Commonplace Holiness Holiness woven into the fabric of life...

Charles Wesley: “O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done?”

eccehomo01This is one of my favorite of Charles Wesley’s hymns about the Cross — though I discover many congregations have never heard it and never sung it.

1. O Love divine, what has thou done!
The immortal God hath died for me!
The Father’s co-eternal Son
bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th’ immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

2. Is crucified for me and you,
to bring us rebels back to God.
Believe, believe the record true,
ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood.
Pardon for all flows from his side:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified! (more…)

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McKnight: The Achievement of the Cross

a-community-called-atonement-living-theology-scot-mcknight-paperback-cover-artHere is a nice quote from Scot McKnight’s book A Community Called Atonement. This appears on page 69, at the end of Chapter 9 on the Crucifixion theme in the New Testament account of atonement. I changed the formatting so that the first part appears as a list.

 

I suggest that we see the achievement of the cross in three expressions:

  • Jesus dies “with us” — entering into our evil and our sin and our suffering to subvert it and create a new way;
  • Jesus dies “instead of us” — he enters into our sin, our wrath, our death; and
  • Jesus dies “for us” — his death forgives our sin, “declares us right,” absorbs the wrath of God against us, and creates a new life where there once was only death.

Not only is this death saving, this same death becomes the paradigm for an entirely new existence that is shaped, as Luther said of theology and life, by the cross. A life shaped by the cross is a life bent on dying daily to self in order to love God, self, others, and the world. And a life shaped by the cross sees in the cross God becoming the victim, identifying with the victim, suffering injustice, and shaping a cruciform pattern of life for all who follow Jesus. The cross reshapes all of life.

 

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Gethsemane



Jesus-in-Gethsemane

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two eons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” — Matthew 26:36-39 (NIV)

There is something mysterious about Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. There was a depth of suffering there that is impossible to imagine. In the gospel of Luke we are told that while he prayed “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 N1V). It is hard to conceive how one we know of as the Son of God could be in such emotional torment. He says to his closest followers: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” There is something incomprehensible about the sorrow of the Savior. Like the disciples, we observe the scene of Gethsemane, as it were, at a distance. There is something here into which we cannot enter. It is beyond us. (more…)

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Leave Her Alone – John 12:7

Before his last earthly Passover, Jesus has a meal with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. We are told “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:15). And, during the meal, something amazing and unexpected (actually embarrassing) happens: Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and then wipes his feet with her hair. A word of rebuke arises. And Jesus replies with these words:

John 12:7 —

εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἄφες αὐτήν, ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό·
“Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”

Mary is the one who understands.

mary-anoints-the-feet-of-jesus

The way John sets the scene we understand as well. He says (verse 1): “Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” Jesus is with his close friends, but it is “six days before the Passover.” As readers, we know where the story is going even if some of the characters in the drama do not. The shadow of the Cross hangs over Jesus. Passover this year will mean betrayal, rejection, condemnation, and crucifixion. (more…)

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A Prayer for Mercy (Henri Nouwen)

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I am impressed by my own spiritual insights. I probably know more about prayer, meditation and contemplation than most Christians do. I have ready many books about the Christian life, and have even written a few myself. Still, as impressed as I am, I am more impressed by the enormous abyss between my insights and my life.

It seems as if I am standing on one side of a huge canyon and see how I should grow toward you, live in your presence and serve you, but cannot reach the other side … where you are. I can speak and write, preach and argue about the beauty and goodness of the life I see on the other side, but how, O Lord, can I get there? Sometimes I even have the painful feeling that the clearer the vision, the more aware I am of the depth of the canyon.

Am I doomed to die on the wrong side of the abyss? Am I destined to excite others to reach the promised land while remaining unable to enter there myself? sometimes I feel imprisoned by my own insights and “spiritual competence.” You alone, Lord, can reach out to me and save me. You alone.

I can only keep trying to be faithful, even though I feel faithless most of the time. What else can I do but keep praying to you, even when I feel dark; to keep writing about you, even when I feel numb; to keep speaking in your name, even when I feel alone. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.

— Henri Nouwen, A Cry for Mercy (1985).

 

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Some Thoughts for Holy Week from Thomas à Kempis

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471)

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471)

“Bear the Cross cheerfully and it will bear you.”

— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 2, ch. 12.

“Love feels no burden, regards not labors, strives toward more than it attains, argues not of impossibility, since it believes that it may and can do all things. Therefore it avails for all things, and fulfills and accomplishes much where one not a lover falls and lies helpless.”

— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 3, ch. 6.

“It is much safer to obey, than to govern.”

— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 1, ch. 9.

“An humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning.”

— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 1, ch. 3.

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G. K. Chesterton: The Donkey

The Donkey

By G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

 

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A Prayer for Palm Sunday

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” — Zechariah 9:9 NRSV.

Lord our God,
You are the Faithful One
You have spoken to your people
through lawgivers and prophets and priests.

You have revealed Yourself to us and to all the world in Jesus Christ.

We come before you in prayer.
We recognize Jesus as rightful King.
We rejoice that in Christ,
you come to us in humility:
a King, and yet, “humble and riding on a donkey.”

When we look at our world we are often discouraged.
We see evil and injustice around us.
It often seems a dark and evil time
when whole nations groan and lament.

Help us, Lord our God!
Help us not to give up.
Help us to see You working.
It is our desire that Your will may be done in all things
and that your kingdom may come on earth.

Come, O Lord God,
Come in Jesus Christ,
the Lord and Savior of all the world!

For in all the world,
among all nations,
Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
Jesus Christ is King.

Praise to Your name that you have given us this Lord. Amen.

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A Prayer for the Day (François Fénelon)

prayer&candleO Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day reveal thy will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that thy will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by thee. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me. Amen.

— François Fénelon

Found here.

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A Perfect Walk – Psalm 15:2

Hebrew_bible_4We are invited into a life in the presence of God. By the grace of God we are enabled to live lives pleasing to God. This is what we read in Psalm 15:1.

Eugene Peterson paraphrases Psalm 15:1 this way:

“GOD, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?”

Or we might state it this way:

Lord God, what is it like to be the kind of person who is fit to live in Your Presence from day to day?

Verse 2 gives us the response to this question: (more…)

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Qualifications for Leadership (Thomas á Kempis)

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471)

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471)

No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes obscurity. No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. No man rules safely unless he is willing to be ruled. No man commands safely unless he has learned well how to obey. No man rejoices safely unless he has within him the testimony of a good conscience.

— Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ Book 1, Chapter 20.

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Toward a Theology of Levity (Aquinas)

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Jokes and plays are words and gestures that are not instructive but merely seek to give lively pleasure. We should enjoy them. They are governed by the virtue of witty gaiety to which Aristotle refers (Ethics 1128aI) and which we call pleasantness. A ready-witted man is quick with repartee and turns speech and action to light relief.

— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Question 148, Article 2. (Thomas Gilby translation.)

It is against reason to be burdensome to others, showing no amusement and acting as a wet blanket. Those without a sense of fun, who never say anything ridiculous, and are cantankerous with those who do, are called grumpy and rude.

— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Question 148, Article 4. (Thomas Gilby translation.)

Actions done jestingly are not directed to any external end; but merely to the good of the jester, in so far as they afford him pleasure or relaxation.

— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Question 1, Article 6, Reply to Objection 1. (Standard translation.)


Unfortunately, the Wesleyan tradition (beginning with dear old Mr. Wesley himself) has not taken such an approving stance toward levity.

This is truly unfortunate, since humor and laughter are, in themselves, psychologically healthy and good.

This is clearly one of several places where the Holiness tradition needs to be corrected.

 

 

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Growing in the Knowledge of God – Colossians 1:9-12

greek-nt-openAnd, now, having gotten some preliminary issues out of the way here and here, some comments on the text of the prayer itself:

9 Διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς, ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἡμέρας ἠκούσαμεν, οὐ παυόμεθα ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι καὶ αἰτούμενοι, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ, 10 περιπατῆσαι ἀξίως τοῦ κυρίου εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρεσκείαν, ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ καρποφοροῦντες καὶ αὐξανόμενοι τῇ ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ θεοῦ, 11 ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει δυναμούμενοι κατὰ τὸ κράτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ εἰς πᾶσαν ὑπομονὴν καὶ μακροθυμίαν. Μετὰ χαρᾶς 12 εὐχαριστοῦντες τῷ πατρὶ τῷ ἱκανώσαντι ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν μερίδα τοῦ κλήρου τῶν ἁγίων ἐν τῷ φωτί·

9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” (NRSV) (more…)

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John Wesley: The Original Design of the Church

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

 

This is the original design of the Church of Christ. It is a body of men compacted together, in order, first, to save each his own soul; then to assist each other in working out their salvation; and, afterwards, as far as in them lies, to save all men from present and future misery, to overturn the kingdom of Satan, and set up the kingdom of Christ. And this ought to be the continued care and endeavour of every member of his Church; otherwise he is not worthy to be called a member thereof, as he is not a living member of Christ.

— John Wesley, Sermon #52: The Reformation of Manners.

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A Prayer for the Church – Colossians 1:9-12

paul-iconYesterday I introduced this prayer from the apostle Paul and gave some some personal reflections. There was a time when I don’t think I could have talked about the ongoing stages of the Christian journey without reference to the power of the Holy Spirit. And, that would be the way I would still speak of it today. But, in Colossians Paul uses terminology that is more focused on Christ than on the Holy Spirit.

So, as I was saying, this section of the letter displays another common feature in Paul’s letters to the churches.

He generally assures the Churches to whom he writes that he is praying for them. Churches should know that their pastors and leaders are praying for them. (more…)

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