not done yet

Somehow, over the past month or so, four different books on Christian spirituality found their way into my hands. It isn’t that unusual for me to read that sort of thing, but it is strange that I would read four almost back-to-back so narrowly focused on one particular issue. The question that each was answering in their own way is “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Now you might think that it shouldn’t take me four different books to help me answer this question. Doesn’t there come a time when one doesn’t have to read any more books about it? I’ve been involved in ministry for nearly twenty years now. So haven’t I figured it out yet?

I suppose as the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ I certainly have some convictions about what the Christian life is suppose to look like, but I don’t have all the answers. And each of these four books challenges me to look with fresh eyes at things that may have been previously ignored concerning the journey of faith.

While each brings a unique perspective, all four writers agree on at least one thing… that being a Christ-follower is about more than being able to check off the “I prayed the prayer” box. You may not be familiar with this sort of Christian spirituality, but it basically says that once people pray the “sinner’s prayer,” they have arrived. God has no further work to accomplish in an individual’s life. He or she is now “saved.”

Not that any of the writers are against that sort of thing. They probably even think that praying that kind of prayer is a fine sort of thing to do.  And yet, each was very clear to affirm that the Christian life is certainly about more than that. Much more.

So in an effort to turn this into a post that is actually helpful, I’ll offer up a few words about each book.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
by David Platt
(sample chapter)

I would largely agree with what my good friend Bobby had to say about it, so I’ll be brief.

The sub-title says it well. This book is meant to wake the church up to the reality that the version of Christianity that much of the West has bought into looks a whole lot more like the American Dream than Jesus. Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This book does the second half very well.

If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of ‘the message of Christianity is that God loves me.’ Or someone might say, ‘The messages of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me.’ … ‘God loves me’ is not the essence of biblical Christianity. Because if ‘God loves me’ is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity? … Me.

Follow: A Simple and Profound Call to Live Like Jesus
by Floyd McClung
(sample chapter)

This book’s sub-title is half true. This is a clear cut, no nonsense approach to one’s life with Christ.  After reading a sentence or chapter, no one is in any way left scratching there head saying, “I wonder what he meant by that?”  McClung says what he means and means what he says. I would put this in the hands of anyone who has recently begun their journey with Christ, has an earnest desire to grow, and wants some handles on moving forward.

While long on simplicity, I feel like it comes up short on profundity. This book is so clear and certain, that I think it doesn’t do justice to the mystery and wonder of who God is. While I would whole-heartedly affirm that God is a God of order, I would as strongly argue that life with God can’t be reduced to formulas or bullet-points. I in no way think that the author believes that it can. I do think he has succeeded in making the complicated accessible. And that’s a good thing. Sometimes.

So this is our choice: Either we model ourselves on gods of our own making, or we allow God to mold us into His image, the very model of which is Jesus. Which will it be for you?

One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow
by Scot McKnight
(sample chapter)

I meet with a group of men on Monday mornings, and this is the one we are working through right now. These guys more or less trust me. So when I suggested we read and discuss it, no one balked. That is until they got to the first chapter. It was all about chasing after our dreams, and I could tell that they were inwardly rolling their eyes. For a couple, their outward expressions matched their inner feelings. “Really, we’re going to talk about our dreams? That’s original. Doesn’t nearly every book on Christian spirituality sound that same tired note.”

However, I had the benefit of having read the entire book. And what I knew was that McKnight’s re-look at the Christian life is broader in scope than the others I had recently read. There are fewer stones left unturned. And as this book seeks to expand one’s understanding of who Jesus is and what it means to follow him, it lends itself well to discussion. Not just discussion of the ideas, but the way in which our lives intersect the issues being raised. We’ll see.

When I hear Christians describe the Christian life as little more than soul development and personal intimacy with God, and I do hear this often, I have to wonder if Christians even read their Bibles.


Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation
by Gordon T. Smith
(sample chapter)

I think it important to make a habit of reading a book’s sub-title. They not only tell you what the book is really about, but also give you a flavor of the book itself. As you might guess, this is of the nerdier variety. Several years ago, I read another book by Smith on conversion called Beginning Well. I had never read an entire book on the subject. So when I saw this one, I thought “What more could he have to say?” The answer… plenty. I would recommend it for anyone who wants (or needs) to think deeply about the nature of conversion. Another book title could have easily been Conversion: 301.

God’s salvation is always portrayed in corporate terms, never to the exclusion of the individual, but always with the assumption that the individual is an integral member of a community of faith. Thus we cannot in the end conceive of or portray a biblical doctrine of conversion except with a distinctly ecclesial character. Religious experience, in other words, is never purely individual, personal, and interior. It will (and must) be individual, personal, and interior, but it will never solely be individual and interior. Further, it will not be individual and personal and interior unless it is grounded in the common experience of the people of God, unless it has a corporate dimension. True Christian experience is anchored in the common faith of the church, and it is the common faith that gives authenticity to our personal and individual faith. It is the church’s ancient and historic experience that gives meaning to our personal experience.

Yeah. What he said.

I guess what I really want to say about these books is that any of them are worth reading. It all just depends on who you are and where you are in your understanding of what it means to follow Christ. And since I’m not “done” yet, I’ll keep seeking out books that help me understand that journey better.

Atonement Theology

Several weeks ago, as I was sharing about some of the better books I read in 2010, I put together an emotionally stirring post in which I discussed three different books on or related to the doctrine of Justification.

However, there was one book on the subject that managed to slip through the cracks. And normally, I wouldn’t feel the need to mention it here, because honestly…  no one really cares. But since this blog is as much for me as it is for you, I’m coming back to it for the sake of completeness.

If I haven’t mentioned Scot McKnight around here, my apologies. He is someone worth being familiar with.  He maintains a popular Christian blog. He is a professor in New Testament at North Park University. He writes prolifically on both an academic and popular level. Add to all that a busy speaking schedule at various conferences and such. Think of him as a North American version of N.T. Wright.  I think he would take that for the compliment it is meant to be.

Anyway, if you are only going to read one book on Justification/Atonement, his is the the one.

I know I said that Michael Bird’s was the understanding of Righteousness/Justification/Atonement that I found most compelling, and it is.  But no one is reading that.  You’ve got the problem with the cover.  But let’s be honest, the only people picking up this book didn’t even notice that there was a cover – myself included.  That is to say, the book is all content and written for the extreme Bible nerd.

The beauty of McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement is that you get many of the same ideas, but in a much more accessible way. That isn’t to say it is dumbed down. Not in the least. It is just that McKnight’s book has a different purpose and a different audience.

I’ll try to sum up what is going on in the book in a few sentences.

There are a number of theories that try to explain what the Bible is affirming about Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.  A book that I read a year or so ago outlined four views

  • Christus Victor – Which more or less says that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God won out over the cosmic powers of evil.  Which of course includes evil in individual’s lives, but that is secondary.
  • Penal Substitution – This would be the view that most evangelical Christians in the South are exposed to on a regular basis.  This view highlights the need for an atoning death to appease the perfect justice and wrath of God.
  • Healing View – Not a widely held view that I am aware of, but the idea here is that humanity has a sickness.  Call it sin, call it brokenness, or whatever.  In Christ’s death and resurrection, humanity’s problem is fixed or healed.  If the focus of Penal Substitution is on what is going on with God in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the healing view stresses what is happening in people.
  • Kaleidescopic view – You probably saw this coming, but this view more or less says they are all good and necessary. Can’t we all just get along.

Ok, so gross over-simplification for sure. It looks to me like McKnight holds something of a modified Kaleidescopic view. But the modification is important. He, like Bird and others, would say that the important thing is being “found in Christ.”  I know that when we read (or memorize) the New Testament, one can easily skim over the phrase “in Christ,” but it is in there a whole, whole lot.  Paul never really struck me as one to waste his words.

McKnight argues that being “in Christ” is foundational.  Everything else flows from that.  Imputed righteousness.  Justification. Healing.  And so on.  In his discussion of the classic Reformed doctrine of “double imputation” he says…

I not only agree with double imputation, I up it. I think being “in Christ” involves multiple imputations: every thing we are is shuffled to Christ and all that Christ can offer us is shuffled to us. It is that big.

And in search of language to hold all the theories of the atonement together, he lands on “identification for incorporation” which is not so unlike Bird’s “incorporated righteousness.” I’ll let McKnight sum up his understanding for himself…

Jesus identifies with us and we gain access to everything he is by being incorporated into him, by entering into this “in Christ” realm. Every theory of atonement emerges from this central, life-giving identification for incorporation.  Atonement is what happens to a human being who is united with Christ. Union with Christ, in other words, is the foundation of atonement, and those who are so in union form the new community where cracked Eikons can be restored to God, self, others, and the world.


The Wisdom of Stability

At my workplace, we recognize someone’s birthday by getting a piece of paper with their name printed on it and then co-workers write a word that we think describes the individual. Despite the fact that I’ve forgotten all the words on my sheet done a few months ago, I think it is a good thing to do. And while I could make a guess at what words found their way next to my name, I am fairly sure one word that many would affirm as descriptive of me didn’t make the list…


It was likely avoided because most people would see that word as pejorative. I, on the other hand, wear it more like a badge of honor. There isn’t any sphere of my life where I can’t make a case for standing apart as being a good thing. Well, maybe one or two. But in my fantasized life of total detachment, those one or four things stay connected to me.

It is one of the many reasons I like traveling. When visiting a place, I’m not just seeing the sights as most tourists might. I’m evaluating… Could I live here? Or here? Or wherever? The act of being in another place (no matter how briefly) reaffirms for me that I’m not tied down. I’m not stuck. We could pick up and move at a moment’s notice. We could start over some place else.

And yet, I’m beginning to recognize what any moderately sane person intuitively knows even if they are unable to articulate it. Namely, that a constant state of restlessness – a perpetual hedging of bets – a sustained fostering of the “grass-is-greener” mentality is damaging. It is unhealthy for families. It holds relationships hostage. It keeps work undone. But worst of all, it leaves the soul divided. And so for several years now (and yes, it is taking years), I’ve been growing in my awareness that this dream of an un-pinned down life isn’t good.

I say all of this by way of introduction to a book that I’ve found particularly helpful in bringing clarity to the fog of ideas that has taken some time to accumulate in my own life.

This is a book about staying put. I suppose someone could (and probably has) written a book on the merits of “going.” And a fine book it would be. One can’t necessarily turn to the Bible and find an air-tight case for never leaving. Where would be be without some of the great goers of the faith? Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Paul. Even Jesus leaving the familiarity of the God-head in order to be with a broken humanity is predicated on his willingness to go.

And yet, this book on page after page offers exactly what the title suggests it will… wisdom.

Lots of it.

In the great tradition of Scripture’s wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes), Wilson-Hartgrove’s insights aren’t true for any and every situation, but his words are ignored at our own peril.

In a culture that is defined by mobility and distraction, Wilson-Hartgrove guides the reader to the truths we know deep down inside of us to be right. We all long for rootedness, connectedness, sustaining a flourishing life for ourselves, those we love, and those we want to love. But this can only happen through the intentional choice to stay.

Or in his own words…

Stability challenges us to question assumptions of our hyper-mobile culture, but it ought not to make us immovable. Staying put and paying attention are, rather, dynamic disciplines aimed at helping us grow and progress towards wholeness.

However, what I appreciate most (and there is much to appreciate) about Wilson-Hartgrove’s work is his recognition that stability is about far more than physical presence. Physical presence in a particular place both contributes to and is a manifestation of presence with a particular God and particular people.

I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone.  Not to kids heading off to college.  Or even young singles/marrieds who are searching for their place in the world.  But for those of us who think that the search can and should last a lifetime, consider afresh that your place may very well be right where you are.

Bedtime Books

The Chino children have an obsession with The Lord of the Rings that some might call unusual.  We’ve seen all the movies (extended editions) a few times.  We have LOTR DVD Trivia.  They re-enact their favorite scenes on a daily basis.  We have the  soundtracks loaded on most of the iPods around.  All of them (including the four-year old) have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Tolkien.   But they can’t be faulted.  They are my children.

So over the last several months, we’ve been plodding through the printed matter.  And it has been glorious.  We get to discover all the little details that the movies had to leave out.  And some of our favorite scenes from the movies are lifted from the books word for word.  The beauty of this nightly ritual is that when it is time to wind down at the end of night, there is absolute silence the moment the reading begins.  They We are all in.

Best “In Touch with My Inner Self” Book

I’m not sure how many of this sort I read this year, but two stand out.

Early in the year, I read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

I said pretty much all I had to say about it then, but I do so appreciate how Miller writes.  I should probably go back and read it again.

Mr. Miller isn’t one to be outdone, but I also finally got around to reading John Eldredge’s classic, Wild at Heart.

While this book is fairly culture bound (upper-middle class American white – and some Asian – males), it does a darn good job of delivering the goods to fellas who fit that demographic.  WordPress tells me that my thoughts on the book are HERE.

No way to pick a “top” read here, so it is officially a tie.

Best Theology Smackdown

Back with more of 2010’s best reading.  If you thought the last recommendation was sort of Bible-nerdy, then you may just want to wait until my next post…  Best Emotional PoMo Emergent Touchy Feely True to Self Read.  In the world of theology (which, admittedly, is a pretty small world), there has been a storm brewing over the topic of Justification.  This isn’t really the time or place to wade into the details, but if you want a very quick primer on what the debate is all about, you can try this.

Anyway, two high profile Christian leader/theologians have entered the fray.  In one corner, we have the energetic Christian hedonist from Minneapolis, Minnesota… Johnnnn Pipperr.

Squaring off with him is the agreeable and prolific bishop from across the pond…  the Right Reverend Tommm Wriiiight.

And here’s how the match went down.  Piper was taking Wright to task for going soft on justification.  His feeling was that Wright was wrong (I could keep ’em coming all day long) to depart from the understanding of justification as defined by the Reformers and much of Protestant Christianity since then.  Piper’s book, The Future of Justification, was well thought through, clearly articulated, and classically Piper.  Wright’s (sort-of) response was the creatively titled, Justification, in which he re-articulated his view that many have and probably still do find more than a little confusing.

I’ve read both and here’s how I understand what’s being said.  Wright isn’t denying the historically held doctrine of “justification by faith.”  He’s saying that Paul had a larger understanding of what that means than simply “we are forgiven sinners” (as glorious as that truth is).  He wants to push against the widely held notion, particularly within the church in the West, that Christianity is basically about how an individual gets right with God.

Ok, well it goes on and on.  Watching this debate unfold is a bit like watching ships firing past each other.  Neither right on target and neither really quite sure where the other is coming from.

Which is why I think possibly the best book I’ve read recently on the subject of justification comes from a third player…  the witty academic from down under…  Michaellll Biirrd.

His book, The Saving Righteousness of God, looks to chart a third way that takes the best of both and marry them together in the idea of “incorporated righteousness.”

I don’t pretend to think that anyone reading this blog is going to be even a little bit tempted to read any of the three books mentioned here, but they are the things with which current and future Christian leaders are wrestling.  Most theological debates come and go, but this one centers on a aspect of Christian belief that lies at the core of the way “faith” works.

I think that’s important.

reading in 2010

I know most of you are losing sleep wondering what is going to be on the infamous end-o-year mix tape.  So to pass the time, I’m going to share something approximating a “Top 5 Reads in 2010.”  However, as I’m prone to do, I’m going to spread this out over a few days.  Enjoy!

Best of the Best:

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that my favorite book of the year comes from my boy N.T.  In After You Believe, he talks biblically and sensibly (yes, you can do both) about what Christian character looks like and how it is formed in a person.  In his own words, this book is an attempt to answer the question, “What are we here for in the first place?”

The fundamental answer we shall explore in this book is that what we’re “here for” is to become genuine human beings, reflecting the God in whose image we’re made, and doing so in worship on the one hand and in mission, in its full and large sense, on the other.

As I’ve said before, Wright is one of the most influential biblical scholars around today.  Much of what filters down in various other writers and movements bears the stamp of his thinking, teaching, and writing.  You would be well served to spend some of your precious reading money and time becoming familiar with what he is saying.  I’ve read several books this year attempting to answer the “what are we here for” question, and they end up looking provincial in comparison.

One of the things that is particularly refreshing about Wright is that he doesn’t seem to get bogged down in culture wars.  I get the sense that this frustrates his would be critics who would just like to figure out if he is with or against them.  Conservatives tend to think he is too liberal, and liberals harbor suspicions that he is a closet-conservative.  Wright would rightly (no one ever tires of the play on words begging to be had with his name) affirm that both of these labels have outlived their usefulness and would be reluctant to use either to describe himself.

While After You Believe is as fine a place as any to start, I often point people towards The Challenge of Jesus as an intro to Wright.  It is profound, relatively short, and highly readable.  Starting with this book has the added benefit of beginning where I think all theological reflection should start…  Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures.

Up next…  theology meets the UFC.

McLaren Revisited – 3

White Hinterland – Icarus

No sense in dragging this out.  Yesterday, I shared that McLaren is to be thanked for pinpointing the issues that the Evangelical church in America really should spend some more time thinking through.  As I said then, the questions he raises aren’t those of an unbelieving skeptic, but the struggles of many within the Church.

And yet, while I can appreciate the effort, I’m not sure this is the book I would recommend to someone trying to sort these issues out.  And here’s why…

What I found in the past to be mildly irritating about McLaren is becoming downright frustrating.  What used to be hints of universalism seem to be outright statements to that effect.  Theology that was sort of loosely connected to the Scriptures has come unpinned from it altogether.  But I’ll save you from my fundy rant.  I’m sure if you Google “McLaren A New Kind of Christianity Review,” you’ll find scores of folks outraged by what McLaren’s proposing.  Have at it.

My distaste is based on two more subtle features of his writing.  The first being what can only be described as rhetorical judo.  He phrases his beliefs in such a way that to disagree with him makes one a de facto theological neanderthal.  This happens repeatedly, but one such quote reads so:

“The way of love, this quest for ubuntu, this violet way of seeing and relating, is virtually impossible to imagine for people who haven’t reached the violet zone; they are likely to mock it or condemn it as something naive , silly, or even evil (which is exactly what we would expect from people in other zones).”

You have to read the book to know what he means by ubuntu or “violet,” but the sense is clear enough.  To question his “enlightened” way of thinking is evidence that one hasn’t arrived.  That we are all just stuck at some prior level of spiritual enlightenment.  This sort of verbal trickery is not so unlike the old classic, “when did you stop beating your wife?”  There is no way to answer that doesn’t cast one in a negative light.

Skilled argumentation aside, the other feature that one can sense in the quote above and throughout the book is a general sense of arrogance.  Towards the end, he makes some small concessions towards people stuck in an earlier stage of theological/spiritual development.  But the more pervasive tone is one of mocking and derision, and part of why it stings is that he (in my opinion) paints with too broad a brush.  He would seek to portray anyone who doesn’t agree with his progressive way of seeing things as a paranoid homophobic fundamental extremist.  He doesn’t leave much middle ground, which is unfortunate.

There are a number of other troubling features one could dwell on.  Some of his readings of biblical texts are brilliant, but others are pretty fanciful.  He also rather casually dismisses the authoritative nature of the Scriptures.  With one fell swoop, he discounts two thousand years of church history that got it all wrong.  Only now, has the real truth of what faith in Christ is all about been finally discovered.  By him no less.

At the end of the day though, it isn’t just his tone or that I disagree with one or two points here and there.  My main criticism is that I think he is simply wrong.  Not entirely wrong, but still wrong.  And if he were to ask me (not bloody likely), “Hey T, what’s the main thing you think I got wrong?”  I would respond, “your Christology.”  In my mind, he simply fails to adequately explain the person and work of Christ.  Don’t get me wrong.  He talks about Jesus.  But the picture of Jesus that he paints looks a lot like…  well, like McLaren himself.  He’s a really nice guy.  He engages in rhetorical judo.  He’s a pacifist.  He’s a good example to follow.  All that is well and fine, but it isn’t the sort of stuff that gets people hung on a cross.  I’d like to think if he were to re-look at his understanding of Christ, then the rest of it would sort itself out.  Funny how Christology always seems to be the starting point.

Ok, so I got us started saying the book was a bomb.  And to milk every possible use of the word, I think main sense in which the book is bomb-like is that it comes up lacking.  It simply fails to deliver a Christianity that looks like anything recognizably Christian.  I’m not just talking about American pop-evangelicalism either.  But I don’t think what he is proposing looks anything vaguely like historic/orthodox Christianity over the last two thousand years.  I don’t know.  Maybe that’s the point.

McLaren Revisited – 2

Local Natives – Who Knows Who Cares

So a bit ago, I got started on reviewing McLaren’s latest, A New Kind of Christianity, but I’ve obviously been sidetracked some.  Which may be a good thing.  It has given me some time to process it all a bit more and not respond purely out off the top of my head.

In that earlier post, I said that this book was a “bomb.”  Not The Bomb, as the kids are prone to describe things they think are great, but in the more traditional sense of blowing stuff up.  And blowing stuff up does seem to be McLaren’s intent.  His book is an attempt to deconstruct a certain view of Christianity in order to posit a newer version.  Hence, the title of the book.  I know…  stating the obvious is something of a gift.

McLaren’s approach is to ask some questions concerning the Christian faith that he feels have been inadequately answered.  They aren’t your typical apologetics type questions (well maybe a couple of them are) from the skeptical outsider’s point-of-view, but rather they are the nagging doubts posed from someone inside the faith.  And while someday I might get around to discussing where I don’t see eye-to-eye with McLaren, today I’m affirming that these are vital questions with which the people of God need to wrestle.

He has something like ten questions, and you can look at them for yourselves.  Here’s my take on what the critical issues are that he’s addressing:

1)  How are we to understand the Bible? This question further breaks down into a couple other questions…

What is its essential message?  His contention is that the church pretty much for the last 1700 years or so has gotten it all wrong.

In what sense is it the “Word of God?”  Is it “inerrant?”  In what way is it authoritative?  And so on…

2)  How are we to understand God? Of course since the Christian’s understanding of God is based (even if sometimes only loosely) on the Scriptures, one can see how important the first question is for answering the this one.  He grasps with both hands the thorny issue of God’s violent nature as portrayed particularly in certain sections of the Old Testament.  Having spent the first few months of the year in those places, I can certainly sympathize with his attempts to come to terms with that… even if I don’t necessarily agree with where he lands.

3)  How are we to understand Jesus? Again, tied closely to both questions that come before.  Here, he’s attempting to move away from the fairly one-dimensional figure that typically gets put forward.  He’s not just some cosmic super-hero, but a living person who would have breathed the air of 1st century Palestine.  All of which leads to the next question…

4)  How are we to understand the Gospel? By now, you won’t be surprised to hear that he doesn’t really buy into what I’ve sometimes heard described as the “Four Happy Hops to Heaven.”

From here, the conversations spills into discussions about what does all this mean for the church, ethics, mission, etc…  But these first few questions are at (at least in my opinion) the heart of the matter.  And here’s the kicker, he’s right.  These are the issues that lie at the core of the Christian faith… God as revealed in Christ (and therefore Scripture) necessitates a response on our part. And how we respond is the watershed decision for how we go about the rest of our lives.  And I find myself agreeing with him that some of the ways these questions have and are continuing to be answered aren’t satisfying any longer.

Yet, while I agree that these are the questions that need to be asked, where I part ways with McLaren is over the answers.  He seems to be saying, “all the old answers are junk and we need consign them to the trash heap.”  While I would probably join most others who think about this sort of stuff and say, “the old answers need to be re-looked, updated, and expanded upon, but they aren’t necessarily total crap.”  The old “baby and bathwater” thing.

Ok, well I’m starting to venture into what I’m hoping will be a third post on the book, but let me say loud and clear again…  I applaud McLaren for raising the issues that I think demand our attention.  These questions matter and so do our responses.

The Cellar

We find ourselves in the midst of Holy Week; a time in which Christians all around the world are reflecting on the events leading up to Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.  Throughout Lent, I’ve been reading Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, and while it may be a bit late for this year, I heartily recommend that you consider it for your next go around at Lent.

The readings have been what I expected.  Thoughtful, varied, rich, and nurturing.  In an attempt to help prepare our hearts for Easter, I thought I would share some recent comments pertaining particularly to the Passion.  Morton T. Kelsey writes:

“Each of us has underneath our ordinary personality, which we show to the public, a cellar in which we hide the refuse and rubbish which we would rather not see ourselves or let others see.  And below that is a deeper hold in which there are dragons and demons, a truly hellish place, full of violence and hatred and viciousness.  Sometimes these lower levels break out, and it is to this lowest level of humans that public executions appeal.

In the cross this level of our being has thrust itself up out of its deepest underground cellar so that we humans may see what is in all of us and take heed.  The cross is crucial because it shows what possibilities for evil lie hidden in human beings.  It is the connection of human evil in one time and place.  Whenever we look upon the cross, which was simply a more fiendish kind of gibbet, we see what humankind can do, has done, and still does to some human beings.  It can make us face the worst in ourselves and in others, that part of us which can sanction a cross or go watch a crucifixion.  The cross is the symbol, alive and vivid, of the evil that is in us, of evil itself.”

There’s more, of course, but you get the idea.  I don’t know how Lent has been for you, but certainly for me it has been an opportunity to shed a little light into my own cellar.  And as you might expect, what I find down there is not pretty.