Bloody Fingers?

Thomas 2So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” [John 20: 19-28]

I was recently in a conversation with a friend in advanced theological studies. It was pointed out that of the 14 student cohort moving through these studies in lockstep, 12 candidates do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Bear in mind, this is a Christian Seminary, whose students are career tracked to senior pastorate, denominational administration, and seminary faculty.

I’ll admit, I was a bit stunned. My overwhelming feeling was confusion, interspersed with some anger, sadness, and a healthy dose of frustration. The idea of pastoring a Christian church, when deep in one’s heart of hearts lies the belief that Easter is a fraud, left me a bit at sea. I felt a need to respond in some way, and yet quite at a loss as to how.

What does one do, teach, say, or even blog when God’s sovereignty over death itself is not only questioned (which is a healthy academic exercise — questioning everything), but utterly rejected as morality fiction? So… my adrenaline ran free… I talked with some friends, I emailed some friends, and settled… nothing at all. Basically, I looked towards the heavens, spread my hands, and felt like an ecclesiastical Chicken Little running in circles crying “the sky is falling!”

The next day, when the adrenaline rush had waned, and the Lord got to get a word in edgeways over my frantic (unidirectional) prayer…. I thought He’d be upset alongside me, and suggest some massive prayer campaign for revival and faith among the collective church, etc., etc.

Imagine my surprise when, in a FAR more matter of fact manner than I’d have imagined possible, He just slid up alongside me at my chair and said, “Um, Little Monk? What’s the problem? I’ve been through this. You feel all akimbo to realize that some of My servants don’t believe in My physical resurrection. I’ve been there before, you know… Thomas traveled with Me all three years, hearing everything I said, seeing everything I did. He knew Lazarus. He was at the Last Supper and with us in the Garden. He knew ALL the other disciples, and he knew the women who reported My rising and what the angels told them.

“And nonetheless, knowing ALL of that and ALL of them, still… his mind could not accept, could not comprehend, the possibility that I had risen from the dead. How in the world can you judge these students, or anyone, for struggling to wrap their heads around such a possibility?

“How did I handle that situation? I met his need. He made a straight up, bald faced, statement of what it would take for him to believe I rose from the dead. He meant that, and I took him at his word. The next time I came, I saw him, bid peace to him, and invited him to put his fingers in My wounds and his fist in My side. As it turned out, he found that after all, he didn’t need to do that.

“But Thomas had to see for himself. He needed to have a personal affirming experience of Me, to believe in My resurrection. Many people are that way, many people are skeptical of claims. Thomas was My disciple and friend before his faith was strained this way, and he was among the full Apostles, spreading the gospel thousands of miles after that day. He set Me a test, I met that, and he served Me faithfully and mightily.

“Nothing has changed today. I have many servants who love Me, worship Me, follow Me, and yet (perhaps deep in their heart of hearts) cannot comprehend or accept My resurrection. If they will do the same thing Thomas did… if they will encounter Me and set me a condition by which We, they and I, can experience one another by which they will believe, I will meet that joyfully. Just as once I did for you, by the way.

“Invite such people to come apart for a time, come find Me, encounter Me, and let Me show them My risen self in some way they can accept. It is vastly more comfortable to have faith in what one sincerely believes. Now, it is much happier and easier for faith to come by hearing, and hearing by My word. But those who doubt and resolve those doubts, can certainly be among My most mighty servants.

“Don’t judge. Invite and encourage. I’m always ready to encounter. Be at peace.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So there we are, Gentle Reader. A bit of a confession, I guess. The Lord is just so much more patient, calmer, so much less judgmental than I am. I keep thinking I’m growing up, but so often He reminds me of such simple things.

Grace to you, and to all of us, Gentle Reader! — The Little Monk


The Resurrection – What’s the Big Deal?

Empty TombFrom time to time across my life, the Lord has granted me the grace of some “new” understanding of Him, of me, of “stuff” relating the two… of Him and the world… just… “something”… on Easter morning. This effect is always the most profound when He guides me along some “path of preparation” (rather reminiscent of John the Baptist’s “prepare ye the way of the Lord… Make straight paths…”) during Lent.

I put the word “new” in quotations opening this post, because what I learn is often not “new” at all… It is something, some word or phrase, that we ALL know… that we’ve ALWAYS known… maybe all our lives. And yet, the learning opens before me with unimagined depth and breadth, such that it seems I had never heard or seen it before.

This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday just past, has been one of those times and, to be perfectly frank, I’m still “recovering” from it.

I awoke, gently… quietly… and the Lord spoke just one single word. “Resurrection”

That’s all He said. But…

I could not even move from my bed before He just “unfolded” that word before me… took me inside of it… let me watch in an entirely new way what HE means/meant by it… that it felt as if I lay there for two hours, though it may have been seconds, minutes, or half the day. Time just stood suspended.

Jesus, sitting up naked, clearing Himself of His winding sheet in Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb? Yes. That was there. But… but… there was just so much MORE! I had never thought about the actual technical “meaning” behind the word “re-surrection”. It means… “breathing again”. It became this “coming-again-to-life” of not only Jesus, but all of mankind, and all of the fallen world, and all of the Cosmos, all of Creation.

The Re-surrection was, is, the “Fresh Start of Life”, buried with Jesus in His death, raised again in Newness of Life…

Not just Him, not just “us”, but ALL!

Is that a big enough deal?

How about this, then?

Two things, ONLY two things, denote the Christian… the one translated from domain of darkness to kingdom of light, Kingdom of God… to trust and acknowledge that The Father sent Jesus, the Son… and raised Him from the dead.

Why is that “all we need to know”? Because within THAT, all else is contained and subsumed.

How many times have I heard the protest, “Being a Christian is too hard. I go to Church and I don’t know enough. Everybody in Sunday School knows all this ‘stuff’ and I feel like an ignorant fool! And the Bible is too complicated, all these rules, verses, books, stories. I just don’t get it. I’m not SMART ENOUGH to be a Christian or go to church!”

Oh, the pain in my heart at such words!

What did the APOSTLES require of a “new church” just “getting with the program” in the First Century?

Three Things: (1) No fornication. (2) No eating the meat of strangled animals. (3) No eating meat sacrificed to idols.

I mean, they had a big MEETING about it and everything! And that’s what they settled on. Now, how “complicated” is all that for a Church Covenant?

There wasn’t any Bible at the time to impress one another with, or make gentiles memorize.

Paul repeats time and time again, he preaches(preached) only Jesus, and Him crucified!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Christian life should never get so complicated, Gentle Readers.

Believe in the Father, His love, His provision. Believing in the Son sent from the Father, born true man, living as true man yet truly God son of God. Believing in the Passion, the Cross, and… AND… the RESURRECTION!

Life, pulled from the maw of death… destroying death and darkness once and for all in the glory and power of Life and Light!

Love God, love neighbor, love self. Love as Jesus loves…

Complicated? Hardly!

But this word, Gentle Reader… the Power of this Word… Resurrection!

When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in Jesus of the Cross, and Jesus of the Gospels, and Jesus of the Manger. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God the Father who raised Him. We believe in God and the Old Testament, and the Covenant God made with man, to care for him as his God, and receive him as His people. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God who walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and who fashioned man in His own image, and who fashioned Adam and Eve as created He them.

Many many peoples have worshiped gods who bring death from life. Many peoples have worshiped gods who demand sacrifice in payment for their blessing and good will. Many peoples have worshiped gods who generate fear to constrain and rule men.

Our God is none of that. Our God brings Life at the destruction of death. Our God sacrificed Himself, to feed and bring blessing to men. Our God generates Love that conquers fear, and has removed punishment having taken that upon Himself.

This is not complicated. We need not make it so. This is simple relationship. And we can decide… each of us individually… whether or not we CHOOSE to TRUST in such relationship. And… we can invite others to do so, generally in words of nearly one syllable.

God is so urgently, so intently, so intimately present… right here, right now… seeking relationship of touch and immediacy with His children…

One friend I had used to put it this way:

  1. Do you believe that Jesus truly lived, and was sent by Our Father, God?
  2. Do you believe that Jesus truly died, hung on the Cross?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus truly rose again, resurrected by the Father?
  4. Has he ever died since?
  5. Then He must be alive right now!!!

Let us all be Resurrected, freed of deadness, numbness, decay, atrophy. Let us all be made alive! Wonderfully alive! Totally Alive! As only HE knows and makes Life!

It’s just not that complicated, is it? Be joyful in the grace of New Life!

Easter Sermon

Traditionally in the Resurrection Liturgy, rather than the priest delivering a sermon the sermon given by St. John Chrysostom is read. I present it here as the last of my postings for the Lenten season. I hope you have enjoyed this look into the Eastern church’s view of Great Lent.

Christ is Risen!

st__john_chrysostomDevout and God-loving people, enjoy this kind and bright festival. Wise people, come and share joy with your Lord. You who have laboured in fasting, receive your deserved reward. You who have laboured from the first hour, come to the festival now! You who came at the third hour, rejoice! You who lingered until the sixth hour, celebrate! You who came at the ninth hour, do not be sad! You who managed to come only at the eleventh hour, do not be dismayed by your lateness. No-one will be deprived of heavenly joy. For our Lord is generous. He welcomes those who come last in the same way as those who come first. He is grateful to the first and rejoices in the last. He consoles those who came at the last hour, as if they had laboured from the first hour. He gives to everyone: those who laboured and those who wanted to labour. He receives the service and kisses the intention. He values the deed and praises the desire. All of you enter into the joy of the Lord: First and last, receive the reward! Wealthy and poor, rejoice with one another! Diligent and lazy, celebrate the festival! Those who have fasted and those who have not, be glad together. The feast is abundant, eat your fill! All of you enjoy the wealthy banquet of the faith and mercy of God. Let no-one go away hungry or offended. Let no-one be sad about their poverty, for the kingdom is now here for everyone. Let no-one weep over their sins, for forgiveness for all has burst with light from the grave. Let no-one be afraid of death, for the death of Jesus has freed us all. Embraced by death, He subdued death. Having descended into hell, He took hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of his flesh. Isaiah prophesied: “Hell was troubled, having met You in the underworld!” Hell was in mourning, for it was abolished! Hell was distressed, for it was condemned! Hell was impoverished, for it was deposed! Hell was destroyed, for it was bound! It took on a body, and touched God. It took on the earth, and met heaven. It took what it saw, and fell to where it did not expect! Death! Where is your sting? Hell! Where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are brought down. Christ is risen, and the demons have fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life triumphs. Christ is risen, and there are no dead in the grave. Christ has risen from the dead, become the firstborn of those who sleep and set into motion the resurrection of all. To Him be glory now and forever. Amen!

The Day I Met You

Long ago and far away back in 1972, Palm Sunday to be exact, I began my journey with Jesus Christ.

One of my high school girlfriends was going to a bible study in a home that evening. She invited me to come. I was very laid back and ready to try most anything in those days. Off we went.

I found myself in a living room of someone’s house in Toms River, New Jersey. Chairs were set up in a circle and a jolly rotund young man began reading from one the Gospels in his Bible. As he read he began to cry. That touched me deeply that night. Not only the emotions of this man but the words he read to the group.

After reading he told us it was time to take communion. I knew what that was. After all, I took communion as a young girl in the Catholic Church, once. My friend jumped up and hurried over to the leader of the group and whispered to him as the communion elements began passing around the circle. She quickly came back to me and whispered to me to just sit and watch, don’t take communion. Ok, I thought, cool.

As the elements came closer and closer I got very antsy and leaned over and asked her why I couldn’t take communion. She simply said that I have to believe what Jesus did on the cross was for me. The room went into slow motion mode and my thoughts swirled all around my head and with my heart I blurted out to her, “I do believe! I do!”

She jumped up again and ran across the room and ran back and said I could take communion! Haha. So I did and my heart soared that night.

Here’s the clincher, for all the religious folks. I did not say “The Sinners Prayer”. I did not “repeat after me” with anyone. It was the right moment and I grabbed it because I just knew. That night began a life long journey of getting to know Jesus and God the Father and Holy Spirit. It has never been dull. I will never forget that night. When I think of it the image is clear in my mind. The room, the man, my friend. Decades later I saw her and asked whose house we were in. She had no idea. It was a set up, by God, and I never regretted it.

Today is Good Friday. Today we remember the Cross and all that was sacrificed. It’s personal. It was for me and you and you. It is pure LOVE. LOVE.


Cate B

Metamorphosis, Part 2

Shedding the Old

“Since we have confidence in the new promise, we speak very boldly. We are not like Moses. He kept covering his face with a veil so the people of Israel, who were fearful of it, did not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away.

“However, their minds became closed, and to this day the same veil is still there when they read the Old Testament so they do not understand the truth. It isn’t removed, because only trust in Christ can remove it. Yet, even today, when they read the books of Moses, a veil covers their minds and they do not understand. But whenever a person turns their heart to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

“The Lord is the Spirit. Wherever the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:12-18 emphasis mine)

The word changed in the verse above in the Greek is metamorphosed. It is where we get the word metamorphosis, which means a profound change from one stage to the next. It is a complete transformation, a rebirth.

As we open our hearts and minds to Christ’s love and grace, we acknowledge law is dead. We allow Christ to remove the veil. We see the Old Covenant for what it was; the chains of the past that Christ died to rescue us from. We rejoice in his resurrection and allow him to restore us into our Father’s embrace.

We must shed the skin of the old and surrender ourselves completely to the New Covenant. We release control and allow and invite full access to the Holy Spirit. We allow the Lord to reign in us, thereby admitting his light and love to fill us, saturate us to overflowing, and fulfill us.

As the Spirit works in us, we awaken to the freedom that this is the way we reflect the true image of God. It is how we continue to grow in his glory. It is through love not law, faith not fear, that his light shines through us onto others. It is only in this surrender, this incredible choice, this willingness to die to self, to shed the old, that we become reborn and fly.

This is how we do it: