Monthly Archives: April 2011

On the Way

Abraham is not told who he is but who he will be at the end of the road that leads him from everything that constitutes his being( family, homeland, relationships).

The person who is involved in God’s history finds his identity through the promise of his future. His being human becomes historical and his history becomes messianic, i.e. full of the promised future that announces itself. Every present becomes painfully insufficient, a ‘not yet’ that points beyond itself, because the sting of the promised uncovering of humankind is disconcerting in the present.

The hope for Gods’ future can thus only be experienced when all human hopes and securities are radically doubted.

Ton van Prooijen, Limping but Blessed

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Missional Manifesto

Some pretty good folks have put together a bit of a statement:
Missional Manifesto

Preamble

God is a sending God, a missionary God, who has called His people, the church, to be missionary agents of His love and glory. The concept missional epitomizes this idea. This manifesto seeks to serve the church by clarifying its calling and helping it theologically understand and practically live out God’s mission in the world today. Although it is frequently stated “God’s church has a mission,” according to missional theology, a more accurate expression is “God’s mission has a church” (Ephesians 3:7-13).

One of the goals of theology is to safeguard the meaning of words in order to uphold truth and articulate a biblical worldview within the community of faith. Redeeming the integrity of the word missional is especially critical. It is not our intent (or within our ability) to define words for others, but we thought it helpful to describe and define how we are using the term—and to invite others to do the same. A biblically faithful, missional understanding of God and the church is essential to the advancement of our role in His mission, and thus to the dynamism of Christianity in the world.

It is first necessary to be clear about what missional does not mean. Missional is not synonymous with movements attempting to culturally contextualize Christianity, implement church growth, or engage in social action. The word missional can encompass all of the above, but it is not limited to any one of these.

Properly understanding the meaning of missional begins with recognizing God’s missionary nature. The Father is the source of mission, the Son is the embodiment of that mission, and mission is done in the power of the Spirit. By nature, God is the “sending one” who initiates the redemption of His whole creation. Jesus consistently spoke of Himself as being “sent” in John’s gospel and subsequently commissioned His disciples for this same purpose (John 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25). As the “sent” people of God, the church is the instrument of His mission (John 20:21).

A strong foundation in the gospel, obedience to Christ and posture to the world are critical components to both individuals and churches living missionally. A missional community is one that regards mission as both its originating impulse and organizing principle (Acts 1:8). It makes decisions accordingly, believing that Christ sends His followers into the world, just as the Father sent Him into the world.

The Church, therefore, properly encourages all believers to live out their primary calling as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) to those who do not know Jesus. The ministry of reconciliation is applicable to both its native culture and in cross-cultural ministry throughout the world. In this sense, every believer is a missionary sent by the Spirit into a non-Christian culture activating the whole of his or her life in seeking to participate more fully in God’s mission.

Missional represents a significant shift in the way we understand the church. As the people of a missionary God, we are entrusted to participate in the world the same way He does—by committing to be His ambassadors. Missional is the perspective to see people as God does and to engage in the activity of reaching them. The church on mission is the church as God intended.

Read more, and even sign it if you’d like: http://www.missionalmanifesto.net/

I think I like it. The trouble with studying theology is that a person becomes just plain opinionated on stuff, but I from what I can tell I like it. I think I might fill out some details differently than some of the signers, and maybe I might even have emphasized some different aspects, but it seems like a good statement, one that is inclusive of different approaches within the broadly Evangelical world. I haven’t added my name yet. I respect it too much to do that with only the breezy reading I’ve given it. But I’ll look more closely at it in coming days.

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How Long? Character: Larry Nguyen

Larry shows up in the last chapter of It’s a Dance, as a minor character, but he shows up a lot in How Long? He even is featured in a chapter, and shows up in many others. Here’s how I introduce him:

One of the staff members had propped open the door, making for easy access to the two bookshelves of used and discounted books that Book Trails Coffee and Bookstore keeps outside. The day is perfectly fine—one of those days that makes people forget exactly why they don’t like living in Southern California. A few scattered, puffy clouds hang in the brilliant blue sky. A light breeze brings gentle relief from the warmth of the sun, but isn’t enough to cause people to worry about hats or loose paper.

Larry Nguyen rolls his wheelchair through the open door and up to the coffee counter. The barista sees him coming and starts making Larry’s usual order—a twelve-ounce mocha. They talk a little bit about the band, Fontucky, that had played at the coffee shop the last weekend. The concert was a bit unusual for most of the regulars—country not being entirely popular in this urban area. But the band was both good enough and inviting enough to break through the audience’s initial reluctance. Larry even bought a CD, thinking their song “Living the 909” might have a good chance to become a hit. The barista doesn’t agree with the prediction. Larry hasn’t listened to the CD yet, and may never, but he plans to mention the band to his cousin, who’s a fan of that kind of music. He might even give him the CD.

With his mocha in hand and the conversation winding down, Larry rolls past the tall bookshelves to his usual table— the one with the best view of the intersection. People on their way somewhere. People crossing paths, and sometimes crossing purposes. These realities intrigue him. The alternating politeness and rudeness reveal much more about human character than the particular humans themselves would ever admit. Watching the intersection, simply absorbing the action, was more relaxing for him than just about anything else. It was almost hypnotic, really. As he watches, analogies reveal themselves—contrasts and comparisons evolve into ideas for his work. And more often than not, those ideas unknot the tangled thoughts that push on his mind—the intertwining thought strands that come from being both a college professor and a community activist.

He was a surfer and owned a motorcycle when he was younger. School was something he didn’t really care about. An accident left his legs paralyzed. In this chapter he shares how he found a new perspective that helped chart a new course in his life. What was this new perspective? It was one of renewed hope.

Here’s a little bit from one of his conversations:

“I know that you’re in this place,” Larrys says, “where you think it’s your right to be bitter, to be mad, to lose heart. You’re in a place where it seems natural to stumble in faith. Who wouldn’t, right? Who else has to deal with what you’re dealing with? At least I can blame my own youthful stupidity. You can’t blame yourself. You can blame the guy who caused all of this, but what can you do with that feeling? If you hold onto that, if you embrace what you feel you are allowed or owed, you’ll never move on. You’ll instead get comforted by your frustration. You’ll find your identity in your constant anger and in your loss. That’s a bitter, bitter cup to drink from. The longer you sip the harder it is to put it down.”

“So I should just go back to pretending? To being little miss Happy sitting nicely and playing the good Christian girl?”

“No! Not at all. See, that’s where you’re stuck. Right now you can only see the choice between being bitter and being fake. There are more options than that.”

“What?”

“Moving on. You don’t surrender to the Egyptians. You don’t drown in the Red Sea. You move on.”

“But what does that mean, Larry?” she asks, sitting up straight and then leaning toward him. “Practically. Don’t give me platitudes.”

“Sorry if it seemed I was handing out platitudes,” Larry replies, and sighs. “Only they’re not platitudes for me. They’re my reality. When I wake up. When I go to bed. When I hope there’s going to be some easy way to open the door so I can get a cup of coffee without too much hassle. When I go to the bathroom. My problems are always in front of me, always sitting with me in this chair. So they’re not platitudes for me. But I get how they might sound like it. What’s the practical answer? Don’t give up. That’s practical. Don’t lose your dreams. Adapt and respond. Let the limitation guide your creativity. You have to look deeper now. Just as the Israelites had to look deeper in order to find the land of the promise.”

“What does that mean for me today? What do I do with that?”

Read how Larry answers on page 183 of How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness.

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Prodigals

From Jon Birch, at ASBO Jesus:

The Prodigals

I like this especially because it so nicely illustrates the theme I’m working on these days, and which will be a big part of my conversations in May.

Here’s how I opened up a recent paper on the topic:

Hasten, O God, to save me;
come quickly, LORD, to help me.
(Psalm 70:1 KJV)

John Cassian, in his tenth conference, relates his continuing conversation on prayer with Abba Isaac. In the middle of the conversation, Isaac notes that Psalm 70:1 is “the devotional formula… absolutely necessary for possessing the perpetual awareness of God.” “Not without reason,” he adds, “has this verse been selected from out of the whole body of Scripture. For it takes up all the emotions that can be applied to human nature and with great correctness and accuracy it adjusts itself to every condition and every attack.” In being suitable for “all conditions” this centering prayer becomes a tool for men and women experiencing a variety of circumstances, both circumstances of need and of success. “This verse,” Isaac teaches, “should be poured out in unceasing prayer so that we may be delivered in adversity and preserved and not puffed up in prosperity.” Those who are in great need focus on hope in God, giving renewal in God’s promise to work on behalf of his people. Those in prosperity would be reminded that they truly do need God, refocusing their hearts and minds on the reality of God’s presence, rather than the ephemeral state of their present successes.

The centering prayer of Psalm 70:1 becomes an expression of hope and promise to help each man and woman find their way back to God’s perspective, a reality in which God has a preferential option for all people. Yet, people must learn to be open to this option, this true freedom and full identity that is only found in God. The oppressed fall into despair and hopelessness; the oppressors remain lulled by their apparent wealth and power. God seeks out his people even still, working in Christ and in Spirit in this world, leading people to liberation towards their particular freedom. The liberating work of God calls the oppressed out of their oppression and the liberating work of God calls the oppressor out of their oppressing. “Because oppression always has these two sides,” Jürgen Moltmann writes, “the liberation process has to begin on both sides too.”

Posted in holiness, spirituality, theology | 2 Comments

How Long? Character: Rachel Kivitz

Rachel Kivitz is another character who shows up in It’s a Dance, but becomes a key character in How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness. Here’s how I introduce her in the book:

Because of her hurried morning, Rachel feels she looks like the yard—a bit sad.

She had thrown on a more casual outfit than usual, left her long dark hair wet and put on an Adidas cap to cover it, rather than carefully styling it. It occurs to her this look is a lot more fitting, really, now that she’s no longer an executive in an L.A. marketing firm but a full-time seminary student— spending more time with the kids and more time with God than she ever has before. Somehow, though, she’s not any less tired, hence her lingering frustration and regretted words that she’s hoping her daughter Monica didn’t hear.

We learn in later conversations that Rachel has a fair bit of a past, and ended up in a lot of trouble. Her faith grew when she was in the depths of despair, and now she is walking down a road of hope and renewal, sharing a deep wisdom that comes from both study and experience. So much wisdom, in fact, that Nate thinks she might be the choice for a new leader when he leaves. What does Rachel have to say about this apparent opportunity? What words of wisdom does she share with others who find themselves totally lost and seemingly abandoned by God? Rachel is a teacher, a student, a friend, and most importantly, truly dedicated to walking with the Spirit in her life. Things she learned from wrong turns and hard struggles.

Here’s a passage in which she’s chatting with Nate:

“We are always asking the wrong questions,” Rachel continues, with a slight change of direction. “That’s the trouble with so much theology I’m studying now. It’s all asking questions, sometimes very deep questions and often very complicated questions. Interesting questions, but so often I hit this wall, especially recently. I get to thinking about what questions God wants us to ask. And I realize they’re not the questions we are good at answering.”

“What kind of questions?”

“What you are asking, in part. ‘Where do we go?’ ‘Where is God right now?’ ‘What am I supposed to do next?’ ‘Why the wilderness?’ ‘How can I do this next step?’ ‘Where’s the vision and plan?’ We have all these questions. You’ve said it before— God doesn’t always give us the answer. We’re left with this one question, and it’s the one we can answer, but it’s the one we don’t want to answer.”

“So, the question really is, ‘How do we respond?’” Nate asks.

“How do we respond to the darkness and emptiness and problems? To the frustration? To the terror? We’re not given an explanation. We’re given life and told to live this life in faith. And it seems—seems from this passage—the more we learn this the faster life comes at us to shake us from our stance. Maybe that’s why Ephesians 6 gives us all those great images, but ends with, ‘just stand.’ We just have to keep standing.” She takes a drink from her glass and mostly empties it. Then continues, “I think Melissa is really getting this one area. This is the question she’s asking. Maybe not directly or with the Bible verses in her mind, but she’s asking this very question. How does she respond to all the mess? Does she stand?”

“She’s not coming up with a quick answer,” Nate says.

“Neither are you,” Rachel quickly responds. “That’s all part of the process. We’re not expected to grow instantly. Paul gives us a goal and tells us to keep at it: ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,’ he says in Philippians 3. That’s how we are supposed to respond. We see in Exodus a lot of ways we’re not supposed to respond.”

Read more about, and from, Rachel in How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness

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How Long? Character: Melissa Choi

Another main character from my new book:

Melissa Choi was one of the earliest participants with Nate and the others at the Columba. Indeed, her participation went beyond just the spiritual community when she took over as assistant manager. But before that she was an artist—an artschool graduate. A lot of her work filled the Columba pub. And in the last year her pieces started selling a lot more broadly after she had a particularly nice day at the PasadenART festival. She had quit her manager’s job three months before as she found she didn’t have even nearly enough time to devote to her passion, and finally she had the finances to begin to support her dream.

Then, in the first chapter, we learn she is shot in a robbery. How does faith survive when dreams appear to be lost? Can it survive? Will she survive?

How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness.

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Character: Nate Shipley

I want to, in a series of post, introduce the main characters that make up the Columba community. I’ll begin with one of the key leaders and the founder, Nate Shipley. This is how I introduced him in my book:

God had been doing a work. Nate joined in on part of that—just a part, even if he seemed to be the leader. It was God’s work, with the Holy Spirit bringing amazing people to join in, making the community go way beyond anything Nate had imagined five years before. Back then, he left his job at Crestview Community Church to become a janitor at a downtown restaurant and began to serve in a leadership role for a new kind of Christian community hosted at the same location.

So much had happened. After thirty years of being a Christian, ten of these in full-time ministry, Nate truly met Jesus in the context of this very non-traditional Christian community. His heart felt open and free; he even felt relaxed in his work even though so much required his attention. Instead of feeling as if life pressed down on him, he felt life provided opportunities to celebrate. He also knew it was the Spirit’s work, not his own. Even after all the time since leaving that old world behind, his heart felt strangely warm.

He felt more than his own excitement. And the feeling went deeper than the large, half-finished mug of French roast sitting beside him could provide. God really works. To be sure, more than his emotions changed with this christological encounter. While he never wore a suit and tie in his ministry work, he certainly did affect the casual pastor’s look for a long while. Back when he persevered in traditional churches he owned quite a collection of Dockers and polo shirts to go with his short—but not too short—conservatively combed hair.

Now? He shaved once a week or so, if he remembered, mostly because of the itching. He wore his hair longer, finding a scattered wavy pattern that seemed to change style every day. Mostly he wore jeans on cold days and shorts on hot days, almost always with his Tevas. He no longer owned any polos. A collection of T-shirts reflected his mood day by day—some with art, some with cartoons, some just a solid color or a curious design. He became familier with the thrift stores within walking distance. Every so often he gathered the shirts he hadn’t worn in a while and traded them in.

He stood taller than average, a little over six feet, but his waistline lost a few inches. Thirty pounds makes a difference. This new life led to better dietary habits. Nate lost his house and his fiancée. This road to finding peace occasionally frustrated, confused, and angered him. It involved giving up so much and taking up so much. The hours of prayer and study and conversation seemed endless. He sacrificed time and energy with almost entirely no practical benefit— except for the joy.
Maybe there’s really nothing more practical than joy.

Every character has a history and every character has a struggle. For Nate, he finds himself feeling dry, not spiritually as much as in ministry. He isn’t quite sure he has a continuing vision for his role and thinks maybe he should plant a church elsewhere. Where does one find the renewed calling of God in life? Here, there? Nate doesn’t have the answer. But conversations with others in his community help him find the Spirit’s counsel.

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How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness

Today is the official release day of my new book, How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness, published by Barclay Press. Over the next week, I’m going to post excerpts, background information, and other tidbits. I’d also love to hear any questions or comments from people who have read, or are reading the book.

As a way of beginning all of this, here is the beginning part of my introduction which helps put the book into some kind of context. The second part, which I’m not posting here, has been called by my wife, “The most romantic introduction ever,” so feel free to buy the book to read more…

Here’s the first bit:

Every so often someone asks me about the setting and characters of my first book, It’s a Dance: Moving with the Holy Spirit. It’s a fictional setting, but rarely is any work wholly fiction. People want to know if I’m Nate or any of the other characters, or how much my own church experiences went into the details of what happens in the book. My answer is that no, I’m not Nate, or any of the other characters, though there’s a lot of me that is in Nate, and many of my experiences do show up in the questions and issues I discuss. But it’s not really about me. When I write I have in mind real people, real stories, real questions, and I attempt to mix these into a cohesive whole.

The same is true for this present work. The setting is the same, but the experiences of the characters are quite different. In It’s a Dance I created a somewhat idealized community in order to explore the work of the Spirit. How Long? is a little more honest, in a way, pointing out that life lived in community with God and others is not a constant song and dance. Indeed, every life encounters great difficulties, some of which are very hard to understand. And the difficulties are often strongest when we are faced with holding onto our faith when we see there’s nothing to hold onto anymore. This reality is “the wilderness.” My own times of wilderness are not always filled with hope, to be sure, so I am absolutely thankful for those men and women who remind me about the hope that is truly found in God.

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The Easter Hunt

“Did you ever do any of those big Easter egg hunts when you were little,” Amy asked me this week.

I got to thinking about this, and stumbled over an answer. I honestly don’t remember any, so either I didn’t do any or they were fairly forgettable affairs. The only Easter egg hunts I do remember were at the somewhat sprawling house and yard at my dad’s parents. There were only about five grandkids, so it wasn’t a big affair, though I guess it gave a little bit of the sense of that primary task of the event: the hunt. Plastic eggs, chocolates, candy, assorted other items and goodies are put in hard to find spots so that everyone is then sent off on their own quests to gather the most treasure.

“I didn’t like them,” Amy added. “My memories are of kids screaming, and fighting, and pushing.”

Everyone wants to gather the most, gather the best, both for their own sake and for the sake of showing everyone else. “Look what I got!” each one says, while at the same time triumphing over those who got less and feeling a fair bit jealous of those who have more. For the competitive ones, this is either a shining or a devastating moment. If there’s no built in balance, younger kids get muscled out or are simply too slow to gather up what is hidden.

To be sure, the adults are aware of this sort of imbalance. Oftentimes, nowadays, Easter egg hunts will be broken up into different ages. The younger the hunters, the much more readily apparent are the prizes. The adults will walk alongside and help. Kids sometimes know to take advantage of this help, playing the pose of the helpless needing guidance, simply because it is much easier for an adult to tell them rather than looking. But that doesn’t last for too many years. Because the hunt is the thing. Capturing the prize, getting the most chocolate, reveling in one’s found cache and feeling triumphant each time we find something that someone else hasn’t found.

With this in mind we encounter Easter. And in my mind Easter the religious holiday, indeed the whole of our spiritual life, is often very much the same sort of task as the Easter egg hunt.

We look for the hidden treasures. We scramble to know the most, find the most, sharing with others what we found but also competing with others about what they found. We sometimes like to triumph over, even if silently, those who know less, while we’re intimidated by, and maybe even jealous of, those who know more. We go to this service and to that service, we do this task and do that task. We put on our best suit or nicest dress, all as part of our going out and doing the tasks we think should be done. We get easily disappointed when we can’t find what we’re looking for, when we go out looking and our basket remains mostly empty. We see others gathering and finding, becoming filled. But we don’t. We get discouraged and may even quit looking. Those who are the most competitive are often the ones who find the most, get the most.

We come to Easter, so often, as hunters looking for our spiritual egg, this hidden egg that is the life and hope and trust of Christ in our life that might, somehow, bring peace to our frantic life. The kids scream and fight and push, all to find the best egg, the most eggs, so they can tell everyone what they found.

This can affect how we live. Because even though we might argue that we can’t find salvation through works, we really do have this inner sense that because the hunt is the thing, if we look harder, longer, farther, with more energy we’ll be able to find more salvation — more of those benefits of salvation that we think is part of the spiritual life.

So we spend our lives looking for the eggs. We ask people who we think are more advanced than us. We compete and we muscle other out, judging and being jealous in turn. The spiritual life becomes this constant frenzy of gathering more and more so that we can fill our basket and say, “Look what I found!”

I was thinking about this earlier this morning, and I realized something. We’re not the hunters. We’re the eggs.

Jesus finds us. Wherever we’re hidden, Jesus comes to us. We’re lost, he gathers us into his arms. That’s the story of the resurrection.
women at the tomb
Indeed, it might even be argued that the story of the cross is the result of what happens when we as people insist on hunting down Jesus. That’s seen most clearly in Gethsemene, but it’s also seen with Peter and the other disciples, who kept insisting they found a Messiah that matched their own expectations. They were searching for a Messiah, and they couldn’t ever really capture Jesus, and Jesus certainly wouldn’t let himself be gathered up in anyone’s basket. A whole group of people were so sure of what they were looking for that they missed the Messiah who was among them. They got caught up in the frenzy and they thought they were the ones to determine the prizes and the content of the hunt.

So Jesus died. And then he wasn’t dead. He rose again. This is where the story gets really interested because Jesus, the resurrected Christ, can’t be found. He finds.

The women go to the tomb. He’s not there. Keep looking, he’s not here, the young man says. He shows up in the garden to Mary Magdelene (a woman!). Peter and John go running back to the tomb to find the risen Lord. He’s not there. They do a lot of running back and forth, but they don’t find. Jesus finds them. Peter and John Running

That’s the message of the resurrection. All our work, all our worry, all our frenzied competition and anxious efforts are missing the point. “You are looking for Jesus. He isn’t here. Go tell the others.” On their way to tell the others, Jesus finds them. “Greetings!,” he says.

He shows up with the two fellows walking out of Jerusalem, chatting with them, eating with them. Just when they realize who he is (we found him!), he’s gone. He’s not found. He finds. They go to tell the others, and then Jesus finds them again with the others. on the road

The disciples go fishing. They catch nothing. They spend all night hunting. Nothing. They try all the techniques. Not a single fish. A guy on the beach sees them and tells them how to find the fish. Jesus found them, found the fish. Jesus is not found. He finds. He is the hunter. We are the eggs, the fish, the sheep who are hidden and lost.

This carries into the book of Acts. Jesus ascends into heaven. The disciples pray. Wait, Jesus tells them. Finally, finally, they listen. What they couldn’t do in Gethsemene they can do in the upper room, waiting, praying, and the Spirit finds them. The Spirit wasn’t evoked. The Spirit wasn’t hunted down. The Spirit finds.

All through Acts this is true. The Spirit shows up in all kinds of places, finding all kinds of people. The Spirit isn’t something we hunt for, spending our time in anxious techniques to find the Spirit in the right action or the right words or the right service or building. The Spirit isn’t found in the tombs. The Spirit isn’t found. The Spirit finds.
That’s the message of the resurrection. Pentecost
Jesus is not the object who is found in the tomb, but the risen Son who finds us wherever we are. He seeks us, the Spirit hunts us down, wherever we try to hide, whatever we think we have done, however well we might be hidden. There is no screaming, no pushing, no fighting. There is no competition because what is there to compete about? We can’t find what we are looking for because we look in the wrong place. We look in the tomb and the tomb is empty. We cannot find, because we are not the hunters.

The Son is out and about, and he is finding us.

Posted in holidays, Holy Spirit, Jesus | 1 Comment

Holy Saturday

Some thoughts I wrote in 2004:

There is a slight haze in the sky, some stars shining through, many not. All is quiet, not a sound, odd for a holiday weekend. No wind, no movement. Perfectly still, the noise I make echoing through the silence.

I felt this a day of rest, and rested accordingly, going for a wonderful jog through the hills, enjoying the beauty of the day. My soul felt at ease, and I let it enjoy the feeling.

It is Saturday, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This day has more and more meaning to me as the years go by, some of which I’ve written about in other places, some of which still I reflect on.

This being a journal of my spirit and soul I think it’s good to say how much I identify with this day more than tomorrow or yesterday. I feel forgiven, I have no guilt, I do not feel the weight of my own sins. They have been released and I am a slave to nothing. And yet, I do not feel resurrected. The weight of life’s difficulties weighs on my soul, my doubts and confidence balance each other out, each gaining sway for their own time. I taste of new life, I do not dwell in new life. Much has begun, nothing is resolved. I live in utter faith that the work God has started in me will be finished, with wonderful results. There is no actual indication this is the case.

Indeed, with all of the pomp and celebration of Easter, I feel myself distant from it, not because I do not understand the significance of the day, I just wait for my own Easter, along with the ultimate Easter. Today is my day.

Because I’ve been saturated in the Christian world for so long I wonder if it is simply overexposure. I was born into the church, and have no memory of not being a Christian. Thus that transition is missing for me. So, the joy and celebration of Easter is something I taste, but have more contrived emotions in celebration than real excitement.

Of course I live the Easter life in part, the presence of the Holy Spirit in me is a result of Easter. Had Christ avoided the cross or not risen, the Holy Spirit would not have been sent. So, that is a consideration.

But, too much of me now identifies with those dark words of Wesley and others, who miss God even as they seek him the most. It is Saturday, and all I have to do is wait, and pray, and continue to believe. Christ, we say tomorrow, has risen indeed. So too he rises in each of our lives. That is the wonder of Biblical prophecy and imagery, it means more than it means, though it does not mean less. Christ and Easter are the history, the depth of the theology of the Faith, and yet they still speak to us, meaning more than just what they meant 1,970 years ago.

The disciples sat together in someone’s house, weeping and remembering, hoping that something would happen, not yet fully without hope, still lost in the sudden change. Saturday is the Sabbath. They were not allowed to work. So they waited. The women were ready to go to the tomb as soon as it turned light the next day, to do what they could, the next step they saw. That’s all I can do, the next step before me, whatever it is. For one day, I will be going about my tasks, and Easter will come, a power beyond me, changing all in an instant. He does make all things new, is making all things new.

And something I wrote in 2008:

This is one of the more unusual days in the religious calendar. Friday is the crucifixion, that day in which we say that our sins were cleansed by the sacrifice of the Lamb. He took on the burden so we would not.

Tomorrow we celebrate the resurrection, the time in which death itself lost its sting, so that we who are of the Faith fear Sheol no more. To live is Christ, Paul says, and to die is gain. Death is but a transition from life to Life.

Saturday, today, is in between. Why didn’t Jesus come out on the Sabbath? Was it out of respect for the Law? Sunday had no special relevance until he made it so. Yes, the prophecies mention three days… why? Christ is not beholden to the prophecies, they are beholden to him. A curious consideration, and unknowable.

What were the disciples thinking? The Twelve, the others? Years of their lives had been spent with the man now dead. They could not return home, for traveling was forbidden for the most part. So they stayed, their lives lost, dead even though still alive. Already Christ had died on this day, he had not yet risen. They didn’t know he would. He told them, but they didn’t understand.

How many cursed Christ on this day for being deceitful? How many felt really bad about it after he rose again?

We live in the middle of the three days of the Passion, the time between times, Christ has come, Christ will come again. Already, not yet. Hoped for realities which are not apparent, no longer slaves to sin though sinners indeed, free and not free, alive and not alive, strong and weak, hopeful and fearful, that is our state. Yes, keeping the eye on the end is what helps us through the now, transforming our perspective even in the present so as to anticipate the future, letting us see time beyond time while we walk through time.

But we are living in the Saturday, the day between a day and a day, in which we expect everything and feel the loss of everything. Christ has told us what to expect, but we don’t really understand or believe it… just look at our lives, our hearts.

Saturday is an awkward day, neither here nor there. And so, it is a day of rest.

For a lot of reasons Holy Saturday is my most precious religious holiday. It is the one which I live with and the one which suits my soul. This is Holy Saturday. This is the day that reflects the present stanza of my inner liturgy. My whole life thus far is lived on this Saturday. Christ has died. May Christ be resurrected in my life, in the life of those around me. May the peace of God come into our hearts, and help us wait patiently for the fullness of Christ to enter our world for all eternity. Amen and amen.

It is Saturday, however, and all we have on this day is a promise. Such is our lives, such is my life. Praise be to the Three-in-One.

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