WHOM? AND TO WHERE?

In John 7:49 there’s this from the church-leaders, the orthodox scholars “This rabble that does not know the law—they’re accursed.”
Then there’s this in Luke 13:52: “Woe to you experts in the law for you have taken away the key to knowledge…”

Here’s a text: Matthew 14:14, “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd; and He had compassion for them and cured their sick.”
There lies the difference between Jesus and brass-necked leadership. It isn’t the only difference, don’t you know, and if you isolate it it’s not even the main difference but it is a profound difference.
Jesus saw “the mob” and when He saw them He felt something and He did something.
In a multitude of 5,000 plus (Matthew 14:21) there must have been a lot of mixed motives, promises unkept, grudges harbored, self-serving and such. They would have been like any other crowd, ancient or modern. Christ could see it for He knew people. And yet, when He looked, “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14 and 9:36)

Yes, but if He knew they were sinners, why did He think them like sheep without a shepherd? Why did He see them as uncared for? Why did He feel compassion toward them—or did He scan them with the speed of light and feel compassionate toward the upright in heart and indifferent toward the others?
This is “the Holy One” (Acts 3:14; John 6:69, following NIV and others). Tell me how we can be holy as He is holy? I don’t mean how can we be sinless or how can we feel as deeply as He?
Forget that for now! It’s not going to happen! Whimpering on and on about our sinfulness helps no one.
Help us to lift up our eyes and at least see better, purer, cleaner things. But help us to be holy like Him and still look on people with all the marks of unholiness written on their faces and see them at least as needy people. He wasn’t the first kind man or the only one in the world but He alone flawlessly and truly imaged GOD looking on the sinful feeling what they feel and longing to do them good. For all our wishing, for all our longing there is a chasm between us and Christ that we cannot bridge; His holiness simply outdistances our most fervent imaginings.  It has nothing to do with miraculous power; it has nothing to do with His being able to feed thousands with little or nothing. It has all to do with His unutterable holiness looking on sinners and wanting to do them good, wanting to heal their sick, wanting to lift them out of their gloom and hurt and give them reason to believe that the worst they know doesn’t have the last word. Later, maybe later, if we now and then, at least, hunger and thirst for righteousness, we’ll, in happy astonishment, find ourselves engaged in wise feeding, clothing, housing and enabling in needed ways and thank God that we are more like Him than we thought possible. And teaching them about HIM!
In the meantime they’re out there! Born in the squalor, raised in deprivation, hunted and abused by the people with the power—people whose behavior (sophisticated or openly unrepentant)—that we can’t call anything other than satanic and demonic. So what are we to do? Even those with the best and purest of hearts among us don’t know what to do. We con ourselves into thinking we can heal the world with bombs and threats and sanctions. (I’m not at this moment interested in critiquing anything!) But you’d think we’d learn.
Do Christians have any gospel to offer the multiplied millions in every generation who don’t even know they are sheep and sheep without a shepherd? Is our only “gospel” (one they have not heard, are not hearing and will not get to hear) that if they turn to Christ they won’t go to hell?

I’m not talking about a world that cares nothing about the truth about God and the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m talking about the damned in this life who hear only that they’ll be damned in the next! (And millions will not even get to hear that. It will come on them like a thunderclap that not only have demonic power-brokers raped and pillaged them the God of John 3:16 will do worse to them than their human torturers did. And with the look of fear, utter confusion, looking at each other, mouthing words like, “What’s happening? Why?” they’ll be packed into trains and carted to the everlasting Death Camps.)

Bless me, these poor people don’t have time to stop and listen to talk about anything. Their first thought  has to be about how to stay alive and get food or a safe hiding place. And that would be the kind of issues they’d face every day.

So there He stands looking at them with those big eyes of His. Missing nothing! Seeing all! And while knowing and seeing all He feels His huge heart swelling with pity at these sheep without a shepherd. So He healed their sick. I don’t doubt that some there looked at Him, fevered and crippled children in their arms, chins stuck out in some desperate look of rebellion: “How can you see us like this and not do something about it?” I’m sure others showed their desperation with “please” written all over them. There they were, here we are with our awful needs stark and obvious to His holy eyes, masses of us clamoring for attention. People with little interest in Him until our crying needs drive us out of ourselves and away from our useless schemes and shallow prayers. And still He looks, and still He feels compassion and still He offers rich, wise and desperately needed healing.

Holy Lord Jesus Christ! Astonishing Christ who makes it forever clear that true holiness isn’t a firewall against fellowship; who makes it forever clear that true holiness is love’s raging fire that burns down all that would come between us and His Holy Father who sees and feels and does.

And is Matthew 9:36 and 14:14 written there to taunt humanity’s tormented? Did that occasion and that crowd exhaust God’s good will toward them in Jesus Christ? After that did God say goodbye to the human family? Was it only that crowd He saw as shepherd-less sheep, harassed and in awful need?
For these countless people without a shepherd is Acts 17:31 a THREAT or is it a GOSPEL?
“A day is coming when God will judge the world in righteousness, all wrongs will be right! This God has assured us by raising Jesus from the dead!”

And if it’s a THREAT—it’s threatening those I’m talking about?????????
And who is that’s threatening these bewildered, raped and pillaged hosts who know nothing of the Lord Jesus they’re in dire need to turn to?
Is it the God of John 3:16-17?

A WEARY, BATTERED WEAVER

Here’s what J.M. Barrie said in his book The Little Minister, “Long ago a minister of Thrums was to be married, but something happened, and he remained a bachelor. Then, when he was old, he passed in our square the lady who was to have been his wife, and her hair was white, but she, too, was still unmarried. The meeting had only one witness, a weaver, a weaver who sat day after toilsome day at his window as long as there was light, and he said solemnly afterwards, ‘They didn’t speak, but they gave one another a look, and I saw the love-light in their eyes.’
No more is remembered of these two, no being now living ever saw them, but the poetry that was in the soul of a battered weaver, bound by necessity to his machine, makes them human to us forever.”
Aren’t people like that a gift!? No matter how tough their lives are they keep the romance in their souls and make the world brighter, lovelier. They’re able to see what the rest of us can’t—those of us made hard and cynical or perhaps just too hurt that our poor hearts, because of the disappointment and loss—can no longer see.
There may have been a time when our hearts raced at the sight of someone we held precious; there may have been a time when we were sensitive enough to notice the shy but warm glances that passed between people but for many of us those days are gone. The light has either gone out or grown dim and we resign ourselves to live in the twilight until along comes a “battered weaver” who defied the suffocating world and kept his soul alive.
Barrie doesn’t say if his battered weaver was married or was in love with a particular someone or had ever been in love but he makes it clear that the toil-worn worker was a lover and love has eyes.
Later in his novel he tells how the preacher Gavin Dishart falls in love with Babbie the gypsy girl who at first has little interest in the preacher. But that was only at first—before he kissed her. “Until the moment when he kissed her she had only conceived him as a quaint fellow whose life was a string of Sundays, but behold what she saw in him now. It’s said that Love is blind, but love is not blind. It is an extra eye that shows us what is most worthy of regard. To see the best, the honorable, but what is truly felt, that is to see most clearly, and it’s the lover’s privilege.”
People like the over-worked weaver won’t end up with a ton of money in the bank but they’re able to uncover treasure that all the tycoons in creation can’t buy. You have to have the heart, don’t you see? They won’t build grand skyscrapers, these people, or multi-national companies but they build dreams and open to us the possibility of a life that’s filled with the joy of hope and warmth and they’ll go down to their well-earned graves with a contented heart.
Maybe you’ve met such people. The kind who aren’t too sweet to be wholesome but who are sensitive to the good and lovely that lies hidden just below the surface of an unpromising appearance.
Maybe you are one! Maybe you too are one of the millions that are tied to a job and to responsibilities that make truly heavy demands of you; but not so heavy that you’ve allowed them to blind you to the beauty that is in life—a beauty that a great host of us can’t see. And if you are one of those, God bless you. God has blessed you. Thank you!
Jesus said that even a cup of cold water given in His name will not be forgotten, will not go without reward. The beauty and glory that’s in you changes a dreary world and just by hearing of or, better, knowing someone like you, we are changed or are given the chance to change. You don’t keep a record of your good words, looking for that reward Jesus spoke of; you you don’t think of it in that way; you don’t think of it at all. You simply have the heart for it and turn to people like us and say with a smile, “Did you see how they looked at each other?” And if we’re blessed like you we’ll have seen it and if we haven’t, your sweet, strong, deathless spirit will infect us and maybe we too will begin to see, or at least to look.
Thank you! Thank you for the cups of cold water you are handing out without the blowing of trumpets.

(Holy Father, thank you for the warm—honorable—but warm people of the world who keep our hearts beating and make us smile even when we don’t feel like smiling. This thankfulness, in Jesus’ name.)

 

“WHEN THE SUN SHINES IT WILL SHINE THE CLEARER”

One of the finest characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy was Sam. Samwise Gamgee, the loyal friend and protector of Frodo Baggins, the bearer of the ring. He clearly had his flaws but he’s markedly selfless, gallant and pure of heart and if it were not for him, Frodo would never have completed his destiny with honor. He not only had a profound depth of character he had a profound vision of the big picture. This is obvious from a piece that occurs near the end of The Two Towers.
At one point Frodo is overcome by the evil ring he bears and must destroy and he is near to giving himself up to its evil power and Sam saves him in the nick of time. Still blinded by the ring’s power, Frodo pulls his sword on Sam and has it at his throat and Sam gasps to his deranged friend:
“It’s me, it’s your Sam, don’t you know your own Sam?”
Frodo recovers and confesses the job’s too much for him.
Frodo: “I can’t do this Sam.”
Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here, but we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered, full of darkness and danger they were. Sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when there’s so much bad that had happened?
But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.
A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stay with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. How folk in those stories had lots of chances for turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What are we holding on to Sam?”
Sam: “That there’s some good left in this world Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.”
There’s so much that is gospel-like here. In light of the Story, the one that ultimately matters, there are things and people and a glorious Lord worth fighting for, worth living for and worth dying for.
Is this not Hebrews 11:32-40? Does that truth not help us to want to continue the war until the return of the King?
A new day WILL come! Because HE is coming.
In the meantime He is making His presence felt in and through all the friends who travel with us! Flawed friends, it’s true, but friends who travel with us on the same quest, helping us to fulfill our unique place in the service of the King. We each in the divine drama that is life have to bear the ring of evil to its total destruction and others can’t do it for another but as Sam in the final episode says before picking up the exhausted Frodo: “If I can’t carry the ring for you I can carry you.”

(Holy Father, help us to recognize that we are not alone in bearing burdens, that others bear burdens too. And we fervently ask you to supply sufficient strength that we don’t become fixated on our own and that we will help one another to bear what we can’t bear for them. And perhaps we will find that in helping them we too are helped. Would you do that? In light of Jesus we know you must be happy with such a request.)

GETTING SOUP TWICE A DAY

I only have to read scripture to know that people are walking contradictions and that some of us are breathing civil wars. Beyond that I simply have to look within to know that while what the Bible says seems very plain, what I see and feel within is absolutely beyond debate. And my experience with people confirms these two sources.
I don’t say that we’re all equally conflicted. I believe I know people that across the board are much more mature than I am. Yes, I suspect that on the whole they are more finely balanced and permeated to a greater degree with virtue than I am or ever have been. I would suppose if I were judged by my moral failures and weakness in some specific areas of my life that I would come very close to the bottom of the moral ladder. I do believe that! This is a great sadness to me for there is a part of me that longs for moral grandeur, there’s a deep desire in me to be like the God in whose image I have been and am being created. [I mustn’t give you the impression that people should be assessed on the basis of so many virtues over against so many vices—that would be wrong-headed, but I think you know what I mean by the above.]
I wish to make the point that however difficult it is for us to believe it, people are not just one thing. That should be—should it not?—a matter beyond dispute. Only the Christ was “just one thing.”
I’ve known many people up close and personal who were faced with a choice between right and wrong and chose the wrong. But it has occurred to me that in many of those cases I was blessed in not being faced with the situation they were faced with; blessed with not having to make the choice between good and evil for I’m not at all certain that I would have stood where they fell. (Their fall in some cases may well have worked out to be a blessing in numerous ways. God works that kind of thing. See Romans 11:15, 30-35.)
Some poor souls are daily faced with the pressure to do evil while others of us (God be praised and thanked!) live in our morally cozy little routines. Surrounded by godly friends, provided with more than adequate material and social resources and having been shaped by strong and warm people and structures we are sheltered from many of the storms that beat ceaselessly around the heads of millions. Yes, surely there is profound reason to be grateful for our conditions but do they not underscore the moral disadvantage of the masses?
Is it surprising that so many are morally weak and fragmented? Given the social and cultural structures that promote the worst aspects of hedonism and greed and self-centeredness, should we be surprised that masses fear neither God nor man? And if this is what they fight against from the moment they draw breath do we do well to feel nothing but revulsion and a desire to isolate or exterminate?
In a powerful television drama one of the characters is morally and mentally ill. He has killed repeatedly but due to the limits in the human judicial system he was not convicted. He attached himself to a lawyer, who, understandably, was afraid of him and wanted nothing to do with him. But the man felt the influence of this lawyer changing him for the better. He gets a job and purposes to live in goodness, free from the evils he had engaged in but the lawyer—again perfectly understandably—feels compelled to undermine his agenda. He’s devastated by what he feels is betrayal and comes to say to her, “As you know, I have never denied being evil. One of the reasons I came to you initially—I saw you as my guardian out of evil and you in fact became that. I was beginning to turn my life around. I rediscovered hope and goodness and I credit much of that to your influence. But you walked away from me like I was some crazy, which I am at many levels. But my feelings for you…my friendship for you was sane and real and legitimate and good. It represents the part of me that wasn’t ill or evil—it was good.”
This expresses well what I want to say. I don’t say that there can’t be exceptions. I don’t say that there are not people, who like Mephistopheles says in that other classic drama, “Evil be thou my good/ good be thou my evil.” There are such people. But I do say that such exceptions aside that there is not one of us that is “one thing”. I do say that down somewhere in the mysterious depths of a human heart, along with its evil there can be the vestiges of good longed for, the residue of good purposes that died for lack of inner strength and outside help.
In the old movie Angels with Dirty Faces we have the hard-bitten and brutal gangster (played by Jimmy Cagney) going to the electric chair for multiple murders. He’s arrogant, unrepentant and unafraid. For the sake of some boys who worship him as their hero the priest begs him to pretend he’s afraid to die. Cagney goes to the chair kicking and screaming and begging for mercy—for the sake of the kids and because his friend asked him to do it.
Should we dismiss this as bleeding-heart drivel, nauseatingly sentimental and untrue to life? I think not.
Hanging on a tree the young Lord of creation saw His enemies with their glittering eyes and heard their hoarse mocking and said, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Maybe it takes a purer and stronger heart than most of us have to speak this way under such circumstances. There’s little doubt in my mind that the bulk of us when faced with someone we judge to be a threat have no wish to dwell on his or her virtues. The only thing that counts is their vice.
But when we gather in an assembly we’re not slow to sing Rescue the Perishing. One of the stanzas has this neglected truth.
“Down in the human heart/
Crushed by the Tempter/
Feelings like buried that grace can restore/
Touched by a loving hand/
Wakened by kindness/
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.”
This sounds well in four-part harmony and feels good during times of peace and tranquility. But let me assume that for the most of us (certainly in the West) that actually doing something costly about such a truth is a real stretch, especially as the expression of our living out that truth on a daily basis. Maybe executing such conviction is currently beyond us—though it’s possible for some that we know or have heard of. But I would suppose that before we can bear unbearable sorrow and fight unbeatable foes we need to truly think the unthinkable.
Ah well, then, so no one should be held accountable for wrongs done? I don’t believe that. Jesus Christ held accountable those He loved and pitied (Revelation 3:19). But maybe we can quit pretending that we believe that all sin should be punished. We don’t think all ours should be punished. (Sin is more than deeds and words; it’s soul-contamination as well; the condition out of which sinful deeds, words and thoughts arise.)
Maybe we can chastise with less relish and more sensitivity. Maybe we can pity as well as “punish”. Maybe we can temper our speech when condemning the sins of others and perhaps we can renounce (if only to ourselves) the sense of moral superiority we feel. Should we ever judge? Of course we should–with care! But surely not from a position of power, as though butter wouldn’t melt in our own mouths, as though we were the only virgins in a world of “hookers”. And should we ignore great evil because there is in the transgressor something of real worth? Oh, I’m certain we should not. I’m also certain of this, we should not ignore the something of real worth in him or her because there is great evil. And I’m certain we should take full measure (is that possible?) of our own evil that lurks down among our virtues.
Wasn’t it Schweitzer who told us that two boys were wrestling in a school playground? It was a long and hard tussle but finally the bigger boy (Schweitzer himself) triumphed. The skinnier kid, panting, said something like. “You wouldn’t have beaten me if I had been getting soup twice a day like you.”
Hmmm, I wonder…

GIVING IT UP!

This is a particularly difficult thing to speak about at this time. I don’t need to develop the reason right now other than to say that the body and mind of a very dear friend and a great man of God is under attack. I mention the difficulty of speaking about it only so that you won’t think I’m being glib!

Life is and should be precious to us. We see and feel that truth in a host of ways don’t we. And why wouldn’t it be this way for most of us? This means that even Christians who believe in life with Christ after death and then resurrection are loath to leave this place with all its warm relationships, lovely predictability and harmless pleasures.

Yes, we cheerfully sing, “This World is Not My Home” but it’s the only home we’ve known all our lives and it is God’s gift to us so how could we not, at some level, regret leaving it? Bless me, even at airports when our beloved is leaving for a longish period there are tears and hugs, almost a refusal to let them go. Should it be surprising that we express the fear of “loss” of them in the feverish way we try to prolong their life when it seems clear they are dying?

Still, in our bones we know we can’t put off the day forever. It’s appointed! Wouldn’t it be fine if we (not just the dying one—but the family and friends) were so shaped and assured that we could “give them up” in an assured and glorious way?

Not in a life-denying way, mark you, but doing it after we have (as Robert Browning put it) “earned” our death by living life to the full in joyful integrity. There are things worth dying for and there is a time when it’s okay to “lay yourself down with a will,” as Robert Louis Stevenson expressed it.

In the movie, El Cid, the hero lies mortally wounded with an arrow deep in his chest. He’s sure to die but his adoring wife wants to prolong it by mere hours by having the arrow removed even though it will weaken him. He resists her pleas because he must address and go out with the army that has lost heart because they think he’s dead and think they will have to face the enemy without him. He keeps the arrow and speeds his death so that he can do something worthy of his having lived—a life he has lived so well and honorably. He tenderly tells her, “You can’t save my life. You must help me to give it up.”

We all need that kind of help. When Death comes calling, and this time won’t go away without us, we need friends and family to help us “give it up” in a way that’s appropriate for who we are. There aren’t many scenes more impressive than those where vibrant faith in Jesus Christ is facing death with assured sorrow.

But long before we’re on our deathbeds we need that kind of help. We need people to help us not to hoard the life we’ve been given. We desperately need help to keep us from spending it selfishly on our own ease and we need people around us who will help us to be generous with it. Beyond the very obvious I don’t know well what this sort of talk means for myself so I’m not trying to diagnose and assess the life of anyone else. I just know that we are all sinners and in need of some help toward a richer Christlikeness.

During a dangerous viral outbreak a husband didn’t want his doctor wife to put their life together at risk by getting involved in helping the afflicted. Who can’t understand that? But who can’t be thrilled and pleased by her response? She told him, “I love you with all of my heart, my dear, but you mustn’t make it hard for me to do what’s right.” She was telling him, “Help me give it up.”

And then there was the One who faced the most momentous moment in His life when He would be overwhelmed with such sorrow (Matthew 26:38; sorrow! not fear) that He verges on an emotional breakdown and He called on three of His dear friends to come with Him to a garden and help Him to do what had to be done to bless a world.
His view of this occasion of mind-bending sorrow included this: “Therefore does my Father love Me because I lay down my life.” (John 10:11, 17) The Holy Father watches His Holy Son all through His life and watches Him consummate it when He puts the cup to His lips and He whispers, “How I love Him!” As this consummating act is happening the Father is loving His Son and not punishing Him. (A pox on that “punishing” notion!)

The great news is this: hearts like His “lay it down” that they might “take it again.” (John 10:17) They don’t scorn life and throw it away as trash.

Then there is this: in Matthew 20:22-23 the Lord Jesus tells His followers that they will drink of His cup. Sharing His cup is living a life of covenant faithfulness and love in the presence of “a world” that hates His followers precisely because they are His followers (John 15:18-21); followers who have taken up their crosses and are crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20; 6:14). However flawed they live a life “given up” throughout years in all those lovely Christlike ways and consummate it by a death faithfully offered up to God that it might be taken up again, purer, stronger more beautiful and more glorious.

(Holy One, bless us as we reflect on You in light of Your Holy Son and bless us with relationships or at least awareness of those who faithfully follow in His steps that we might be enabled to drink His cup and hear you say that You love us in our doing it. This prayer in Christ Jesus.)