Listening Through Lent: Even for Us

Crucifixus etiam pro nobis.
Sub Pontio Pilato, passus et se pultus est.
(He was crucified even for us, under Pontius Pilate:
he suffered and was buried.)

 

Even for us, He rode into the city under palms and a cloud
Even for us, He wept and sorrowed
Even for us, He overturns the tables of the greedy
Even for us, He teaches and prepares
Even for us, He kneels and washes
Even for us, He breaks bread
Even for us, He sweats blood
Even for us, He receives a kiss
Even for us, He suffers
Even for us, He dies and is buried
Even for us, He rises and calls our name.

Even for us, such as we are, who we are, what we are to be,
He has come and will again.

 

 

 

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Watching Over the Flock

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Luke  2:8

 

I remember watching a herdsman driving his little flock of goats along the side of a grassy slope on the coast of South Africa, watching how with precision he would gather the strays, all while keep the herd together.  I marveled at how he could direct this group of flighty animals all in the direction he willed while not letting a single one fall behind.   Growing up on a farm and later having goats of our own, I remember nights where we would be watching over a sick goat or cow through the night, trying to make sure it would see the light of the next day.

 

I do not find it very complimentary when God compares us to sheep — needy and helpless.  But when you think about the way that those shepherds watched over their flock on the hills of Israel, giving special attention to the sick and also looking ahead and planning the next place to go to sustain the flock.  Every action the shepherd makes is with the good of the flock in mind.  He knows the state of the flock.

 

Our heavenly Father has done the same for us through the history of the world and when often all we can think about is our own needs.  As Christ’s people, we are his concern, just like the flock is the shepherd’s concern.  God sent his Son to earth for his glory, for the redemption of his flock.
~Leslie Siebring

Joining with Christ’s Mission

‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. An being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and become obedient to death—even death on a cross.’ – Philippians 2:5-8

Whenever I take off for Denver, driving off of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is always a exhilarating and painful moment for me. As a first year teacher, I can never truly recognize how well things are going or how difficult things have been until I leave the environment in which I have been working. At the same time, it is a painful reminder of my mobility. I am able to just get in my car and leave. The same is not true for many, if not all, of my students and their families. I was joking with my girlfriend, Hilary, that as a teacher I am the 1% on the reservation, but it is true enough. I have the money and freedom to pick up and leave. No matter how much my intention is to live in solidarity with my students and their community, it is a feat I cannot accomplishment.

My experience on and off the reservation casts a new light on the life and mission of Christ. He did so perfectly and faithfully what I fail to do every day. He stepped into the world, into broken lives and broke communities.. He then lived in complete solidarity with the community he entered. He did not seek to leave, he sought to be obedient to the life God, His Father, had called him. Christ’s life and ministry is a deep exhortation to me in this Lenten season, obedience calls you to a deep, at times painful solidarity with the oppressed of the world. It calls you to a deep and often painful solidarity with the mission of Christ.

At the same time, the Lenten season reminds me that I am not Christ. I will not live in perfect solidarity, I can only invite others to knowledge of the God man who did. I will keep going to Denver, I will leave the reservation for the summer, but I do so encouraged by the knowledge that though I am unable to live by complete faithfulness, Christ has been and will continue to be at work in the places I leave. His Lenten season led eventually to death, eventually to resurrection, and finally to the joy of nations. I pray that mine would lead to a joining with Christ’s mission in the world.

~Ben Gibson

Come and Eat

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
John 21:12

There are fewer more nurturing words than “time to eat.” Having someone care enough to cook a meal to feed body and soul is welcome indeed. So “come and have breakfast” after a long night of fishing must have been an irresistible invitation.

After Resurrection Day, Jesus appears to His followers on several occasions, but He is not always initially recognizable. The trigger for discerning who He is seems connected to sharing a meal.

This makes entire sense after His Last Supper with the disciples before His death. He makes it clear how He wants to be remembered, through a symbolic meal of bread and wine. So when He returns, when He breaks bread, cooks fish, and eats together with others, they recognize they are in the presence of the Lord.

In this instance, when the disciples have had a night of no success catching fish, He directs them to drop their nets yet again and suddenly there are more fish than they can handle. This is capped by His invitation: “Come and have breakfast”.

He then feeds them, both figuratively and literally.

Accepting the invitation is all that is asked of us. Who doesn’t want to have breakfast cooked for them?

Time to eat. Be filled. Never be hungry again.

Choosing Sides

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5


The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.
G.K. Chesterton

This is not like choosing sides on teams in grade school, numbering off one-two-one-two until everyone knows where they stand. This is not like an election year where choosing sides means aligning myself with the political party that seems to be the best fit at the time, even if I don’t agree with all their platform points. This is not like a Lincoln-Douglas debate tournament where I might represent one viewpoint for the first round, and then be asked to represent the opposite viewpoint in the second half.

It is more like being chosen for one side or the other, even if, klutz that I am, it means always being the last to be chosen for any sports team with all my limitations, my poor coordination, my weakness and my flaws.

This choice is not for an hour or a day or a year, but for eternity; whether to stand in the light as it shines on my dark, glum, sullen head or stay unexposed and hidden in the shadows.

It isn’t just about choosing,
but being chosen,
just as I am.

Though the light shines on things unclean, yet it is not thereby defiled.
Augustine

He Is With Us

Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto Him
that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb
forever and ever!
Revelation 5: 13
Forever and ever

is bigger and broader
beyond what I can know or understand.
Today feels so finite,
I am so temporary on this soil.

To spend a mere six weeks
studying the Word
is only a glancing blow-
a taste of forever nonetheless.

The Word lasts while
our earthly bodies will not
the promises ring out while
our attention wanes
the blessings perpetuate while
our gratitude is paltry
the glory is overwhelming while
our appreciation is lacking
the power belongs all to Him
and not to us

It is the Lamb we know so well
the gentle willing sacrifice
taking our place
taking on our guilt
taking off our accumulating debt
taking us along for a walk, for a breakfast, for a touch of his side, his hands

letting us know
through His infinite love
from both the man and the God
that He is with us
forever
and
ever

Dealing the Fatal Blow

“O death, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55

“What happens when we die?” From an early age, we ask this question. We ask
because death seems mysterious, unpredictable and strange. We ask because
the idea of death terrifies us.

Terror is an understandable response: death is the curse that we bear for human
sin. We were created to live in eternal closeness to God, but selfish pursuit
broke that relationship and carried us far from the safety, goodness and life found
in Him.

Just as our bodies cannot survive for long without water, so our souls cannot
survive separation from God. Physical death is symbolic of the full extent of the
curse: complete and permanent separation from God. When held up against the
tremendous beauty of what we were created to be, how we were created to live,
of course this is terrifying!

This is what makes Paul’s words, a paraphrase of Hosea 13:14, so striking:
because of Christ, we no longer need to fear death. In fact, we can be so bold as
to ask “where is your sting?”; “where is your victory?” Through Christ, we are
able to mock death.

Often, we think about mockery or taunting in any competition as bad
sportsmanship, but never before has a victory been so important, or so decisive,
the victor so good or the villain so despicable. Christ took on the sins of
humanity and died on the cross–total separation from God. Then, He rose from
the dead, bursting through what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier. He dealt
a fatal blow to death, and made it look silly in the process.

So as we wait for Christ’s return, and in the meantime suffer from the mad
thrashing of death, which is itself dying, we can feel not only consolation, but
triumph in the fact that the outcome was decided on the cross. Death still strikes
out at us with all of its might, but because of Christ, we need look no further than
the scoreboard to know how this game will end.

So, we play on and wait, and even when death deals a heavy blow, we are
privileged to ask, “O death, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy
victory?”

Thanks be to God!

~Nate Gibson