Women at the Cross | Matthew 27:55-56

Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Matthew 27:55-54

It’s really interesting to me that Matthew adds this little addendum to the end of the account. Why point out the women that were there? Is the assumption that all the men have scattered, and so Matthew had to show his sources for this story?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.


The Cross vs. The Resurrection

art-museum-crucifix-death-pmaIn Christian theology, there is a seemingly small thing that really influences so much of one’s theological outlook and even how they think they should live as a Christian.

Are you “Team Cross” or “Team Resurrection”?

Yeah, yeah, I know that the right answer is “both”, but really, most people tend to emphasize one more than the other.

What got me thinking about this was a Facebook post I saw on Easter evening. The poster said that the Resurrection was not when Jesus conquered sin and death. Instead, Jesus did that on the Cross, and the Resurrection was “simply” the “validation” of what Jesus did.

In other words, all that Jesus came to accomplish was done on Good Friday. God the Father saw it, thought it was awesome, so he went ahead and raised Jesus on Sunday.

In other other words, if the Resurrection never happened, nothing “essential” to salvation would be lost, merely the “proof” that it had been accomplished.

It really stuck with me, and no matter how much I tried to re-articulate it in my mind, give him the benefit of the doubt, or pick apart my own presuppositions, I really couldn’t shake how strongly I disagreed with this statement.

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Our Easter Hope: Jesus Didn’t Rise from the Dead

statue-easter-bookHappy Easter! Let me greet all of you with the same Easter greeting that has been offered by generations upon generations of Christians before:

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

(And you respond with:)

Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Now I don’t know how many of you have grown up saying that or have eventually settled into traditions that do, but I wonder how many of us have noticed the grammar of that statement. Why has it never said, “Alleluia, Christ rose”, or “Alleluia, Christ has risen”?

There is an extremely important and immensely practical aspect of the Resurrection that, as I’ve moved in more and more church circles, I’ve realized has either become de-emphasized, forgotten, or never known in the first place:

Jesus did not rise from the dead.
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Palm Sunday: Future-Tense [photo sermon]


Continuing WordPress’ uncanny timing of photo challenges with the Christian Church calendar, this week’s theme is “Future-Tense“. In essence, they’re wanting pictures that anticipate something to come; something that’s being waited for; some future thing who’s presence is felt in the picture, even in its absence.

This is most appropriate today, as it’s Palm Sunday of 2013.

It takes some real significance for an event from the Bible to find itself as a major Church Holiday. Considering that, it can be odd that Palm Sunday is one of these: there’s nothing really unprecedented or special about it in and of itself.

There are other places in the gospels where Jesus is proclaimed king, proclaimed Messiah, prophecies are fulfilled, large groups believe in him, and even several times he enters Jerusalem. So what’s so special about this moment?

The future.
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The Sex-Slave’s Name is Jesus


In preparation for my upcoming Guatemala blogging trip next month, I’ve been reading the wonderful book Geography of Grace by Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke. It opens by talking about the horrific story of Judges 19, where a nameless woman who is no more than a sex-slave, is given to a gang of men who gang rape her all night. She is then dismembered while still alive and the parts of her body are mailed to the twelve tribes of Israel. I found these lines so beautiful and redemptive in the just of such darkness.

When reading Judges 19 with a sanctified imagination, it is as if we become the disciples of Jesus on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. This passage tells of the disciples’ long walk with the stranger who is suddenly revealed as Jesus when he reenacts that meal on the night that he was betrayed. Just as the stranger is revealed to be Jesus in the breaking of the bread, so too is the unnamed woman revealed to be Jesus in the breaking of her body.

“Just as you have done it to the least of these . . . ”

lf we reflect long enough on the heart of the unnamed Woman [of Judges 19], We will come to know not only her heart, but her name as well. We will dare to give her the dignity of a name that she has been denied for more than three thousand years. We will even dare to name her the name above all others.

As grace flows downhill and pools up in Judges 19, We are confronted with what looks like a cesspool. It is offensive and scandalous beyond words, but if we can hold our gaze long enough and reflect on the Woman, she teaches us a hard but liberating truth-that she was not alone in her abandonment. She was not alone when she was handed over to the mob. She was not alone when she was gang-raped and beaten that night. She alone was not cut into twelve pieces and handed out to Israel. God was with her that night. God too was abused, beaten, raped, and dismembered. Where is God? God is with us, particularly among the least. Immanuel.

Marveling in the Cross: Lost in the Details [photo sermon]


For several months now I’ve been doing the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. Honestly, I’ve gotten a little tired of that, so I’m going to start mixing it up with some weekly “photo sermons”, taking the weekly theme, picking an appropriate photo, and writing up a short meditation on the theme. We’ll see how it goes. This week’s theme is “Lost in the Details“.

One of my best (and oldest) friends is named David Schrott. He’s an incredible photographer, and an even more incredible man of God. He’s currently been spending an extended period of time back in his hometown of Lancaster, PA, recovering from surgery.

In this time of recovery, he’s only grown in his intimacy with God, his love as a friend, and the depth of his experience of spirituality. Recently, when I asked how he’s seemingly unlocked this door to the depths of the spirit and, as he puts it “longing for the resurrection in ways I never have”, he simply said this:

“Suffering! Without it, it is hard to long for anything but immediate pleasure.”

I love that guy.

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Evil & God {2}: I’m a Heretic, I Fear

This is my final post in a discussion I’ve been having with a very good friend of mine, Austin Ricketts, about the relation of Evil to the Nature of God. For more on the background of this discussion, see  Part 1 of this reply, although you should be able to gather a good idea of the conversation from this post. After this, I’ll let Austin have the last word, if he’d like.

Pressing into the Story of God’s Nature

I’ve been saying that God’s Nature is not static, but, just like us humans, it’s like a Story, unfolding in time (click here for more). Further, it’s a Story that includes Evil and Death within in. Hopefully I can clarify some points all the more by drawing out the “Story” metaphor further (because, at the end of the day, that’s all this whole “Narrative” framework is).

When I write a story about redemption and healing, I include evil in that story–evil that ends up being resolved and healed in the end. The thought of that evil (whatever it may be) is borne from my mind and existence. Just because the thought of that evil has “existed” in my mind, does not, however, make me evil.
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Evil & God {1}: a refutation’s refute

Update: Part 2 of this post is up.

Last week, I wrote a post about being overwhelmed by God’s beauty in Western Pennsylvania. In it, I talked of the beautiful paradox of a God who would incorporate within his own divine life both Beauty and Suffering. My good friend (and huge theological influence) Austin Ricketts (who’s written on this blog beforetook issue with these statements, saying that he fears that they lead to making God the author of Sin and Evil. I wrote a reply to his comments in which I asked whether the very nature of God might be “narratival” and unfold over the course of history, and perhaps suffering and even Evil itself are “motifs” or “themes” in that “Storied Essence” of God–a story that eventually does away with these things. He wrote a reply in which he countered some of my views on revelation and some biblical texts.

Here, in the two parts of this post, I plan on (1) responding to Austin’s refutation, and (2) writing up some final thoughts (and fears) on my end. I’ll leave the final word to Austin if he so desires. Feel free to also chime in with your own thoughts if you like!
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God is Light: A Refutation [GUEST POST]

I love when I get to do some back-and-forths on the blog. My good friend (and blog contributor) Austin Ricketts wrote a comment on my post earlier this week about beauty and suffering in the world. I posted his comments, and then I wrote a reply to them. Well, as is the nature of these sorts of things, here is Austin’s “refutation” of my post. You will see he has a great mind and sensitivity to these weighty issues. Usually, I let the other person have the last word in these things, and I’d usually end this exchange here, but I actually have some thoughts I’ll spend the weekend pondering and writing; I’ll post it on Monday.

Update: my response to this post is now up.

First things first, I always enjoy a spirited debate among brothers and friends.  Iron sharpens iron.  Paul is a very good friend of mine, one of my best friends.  And I love that he and I can disagree deeply and yet remain quite close.  I know my friend Paul’s logic quite well.  I was once in a similar position as he.  Previously, I wrote an article entitled, “Love—The Beginning and End of Divine Suffering”.  I set forth an argument to state that there is a notion of death entailed in God’s being.  I write now officially to recant that position.  A new assessment of the Trinity will have to be written.  For now, I write in refutation of the notion that there is evil in God, by writing a refutation of Paul’s most recent article.
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Evil & the Essence of God {2}: a storied solution?

Updates: Austin has replied to this post with his own thoughts. I have also edited this post to correct some of my incorrect Hebrew grammar Austin pointed out.

Earlier, I posted some comments that my good friend (and occasional contributor to this blog) Austin Ricketts wrote on my post yesterday about the relationship between evil, beauty, and the nature of God. Read those words if you would like his beautiful and articulate wrestling with this idea. Here is my response.

At some point in their lives, most people face the question: Can God stop this suffering? If not, is he God? If he can, but doesn’t, what kind of God is he?

Most of the time, attempts to push this question to a solid conclusion lead to unfortunate results. Many have abandoned God altogether over this, and still others, who maintain their faith, end up doing the mental gymnastics only to end up in positions entirely foreign to the Bible or that are even more illogical than when you began.

Here’s my attempt at a response, fully aware of the dangers that come with doing so. Please be gracious. Please reply. Point out my heresies, And please allow me the room to change my mind later on.

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Evil & the Essence of God {1}: the discussion

Update: Part 2 is now up.

Yesterday, I wrote some meditations on the world’s suffering and evil in light of the incredible Beauty I saw this past weekend on a trip to western Pennsylvania. One of my very best friends, Austin (who’s written for this site before), appreciated the post but had some thoughts on some of the theological implications of my thinking, and talked about where/how he differed. I love his mind (and his heart), and I see where he’s coming from, but it’s a place I can’t go. I want to offer you all his comment, and then my perspective on all of this, hoping to offer all of you some things to think about and a space to discuss anything that strikes you as off.

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“15 Glances” at the Crucifix | Lent {11}

In the tradition of giving honor where it’s due, I’ve like to offer up the post that served a the inspiration for this whole series I’ve been doing on “The Lamb Eternally Slain” (which still isn’t done, even though it’s no longer Lent. It’ll be okay, though). The post is by Ben Myers, a thoughtful and thought-provoking theologian who draws from many theological corners for his thinking (much like myself). Here it is:

The Icon of the Cross: 15 Glances | Faith & Theology

Austin Ricketts, who wrote a couple of the posts in this series, sent to me this post of Ben’s nearly nine months ago. I still remember where I was as I read it and was caught up in it’s transcendent, sweeping reflections on the icon of the Cross. (Yes, we are referring here to “icon” as in the artistic representation of religious things for use in meditation or worship. Don’t worry, fellow Protestants, icons aren’t nearly as bad or idolatrous of a thing as we were raised being told.) I had the idea then for this blog series on my blog, but held on to it until Lent, thinking it most appropriate for this time (instead of Advent, haha).

In his post, Myers spends some time jotting down 15 reflections (or “glances”) on this icon. I have copied a few of my favorites below, but please check out the full post–there’s far more beauty in store for you.

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From His Father [GUEST POEM]

by Jen Huber

He can easily say what he has lived by:
God and belonging; known from childhood.

He was raised to believe in what was taught
To stand by his father’s belief in his Father
Accept the judgement of another,
The forgiveness of one another
Believing in something unseen

From generation to generation
This belonging to faith has remained
And grasped his life long-lived
And to know that his Father carried
Him throughout his time

He can easily say what he has died for

[image credit: Lauren Chandler]

Christ’s Heart Breaking in Us | Lent {5}

Lent is a season in which God’s people meditate on the slaying of Jesus on the Cross and all that is within them (and outside of them) that made that Cross necessary. So to that end, we’ve been doing a series meditating on the fact that Christ is the Lamb who was “slain before the foundations of the world”. We’ve been thinking through what it might mean that Jesus, in some sense, has been suffering for all time.


We’ve said that the Cross was an in-breaking of the suffering essence of God into our world. Think of it as a volcano that emerges after a millennia of quiet tectonic plate shifts. Eternity and infinity–past, present and future–break into the world at the Cross; eternity is the backdrop against which the death of Christ occurs.

We’ve also said that the world has a certain “slain-ness” to it as well, due to being created “through” a slain and suffering Christ.

Today I want to ask: What might that mean for our own suffering and death?
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Creation: a suffering world through a suffering Lord | Lent {4}

Lent is a season in which God’s people meditate on the slaying of Jesus on the Cross and all that is within them (and the world) that made that Cross necessary. To that end, we’ve been meditating on the fact that Christ is the Lamb who was “slain before the foundations of the world”. We’ve been thinking through what it might mean that Jesus, in some sense, has been suffering for all time (and some theological issues along the way).

So far, we’ve talked about how this is a reflection of an eternal attribute of Jesus. There has been an aspect of suffering and death woven into the depths of his nature and character since before time began.

But at some point, time began.
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