Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I read these words in a fascinating letter today: "And y'all must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'" They actually come from a rather old letter that we now call 1 Peter - the words are ancient and profoundly relevant. Since I believe humility and honesty are the cardinal virtues in the authentic Christian life...I began wondering what it means to be clothed with humility?

St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century said that humility "consists in keeping oneself within one's own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one's superior" (Summa Contra Gent., bk. IV, ch. lv, tr. Rickaby). This seems to indicate more a recognition of our own finitude and acceptance of our place within the created order. The article in Wikipedia goes on to further emphasize this sense of the word by clarifying humility in this way - "Humility comprises the following behaviors and attitudes:
  1. submission to God and legitimate authority;
  2. recognition of the virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those which surpass one's own, and giving due honor and, when required, obeisance;
  3. recognition of the limits of one's talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for that which is beyond one's grasp" (wikipedia.org)

This certainly elucidates something of what we're trying to communicate when we say "humility." However, I think there just might be more to it. A full orbed understanding of humility is only understood in light of a real encounter with Christ. He is the definition of humility - apart from Him we only have a fragmented understanding, which ironically is a word that should point us toward humility - that is "understanding" comes as we "stand under" the influence or authority of some object.

Humility is the Creator and Lord of the universe washing His followers feet. Humility is the Son of Man coming not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. Humility is being in the form of God, but not considering equality with God something to be grasped after, but rather emptying Himself becoming a slave obedient all the way to death. Humility isn't a concept - it is a Person and a way of life. Maybe clothing ourselves with humility is the same as clothing ourselves with Christ - that may not really clear things up, but it engages us in the journey.

This way of life opens us up to receive the gifts of God and to walk in a trusting relationship with Him. It opens us up to have genuine relationships with each other...to experience true community. Given the brokenness of this world, our communities, our churches, our families and our lives - I'm not sure that we've gotten this humility thing down yet. At least, I know that I haven't. It requires a radical change in our mindset and because of grace I believe it becomes an impossible possibility for us. May we follow the foot washing, life giving example of Christ today, opening us up to receive the Giving Gift and experience the blessed life.

Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


In the face of incomprehensible and irrational evil...when confronted with the immense brokenness of humanity...being touched by the destructive separation of sin - the only adequate response is silence.

I don't exactly know what to say...maybe that's as it should be. We've all been touched in some way by the tragic and senseless loss visited upon the Virginia Tech campus this week. I hesitate to even write anything on this topic, but it is difficult to think of anything else during these days. How do we respond?

In the midst of suffering our response must be the response of the Crucified God...our response is compassion. Due to the influence of Henri Nouwen, many now understand that compassion is more than simply sympathy - but it goes beyond sympathy to solidarity. It literally means to "suffer with." So we, like God in Christ, enter into the suffering of the 'other' giving the gift of presence to them. In times like this a steadfast and silent solidarity has a healing power beyond understanding.

How do I express genuine compassion to people hundreds of miles away? This is the tension that we experience in a globalized world - we simply cannot always give the gift of presence. The great benefit of the Body of Christ is that it extends far beyond ourselves. We trust that the same spirit of compassion is at work among the believers around Virginia Tech - that Christ is present through them by the Spirit. We maintain that unity and solidarity through prayer as we intercede for them and respond to the deep pain in any way that we are able.

So we pray: Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his death prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent and may experience the gift of your presence; we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Adoption & New Life

This is Kelsey. She's the newest member of our family. My younger sister and her husband just adopted Kelsey, and so I have my first little niece.

It seems like children are popping up all around us (that's popping, not pooping, mind you)! My older brother and his wife will have their first child in about a month - some good friends in our small group just had their fourth child last night - many of my cousins are squeezing out babies left and right - friends all around us are having babies - and now, Sara & I are beginning to catch the baby fever. Maybe it's just our age and stage in life...you know mid to late 20's, but it seems like we can't turn around without finding out about another pregnancy.

Every time I'm reminded of the miracle and mystery of life - I'm also befuzzled (that's kind of a mix of bedazzled and befuddled) by all the crazy names...I just can't keep all this unique individualism straight. What an amazing gift we've been given - life. What better time to reflect on the gift of life and the power of adoption - than in these days as we continue to soak in the joy of the resurrection. I pray that the power of the resurrection is at work in your life, that we might experience God-life through adoption into His household - may you find all the peace, joy, and love that exists in His presence. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Friday, April 6, 2007

Good Friday

What's so good about Good Friday? I used to think, "What an oxymoron to call this particular Friday good. The day that we remember the horrific death of the Son of Man...good just doesn't seem to fit."

We live in a TGIF culture. Friday usually holds a very special place in the patterns of our everyday lives. All kinds of people participate in eucharist on Friday, that is to say they "give thanks." To whom and with what level of sincerity is a question for another day. But, this Friday of all the Fridays in the year - good?

Giving thanks and calling any other Friday "good" seems quite natural. It is a great day of the week. The stresses begin to lift and we prepare for the rythm of rest and relaxation. Yet, God is still working on the Sabbath - and here the work is that of obedience, suffering, and death. Good?

The paradox of the cross confronts us...it just doesn't make sense. And in the confounding confusion, we're exposed. We want to hide away the brokenness and violence deep within the human heart...we'd rather ignore it or call it something else, like human nature or even justice - but the cross doesn't give us that option. Our condition is exposed - we're enemies of God. Good Friday?

How can we call the death of Christ, our Mediator, good? It certainly didn't seem like a good day to those initial witnesses. Were they next? It doesn't make sense - we thought he would be the one to redeem Israel. I still struggle with the simplicity and depth of it all.

This is not a day to celebrate, is it? In the traditional liturgy communion isn't served on this day...because it is a day of mourning not a day of thanksgiving. No TGIF today. However, we are going to serve communion in our service today - it's Good Friday. Lament and mourning is important - we shouldn't quickly pass over those for the celebration of Easter, yet at times I think the traditional worship practices missed something here. This is the year of Luke's witness...but in John's account it all took place on the day of preparation for the Passover - "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." He is our Paschal Lamb, He is the Bread of Life, He is the Good Shepherd.

If it wasn't for Sunday, we wouldn't call this Good Friday...but Sunday happened and all brokenness - all God-forsakenness is healed by the obedience of our Mediator. I still think that it's an oxymoron to call this Good Friday, but I no longer see that as a negative thing. That is the beauty of the truth, it is paradox - a deep Mystery that we are invited to enter. The way is opened by the parabolic movement of God's love in Christ and we are swept up by the Spirit to participate in the life of God. Like I said, it's deep...it's mysterious...it's life. There is mourning, lament, thanksgiving, and praise all wrapped up together because it's Good Friday.

Do you hear the call? "Come, follow me." We too must walk the way of Good Friday to experience the "deep magic" (as Aslan would say) of the resurrection. Lord, make us faithful.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Holy Tuesday?

Here we are in the Holy Week, but the more I think about it, we Evangelicals should probably refer to it simply as the Holy Weekend. The focus, for our community at least, is on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. We don't celebrate Maundy Thursday, but even if we did it would just be a long holy weekend. I've been thinking...what was happening on Holy Tuesday - at least liturgically speaking. That is, if we were to have a Holy Tuesday service, what would it look like? What would be the center of our thought and worship if we were to gather today?

Many Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters do gather to worship today. It seems that they focus on the bride and bridegroom images and the events that happened in and around Jerusalem leading up to the "passover" meal, trial, and crucifixion of Christ. The witness of Scripture has much to say about this final week. In fact, in the Gospel according to John, the witness spends almost half of this long Gospel on the events of this week.

What took place on Holy Tuesday? Well that is somewhat difficult to determine since the biblical audience wasn't quite as concerned with chronology as we tend to be, at the very least they thought about time in a different way. Maybe it was the day that Jesus got down on His divine knees and washed the disciples feet? In that final week...knowing that the tension and opposition was building, our exemplar gives us an example. If we were having a Holy Tuesday service, that would be my text.

"Do you know what I have done to you?" That is Jesus question and I usually find myself with the disciples, scratching my head and saying, "What did you do, Lord?"

"You call me Teacher and Lord - and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

Lord make us faithful on this Holy Tuesday to follow your example and wash each other's feet.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Do You Feel It?

Here we are at the beginning of Holy Week and I'm not sure that I feel more holy today than I did last week. Do you feel it? Well, maybe it's not about us anyway.

It seems that the media is running out of news to report because there has been much talk already of Christianity, Holy Week, and Easter. I'm not complaining, but this isn't technically "news"; is it? I thought that news was well new and we Christ followers have been celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for some 2,000 years now. Maybe I'm missing something? Does the parable of the wine skins have anything to do with this "news" thing? I'm not sure, we try not to talk to much about that parable in the Nazarene tradition, you know since it discusses fermented grape juice and all. I guess you have to come out of a Christian "brand" heavily influenced by the prohibition movement to really understand that one.

I guess that I just find this Holy Week stuff somewhat paradoxical - I'm confronted again with the scandal of particularity. Holiness should encompass every week...why is this one particularly holy? We celebrate the resurrection every Sunday or even every day as Christ-followers, why is this Sunday special? Maybe it is supposed to be a paradox - old and new, specific and universal, ordinary and holy, common and full of grace. Maybe it is by celebrating Holy Week that we come to understand that all time is infused with God's grace and is given as a gift to us. Maybe it is the best kind of news - Good News. Maybe it doesn't matter how I feel...the holiness of this week certainly isn't based on me and how I feel (thank you for your wisdom, grace, and mercy, Lord), but rather it flows out of the One who was, and is and is to come. Thanks for letting me talk...I'm beginning to see past the haze of my self toward the horizon...I'm begging to feel it. This truly is a Holy Week. Maranatha!