Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Watching & Waiting, A Devotion for Holy Week

I had the opportunity to share this last evening at All Saint's Woodbridge...


From the time I was old enough to apprehend the events surrounding the passion of our Lord, I was captivated and would try to imagine what it would be like to be a face in the crowd as events unfolded.  This has only intensified as I grew into adulthood.  Songs like “Were you there?” or “I only want to say” from Jesus Christ, Superstar served to fuel these desires to have wanted to witness those events.  But for all these flights of fancy, I learned a much more profitable way.

Rather than letting our imaginations run free, chasing events and dramas of our own makings, we need not look further than Holy Scripture in order to catch a glimpse of Christ’s passion and propitiatory death.  St. Matthew’s gospel narrative gives us a gripping account of that moment, as Jesus was about to become the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.

In one such moment, we find our Lord and his eleven remaining disciples at the gates of an olive grove on the eve of the Passover.  It had been a long day that was punctuated by the Seder meal, which was full of carbohydrates and wine.  It was approaching midnight when the band arrived, minus one disciple who departed to deliver his master over to those who desired his death.  It was here that Christ instructed eight members of the band to wait, while he and three of his closest disciples walked deeper into the into the grove.

With each step deeper into the olive grove, the gravity of what would soon transpire began to crush the sacred heart that bore no sin.  Its fair to presume that in his omniscience, Jesus was very likely seeing the next sixteen hours of his life unfold.  Scenes were unfolding; the cohort that was converging on their location, the bitter cynical kiss of the traitor, the lying testimonies of those who would come before the Sanhedrin, and the crowds calling for his crucifixion.  These alone were terrible but the coming hours would hold an unimaginable terror for the Son of God.  For all of eternity, Jesus knew the sweet communion of being one with the Father.  Yet soon, in a moment that would seem an eternity in itself, that communion would be severed.

It was in this dark moment that he commanded the three to wait and watch.  These words are somewhat defanged in our contemporary language.  Yet for Peter, John & James, these words had tremendous weight.

The three were commanded to remain and wait.  For most of us, the idea of waiting can bring unpleasant thoughts to mind.  Here in Northern Virginia, waiting can almost seem like a curse.  Daily, we wait in traffic.   We wait in lines.  We wait for the next available operator after pressing a number of the language of our choice.  It’s our natural inclination to hate waiting.  We acquired this early on when even as babies, we hated waiting as evidenced by our 120 decibel cries when the baby bottle was delayed.  We’d muscle our way to the front of the line because we didn’t want to wait our turns.  It’s made manifest in our day-to-day language in expressions like “I can’t wait”. 

The three disciples weren’t made of stained glass; they were men who shared the same weaknesses that seem to trip us up at any turn.  Waiting didn’t come any easier to them.  Nonetheless, Jesus commanded them to wait.  He didn’t direct them to kill time while spoke with the Father.  No, to wait in the garden was in a sense to abide with Christ in the grove on that night.   They had heard this before when Christ exhorted them and others to abide in him, otherwise they would have no part with him or his Father’s coming kingdom.  The night would soon become terrifying and there would be a strong temptation to scatter off into the darkness.  In this command, they were exhorted to resist this temptation.

The three were commanded to watch.  This wasn’t a mindless or inattentive watching like one in the departure lounge, nor was it the casual watching of the world while sipping an iced Americano at Starbucks.  This was active and attentive watching.  It was in a real sense, watching as if one’s very life depended on it.  The three were called to watch like a storm spotter on a day when conditions are ripe for tornadoes to spin into life.  Tonight, Peter and the sons of Zebedee were called to watch their Lord, watch out for one another, and watch themselves. 

This night would be a time for courage, and the band of disciples would have to go into it girded in prayer, wide-eyed and abiding in their Lord.  Yet for all of Christ’s clear words, they were overcome by the late hour and their big meal.  For this, they felt the rebuke of their master who called them back to watchfulness.
What can we take from all of this?  Like the Disciples, we also live in interesting times. 

They were mere hours from seeing the Father’s redemptive plan for humanity unfold. They would hear Christ cry out “it is finished” as the offense of sin was paid and the Father’s righteous anger was quenched.  Three days later, they would witness the resurrection of the one whose visage was marred beyond recognition.  Forty days later Christ would return to his throne at the right hand of the father. 

Jesus demonstrated the power of obedient waiting and watching.  Through his waiting and watching he was able to, as the writer of Hebrews stated, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We live on the eve of Christ’s return.  We don’t day or hour, but we do know that it will come upon us suddenly.  The events of that great and terrible day will be as transformative as Good Friday.

In our day, we’re called to wait, watch and pray.  One beauty of Lent is that it gives us focus and a time of self-examination.  But how do we do these things, in a world that seem to be completely contrary to the Kingdom of Heaven?  In the words of one contemporary pastor, we “pray, pray, pray, pray, pray”.  As we ask, we will receive.  As we seek, we will find.  As we seek the Lord’s empowerment, we’ll grow in this.  St. Paul encourages us in that in and through Christ, we can do all things.

  Tonight in this watch, I’d invite us all to a moment of self-evaluation and rededication to watching and waiting on our Lord. 


Monday, September 15, 2014

Saint Andrew of Baghdad


The Reverend Canon Andrew White is vicar of St George's Church, Baghdad, the only Anglican church in Iraq. He has thus been dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad". He is also President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. He was previously Director of International Ministry at the International Center for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral,  England. 

My local paper, The Freelance Star, did a piece on Canon White today.  You can read it here...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's About Time...

The Associated Press is reporting the the United States is now providing arms to the Kurds in their death struggle against the scourge of ISIS/ISIL.  FInally.  

Time and again, we've fumbled the ball when it came to the Kurdish people.  This was evident, particularly, in our failure to call for a Kurdish homeland state following the 2003 Iraqi war.  This single act may have solved a number of issues as well as creating a solid ally in a region where the world desperately needs stability.  Hopefully, this action will build goodwill with the a people who have the iron will to stare down the horde and leave them to be carrion in the sands.

It can't be stated enough that ISIS/ISIL must not only be stopped, they must be completely destroyed beyond an ability to reconstitute or continue.  Their bloodlust will not be satisfied and their is no depths to their dark imaginations as attested to by the imagery coming from the region.  So far, I've not posted any of the graphic images of the their handiwork.  It is hard for even seasoned Marines to view.  This evidence confirms the stories of just what they've done to children.  Hell, and the Lake of Fire hold a special place for the bottom-dwellers who do these things to the Lord's littlest lambs.

I'd invite your continued prayers for the faithful of the region who remain in harm's way. Pray too for the Yazidis and pray for the Kurds.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Rethinking Pop views on Christ's Return

William Lane Craig, in an interview with Charisma News, speaks to the error of Darbyism that sprang up in the Nineteenth Century and is fueled both the Left Behind books series and the soon to be released film.  You can read the article here.  

Make no mistake, Christ is returning.
“You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

Monday, August 04, 2014

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Hoofbeats

From the pen of St. John on Patmos...
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, "Come." I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine." When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Rev. 6:1-10 NASB
Out of the Gate, I believe in a literal return of Christ and an eternal establishment of his kingdom as stated in the historic Christian creeds.  He will, as stated in the Nicene Creed "Come again to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have no end".  And, as the earlier Apostle's Creed simply stated "He will come again to judge the living and the dead".  But this said, I don't subscribe to Darby's view that holds to a belief that Christ would return for his church prior to the seven year period referred to as the Great Tribulation, a seven year period where the Almighty would pour out his wrath and judgement on an unbelieving world.

It seems more and more, that events in our world are becoming darker and seem to be coming out of the final pages of Scripture.  Wars, death, violence, famine, and now pestilence; it certainly brings to mind the 6th chapter of the Apocalypse of John.  There we read of specific judgements being levied against humanity for their persistent unbelief and rebellion against the Almighty.  In this, Four Horsemen are seen being unleashed upon the earth.  A white horse & rider who appeared as a conquering hero.  A red horse & rider who unleashed carnage and death.  A black horse & rider who unleashed famine and economic privation and famine.  And finally a pale horse & rider who brought famine and death. These four horsemen were seen as being responsible for millions upon millions.

Each morning, we wake to read and see news that seems to be lifted right out of the final chapters of scripture.  Whether it's stories of the slaughter of innocents, global catastrophes, or deadly plagues sweeping populations, all of these would seem to point to the closing moments of the age of man.  And, like REM sang, its the end of the world as we know it.  

I'm not about to say that these news stories are scripture being fulfilled before our own eyes.  I'm not a prophet and I've never played one on TV.   I would contend that these point to the terminal sin sickness of our world.  They stand as a reminder that this world is winding down and soon, our redeemer is returning.  These are mere portents and it will be likely become unimaginably much worse before the coda of time.

As easy as the urge may be, we can't look at the end through the pages of the Washington Post, Fox News or even LaHaye and Jenkins. There are websites that have made cottage industries out of this, even to the point of posting a weekly "Rapture Index". 

So when we read of these things and we believe we're hearing hoofbeats of dark horses, we should look up and know that our redemption is drawing near.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Thoughts on Gaza and more...

From the pen of King David, as inspired by the Almighty...
"A Song of Ascents, of David. I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD." Our feet are standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that is built As a city that is compact together; To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD-- An ordinance for Israel-- To give thanks to the name of the LORD. For there thrones were set for judgment, The thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you. "May peace be within your walls, And prosperity within your palaces." For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, "May peace be within you." For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good."  Psalm 122
Like many of you, I've been watching the the continuing strife in the mideast, not only the bloodbath in the fertile crescent, but the conflict on Israel's southwest border with the the Hamas-controlled terror state of the Gaza Strip.  The images are hard to look at, especially for us in the west who've been largely insulated from carnage and bloodshed.  I'd venture a guess that the most blood many of us have seen has been at a red cross blood bank.  Yet bloodshed is a fact of life for many on this sin-sick planet.

This morning, there are voices decrying the violence on the Israeli frontier.  They're calling for Israel to cease their military operations, stopping short of accusing them of atrocities against the Palestinians occupying Gaza.  They do this while displaying images of innocent casualties.  Others are calling for Israel to meet Hamas "halfway" in some form of accord.  Even our own Administration is breathing back-handed condemnation towards Israel.  In all of this, I'm finding myself feeling complicated emotions over the situation.

I have no pity for the hell spawn of Hamas.  They started this conflict, they're perpetuating it, and it will cease the moment they stop their murderous activities.  In many ways they remind me of some kids I knew growing up in Coatesville.  These boys found a wasp's nest and thought it would be entertaining to throw rocks at it.  The outcome was anticlimactic and they were stung without mercy.  Like these dopey boys, Hamas is throwing rocks at a proverbial wasp's nest.  They're inflicting damage against the nest and killing a few wasps in the process.  Yet the wasps are completely capable of defending their nest, to the point of interdicting the threat.  And like the wasp, Israel has the moral imperative to, and will defend their borders and citizens.  

I feel pity, washed in scorn for the innocent who are in harm's way.  No sane thinking person can view images of broken, injured civilians without being struck.  Yet these casualties of war have become such due to the cowardice and moral turpitude of the Hamas terrorists using them as human shields.  Only the truly gutless take up firing positions behind children.  Too, these poltroons have no compunction against slaughtering innocent Israeli children (who happen to be arab as well as jew) through their indiscriminate firing of unguided missiles into the Jewish heartland.

Many can't (or won't) see the fact that as part of it's charter, Hamas calls for the complete liquidation of the state of Israel and the Jewish people.  How does Israel meet them half way?  Were Saskatchewan to call for the same concerning our Republic, would we acquiesce?  If rockets were being lobbed into San Diego from Tijuana, would we shelter in place and hope for the best? 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it well when he said something to the fact of "If Hamas were to lay down their weapons, the fighting would immediately cease.  If Israel were to lay down its weapons, Israel would soon cease".  

I continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all Israel.  I know though that this will be at best, a temporary peace until Israel's rightful King steps back down onto the Mount of Olives to establish his eternal kingdom.