the Beautiful Priesthood

July 11, 2015 § 1 Comment

Cirque d Soleil“My father was a priest in our butcher shop, and I was with him, doing priestly work. Our butcher shop was a place of blessing.”

Eugene H. Peterson, Leap Over a Wall

Katherine and I were blown away by an unexpected gift from a college friend who sent us front row tickets to a Cirque du Soleil performance of Verekai in Baltimore this past week. The athleticism, strength, beauty and choreography were stunning. The music was mesmerizing and the set and costumes were beautiful. This particular production follows two people from birth to marriage, and ends with the wedding, replete with triumphant music, spectacular gymnastics and the falling of rose petals.

It was breathtaking.

I was reminded of Frederick Buechner’s description (in his book The Longing for Home of a visit to Sea World in Orlando, and a confluence of nature, beasts and mankind, leaving Buechner (whose birthday is today) with a glimpse of what God had always intended.

And this took me to Eugene Peterson’s description of his dad, a local butcher, whom he came to see as more than a guy who cut meat, but in this capacity, also a priest to their community.

In Christian circles we speak of ‘the priesthood of believers,’ which is another way of saying that every Christ-follower is called to be to the world and one another what Jesus has been to us, a healing presence that sacrificially loves and serves for the sake of others, out of a vision of flourishing that will one day accompany the new heavens and new earth.

John the disciple takes this further by saying that we are “a kingdom of priests to his [speaking of Jesus] God and Father…”

When you put it all together (because it is all intended to be so) we find that our vocations, along with our natural surroundings and abilities are all woven into a larger mosaic of beauty that not only displays hope before a broken world, but one that also reaches the Father who is every bit as invested (and more) as we are in the promise of new things.

Friends, as stunning as Cirque du Soleil was, this is even more so…


He is Risen!

March 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sunrise “Love is the victor. Death is not the end. The end is life. His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream. Christ our Lord has risen.”

Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

My wife Katherine comes from the Moravian tradition. In my mind there is no more beautiful expression of the Resurrection than from the Moravian Church.

At 2 AM on Easter Morning the Moravian Church Band deploys throughout Old Salem (North Carolina), and begins to play hymns, preparing hearts for the celebration. After an early morning ‘watch’ in the dark, in which about 7,000 worshippers gather and sing, at dawn they pour out into the cemetery proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus with the traditional responsive acclamation, ‘He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!’

Moravian gravestones are flat and each is exactly the same (children’s are smaller than adults), signifying equality in death. Each Moravian cemetery is called ‘God’s Acre,’ and in the rolling hills of Winston Salem there are few more lovely sights. What makes the tradition even more special is that on the Saturday before Easter, entire families scrub each gravestone and place flowers at them.

Throughout the rest of Easter morning, these thousands of worshippers are fed breakfast in groups. Everything about the tradition signals one truth: That Jesus, our Feast of Life, has conquered death, and He invites us to celebrate what He has inaugurated and what for us will one day be, in His good Kingdom.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Alexander Means

What good news.

He is Risen Indeed!


Sunrise - 2

No Answers

July 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

The world floods in on all of us. The world can be kind, and it can be cruel. It can be beautiful, and it can be appalling. It can give us good reason to hope and good reason to give up all hope. It can strengthen our faith in a loving God, and it can decimate our faith.

Frederick Buechner, The Longing for Home

What does one say in the shadow of such violence as visited upon Aurora, Colorado at a theater this week? No words can bring back lost life. There is no comfort to curtail the tide of sorrow for those who have suffered such violation.

As you have read here many times, our world is broken. And there are moments when we witness particularly brutal reminders of just how damaged it is. Though we don’t have to look past ourselves, in such violence we are reminded of how far our own sin would take us without the benefit of God’s restraining grace.

It all seems so random. Last week there was a shooting in the store our youngest daughter works in as a receptionist. Fortunately she was with me in another state for college orientation and registration. Katherine and I have praised God over and again. But here, this…

I offer no ‘how-tos’ or principles for understanding such tragedy. I know what you know – from the moment of the fall something has been terribly wrong with our world. Space Shuttles explode in mid-air. Seemingly quiet recluses go on murderous rampages. Tsunamis demolish countries. Babies die before being born. Soldiers – mere boys and girls – die in war. Marriages crumble. Depression ambushes sweet minds. Life breaks dear hearts.

It is all so painful.

We want to protect those we love – but ultimately we can’t even protect ourselves. We want to recoil and find political and theological resolves – all for the wrong, though understandable reason: We are afraid and we don’t want those whom we love to suffer.

What we have is Jesus.

Jesus never explained away tragedy with platitudes, nor did He shy away from it. The comfort He offered was anchored in what He would do on the cross, and accomplish in His resurrection. In these two events, one horrifically violent and unjust, and the other miraculously victorious, He would make good on His promise for a renewed world – In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

We have no answers. Not today. Not ever. We have Jesus.

And this is our good news…


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