Archive for the tag “crucifixion”

The Door No One Can Walk Through

arch-2764_1920If the Lord were not a gracious God, the Bible would have been a mere six chapters long. For in Genesis 6, God stands ready to take the world he had so perfectly created, and which had so imperfectly imploded in sin, and pour it down the drain. “The end of all flesh has come before me,” he said, “for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and look, I am about to destroy humanity with the earth,” (6:13).

Yet Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Because of grace, the Lord made this man the first ship-builder, the first sailor, and a sort of Adam #2 to begin creation anew. Buried in a watery grave was a world of sinners who chose death over life. Down they sank beneath the waves of woe that engulfed the world they had flooded with corruption. And above those same waves floated the ark of salvation that Noah had constructed for him and his family of seven. Nothing stood between them and certain death but the wood of the ark buoyed up by the promise of a good and gracious God.

Noah and his family entered the ark through a door in the side. And in so doing, they gave us a preview of the way in which we enter a greater ark, to be saved in a greater flood. We find grace not only in the eyes, but in the wounds, of the Lord. The portal in our ark of salvation was not made with a saw and hammer but a soldier’s spear. It pierced the side of our Lord as he hung upon the cross. Out flooded blood and water. Through that door in the side of Christ we enter the ark of saving grace.
But we don’t walk through this door.
No one can.
We are carried by waves through this door.
The water and blood that streamed forth from Christ, streams us back into him as we are buoyed up by the waves of baptism, through the wound, and into the body of God incarnate.

“Baptism now saves you,” Peters says (2 Pet 3:21), because baptism is the flood reenacted, but with a wondrous twist. We are sundered from the number of the unbelieving, pass through the pierced-portal in the side of Jesus, and are preserved dry and secure in Christ, the ark of life. “He ferries us across death’s raging flood.” He preserves us dry and secure in the holy ark of Christendom.

As Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, we find that same grace in the wounds of our Lord. Of him the water, the blood, and the Spirit cry, “He is our ark; he is our life; he is one who is drowned in our sins that we might float safely to the heavenly harbor of the Father.”

*This reflection is part of a series of mediations on hymns that I presented at the “Day of Singing Boldly” at St. John Lutheran Church, Seward, Nebraska. It quotes from and alludes to the language of Martin Luther’s Baptism Liturgy and the “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” by Stephen Starke (Lutheran Service Book, #597).

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Old Testament Unveiled: Golgotha and the Sixth Day of Creation

That God chose to create Adam on a Friday, the 6th day of creation, has profound implications for our understanding of what Jesus did for us on the sixth day of the week, on Good Friday. In the latest episode of The Old Testament Unveiled, we delve into what it means that Christ hung atop a cross over the grave of Adam–at Golgotha, the hill traditionally understood to be the place of Adam’s skull. Thanks for watching!

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Facebook and the Edited Me

font-533232_1280The world of Facebook has its own language and culture. And lies. To someone new to social media, it’s like touring around a foreign country. You’re not sure what to consume, where to go, or who to talk to. And to make matters worse, you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not.

As a rule of thumb, I suggest this: assume at least a tiny lie lurks behind everything you see. If Facebook is anything, it’s the land of opportunity for presenting to the world an edited version of ourselves.

Inside scores of smiling family photographs is a couple who’ve been sleeping in separate beds the last few months. Behind many boastful status updates about successes at work is a soul plagued by self-doubt and on the verge of career collapse. Optimistic, life-loving memes are posted right after popping the day’s antidepressant. A wife puts on her wall a picture of the dozen red roses her husband bought her, but doesn’t mention it’s been two weeks since she discovered he was sleeping with his secretary. A pastor praises the work of his congregation on their Facebook page, but edits out the fact that he gets drunk after Elder’s and Voters’ meetings because he loathes this hellhole the Lord has stuck him in.

We teach our children to be careful what they post on social media because, once it’s online, it’s online forever. And that is sound advice. But we also teach—by our actions if not by our words—to be careful to post on social media only the edited version of yourself by which you want to deceive the world into thinking you’re better than you know yourself to be.

We’re seeking affirmation (“like” what I post), or love (PM a flirtatious message), or praise (comment on what a great job I’m doing), or attention (remark how I look pretty in this picture), or sympathy (tell me how sorry you are). Lurking behind so much of what we do on social media is the attempt to control what others think of us. We crave all the things above—affirmation, love, praise, attention, sympathy—but we know they can’t be ours unless we project just the right image. So we Photoshop our lives. We recreate ourselves online to be better, stronger, smarter, prettier, holier, or even more pitiful in order to elicit the responses we desire.

Whether we realize it or not, all these online, self-editing actions are nothing more than our admission that we believe that we are so deeply flawed that no one will love us just as we are. They will love us only if they see our good side, only if we are successful, only if we are happily married. These “only ifs” unveil a fundamental truth about us: we spend our lives in pursuit of that which is unattainable, all the while ignoring the fact that God pursues us with a gift he has already attained.

We pursue other people as god-like figures. We crave their acceptance and affirmation of us. We long for their acknowledgment, their love, their embrace. And so, online and offline, we wear our masks and do our self-editing to attain that goal. And when it comes, because we know that they accept and affirm only a fraction of who we really are, their response never really satisfies. We’re always wondering, “Yes, but what if they knew the real me? They wouldn’t like me then. Therefore, I must continue to edit, to Photoshop, to lie, to control my image in order to achieve the acceptance I desire.”

While we are pursuing this vain goal, God trails behind us with the very gift we desire already in his possession. He sees through the smoke and mirrors of social media; beneath the masks we wear everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom; around the lies we concoct to make ourselves appear happier, healthier, and more successful than we are. He sees us as we truly are. All the self-hatred and self-love, the ugly envy, the doubt and despair, the dead relationships, the nasty fights, the pills and booze. He sees it all. And he loves us nonetheless.

But he loves us in a weird, God-like way. He loves us into death and back into life. He is a God who kills and makes alive. He finds us ugly and hurting and hateful and mean, and he wraps his arms around us and falls with us into a watery grave. There with him, in him, embraced by him, we drown. We die. We die to self. And in the shock of a lifetime, we open our eyes outside the watery grave, standing alongside our Lord, as newly resurrected people who are the apple of God’s eye.

The Lord with whom we die is Jesus, the Son of God. In that watery grave we are crucified with him. We die and are buried with him. We rise and live with him. And in so doing, who he is becomes who we are. He is the Son of God; in him we become the sons of God. He is beloved of the Father; in him we are beloved of the Father. He is holy, righteous, perfect; in Jesus we are the same.

All we sought to achieve by controlling our image was in vain. The image that brings true peace and contentment in life is not one we achieve but one we receive. It is the image of Christ, likeness to him, that we receive in the watery, crucifixion grave of baptism. There, in Christ, we are accepted, affirmed, loved, embraced by the Father. All of who we are—not the edited us—is enveloped in the Son of God, dies with him, rises with him, and lives with him. And that is no virtual reality.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Improving the Cross

There’s a woodworker inside us who won’t let the cross of Jesus remain the cross of Jesus; it’s raw material for a new, “improved” creation. And here are two of his favorites.

sawingwoodThis woodworker within us unfastens the two beams, takes his hammer and saw, and goes to work. Soon the cross has been transformed into a ladder. Jesus is on top and we’re on bottom. And all we must do is climb up to him. Hand over hand, one rung at a time, we move up from a life of rebellion to an obedient life of discipleship. One rung at a time, we ascend from being immoral to moral, bad to good, unholy to holy. The closer we climb to Jesus on the cross-ladder, the more he blesses us. All he asks is that we give it our best shot. Climb slowly or climb quickly; it doesn’t matter. Just set your heart on the climb to Christ. He’s standing up top, cheering us on, shouting down advice and encouragement.

But that’s not all our woodworker likes to do with the cross. Sometimes, when he’s finished sawing and carving and hammering, the cross has been transformed into a pair of crutches. We know that none of us are perfect. All of us, in various ways, wind up wounded and broken. But we must somehow stumble our way along the path of life. And the cross-crutches are there to help us on the limping walk of faith. We can’t support our whole weight; we need help. The cross becomes that help, that stability, that pair of crutches. We do our best; that’s all anyone can ask. Life is a long pilgrimage toward God. And whatever we’re lacking in strength for this pilgrimage is made up for in the cross. Jesus and his cross fill in the gaps. But someday, when we reach Christ, we’ll throw those crutches away and be complete in him.

There’s something very attractive about both the cross-ladder and the cross-crutches. In fact, there’s something about both of them that the woodworker within us finds eminently more appealing than the simple cross of Jesus. Both the ladder and the crutches let us keep skin in the game. They both include us in the process of salvation.

Even if I’m climbing slowly up the rungs to Jesus, at least I’m the one doing it. God is helping me, but it’s still me doing it. Christ assists me in salvation; he doesn’t take it over and do it himself. I climb to him, he doesn’t come down to me. Similarly, even if I’m stumbling along the pathway of life with the cross as my crutches, I’m the one limping. It’s a long road to heaven, but I’ll get there, with God’s help. All I have to do is try my hardest; he’ll make up for any of my deficiencies. Both the ladder and the crutches keep me in control. Ultimately, if I try hard enough, make myself good enough, then I’ll make my goal. And I’ll be sure to give glory to God for helping me achieve success.

The cross of Jesus, however, calls the lie on both these fabrications. It will tolerate neither the ladder nor the crutches. The cross will be the cross, and only the cross of Jesus. It refuses to assist us in our labor. It refuses to lend us a hand as we limp. The cross is there for one reason and one reason only: for us to die on it with Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul says. Sinners don’t need help; they need to die. The sinful nature within us—that cross-hating woodworker who dwells in our hearts—doesn’t need assistance or improvement or encouragement. He needs death. He needs the nails and thorns and blood of the cross of Jesus. This is why we revolt against the cross and try to make it something else. We don’t want to relinquish control, admit there’s nothing we can do. We don’t want to die. But death, death with Christ, is the only way.

And it is the best way. When we die with Christ, we die to ourselves and live in him. We are given what we always lacked. He fills us with the peace of knowing that God is happy with us as a father is pleased with his children. He adopts us into the divine family and bids us call him Abba, Father. All the stupid mistakes we’ve made, the evil we have participated in, the shame we feel for what we’ve done—all of that dies on the cross as well. Jesus takes it away. He wraps us around himself. We are clothed with him. We wear Jesus. His name and identity become ours. We are no longer alone; we are his family.

The cross is not a ladder by which we climb up to heaven; Jesus came down from heaven and climbed onto the cross to give us everything we need and more. The cross is not a pair of crutches by which we hobble our way toward salvation; on the cross, Christ won our salvation perfectly.

The cross is the cross. It will be nothing else. It cannot be improved. For on it the Lord of life gave us himself, and gives us to himself for eternity.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Day God Wrapped Up Yom Kippur

veiltornTwo naked sinners, one a woman, one a man, retreat from the garden with breath that reeks of forbidden fruit. See them there, once perfect now flawed, leaving behind what would have been, to face what now is. The woman will scream in her birthing; the man will sweat in his toil; and together they will bury their second-born son, murdered by his brother’s hand. Welcome, O weeping sinner, to a post-perfection world.

But see the hands of God, the left calloused with law, the right soft as grace, reaching out as a Father to clothe His naked fleeing children. He wraps their defiled bodies with animal skins. The beasts Adam once named are now named by God as sacrifices. For every sin there is a price, and blood is the only currency acceptable. From creator to priest, our God now moves, from forming animals to slaying them, all so that His Adam and His Eve might remain truly His. Gone are the fig leaves; present are the hides. The skins conceal the source of their shame and mark them as God’s own, bought at a price.

And so it goes in this world, with every woman, every man, every one of you, born naked in a world that has long forgotten Eden. There is only one way back, only one way back to perfection, to paradise, to God. It is a way that is marked by bone and blood, skin and flesh, spear and nail, thorn and wood.

Paradise is regained by the birth of an infant priest who is destined for the slaughter. His temple is His body, His vestments are His flesh, and the blood He will sacrifice is coursing through His veins. He knows the way back to Eden, for His are the hands that clothed the two naked sinners. And now He has come, naked from His mother’s womb to clothe her and you and all His fallen children with a robe worthy of royalty.

“It is finished,” He cries from the holy of holies, His priestly voice ringing through earth and heaven. “It is finished indeed,” His Church replies. The temple not made with hands has been entered; the mercy seat has been sprinkled; and heaven is painted red with the blood of God.

And yet He stands, upright, victorious, within the holy of holies. He stands alive forevermore, the veil rent in twain lying beneath His feet. He stands in the new and better Eden, the most holy garden, where the tree of life now grows. He stands ready to clothe you, His naked children, with His own flesh and blood, pouring His robes upon you with water from the font, dressing you with His own body as He places it on your tongue.

So eat and be clothed, all you Adams, and drink and be dressed, all you Eves. The price has been paid, Eden has been re-opened, and heaven’s angels are waiting to greet you at the gates of paradise.

ChristAloneCoverIf you enjoyed this meditation, then please check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

InfantPriestfrontcoverThe poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

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