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‘How Shall We Then Live?’

LivingForward1In our series, Living Forward, we asked the question, “What is a Life Worth Living?” and drawing from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians, we said that it is: *A Life Guided by the Holy Spirit; *A Resilient life; and *A Generous Life.  You can listen to the sermon here. Many requested a copy of Fellowship of the Unashamed, read at the end of the sermon, so I’ll post that below. If you would like a copy of the poem that I went over, Waiting in Color, just drop me an email and I’ll send it to you.

Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.”

I have the Holy Spirit’s power.

The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.

The decision has been made.

I am a disciple ofJesus Christ.

I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense,  and my future is secure.

I am finished and done with low living, sight walking,

small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions,

mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position,

promotions, plaudits, or popularity.

I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized,

praised, regarded or rewarded

I now live by presence, learn by faith,

love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven,

my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few,

my Guide reliable, my mission clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away,

turned back, diluted, or delayed.


I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice,

hesitate in the presence of adversity,

negotiate at the table of the enemy,

ponder at the pool of popularity,

or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, back up, let up or shut up until I’ve

preached up, prayed up, stored up

and stayed up the cause of Christ.


I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I must go until Heaven returns, give until I drop,

preach until all know, and work until He comes.

and when he comes to get his own,

may he have no trouble recognizing me.

May my colors be clear”

Why is Life So Hard?

LivingForward1The sermon audio and opening story from April 23.
It was a simple enough question.  I was on a trip to London to visit friends from our church who were working in Eastern Europe.  I stayed with a young Anglican rector and his family in a picturesque suburb of the capitol.  One morning, he and I drove to see the church building where he served.  We pulled to the curb and got out.  I called out over the car top, “Do you want me to lock it?”  He didn’t intend his answer to stick with me for the rest of my life.

“Do you want me to lock the door?” 

“Oh, yes!”  he called back quickly, “It’s not heaven yet!

Those four words help capture the secret of living with joy and perseverance in the real world.

As Christ-followers, we’re called to live in unavoidable tension.  It’s everywhere in the Bible.  Theologians call it the tension between the “Now” and the “Not Yet.”  We experience God and His riches now and yet the whole story is yet to completely unfold.  

We’re asking three questions in this series, the first is, Why is Life So Hard?

All the Scriptures are taken from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, listed here:

2 Cor. 1:3-7; 8-11

2 Cor. 4:7-10

2 Cor. 4:16-18; 5:4

2 Cor. 11:16-30

2 Cor. 12:7-10

‘Christus Victor!’ ~ Easter Sermon

 The Resurrection of Christ, celebrated and proclaimed throughout the world last Sunday is the height of joy and new life in Christ! Here is my Easter sermon from Christ Church. 

Below is the translation of a portion of  J.S. Bach’s Cantata for Easter and a link you may enjoy of a performance of his Easter music from the Boston radio program, The Bach Hour.

Cantata for the First Day of Easter

Heaven laughs! Earth exults
and all she bears in her lap;
the Creator lives! The Highest triumphs
and is freed from the bonds of death.
He who has selected the grave for rest,
the Holy One, can not be corrupted.

Longed-for day! O soul, be happy again!
The Alpha and Omega,
the first and also the last,
who placed our heavy guilt in the prison of death,
is now wrested from danger!
The Lord was dead,
and behold, He lives again;
if our Head lives, so also the limbs live.
The Lord has in His hand
the key to death and hell!

So rise up then, you God-given soul,
with Christ in spirit!
Step onto the new course of life!
Up! Away from the works of death!
Let your Savior take notice
of your life in the world!
The vine, that now blooms,
bears no dead fruit!
The tree of life lets its branches live!
A Christian flees
with great haste from the grave!
He leaves the stone,
he leaves the cloth of sin behind
and wishes to be living with Christ.



#CCLent17 / Day 40 / April 15 / ‘The Harrowing of Hell’

 This Eastern Orthodox icon of the Resurrection is one I highlight every Easter. It’s technically called ‘The Harrowing of Hell,’ and it shows Adam and Eve being pulled out of the tomb by the wrists as Christ “tramples down death by death.”

Many commentators relate it to the mysterious verse in 1 Peter 3:18f. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison…” Scott Cairns writes a poem about the icon that helps elaborate. You might say that Christ is not idle on Holy Saturday! (NOTE: The Orthodox here are referring to what the Apostles’ Creed refers to as “He descended into Hades” or the place of the dead.)

Into Hell and Out Again

In this Byzantine-inflected icon
of the Resurrection, the murdered Christ
is still in Hell, the chief issue being

that this Resurrection is of our agéd parents
and all their poor relations. We find Him
as we might expect, radiant

in spotless white, standing straight, but leaning back
against the weight of lifting them.
Long tradition has Him standing upon two

crossed boards—the very gates of Hell—and He,
by standing thus, has undone Death by Death,
we say, and saying nearly apprehend.

This all — the lifting of the dead, the death
of Death, His stretching here between two realms —
looks like real work, necessary, not pleasant

but almost matter-of-factly undertaken.
We witness here a little sheepishness
which death has taught both Mom and Dad; they reach

Christ’s proffered hands and everything
about their affect speaks centuries of drowning
in that abysmal crypt. Are they quite awake?

Odd — motionless as they must be
in our tableau outside of Time, we almost see
their hurry. And isn’t that their shame

which falls away? They have yet to enter bliss,
but they rise up, eager and a little shocked
to find their bodies capable of this.

Scott Cairns is an Orthodox Christian poet and teacher, author of Slow Pilgrim, The Collected Poems.

#CCLent17 / Day 39 / April 14 / Jesus’ Prayer at Gethsemane

Geth 0407005The More Earnest Prayer of Christ ~ Scott Cairns

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly…
—Luke 22:44

His last prayer in the garden began, as most

as his prayers began—in earnest, certainly,

but not without distraction, an habitual…what?

Distance? Well, yes, a sort of distance, or a mute

remove from the genuine distress he witnessed

in the endlessly grasping hands of multitudes

and, often enough, in his own embarrassing

circle of intimates. Even now, he could see

these where they slept, sprawled upon their robes or wrapped

among the arching olive trees. Still, something new,

unlikely, uncanny was commencing as he spoke.

As the divine in him contracted to an ache,

a throbbing in the throat, his vision blurred, his voice

grew thick and unfamiliar; his prayer — just before

it fell to silence — became uniquely earnest.

And in that moment — perhaps because it was so

new — he saw something, had his first taste of what

he would become, first pure taste of the body, and the blood.

Scott Cairns is an Orthodox Christian poet and teacher, author of Slow Pilgrim, The Collected Poems.

#CCLent17 / Day 38 / April 13 / John Donne’s Hymn to God in sickness

Raising of Lazarus
Raising of Lazarus

John Donne’s famous “Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness” ends with a beautiful perspective of the death of Jesus that defeats death. The last two stanzas are given here. You can see the whole poem at this link.

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
         Christ’s cross, and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
         As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
         May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.
So, in his purple wrapp’d, receive me, Lord;
         By these his thorns, give me his other crown;
And as to others’ souls I preach’d thy word,
         Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
“Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.”

#CCLent17 / Day 36 / April 11 / Into Your hands

Into your hands - FullSizeRender
Tracy Taylor Davis

The last words of Christ from the Cross is the surrender of his bodily life to the hands of the Father.

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Again there are echoes of the Psalms (31:5)

Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

These are words that remind us that this world is not the only one there is!

These words are wonderfully peaceful words to utter at the time of death. They are also words we can say each night before sleep.

Into Your hands I commit my spirit, Lord. In life and in death, I belong to You!

#CCLent17 / Day 35 / April 10 / “It is Finished!”

ethiopia FullSizeRender
Ethiopian icon

The 6th word of Christ from the Cross is one word in Greek: “Tetelestai” from the root telos or end point. In John 19:28 it is translated, “After this, when Jesus knew that all things were now completed, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said, ‘I thirst.’” In v. 30 the word appears again, this time on his lips: “When he received the sour wine Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” The word tetelestai was also written on business documents in New Testament times to indicate that a bill had been paid in full!

What is finished?
“I have finished the work you sent me to do.” (Jesus’ prayer to the Father, John 17)

It’s the once for all sacrifice for the sins of the world, to which nothing can be added!   “…He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)

As Bill Hybels has put it succenctly:

Religion is spelled D.O.
Christianity is spelled D.O.N.E.

The work of redemption is Finished! This the Good News we announce.

#CCLent17 / Day 34 / April 8 / “I am thirsty”

thirst 70-390-no-text-Last week, we explored Psalm 22 on the lips of Jesus (the fourth saying). The Psalm begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” and ends in triumph and hope. The fifth saying is simply, “I thirst!

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  (John 19:28-29)

This excruciating thirst was also prophesied in the Psalms, both 22 and here in 69:19-21.

You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
    all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart
    and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
    for comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food

    and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

As Jesus comes nearer to the end, he allows his honest thirst to be touched. And even in this, he fulfills the Scripture. He is ready to commit his spirit to the Father.