Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sacro Speco: Good News


"Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational." -- Dorothy Sayers

Happy Easter! He has risen!


To read the entire Stations of the Cross series leading up to today's celebration of Easter and listen to an accompanying playlist, click here. To read the Good News, click here.

Linking up with Sacro Speco {Sacred Space} at All Manner of Inspiration.

Photo: Wisdom Jesus at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore by VJ Photos.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Stations of the Cross: Jesus is laid in the tomb (guest post by Tammy Perlmutter)



Sometimes it's not enough to know the story. Sometimes you need to read it, to write it, to hear it, to say it, to see it, to meditate on it, to walk through it physically. These last few weeks of Lent, several writer-friends and I are walking through the Stations of the Cross, a way of following the last steps of Christ's life here on Earth.

Thank you for joining us here as we end this journey. Today is Holy Saturday, the thin place between Jesus' death on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Sunday. And today's station reflects that time when Jesus lay in the tomb and all seemed lost.

Today's guide is Tammy Perlmutter, sharing a piece she wrote for the Good Friday service last year at her church. I went to that service because I go to All The Services during Holy Week, and I'm not a crier, but I wept through her words with the two Marys. (I think I also get a little weepy during Holy Week.)

Tammy writes about unabridged life, fragmented faith and investing in the mess at her blog Raggle-Taggle. She lives communally at Jesus People USA in Chicago with her husband, daughter, hamster and 250 other people. 


And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave (Matthew 27:59b-61).

The two Marys. They just had watched Joseph place Jesus in his own grave. Sitting opposite the grave. In some translations it says this was a garden. So when we picture this, our minds naturally imagine two women on a park bench surrounded by flora waiting for Jesus to come back to life.

Mark tells us the women were looking on to see where Jesus was laid. Luke writes that the women returned and prepared spices and perfumes. Matthew is the one who tells us the women are just sitting there.

I'm sure from the writer's perspective it may have appeared as if they were doing nothing. But they weren't. Mary Magdalene and Mary most likely were crumpled on the ground, holding one another, as they wept. They were sitting there because there was nothing else they could do. They did not have the strength to stand, let alone walk bravely home, while Jesus's tomb disappeared in the distance behind them.

They weren't waiting there, expectant with faith, for a front-row seat to the Resurrection. They were waiting there to finish the burial ceremony before the Sabbath passed. It was over. The Son of God was dead.

Jesus spent hundreds of years preparing his followers for his death. In prophecy and parable, he told them. He warned them. But no amount of words prepared them for this. They had given years of their lives to this man, this hope of the world. Jesus had died. Was buried. Betrayed them by his leaving. Their hearts went dark.

This image won’t leave me. These two broken women sitting outside the tomb. It's too close to reality, too familiar to me. I feel a connection with these women, paralyzed by their grief, with no room in their hearts for hope.

I have lived for months at a time, years even, sitting outside the tomb. My life had come crashing down on me like Atlantic Ocean waves, the deadly rip current pulling me beneath the water, as I thrashed and panicked, thinking, This is it. This is the end. And almost wishing that it was.

I spent two years battling a despondency that threatened to consume me. The last six months of it I spent asking God, “Where are you? What are you doing? You promised me that all things worked together for good, but this? This is too much." I was collapsed and crumpled outside the tomb, grieving, weary of living in a brutal, pain-wracked, sin-sick world.

All of us have felt that ache of emptiness or loneliness or lostness that forces us to ask, “Why are you not here?

For some of us it's long years of surviving abuse and yet living every day with the damage done.

For others, it's an addiction, secret and shaming, that leaves us despairing of ever being free.

The death of a friend, a parent, a child.

Job loss. Financial hardship. Failure.

Marriages on the brink, infidelity, separation and divorce.

A child who lives in your home and yet feels lost to you.

Parenting a special needs child.

The ravages of chronic illness.

The suffocating shadow of depression.

How many of us here are living in this wilderness of waiting? None of us expect to end up sitting outside a tomb, believing our story is over and there is no happy ending for us.

But the tomb has to be there. And we all have to spend some time sitting outside it. It's where repentance finds us. Where we finally, reluctantly reveal our brokenness. It's where healing happens.

It's the place where waiting and wisdom collide.

Without the tomb, none of us would be hurled onto the shore, rescued. Without the tomb, the story would be incomplete and worthless. Without the tomb, we would have no need for a God who overcomes the grave. Without the tomb, there would be no place or reason for resurrection.

Life doesn't end at the tomb, or even inside the tomb.

The tomb is the pinnacle of the most unlikely of fantasy stories—a man who comes back from the dead because he loves his family so much, he couldn't bear for them to believe that he would abandon them. He wanted his children to believe they were worth dying for and, even more, worth defeating death for.

The tomb is a gift that leaves our hearts so desolate that only the resurrection can heal them.

J.R.R. Tolkien created a literary term for this: eucatastrophe, from the Greek meaning "good destruction." Destruction with a purpose, a meaning, that brings about an eventual good. He describes eucatastrophe as "the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears ... because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth. The Resurrection was the greatest 'eucatastrophe' possible in the greatest Fairy Story.

"But the 'consolation' of fairy-tales has another aspect ... the Consolation of the Happy Ending ... or more correctly of the good catastrophe. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies universal final defeat."

Tolkien’s eucatastrophe is at the heart of the Gospel story, and Jesus gives his followers a rare opportunity to experience the “sudden and miraculous grace” of prophecy fulfilled by the Son of God.

He himself is the good that comes from the catastrophe.

And we have the rare opportunity of living in the aftermath of that good destruction, of living in this grace that is permanent and unchanging, personal and eternal, a story we have been written into, for even though we ourselves experience loss and despair in all our stories, He has overcome the world for us, and He will make our joy complete.




For more from today's guest, Tammy Perlmutter, visit her website.

For more about the Stations of the Cross series, as well as a special playlist and links to all the posts, click here.

Photo: Christ carrying His cross at the Gaudi church in Barcelona by Joel Miller. Quote by Tammy Perlmutter.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Stations of the Cross: Jesus dies (guest post by Rachel Lee Haas)



Sometimes it's not enough to know the story. Sometimes you need to read it, to write it, to hear it, to say it, to see it, to meditate on it, to walk through it physically. These last few weeks of Lent, several writer-friends and I are walking through the Stations of the Cross, a way of following the last steps of Christ's life here on Earth.

We hope you'll join us here as we near the end of this journey. Today is Good Friday, the day we remember Christ's death on the cross. We'll consider that station today.

Today's guide is Rachel Lee Haas, writer, wife, mother, daughter, friend, sojourner. She's a lioness, daughter of Aslan, and it's taken her a very long time to own who she is. Visit her website, Dramatic Elegance.


i.

I am the Daughter of Eve behind the tree, fingers curled against its bark. I am huddled with my sister, and we are watching.

I am the daughter of Jerusalem pressed low against the Earth, fingers curling against the Israeli dirt. I am wailing with my sisters, and we are watching.


ii.

the taunts are coming, mocking words from bitter ruby lips. the fool, oh, the fool has come. did You think that by Your coming, that by all this, You would save the human traitor? they are laughing. they are joyful, dancing like specters on hallowed ground. it's sacrilege. don't they know what they're doing?

the taunts are coming, mocking words from beneath rabbinical robes. if You are the Son of God, save Yourself. He saved others, but He cannot save Himself. they are laughing, eyes dancing at the prospect of the execution of this false prophet. this is their celebration. don't they know what they're doing?


iii.

there is a mighty cry. the ground shakes, and we are tossed, forward and backward. who can stand on a day like this, when the One we followed, the One who breathed worth and redemption and the promise of forgiveness into our bones is bleeding into the Earth He helped create from before there was Light at all?


iv.

the sky is black. has it ever been so black? His head falls. Lion's blood pours on the ground, soaking into the ground.there is silence, the loudest silence there has ever been in this world, in any world. He is dead.

and we know for whom He died. it is familiar, blood and bone. our own blood, our own bone. our own craven blackness. our bile is the blade, the spear, the nails, the hammer. it is for us, for me, that He is stripped bare of what made Him Man, what made Him God. we watched Him stumble as He carried it, hours and minutes and seconds ago. it is so heavy.

it is for my soul, my life.

i am spared. and oh, oh my soul, He is dead.


v.

do they know what they have done? did they know they laid the final stroke in a long-known plan since before the foundations of the Earth were laid? did they read the words they wrote, the ones they know so well, the ones they tossed so casually back into His face when confrontation occurred?

Deep Magic carved in the stone where His body lays. letters in three languages etched on a plaque that hangs above His head. this is Jesus. this is the King of the Jews. 

death is falling backwards now. do they know what is coming?




For more about the Stations of the Cross series, click here. Read all posts in the Stations of the Cross series, here.

Photo: Christ carrying His cross at the Gaudi church in Barcelona by Joel Miller. The pieta at the Shrine of Christ's Passion in Indiana by Emily McFarlan Miller.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stations of the Cross: Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other (guest post by Kimberly Majeski)


Sometimes it's not enough to know the story. Sometimes you need to read it, to write it, to hear it, to say it, to see it, to meditate on it, to walk through it physically. These last few weeks of Lent, several writer-friends and I are walking through the Stations of the Cross, a way of following the last steps of Christ's life here on Earth.

We hope you'll join us here on this journey.

Dr. Kimberly Majeski is associate professor of Biblical Studies at Anderson University, founder and CEO of Stripped, Inc., a ministry to women in sex trade, and co-host of Christian's Broadcasting Hope Radio Program Viewpoint.


If you think about it, the week we now call Holy takes us through the full expression of human emotion.

The week begins with cheers and adulation, rings in with palm branches and children’s songs, then moves to betrayal and abandonment to injustice and suffering and finally towards hope. What we have in the span of one week then, on the liturgical calendar, is an invitation into the darkness.

For some of us we are relieved to finally have a season when our questions are valid, when our doubt makes sense, when our grief finds a home and we are not ostracized for our reluctance to celebrate the goodness of God in pithy, unweighed theological statements like bumper sticker faith. For those of us who struggle in life lived with happy, clappy resurrection folk, who need a home for our lament, the cross allows us the space to ask, “Where are you, God?” In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus asked, suffering as he was that day, life ebbing away on the rock of Golgotha.

If I am being honest, it is to Jesus I cling. It is to the story of the one who willingly suffered and died that I am compelled. It is to the one who prayed, “Father, take this cup from me,” who opened his eyes to find the cup still there and who drank deeply, that I am drawn. If the truth be told, I am not sure I have reconciled to the God that allowed such agony to occur to his own son, to God’s own self, to lowly broken creatures like me, just trying to do our best in this world; why does such pain need to be known?

This year as I walk through the Lenten season and into Holy Week, I am clinging to Jesus like Mary did, hoping, trusting, believing he will make some good out of all the pain. I need her strength, I need her courage, I need her understanding of suffering redemptive. As I walk through the darkness, I am aware this year it is not a mere liturgical season, but the reality of my own life. Not many weeks ago, I stood over my own precious child—a nephew—gone too soon from us for reasons that are senseless and tragic. Like Mary, I anointed him with my tears, and I stayed with him until the end, and I gave him back to God.

It is in these moments of unspeakable agony when we, like Jesus, wonder where God can be found.

We wonder how it is that we will make it through, and once more it is Jesus from the cross, thinking of Mary and perhaps all of us, who shows us the way.

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (John 19.26-27).

Jesus knew his mother and his friends. He knew that we would have to go on. He knew that life is hard and tragedies happen and the world is blood soaked and broken. Jesus knew for those he loved, life would continue, the sun would rise, the water would need to be drawn, the families would need to be fed, the laundry would pile up on the floor.

Jesus knew what it was to suffer, to face the darkness and to feel as though God had abandoned you.

He knew what it was to believe God could not hear your cries, had left you in your pain and Jesus knew, in those moments wrought with grief and loss, confusion and fear God could be found in the arms of someone who loves you, wrapped around you, bearing you up.

In our sorrow, as we weep, as we struggle to find legs to stand, to remember to pay the phone bill and make grocery lists, as we remind ourselves to breathe in and out, we hold the hand of the one whom Jesus gave us, we lean in and we bear down and we remember in our loss we are connected, we are bound to Jesus and to each other, and in our bond God is found. Jesus showed us from the cross; this is how we make it through.




For more from today's guest, Kimberly Majeski, visit her website.

For more about the Stations of the Cross series, click here. Read all posts in the Stations of the Cross series, here.

Photo: Christ carrying His cross at the Gaudi church in Barcelona by Joel Miller. Lenten Rose (Helleborus) at Rawlings Conservatory in Baltimore by VJ Photos.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stations of the Cross: Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief (by Brenna D'Ambrosio)



Sometimes it's not enough to know the story. Sometimes you need to read it, to write it, to hear it, to say it, to see it, to meditate on it, to walk through it physically. These last few weeks of Lent, several writer-friends and I are walking through the Stations of the Cross, a way of following the last steps of Christ's life here on Earth.

We hope you'll join us here on this journey.

Today's guide is Brenna D'Ambrosio, whose website you really should go and bookmark right now. She's kind of a big deal. Married for nine years to her best friend, Brenna is the proud mama of three beautiful little girls God richly has blessed them with.


We read the story, though we only see it in one of the Gospels. Luke is the only one who mentions the exchange. I often wonder why.

They are referred to as thieves or robbers, but the notes in my Bible tell me otherwise. They tell me that robbery was not a capital offense and more than likely they were insurgents.

Now this starts to make sense.

Here is our Jesus. Our glorious rabble rouser. The King of the Jews stuck between two common, low-life rebels. Here He is, hanging, shamed.

Did they know who Jesus was? Had they heard whispers of what He did, who He claimed to be before they were arrested, tried, and hung on their own wooden branches?

The man on the left yells out to be saved. Mocking. Angry. Abusive.

But the man on the right knows. He knows they all hang there for the same crime but that Jesus is both innocent, yet in a way that not even the disciples understand, guilty. No, not guilty of sin, but Jesus was establishing a new Kingdom. And the act of allowing Himself to hang there, bloodied, beaten, and broken was pushing the Kingdom into reality. He was in labor with the new Kingdom and that repentant “thief” saw it. He saw the way the earth was ready to shake. He recognized that while both were found guilty of insurrection, only Jesus was actually carrying out His plan. It was just in a way that no one imagined or understood.

As the sky darkened and prepared to swallow itself, maybe, just maybe, he saw somewhere the tiniest glimmer that said, “This is not the end. This is just the beginning.” The cracking in of the new Kingdom.

And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”

As Christ exhaled to speak to the man, spirit reached across the divide, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

From insurrection to resurrection.

We suffer. We know they weight of burdens. We know they weight of our sins. We resign ourselves with the belief this is just how it is, its weight, our shame, to be with us always. This is how it is going to be. But then we whisper truth often without expectation, and we are given an amazing promise. This suffering will end. There is respite. That new Kingdom is for us. We are invited in. He stops to acknowledge us. He stops to forgive us.

Everything begins to shift. He is preparing to make all things new and He stops to invite us.

“You shall be with Me in Paradise.”




For more from today's guest, Brenna D'Ambrosio, visit her website.

For more about the Stations of the Cross series, click here. Read all posts in the Stations of the Cross series, here.

Photo: Christ carrying His cross at the Gaudi church in Barcelona by Joel Miller. Jesus dies on the cross at the Shrine of Christ's Passion in Indiana by Emily McFarlan Miller.
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