Echoes of Creation

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He is risen!
He is risen
He is risen from the grave and He is alive!
He is alive
We rejoice in knowing that our debt is paid, that we will one day be with the God we love.
Yet perhaps you sometimes wonder. Is Easter only for our someday? Is there no piece of Easter that gives purpose for our today?
In the beginning…
In the beginning
John the Apostle begins his gospel with echoes back to Genesis.
In the beginning…
As he tells his gospel story, you can hear the reverberations of creation all throughout.
On that first day of creation, God spoke and there was light.
In the beginning was the Word…and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Skipping ahead, on the sixth day of creation, God created man.
Michelangelo
On Friday, the sixth day of the week, Pilate brings Jesus out before the people and declares, Ecce homo!
Behold, the man!
The new man. The new Adam. The man who was as we were created to be, who shows us what it means to be human and then offers himself as a sacrifice, thus making it possible for us to become like him.
On day seven, God rested.
On Saturday, the seventh day, God is in the tomb.
And then.
Listen to the way John tells what happened next.
Early on the first day of the week…
Early in the morning
Do you hear it?
John is so deliberate with his words.
The first day of the week.
This is what Easter brings to our today.
The first day of the week. The first day of new creation.
On the first day of the week
Christ, his death and resurrection, has made a way for us to begin again. The old is gone away, the new has come. God’s kingdom is come to earth bringing restoration and healing in its wake.
As we obey Jesus’ instructions to love each other, to feed his sheep, we are allowed to help bring God’s kingdom to earth.
This is what Easter gives.
A chance to be a part of the new creation as it happens.
new creation
Rejoice!
He is risen!
He is risen indeed.

Art credits: Space photo by NASA; Creation of Adam by Michelangelo; light photos by Kirk Sewell; all other photos by Elizabeth Giger, copyright 2017.

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The Sharp Edges of Christ

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We all prefer the softer side of Christ.
The Jesus who blessed the children rather than the Jesus who bade us pick up our cross.
Christ Cross
We often desire to blur the sharp edges of Jesus, to make Him a more comfortable sort of person.
A softer Jesus is easier to live with, easier to fold into our busy lives.
Yet we are called to be God’s image bearers to and for our world and Christ shows us that in a world that is broken and full of violence, “the shape of such image-bearing will be cruciform”. (James A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom)
cross
Jesus comes as the new Adam, the God-man who perfectly bears God’s image not by a “triumphant conquering of the world but submissive suffering for the world”. (Smith)
Following Jesus means following the crucified Messiah.
Rembrandt The Three Crosses
(We) are summoned to follow a leader whose eventual goal is indeed a world of blessing beyond bounds, but whose immediate goal, the only possible route to that eventual one, is a horrible and shameful death. N.T. Wright
The reality is that Jesus demands all of us. Not pieces of us, not most of us, but all of us.
And what does He want with our selves? He doesn’t only want to trim off the bad bits, He wants to kill the entire self. He wants us to die to ourselves completely.
Jesus doesn’t say that we must deny and cut out those pieces of us that are sinful. He said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself.”
Even the good pieces. Often it is the parts that are right and good from the world’s viewpoint that are the hardest to surrender. Yet it is that very good that stands in the way of God’s best.
deny self
And while it is true that God, in return, gives us Himself, places His own self into us and makes us into the self we were created to be, the surrender must be for the sake of Christ, not for our own benefit.
Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Many love Jesus while they are satisfied with life or as long as they receive comfort from Him in the middle of hardship, yet when Jesus hides Himself for a time, they (and, let me be transparent, I) begin to complain or even to turn their face from Him.
Would that we could love Jesus for His own sake rather than for what comfort He can give us! We would, I think, find power in that kind of love, a love that can praise Him in anguish of heart as well as in the satisfaction of abundance.
The ability to love Christ for the holy, beautiful, God of love that He is would contain within it the power to die to our natural selves. The power to take up our cross and follow Jesus and, in return, be allowed to share in His triumphal resurrection.
pick up cross
If you willingly carry the cross, it will carry you. It will take you to where suffering comes to an end, a place other than here. Thomas à Kempis
The whole life of Jesus was a cross, and what in this world filled with crosses gave us the idea that we could escape what God Himself took on?
Realize that to know Christ you must lead a dying life. The more you die to yourself, the more you will live unto God. Thomas à Kempis
We cannot be a person who has the capacity to enjoy heavenly things unless we have surrendered to God and allowed Him to kill off our natural self completely, giving us a new self in its place, a self that looks strangely like Jesus Himself.
follow Me
You will never enjoy heavenly things unless you are ready to suffer hardship for Christ. Nothing is more acceptable to God, nothing more helpful for you on this earth. When there is a choice to be made, take the narrow way. This alone will make you more like Christ. Thomas à Kempis
May God give us the courage to take the narrow way and to be made more like Christ.

Art credits: photographs of Christ statues by asta kr; The Three Crosses sketch by Rembrandt

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Emmanuel on the Cross

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The beauty of Lent is the demonstration of God’s presence in all circumstances.
Lent
The beauty of the cross is the proof that God is with us.
cross
Wherever you are, whatever your cross is today, God is with you.
Emmanuel. God with us.
From Advent to Lent, God stepped into His world and submitted to the same rules we must follow.
Whatever the reason we all suffer, whatever the purpose, we cannot say that God did not play fair by asking us to be subject to something He was not willing to experience.
broken
Are you broken? Jesus is broken with you.
Are you lonely? Jesus was despised and rejected by men.
Are you betrayed by your closest loved ones? Jesus, too, was betrayed by those He loved.
Does grief seem your closest and most constant companion? Jesus grieved and wept over those who would not accept Him.
In the words of Corrie ten Boom from the hell of a Nazi concentration camp: No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.
deeper
When it feels as though life is beating you into the ground, when the weight of your burden does not allow you to rise from your bed in the morning, when you cannot carry your cross for one more step, you can know that He is here with you, carrying your cross with you, taking your burden on Himself.
Every tear we shed becomes His tear. He may not yet wipe them away, but He makes them His. Would we rather have our own dry eyes, or His tear-filled ones?
He came to us. He is here with us. We can be certain of Emmanuel in all circumstances.
If He does not heal all our broken bones and loves and lives now, He comes into them and is broken, like bread, and we are nourished.
Emmanuel
Be nourished by the bread of life and know that He is with you.
Peace to you.

Final two quotes and many of the thoughts in this post are by Peter Kreeft in Bread and Wine

All photographs are copyrighted by Made Sacred, 2017.

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Hope

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Can you feel it?
It is the satin of an apple blossom on your cheek.
Real
Can you smell it?
It is damp earth and greening trees.
Real
Can you hear it?
It is hints on the breeze of a song of new life.
Hope
Close your eyes
and breathe.
Hope
It is real
and it is waiting beneath what you can see.
Hope
We are meant
to be real.
We are meant
to recognize the real.
Hope
Close your eyes to what you can see
and breathe in
the real.
Hope
Fill yourself up with what
is given at all times
and is surrounding what you may see.
Hope
Can you sense it?
Satisfy yourself with what is deeper for it
is real.
Hope
we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 6.18-20)
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom. 8.24-25)

(poem and photos copyright by Made Sacred 2013)

The flu hit our home this week, so I pray you will enjoy this poem edited from the archives.

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The Danger of Obedience

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I am a lover of rules.
I have a deep belief that most rules were created to keep me safe. I cling to safety and I enjoy comfort, thus I comply with the rules.
Moses Tissot
There is an expectation when we follow rules that our obedience will bring about a desired result. When we obey the rules, we feel entitled to a certain outcome.
We have often, I fear, misunderstood the promised outcome of submitting to Jesus.
As did His disciples.
They had just seen Jesus feed the five thousand when He made them get into a boat and cross the lake while He stole some much needed alone time with His Father.
Storm Clouds
While they were crossing the lake, a storm came up. One of those storms that tends to sweep across the Sea of Galilee, swamping and overturning all boats in its path.
And the disciples were caught right in the middle of it. They clung to their boat for dear life, crying out with fear in a danger that was the direct result of their obedience to Jesus.
Storms
Has this happened to you? If not yet, as you continue to obey Jesus it is bound to happen sometime.
Whether it is physical danger or a danger of a different sort, submission to Jesus does not guarantee safety.
Quite the opposite, actually. Obedience to Jesus often brings trouble down on our heads.
Yet it also brings peace beyond understanding and joy that is made complete.
Most precious of all, surrender brings us the presence of Jesus Himself.
Jesus walks on the sea
Jesus came down from the mountaintop, walked out on the water, strode into the storm,
Christ Walking on the Waters Von Klever
and stepped into the boat with the disciples.
And immediately there was calm.
Obedience does not bring safety and it does not bring comfort.
Obedience does, however, bring the presence of God Almighty Himself.
It is worth every dangerous moment.

Art Credits: Moses and the Ten Commandments by James Tissot; storm photos by Kirk SewellJesus Walks on the Sea by Gustave Dore; Christ Walking on the Water by Julius Sergius Von Klever

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Expecting both Crosses and Empty Tombs

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Crosses and empty tombs.
Cross
This is what life is made up of. Death and rebirth.
Life
Seeds that die in the ground in order to bloom glorious, winter death that must happen in order to burst into green, the dying to self that is the only way into joy.
Crosses and empty tombs.
Rembrandt
Empty Tomb
We are facing a couple of crosses in our family right now.
Really, just the possibility of crosses.
Although, as I sit quiet in candle-lit dark, it occurs to me that perhaps this waiting, this living in the possibility of a cross is, in itself, a cross.
What will I do when the cross looms large in my sight?
Where will I place these fears when all that crowds my vision is rough-hewn wood and sharp metal nails?
Will I continue to hope in the promise of an empty tomb at the end of the cross?
Death
I must. If I have to drop to my knees and beg God to help me, I must remember.
If I am to survive any cross, whether heavy or light, I must pray, I must fast, I must fling myself by any means possible into the hands of the One who bore the heaviest cross of all…the One who then emptied that tomb.
Jesus promised us crosses. We are to expect them. And He also promised us empty tombs in the end. It may not happen until the end, but He gave His word that He would make those tombs empty again.
So I must remember. I must remember that God broke into time to show us that the empty tomb will always follow the cross.
I must remember the times in my own story when God brought an empty tomb after a cross.
Hope
When I cannot see beyond my cross, when I cannot trust on my own, I must look to Jesus who proved that His power and love are strong enough to bring forth an empty tomb after every single cross.
I must remember
and hope.
Crosses and empty tombs. They always go hand in hand.
Lord, we pray we never find ourselves without hope, without a glimpse of the empty tomb each time we happen upon a cross. Help us begin our daily journey expecting both crosses and empty tombs and rejoicing when we encounter either because we know you are with us. Amen. ~ from the Book of Common Prayer

Art credit: The Three Crosses by Rembrandt; Empty Tomb ink drawing from Catholic Hymns, 1860

from the archives

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How can Jesus be with us while also in Heaven?

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He says I am with you always and then disappears from sight.
Ascension
He promises never to leave us, yet we cannot touch His hands and feet.
It can seem like a painful hoax sometimes, this promise of Jesus to remain, especially in those times when we would give up everything just to have Him hold us in His arms.
Yet if we trust that He is not a liar, not given to cruel jokes, there must be some way in which this is true.
If God is three-in-one, if three are God and God is three, then when the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence within, it is, in some mysterious way, also Jesus Himself living in our hearts.
God in us
Jesus speaks interchangeably about Himself and the Spirit in John.
You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.
Jesus is God and the Spirit is God and God abides in us for eternity.
Yet I think there are more layers to this.
heaven and earth
The Bible seems to teach that heaven is right here, separated from earth only by a veil just as the Garden of Eden was separated from the temple of the universe, just as the Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of Solomon’s temple.
Jesus is in heaven and Jesus is right here with us. It is just that we cannot see Him until that day, that beautiful, glorious day, when heaven and earth will be one again, when the veil will be lifted and He who is our very life will appear.
And we shall be made like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
May it be so. May we trust that it is so. Amen and Amen.

Art credit: All photographs this week are by Kirk Sewell

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The Joy of Lent

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Our hearts are deceitful.
We are often able to convince ourselves that while we may have a bit of clutter here, a messy corner there, we are mostly company-ready.
IMG_2530
The truth is that we are homes in need of a total overhaul.
It is good now and then to take time to look deeply and ask God what He sees when He looks at our hearts.
This is Lent.
Analise10_02_08 008
Lent has the bad reputation of being the time of year we put on our most mournful faces and give up something we love.
Quite the opposite, rather. Lent should be a time of excitement, a time when we leave shallow desires behind for our deepest longing of all, unity with Jesus.
It is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges. ~ Bread and Wine
Forest snow 1
IMG_6469
During this season of Lent, we are marked by ashes of penitence, marked by the sign of the cross. We are asked to boldly confront the horror of our sin, which crucified Christ.
It is, after all, only when we have seen our sin for the monstrosity it is that we are able to die with Christ and thus share in His resurrection and triumph.
Use the opportunity that is Lent to confront that feeling of lingering guilt, that nagging sensation that you are missing something. No more making excuses, no more hanging on to the remaining shreds of goodness you think you have; rather ask God to show you what you truly look like.
We must face up to the reality that it was our sin that sent Jesus to the tortures of the cross.
IMG_4364
The joy of Lent comes when we truly see our sin and turn from it into Christ’s open arms. It comes when we understand that the very cross on which we hung Jesus is the same cross that cleanses us from our sin.
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Once we have looked full on our sin, we must turn away from ourselves and look full in the face of Christ. Let His resurrection propel you into the abundant life He promised. The life that is the beginning of making God’s kingdom a reality here on earth.
Let us use Lent as a time of repentence and fasting so that at the end of this season we are able to step boldly out of the winter of our sin. It is spring, and we have the power of the risen Christ in us.
IMG_4288
He has risen!
He has risen, indeed!
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Is God Truly in Control?

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God is in control.
This phrase seems to float around a lot, especially after events like presidential elections.
At the end of the day, everything will turn out okay because God is still King.
God as King
What do people mean by this?
Do they mean that everything in their lives will be beautiful? Do they mean that crises will never plague them?
Since this is clearly not true, since suffering is common to us all, either God is not in control after all or that is not really what God meant.
Yet God Himself did claim to be in control.
If being in control does not mean that justice reigns, that love wins, that pain vanishes, what does it mean?
beautiful result of labor pain
It means that somehow, in some inexplicable way, all that is hard in this world is only labor pain. The beautiful end is already decided and all that we go through in this world is somehow necessary to bring about that glorious end.
I don’t pretend to understand how this works out. I certainly don’t mean that every evil thing a person chooses to do is required for God’s plan. Yet a world in which free will exists and thus in which a broken mankind and a broken creation is possible is crucial to God’s plan.
In that moment in time when God broke into our broken world, He caused the end of the story to come crashing down into the middle. The end of death, the rescue of man and creation, our glorious new bodies, all of this has already happened in the first century, in little Israel.
this life
storm of life
Just as winter storms can still throw blizzards and hail to destroy the tulips after the calendar has already declared it to be spring, Satan is still casting icy lances to destroy as many as he can after the resurrection has already declared God’s victory.
It is our mission, our part of God’s story, to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth, to plant our tulips in the certain hope that spring is on the way.
God is in control, but that doesn’t mean that everything will happen now the way we may wish.
It does mean that the end is decided and that everything that happens is bringing us swiftly toward that end.
So plant your tulips in hope.
hope is here
Our faith is certain. The warmth of spring is on its way.

Art credits: Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860; tulips photograph by Kirk Sewell

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The Way into Suffering

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Suffering.
IMG_4308
IMG_4306
It infiltrates all lives. No one is exempt.
Physical pain, grief, loneliness, fear.
At times the suffering is wholly yours, at other times you suffer by witnessing another’s pain.
Although it is common to us all (or perhaps because it is common to us all), we spend much of our time and energy attempting to avoid pain.
IMG_7339
When our own efforts toward that end seem doomed, we resort to prayer. We beg and plead with God to remove our pain, to rescue us from our distress.
Satan seems to know this about us. He knows that we would do almost anything to evade discomfort and he uses this knowledge to his advantage.
He certainly did with Jesus. In the wilderness, Satan’s temptations were aimed at convincing Jesus to achieve his goals any other way than God’s way of the cross. God’s way of suffering.
Rembrandt_The_Three_Crosses_1653
Yet the cross, the way of suffering, was the purpose of the incarnation. Yes, Jesus performed miracles and taught wisely, but His mission was the cross.
Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
Jesus understood what was coming. He knew what agony was lurking. Yet He also knew His purpose.
Gethsemane_Carl_Bloch
He did ask once to be spared. He wept in a garden and pleaded for there to be another way to heal the world from the consequence of another garden.
And in the end, He submitted. He surrendered to the way of the Cross and was made perfect by His suffering.
If Christ had to suffer to be made perfect, why in the world, why in God’s broken world do we think we can gain Jesus’ resurrection without passing through His suffering?
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I do not mean that we should seek out adversity. In this world, it will assail us soon enough.
I mean that when it does come, these pangs that are common to us all, we should lean in and allow it to do its work.
Allow your suffering, whatever it may be, to carry you toward perfection.
Sunlight through tulips
This is the way of Christ. This is the way of all who follow Him. This is the way toward perfection.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~ James 1.2-4

Art credits: Three Crosses sketch by Rembrandt; Gethsemane by Carl Bloch; tulips photograph by Kirk Sewell; all other photographs copyright 2017 by Elizabeth Giger

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