May 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace
It is Memorial Day weekend. As a Christ-follower it is not uncommon for me to find myself involved in a conversation over the merits and sadnesses of war. No one I know would argue that every war the US has been involved in was what the Church father Augustine would call ‘just.’ But this weekend is not about that. It is to remember that many made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ for their country in giving their lives.
Through years and generations our Nation has found itself embroiled in warfare, whether in world wars, regional conflicts, or even a Civil War. Everyone knows the sick, heartbreaking feeling of watching flag-draped caskets unloaded from transport planes. A simple history lesson of Gettysburg is enough to elicit the deepest of emotions over lives lost. Sacrifice is nobel, but death is brutal.
But this weekend, let’s put the debate aside. Let’s thank God for those who gave ‘their last full measure of devotion.’ Let’s honor their sacrifices and long together for the day when all wars will end.
Let’s not get lost in political madness and philosophical diversions. Let’s not argue the merits of war versus pacifism. Let’s not be ‘Hawks’ or ‘Doves,’ Liberals or Conservatives. Let’s just stop and acknowledge that many have died. To their parents, their siblings and their children, loss is loss.
If you have ever visited the Viet Nam wall, then you know that one can hardly do so without discovering elderly parents or aging spouses and children – in tears – revisiting their grief and loss over the sacrifice of their loved ones.
Together let’s believe that it wasn’t political posturing, or bloodlust that drew these precious individuals, but the sincere belief that even if they died, their sacrifice would have counted for something towards a more peaceful world.
And in remembering what has been given by men and women through the years in war and conflict, here in this broken, and often war-torn world, let’s consider Jesus, who ensures that one day all wars will cease, and because in Him, our war with the Father has been settled.
In His Sacrifice…
This is our good news.
Happy Memorial Day.
May 24, 2014 § Leave a comment
If you have never traveled to Washington DC and visited the Arlington National Cemetery, then I hope you will one day get the opportunity to do so. Like Gettysburg, Arlington is breathtaking, and the entire Washington Mall experience is unlike any other, where one is uniquely placed in the center of history.
Two weeks ago we laid our Mom to rest at Arlington where Dad was placed six years ago, and we were freshly struck by the magnitude of sacrifice that has accompanied our Nation through the generations. It is simultaneously sobering and awe-inspiring to walk among the hundreds of rows of grave markers that bear the names of men and women on a pristine lawn that is dedicated to preserving their memory.
Memorial Day was officially declared a holiday in 1971 by an act of Congress, though its roots go all the way back to the first Decoration Day in 1868. Interestingly, May was chosen to be the month for the observance because it was believed that flowers would be in bloom throughout the entire Nation.
Jesus spoke to the profound nature of sacrifice when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and then He demonstrated His words when He offered His own life.
This weekend I am thankful for our fallen heroes, and our living Veterans, young and old, and people just like us, but who served, and many others who entered into harm’s way for the sake of those they knew and many more they would never know. As Jesus taught, there is no greater expression of love (and therefore no greater example of God’s love) than when people sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.
“I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3)
May 17, 2014 § 1 Comment
“God’s loudest singing and his most passionate delight is expressed in the gospel of his grace. Through the gospel God is with us. By the gospel he saves us. In the gospel he delights in us. Through the gospel he quiets us with his love. In the gospel we hear him rejoice over us with singing!”
Steven Curtis Chapman & Scotty Smith, SPEECHLESS
These pictures were taken from the road that runs through the middle of the Gettysburg Battlefield. It was taken early this morning (while on a men’s retreat) as the sun began to illuminate this magnificent landmark. The post is offered from the Ragged Edge Coffee House here in town, a delightful local beanery, replete with classic Rock & Roll, incredible vanilla-almond scones and a tremendous dark roast.
So much for the table setting…
At Gettysburg, graves, trees, buildings and fields have been marked, in order to tell the story of a bloody conflict that occurred here in 1863. However to look at it today is to see one of the more breathtaking landscapes you will ever set eyes upon. In fact, it is difficult to imagine how violent and gruesome the site on which this national monument stands, once was.
In some way our lives are like historic battlefields. To the people we encounter every day, we are what they see in the moment. What they can’t detect is the narrative that got us there. In fact, part of falling in love or growing close in community involves letting others ‘in,’ allowing them deeper glimpses of our stories. And in spite of our fear to the opposite, those who love us will only love us more as they gain greater access to these depths.
While there is plenty written about our tendency to hide who we are, what I am trying to get at is this: In the gospel we are allowed to see ourselves in the way we would view a historic battlefield. Though past conflicts, failures and struggles are part of our history, we are, because of Jesus and the love of the Father, allowed to enjoy the magnificent view of His handiwork that is our own lives, and only unbelief will sabotage this view.
Friends, Jesus is our Monument, and because of Him, when the Father sees us, it is nothing less to Him… than breathtaking.
Such good news.
September 29, 2012 § 1 Comment
This past week I had the privilege of being guided through Gettysburg by a friend who is passionate about Civil War history. As you may know, Gettysburg was the site of the greatest loss of human life on American soil in US military history. There were roughly 50,000 casualties in that little Pennsylvania Township in the heat of the summer between July 1 and 3, 1863. Every available building was turned into a hospital, including churches. Homes were destroyed, the landscape was bombarded by cannon fire, blood flowed like a river, and thousands of bodies and dead cattle were strewn throughout.
Amazingly, the nation healed.
Throughout Gettysburg there are trees, including the one posted above, called Witness Trees, because they stood during that epic battle. Historians have identified these particular trees from pictures taken at the time. All the while, as the battle raged and men fought and died, they were there. And they stand today.
I have been involved in a bible study with friends over the past few weeks, and together we are going through the book of Ecclesiastes. The whole subject of healing from past hurts came up in a circuitous way on Wednesday as we considered chapter three, that famous chapter put to music by Pete Seeger and made famous by the Byrds. The writer’s point was that everything has a season, but that God is eternal, and He has set eternity in the heart of man (verse 3). In other words, God is eternal and He has embedded this mysterious reality within us.
In some way each of us is like a vast landscape on which much occurs. We experience battles, seasons of loss and gain, and if you are anything like me, some of these experiences are more difficult to get over than others. Some of my most tortured moments come when I wonder why certain things occurred, and why I couldn’t prevent them, or didn’t. In other words, I can get lost in something that was intended to be a season, because I treat it as though it is eternal.
A broken relationship.
A lost opportunity.
A painful experience.
You get the picture. Hey, when we’ve been wounded, or if we have failed in some way, the hurt is real and our memories are sharp. But here is where we sometimes miss the storyline: None of this is meant to be eternal – only God is.
I’m tempted to say that you don’t have to hold yourself in those broken patterns of guilt, shame, remorse and regret – and it is true, you don’t. But I want to put it this way: You are allowed to be free of them. You see I don’t think it is only about feeling as though we can’t break free, but that we don’t believe we are allowed to. But we are. We have permission to move on, even in the reality of things we will never be able to change, relationships we will never be able to fix and mistakes we will never be able to undo. There is such a thing as accepting responsibility, making whatever amends we can, living with consequences, and then moving on, because seasons weren’t intended to be mistaken for eternity.
Because of Jesus.
Deep down I think most of us tap back into the very human, but diabolical notion of thinking that if we have done something wrong, something bad should happen to us in return. It is really an arrogant expression of resentment over the reality of our imperfectness. But this just isn’t how the gospel works. The gospel reveals that the fall has happened to all of us – and we willfully act consistently with it.
But Jesus has come. And He gives us permission, the power, and even the responsibility to rest in His work, and then thrive in His healing. By ‘finishing’ our redemption in His death and resurrection, The Eternal One who has entered into our time and space, has ensured that no unfinished reality that defines our past ever has to have the power to enslave us.
This is the witness of Jesus, and it is our good news.